How Many Bags Do You Bring to Work (And: What Does Your Schlep Look Like?)

how many bags should you bring to workWe’ve talked a lot about the commute to work over the years, but we just got a great question about how many bags you should bring to work — specifically, how many do you carry, how large, what stuff do you bring to work, and WHICH bags.  Reader A literally just wrote in to ask this question, wondering how many bags you should bring to work, but it’s such a good one that I can’t wait to hear what the readers say:  what DOES your schlep look like, what do you bring to work each day, and do you bring one large bag or several smaller ones?

Are the days of taking a work bag (lady briefcase type thing) + handbag over? I’m about to become a fully admitted lawyer and my totes just aren’t working – plus it’s a lot to take with me for client meetings! in my mind, two smaller bags is easier than a giant overstuffed one, and it does make it easy for spontaneous lunch and drinks plans, plus can be a little trendier. I want to invest in something really nice but am I missing something?

Such an interesting question, and I think this is going to vary HUGELY based on what everyone’s commutes look like — and what your jobs look like. When chiming in, please share a little about what your commute looks like:

(Pictured above: yeah, not like that. Photo credit: Stencil.)

  • how do you USUALLY get to and from work — drive? subway? taxi/Uber/Lyft? walk?
  • do you have a lot of meetings or other events that require travel during the day?
  • on a USUAL day how many bags do you carry with you — and what do you bring?
  • what does an unusual day look like for you — e.g., what bags do you take with you for court appearances or big presentations, or how do you bring bags to or from work if you’re planning for, say, a long weekend at home with a lot of work?
  • what bags do you keep at the office for “last minute” things, either from a “last minute drinks!” perspective or a “yay I have to take home these three binders and review them asap tonight” perspective

For my $.02, going on my BigLaw days in NYC:

  • My usual commute was a taxi to work in the mornings (definitely not great for the budget) or, weather and time permitting, a walk to work, followed by my working late enough at work to get the complimentary car home. (I usually considered my quitting time to be around 10:30 pm unless I really needed to stay later, so the “you can bill your client for a car home after 8 PM” deadline wasn’t a problem.)
  • I rarely left the office during the day for client meetings or court appearances or things like that — almost everything was onsite, in which case I would leave my bag in my office and carry a padfolio or binder to the meeting or have documents sent to the conference room ahead of time.
  • I usually just carried a hobo or shoulder bag because when I was taking work home with me it was often because I just couldn’t stand to be at work any more and needed to take boxes of docs or huge binders home with me, in which case a little tote bag would not have been of any help. (And if I did bring papers home it was usually things that didn’t need to look presentable for anyone but me, such as Westlaw printouts for review or a draft of a memo or brief for my markup — so I would just fold them or roll them and stick them in my bag.) Every so often I would toss a sandwich, yogurt, or other food for work in my bag (string cheese, whatever) but they went right into the fridge once I got to work so I didn’t really feel like they needed a special lunch bag.
  • An “unusual” day for me either looked like getting out of work early enough for a night out with friends or a date — if I was single and going out with girlfriends, or in a relationship with a guy, I might bring a second outfit to change into (a lower cut top, dangly earrings, cuter shoes, jeans, whatever) in a tote bag — but if it was a first date or an impromptu night out with friends I just wore whatever I had worn to work.  Another unusual day for me: finishing work early enough that there was no point staying to get the car home, in which case I would usually walk home, weather permitting.  (I remember figuring out once that a subway ride took 20 minutes, a taxi ride took 30 minutes, and a walk home took 40 minutes — so wherever possible I opted for the exercise and fresh air instead!)
  • Bags I kept at the office: so many! I kept a fully-packed gym bag, a few very large tote bags (like my Longchamp or the tote bags you get at conferences), as well as a tiny “lunch money” bag where I kept all of my customer reward cards for local restaurants, some cash and change, as well as having space for a credit card and my building ID.

I can definitely see how someone who drives to and from work regularly would have different needs — as well as someone who, say, is pumping breastmilk or has to carry a firm-sanctioned laptop to and from work, or a working parent who has a hard deadline to get out of the office because of daycare pickup or whatnot but plans to sign back on after 8:00.

Readers, how many bags do you carry to work? What’s your advice for Reader A on how many bags she should bring to work? 

Huh: I never look this happy when I'm carrying multiple bags to work. Interesting discussion, though: how many bags SHOULD you carry to work? A new lawyer wonders if investing in a nice briefcase or tote bag for her commute is a bad idea.

professional women discuss how many bags you should bring to work


  1. I definitely feel like a bag lady. I currently drive to work. I have one canvas bag with my gym stuff so I can go at lunch or right after work. I have one Timbuk2 messenger bag that’s got my wallet and planner and whatever else I might need. Honestly I could get away with a small purse for this, but I haven’t switched it out yet. Finally, and most importantly, I bring a canvas bag with all my food. I don’t usually eat breakfast until 10ish, so I have that, my lunch, and snacks.

    • Me too. I have so many bags that my dad calls me Ms. Saddle Bags, but he is referring to my tuchus b/c he pinches my tuchus as he says it. I do KNOW he has my best interet at heart b/c I know he want’s me to find a guy to get married and he does NOT think men will marry me b/c of my tuchus. So I am workeing on getting rid of my saddle bags, but NOT my handbags, of which I have 18. I use them all also so he can NOT compleain. He says I need to get MARRIED this year, so if anyone in the HIVE has a husband for me, pleaase let me know!!!! YAY!!!1

  2. Cornellian :

    I am currently struggling with this. I currently put my laptop and a dry/wet bag full of pump parts and bottles in my henri bendel jetsetter backpack thing, but then I have to put my son in the baby carrier and carry his milk and anything else that’s going to daycare in a separate bag, which is unwieldy.

    What do other daycare-using pumping folks do??

    • When I was pumping, I left my big pump and parts at work full time. I had an avent hand pump at home that I liked almost as well as the big dual electric model.

      • Cornellian :

        Oh, sorry, I should have been clear. I also have a hand pump, so I’m not schlepping the pump back and forth. I am schlepping several sets of flanges and bottles since I can’t sanitize them at work. Did you have a place to clean pump parts at work?

        Coming home from work I care less because my husband does daycare pickup, but I have to take a little cooler with four bottles for him in to daycare every morning, and yesterday when I was managing him, my backpack, his bag of extra clothing, his bag of prepared bottles and an umbrella, I nearly dropped everything.

        • Clementine :

          I kept my pump parts in a quart sized container (like one of the plastic ones you get takeout soup in) and simply wiped them off with a paper towel after using them, then kept them in my cooler. I didn’t wash them during the day, I simply washed them at night.

          I was told this was okay by NICU nurses and several lactation consultants. Unless your child has special medical needs and you have been directed to sanitize every. single. time., it’s not necessary.

          FWIW, I did this for a year plus of pumping and never ever had an issue.

        • Anon in NYC :

          I just used 1 set of pump parts during the day. I would wipe them clean, put them in a plastic bag, and keep them in the cooler during the day. Washed them at night.

        • I don’t know about “sanitize” but I had a sink with dish soap and very hot water and that was good enough for me.

        • I wiped my pump parts down with the Medela quickclean wipes and stored them in the fridge in a quart-sized plastic bag. I’m sure the cooler would also be fine. Bmilk is fine at room temperature for up to 6 hours, so it was really more of avoiding the trips when I used them later.

          If you end up only bringing one set of parts to work, I strongly suggest keeping a backup set there just in case you forget/something breaks.

          • Avoiding “drips” not “trips”. My goal with wiping them down was mainly the mess.

        • Is your daycare open to the idea of dropping a few days/week worth of frozen milk?

          The moms room in my workplace had a freezer (rather than a refrigerator) so i just froze everything i pumped into Lansinoh freezer bags and dropped off a stack once a week or whenever the daycare told me that they were running low.

          I pretty much do the same for supplies (a few weeks worth of diapers and wipes and a few outfit changes reside at the daycare)

          • Cornellian :

            Unfortunately I need to drop off prepared bottles, or else this would be awesome. But I could maybe take in another package of diapers so I’m not doing that every week.

            Thanks for all the great ideas, folks.

            For people who use the medela wipes, try arm and hammer’s pacifier sanitizing wipes! A bit smaller, but food grade and MUCHHHHH cheaper.

        • I don’t have a solution for hauling the pump parts, but for daycare, we used this big tote bag we got from the hospital. It held extra clothes, extra diapers, formula, diaper cream, etc. That way I had my hands free since the bag could go over my shoulder, so I could carry the kiddo and still carry an umbrella if needed.

    • Clementine :

      I ended up using my hiking day pack (an Osprey Talon 22). My son’s diaper/daycare bag is a Fjallraven Kanken and I would literally clip his little backpack on my big backpack. Then baby in a carrier on the front, coffee in hand, and I was good to go.

      Was it super stylish? Nope. Did I look like a sherpa? Absolutely. Did I develop back problems, drop anything, or leave anything behind? Nope. And that’s what mattered to me.

      Now that I have fewer items and a shorter schlep, I use my trusty Michael Kors Zip-top east-west jet set tote. I use a zip top wallet that I just use as a clutch as needed (it’s big enough to fit my phone). The Kanken as a kids’ bag is pretty key- it’s small enough that it’s not absurd for my kid to carry it, but I don’t look ridiculous carrying it.

      • Cornellian :

        I don’t think a day pack would fly at my job, but the clip thing is genius. I could at least try clipping his cooler full of bottles on the back in the morning. It’s a workout figuring out the correct order to put on: baby carrier, sweater/suit jacket, jacket, cooler bag and backpack. At least I could eliminate cooler bag as a separate item.

    • Cornellian, nice to see you back, and congrats on the little one!

      • Cornellian :

        thanks! I realized recently I have been coming here since I was a 1L (or at least 2L) in law school…. and I’m a sixth year!

        I wish I could remember some of the other older commenters.

  3. Marshmallow :

    I have a walking/subway commute and have always tried to only carry one bag. It just looks better and I like having a hand free. Right now I’m using the Seville 13″ but if I also have to carry gym clothes, I’ll use a larger bucket tote. If I know I have to schlep a lot of heavy stuff, I have a black Calvin Klein backpack with pretty gold hardware I feel OK about walking in to work with.

    Usual day: iPad, Kindle, phone, wallet, small cosmetic bag, lunch in a small neoprene bag.
    Gym day: add gym clothes and sometimes sneakers to this; usually use my LLL All-Day Mini Tote or the aforementioned backpack.
    Going out after work: I’d probably ditch the lunch bag and any tupperware containers at work and just bring them home the following day to lighten the load. Occasionally I’ve stuffed a smaller bag inside my larger tote and used that after work.

    In general I just really try to not carry a ton of stuff, especially paper. I do most of my reading on my iPad so I don’t have to carry binders around, which is really great if your workplace will permit it for security reasons (you should check, obviously). The Goodreader app is incredible and well worth the $5 to not lug binders and boxes back and forth!

  4. One of my work friends used to carry a cross body bag for personal stuff and a briefcase/tote bag for work stuff. She found out that women in another department called her “the soldier” because of all the bags (something about the diagonal strap across her body and the other bag on her shoulder I think.)

    For some reason that stuck with me so I will only carry one bag now. I carry either a Tumi tote bag (the textured leather) or a Patricia Nash larger leather tote and everything goes in there.

    I like the idea of having a clutch in my work bag to use for a quick lunch out but I now switch from prescription glasses to prescription sunglasses any time I’m outside so it just doesn’t work with a sleek tote.

    I do have a zip around wallet that is big enough for my iPhone that I can just grab if I’m not going outside.

  5. OG all the way :

    I have an OG and a Seville. I vastly prefer the Seville — it sits upright and is just a prettier bag. I pop a large wristlet / clutch in for my wallet / phone and that’s it for when I want to grab lunch.

    When I travel, it’s 100% OG. But it takes me a month or so post-return to transfer stuff back to the Seville. It’s like I have enough of the right bags but not the 5 minutes to switch.

    But I only schlep one bag. Otherwise I feel like a sherpa.

  6. Lawyer at a small firm on the west coast. I typically walk to and from work (about 30 minutes), weather permitting. If the weather is bad, I’ll usually take the bus to work (about 20 minutes), but I still often walk home unless I’m wearing clothes that have to be dry cleaned. I use Urban Outfitter’s Vegan Reversible Leather Tote (who knew they had a great bag). It’s big enough to fit my lunchbox and a change of shoes/clothes/makeup if necessary (I do keep my normal work shoes at work and walk in gym shoes since it’s a little over a mile and has hills). I try to keep my personal items in the bag to a minimum (wallet, cell phone, keys, headphones, chap stick, business cards, a pen) so that I have plenty of room for client folders if need be and such.

  7. I either drive or bike to work, and my bag situation is the same either way (bike has panniers).

    I carry a tote with my lunch, coffee thermos, glasses case (one case for sunglasses and eye glasses, because one pair will always be on my face), keys, wallet, book, and phone. My laptop will also fit, but I generally don’t need to carry it around. If for some reason I’m not bringing food and/or coffee, I carry a smaller over-the-shoulder bag. If I’m just running down to the corner store to grab a snack, I just carry my wallet in my hand. If I’m going to yoga after work, I also carry a gym bag with a change of clothes and a mat. If I drive, the gym bag stays in the car, but if I bike I bring it in to my office.

  8. Looking for improvements to my “schlep.” I had a 2 block commute, and used Lo & Sons OG with success- I didn’t carry a handbag in addition to the OG unless I had some sort of event/lunch/meeting where it made life easier. I work in an open office, so I have to carry anything I “want” during the day- laptop, notebook, pens, coffee mug, tea canister, etc. I try to keep it down to just the OG or the OG and small purse as to not “weigh” me down during the commute or look sloppy when I arrive.

    Moved to a new office and will have about a 20-30 minute walk to work- I could see a laptop backpack being better for my back. Has anyone seen any sleek, businesslike ones? I saw one from Samsonite that I was considering.

    New office is in a tech ops center and doesn’t even have a cafeteria or beverage bar (though there’s plenty of stuff in the neighborhood), so I anticipate having to carry a large water bottle and actually have my coffee mug full of a hot beverage during a commute, and possibly store my dress shoes/commuting shoes.

    • Cornellian :

    • Cornellian :

      I’m in moderation but if you click on the “commute to work” link in the post, the second post in that series is about backpacks for work.

    • When I travel and have to walk what feels like a bazillion miles through airports carrying my 5 pound brick of a work-issued laptop, I use the crossbody strap on the OG and do just fine.

    • Someone posted this bag recently for a similar inquiry – I haven’t used it but think it looks kind of awesome. It converts to be held as a briefcase if you want. There’s a leather version by Kenneth Cole on ebags as well.

    • Marshmallow :

      It doesn’t have a laptop pocket, but if you’re okay with using a separate laptop sleeve, I really like my Calvin Klein “Talia” backpack. I got the black version on a great sale from Macy’s a while ago. It holds an immense amount of stuff but it’s so light and easily collapses down if you aren’t carrying so much. Link to follow.

    • bluedevilschicago :

      This is what I use, and it’s great because I can fit my books, laptop, I can take it on the subway, it doesn’t hurt my back, it’s durable, and it looks relatively professional.

    • Anonymous :

      I have to give Samsonite a thumbs up for work bags. I’ve been using a leather laptop shoulder bag daily including a lot of hard travel since 2009, and it’s still in great shape despite not really doing anything to maintain it. I get a lot of compliments on it, too, because it’s sleek though it holds a lot of stuff.

    • laundress :

      I bought the Hanover backpack (Lo & Sons) earlier this year and LOVE it. I needed something very plain with no hardware so I could carry it uniform (military) if necessary. I carried a Tumi shoulderbag/briefcase thing in my civilian job and like this better, especially for a pedestrian commute. I think it looks plenty professional so I’ll probably keep carrying it when I go back to civilian life this fall.

      Laptop sleeve and interior pockets are removable. I generally carry: 13″ MacBook, A5 size journal, legal pad, pen case, my Pearl crossbody bag (or a Hobo clutch wallet, depending on what I’m using at the time), a water bottle, a large pen case, a small book, and a spare shirt. It all fits easily and is very lightweight. Highly recommend.

  9. I’ve never lived in a city with much of a public transportation system, so I’m always interested to read the considerations that have to go into a train/bus/subway/walking commute.

    Currently I carry a medium/small purse every day, crossbody or shoulder bag. Usually once a week I’ll bring in a plastic bag with lunch items for the week (I have a minifridge), and if I have stuff to bring in other days I’ll just stick them in my purse. I never take work home. I have a padfolio with a phone pocket that I use for meetings, and if I’m going to be traveling for work, I’ll take that home with me one night.

    When I was pumping, I brought one big bag for everything. I left my pump at work during the week but still had to transport parts and bottles every day. I didn’t want to carry a purse in addition to the giant bag, so I threw all my purse items in the bag and switched to the Hobo Lauren wallet, which was big enough for my phone if I needed something to carry around during the day.

  10. Anonymous :

    What does “schlep” actually mean – this means the commute, how much you carry, what? There are a lot of northeastern-sounding words used on here that I don’t get.

  11. Mrs. Jones :

    I carry the OMG to work every day, with book, personal items, etc. Sometimes I also bring a lunch bag, although I could fit my lunch in the OMG if I really tried. I drive to and from work.

  12. After seeing someone here talk about being a “bag lady,” I realized I was doing that – carrying too many bags – and decided to consolidate. I got a cheapo reversible tote from Amazon (link to follow) that can fit my JaxxPack lunch bag (love, love, love my JaxxPack), a water bottle, my iPad, and a couple other small things. Now I just carry the tote bag and my handbag and I feel like I’m not schlepping ten bags everywhere all the time. The tote can easily be wiped down if necessary, but it was so inexpensive I won’t care if it doesn’t last five years. I’d rather spend money on my handbags than my work tote bag, but I’m also in a work situation where people don’t really pay much attention to the kind or quality of bags being carried.

    • Scarleton reversible tote bag:

  13. Shopaholic :

    I struggle with this so much. I am currently on a meal plan where I eat 5 small meals a day and I end up eating at least 4 of these at work so I need to carry my lunch to work and empty containers home. Later in the week, I generally go out and meet friends after work so I like to have one sleek bag but I’m usually weighed down. I also walk home when its nice out (normally take transit) so I’m struggling with a bag.

    Today I’m planning on going to pure barre after work so I’ve tossed my gym clothes in my purse, but luckily I don’t need shoes. When I do yoga after work, I just end up renting a mat because it feels like too much effort to take my yoga mat to work in the mornings.

    All that to say – I don’t have a solution and I find it frustrating but packing a lunch is the healthiest way to go probably so I’m stuck I think.

    • Anonymous :

      If it helps and you have enough containers, you can just leave them at work (clean them) and take home the whole lot on Fridays only.

      Doesn’t your yoga place (or work) have some sort of lockers where you could leave your things?

      • Shopaholic :

        That’s a good idea actually… maybe I should just leave them at work and take it all home on Friday. It’s really only an issue when I’m going out after work which just tends to happen later in the week.

        I’ve only just started going to yoga (my trainer highly recommended it as a solution for my back pain and to try to increase flexibility) – so far I’ve just been renting a mat at the studio but I haven’t landed on a permanent studio yet, so maybe I’ll look for a place with lockers.

        Thanks for the suggestions!

  14. I drive, and I rarely need to leave the office, so mine aren’t too bad. On a typical day, I bring my lunch in a plastic grocery bag and carry a small purse for my wallet and other usual stuff. I don’t routinely need to carry around notebooks or a laptop, but I have a larger bag to use if I do. The only unusual thing that might come up is if I want to change for something after word, in which case, I’ll probably bring a change in another grocery bag. If I bring home work, I usually can just hand-carry it (a notebook and some printouts). I don’t have any need for extra just in case bags at the office, though in my past life as a litigator, I kept a tote large enough for a few files in case of a last-minute court appearance.

  15. Anonymous :

    I drive to work and take my purse and lunch bag everyday. Once a week I bring home files and my laptop and so I use a third, larger bag those days. I also keep a small cross-body purse in my office that can fit my phone, keys, sunglasses, and a couple of cards like my license and debit card. I will use that sometimes when I have to do a site visit or someplace with a lot of walking because it is easier for me than lugging around my regular purse.

    When my son was little and I was pumping I commuted by train and had the big pump bag, which I also put my lunch in, then I had my purse and sometimes a laptop bag too. It was too much! I would sometimes leave my pump at work, but at the time I was split between two different cities so I had to take everything with me most days.

  16. Is 10:30 really a typical quitting time for biglaw? I’m obviously not in that industry. That sounds unbearable.

    • Cornellian :

      I’d say 9:30 is more typical for me (6th year in a top tier transactional practice in NYC). I am a “morning person” by BigLaw in NYC standards, though. I’ve certainly had my all nighters, but also my periods of leaving by 7 most days.

    • I’d say pretty standard, or at least not at all unusual. To contrast with Cornellian, though, I’m definitely not a morning person, even by BigLaw standards – I’m generally in the office from about 10:30 – 10:30, and will check email and do any pressing work at home before I go in. And there are days when I don’t roll in until 11 or 11:30. Very unusual for me to be out before 8 – it only happens when I’m really quiet at work or have specific dinner plans.

    • Definitely office specific. Suburban DC BigLaw here. I usually come into the office between 9/10 and leave the office most days at 7ish unless a deal is going crazy and everyone is staying at the office, in which case it’s whenever we finish although now that I am more senior (senior associate in a transactional practice) I do my best to manage (up and down) so that the “late” nights are closer to 10/11 pm instead of 1/2 am. If busy, I often log back on from home after dinner and stay logged in (but not necessarily actively working) or monitoring my phone until 11ish, depending on the partner I am working with (some like to log on at 10/11 after their (older) kids go to bed). I find that 80%+ of the office is gone by 7/8 on a given night.

      • Anonymous :

        I’m from a completely different part of the world but my experience is almost exactly the same. I’m from a big law firm in the Philippines and most people are also gone in the office around 7-8 except for the younger associates. In the first few years, sometimes staying extremely late is considered a “badge” of sorts. It’s also a great way to bond with your fellow associates. As a Senior Associate, though, if I stay late it’s usually only until 8, then I eat quickly at home, and go back to work on my laptop. Or, if I really need to be at the office, then it’s also only until 10-ish (and any other work follows if ever, but only if really necessary).

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      Typical as in the average? Not for my firm, but I am on the West Coast. I typically quit around 6pm. But it is definitely not unheard of to work until 10:30pm on busy days.

  17. Anonymous :

    I take the bus and only one bag. Depending on my daily needs it may be a giant tote or a small purse. I always take the phone, keys and card holder (ditched the “big wallet”, so much better) but other than that, not much. A bigger tote for when I bring luch, with the lunch bag inside the totebag.

    Rarely I may to bring the laptop home, it has its own laptop bag and I just bring the whole thing (bag, charger, etc) with me.

    I have a fridge, sink and locked drawers at work, allowing me to leave some stuff at my desk like a mug, tea bags, headphones, etc

  18. I drive to drop my son off and then go to the metro station (1 mile total driving). Then metro into work. I have struck upon a good balance of bags lately. I adore the Kate Spade Cobble Hill Small Ella for my purse both week days and weekend. The crossbody, short strap that fits over your shoulder, and option to expand makes it perfect. I have it in a spring/summer and fall/winter color. But then I have everything else (lunch bag, gym/running clothes, notebooks/files, spring coat that it is now too warm for, etc). For that I have found the Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Tote (medium) is the best. I love the flexibility it gives me. It might be my favorite gift from my MIL.

  19. I have a 25 minute walk to work and use a large high end leather tote. The tote expands so I am throw in shoes, lunch bag, yoga outfit or folders. Its a bit big and sloppy so I don’t use it if I am going out after work or have out of the office meetings.

    • Shopaholic :

      Can I ask what bag you’re using? I can’t seem to find anything that’s big enough!

      • I use an LL Bean large leather carriage bag – and my office mate, who works out with me sometimes has a bigger bag that has softer sides that crumple – that is my guess for what Jo uses. The comments on the leather bag that I use are often that it’s too big, so, maybe ok for you?

        I’m getting old enough (and just coming off of travel using the bag as a carry-on) that I’m reading through for ergonomics.

  20. Windy City Big Law :

    Loved that the comments here were 1) helpful and 2) actually about the post so I could read them all.

  21. I use the subway to commute from work and my days are 50% in the office, 50% at outside events (meetings/lunches/networking events). Most days I take the subway to daycare to pick-up my kid and I also pick up the car – my husband does drop off with the car which we park in a garage near daycare.

    I take two bags with distinct needs:
    (1) A black leather tote that can carry: my notebook; a pouch of make-up essentials – lip balm, comb, spf powder, lip crayon, nail file; business card case; pouch of phone charger and extra battery; phone; keys; hand cream; sunnies; mirror; cough drops; travel pack of tissues
    (2) A canvas bag with water-proof lining that carries: my lunch on non-lunch event days; snacks for my toddler on daycare pick-up days; my shoes for the day (i hate keeping shoes at work); small umbrella; anything else that doesn’t go in my tote if I might need it (ex. any papers from a prior evening event that I want to bring to work).

  22. I drive and usually do dropoff on the way.

    I typically have my beat up old messenger bag with my Chromebook, files of work stuff (I always have work on hand in case The Kid wakes up sick in the morning), legal pads and assorted other stuff, plus my current purse (usually a Longchamp or smaller Botkier model) and a lunch tote (which can be whatever freebie we have on hand from sporting events/conferences/etc. that will fit in the office fridge or even a brown bag depending on the day and what I am bringing).

    If I bring a lot of files home, then I will stuff some of them into a redweld and bring that or just take a lit bag from the office home with me. Occasionally I will carry my large laptop to and from the office and that travels in its own case.

    If I have to go to court right after dropoff n the morning, I will put my files into a lit bag and just leave whatever I do not need in the car. I am in the market for a new nice messenger bag that I will keep at the office and use when I only need to have a few things at court with me.

  23. Anomnibus :

    My commute to work is: walk to the subway stop, take that line downtown, switch to another train, and walk to work. My Fitbit says this takes about 3,000 steps. Then I do the reverse in the evening.

    I take a purse, and a lunch bag most days. On days where I need to go straight to a dance class, I put my lunch in a reusable plastic shopping bag and put that in my dance bag to consolidate. On days where I plan on (or anticipate) working from home, I have my laptop backpack which doesn’t take up much room.

    I also try to minimize how much stuff I take with me when I leave when I go somewhere straight from work, like a restaurant or the movies.

    I’m a little self-conscious of my haul when I can get a seat, and very self-conscious when the train is crowded and I have to stand! I don’t want to accidentally hit someone with my purse!

  24. Anonymous :

    DC biglaw, I have a 20 minute walking commute and I carry a large structured tote (one bag only). My rule is that any purse I use needs to zip at the top, and be large enough to comfortably hold a laptop and a pair of heels. I also keep a canvas tote bag in my office that I stick in my purse if I’m grabbing groceries on the way home.

    • Shopaholic :

      Can I ask what tote you’re currently using? It’s so hard to find a large tote that zips!

      • Anonymous :

        Embarassingly (?) my current one is from Target. I’ll post the link if I can find it. I’ve had it for a year and a half and use it every work day, carrying laptop and heels in it most days, and it is still in great condition after a lot of use.

      • Anonymous :

        Best $35 I ever spent.

    • I dig your standard of “zip at the top and carry a pair of heels” – I use a Bagallini, which gets bonus points from me for having a back pocket that fits over a suitcase handle and is durable enough to withstand frequent flying as a carry-on. I went through too many cute Target bags where the handles ripped/frayed.

      P.S., great post topic!

  25. Not that Anne, the other Anne :

    I almost always commute by car and I carry my purse and my lunch every day. The purse is a small crossbody, but I also have a wallet inside that can be a phone wristlet. I just pull that out of the purse if I’m running a quick errand during the workday.

    If I commute by bike (which I should do more of!), the wristlet, keys, and lunch go into a nylon Eagle Creek mini-backpack. It actually came as part of a piece of larger luggage, so it’s really tiny and just about perfect for a bike commute.

    I have a messenger bag that I keep at work for work-to-home transfers. If I happen to forget to bring it back to work, I also have a couple of reusable bags folded in a drawer somewhere.

  26. I always carry two bags – one leather tote for wallet, keys, sunglasses and various things to keep my toddler entertained on the commute, and the other a black canvas tote that holds my lunch and gym clothes. We take the metro (roughly 1hr including the walk) to daycare, so I use a running stroller to hold him, with space for my bags underneath. The trick is when daycare sends me home with lots of additional things, like his artwork or piles of laundry – then it really starts to feel like a schlep.

  27. I have about a 45-60 minute commute, divide my time between two offices, and have occasional court appearances or other off-site appointments. A few months ago I realized I was regularly carrying at least 2 and sometimes all 4 of the following:
    — a professional-looking tote with all my personal stuff (wallet, keys, phone, planner, etc.) as well as any files or papers I needed to take home;
    — a lunch bag which is the perfect shape and size but is turquoise with blue and white gingham;
    — a bright blue gym bag that was tough to fit everything into in winter;
    — my utilitarian, work-issued black laptop bag that was bigger than I really needed it to be.

    I have scaled back and am so far thrilled with the outcome. I purchased the Dagne Dover Landon Carryall in black in the largest size. I probably could have gotten away with the medium one, except that the large one is the only size that fits my work laptop. This is now my “everything” bag. I can fit gym clothes in it as well as my lunch bag. The utilitarian, work-issued laptop bag still lives in my office, so if I didn’t bring my “everything” bag and need to take my laptop somewhere I can.

    I still carry a tote with all my personal stuff and a few files, but now that I have the “everything” bag it can hold the overflow so I’m not cramming the tote with a million files. I also got smart after two totes in a row nearly lost their handles and bought a Baggallini tote (I think it’s the Boulevard) that will hopefully be a little sturdier. It’s not fancy, but at this point my priorities are 1) fewer bags, 2) no shoulder/back pain, 3) pockets for everything, and 4) not looking like a psychedelic pack mule. Plus, I figure I have a little leeway as a public interest lawyer to choose practicality over fashion, and the bag is a light grey and a fairly standard looking tote, it just happens to be nylon instead of leather/faux leather.

  28. Commute with about 40 mins walk (and a boat trip in between). I generally have a surface tablet (which is my work computer), papers / bound copies of documents, coffee, water and a smoothie in flasks and normal handbag stuff, plus gym bag at least once a week. I used to try and cram it all into handbag + longchamp tote but sore back resulted! Just purchased this – – which on day 3 is rapidly becoming my favourite. Tote smart enough to take papers to meetings and a backpack to and from the office. Winner!

  29. Oh I love the idea to keep all the rewards cards separated. I’ll have to figure something out for that

    • rather than carry reward cards, there are apps for all that! I have no idea where any of my cards even are anymore. I like Cardstar.

  30. Drive to work. Regular purse (mid-size medium blue Henri Bendel satchel at the moment) with all of my regular things, lunch box on the days I bring my lunch, and a large canvas bag (roughly the size of a LL Bean large boat and tote) with my firm logo on it. Sometimes I stuff the lunch box in the canvas tote if I am trying to have fewer bags, sometimes I don’t bother. If it’s just breakfast, I just toss it in to the tote sans lunch box. I schelp a firm-issued laptop back and forth these days and have been making an effort to leave at 6/7ish and work from home later if I need to, so I am frequently toting large purchase agreements/other printouts to review and markup. I usually drop my empty commuter mugs (one with milk for breakfast and one with crystal light) into the canvas bag at night to take home. Once a week I am toting snacks with to the office, so those fit in. I do not go to the gym, so that solves that problem (but likely creates others), I keep a few pairs of heels at my desk (which I have not worn in two + years) and just wear flats to work as I have never in my life met a pair of comfortable heels and I have knee problems (also currently pregnant). If I have a client meeting, I would probably swap the canvas tote for a longchamp, but the few in-person meetings I have are either on travel (very rare) or in the office such that I’m not taking a bag into a conference room.

  31. Boston Biotech :

    Commute is 10 min walk to the T, ~40 min where I’m sometimes standing, sometimes can grab a seat, and ~15 min walk to my office.

    I really, really try to avoid carrying multiple bags because it feels unprofessional. Not sure it actually *looks* unprofessional, more how I feel. Plus, I often pick up coffee between getting off the T and the office, and that can turn into a real juggle with doors…

    I carry my laptop back and forth every night and I keep a small charger, backup phone battery, protein bar, misc toiletries pouch, sunglasses, notepad/pens and small water bottle in my bag at all times just in case. Plus small card wallet, phone, keys in my pockets if possible (and I often wear my lightweight Patagonia down vest as a jacket or layer to ensure I have zip pockets on me).

    In the winter, I use a Timbuktu laptop shoulder bag but the strap feels too substantial for a lot of my silky summer tops without a coat on top, so I recently bought an InCase shoulder bag (think it’s the Incase Market Tote – ~$40 on Amazon). It seemed giant at first, but it’s a lightweight canvas and I really like it so far! Can even fit my Tupperware containers in, so I can avoid carrying a lunch bag when my lunch involves multiple containers, or shove my coat in when I’m traveling. But it’s not so structured that it feels giant if it’s just my laptop.

    Really enjoying the other comments on this thread – great discussion topic!

  32. Legal Aid Lawyer :

    My go to is a small bag (wallet, keys, phone) in this monster.

    I originally got it when I was pumping because I wanted something without an internal divider. Now that pumping is done, I can use it to bring files home (big enough for a legal size redwell. I also bring it to court because I work in a relatively casual Midwestern area. It’s caught on like wildfire in my office and a couple people have it in multiple colors.

  33. I used to carry the Lo & Sons Brookline which is a great bag, but it made my whole body hurt when I had to walk and take public transportation. I work exclusively at clients so I have to carry my whole life around with me because there’s nowhere I can consistently stash my stuff at work. I also travel/fly a lot. My coworkers are in the same boat and at least half of us use backpacks for that reason. I use the North Face Surge backpack which isn’t the most attractive but I really just don’t care anymore. It’s newer and all black which I think is the best I can do if I don’t want my whole body to hurt. I chose North Face because my old Jester backpack lasted me 10 years – through part of high school, all of college, some of my professional career. Really it only wore down when I had to carry around two laptops for a while.

    Basically I’m totally unapologetic about how I look with my backpack because it doesn’t leave me in pain. Additionally, I’ve been carrying my old Marc Jacobs lil q ukita bag which has been kind of overkill. I used to use a smaller Marc Jacobs crossbody which was more doable.

  34. Walk about a half mile to the metro, then take the metro in – I carry a Kate Spade handbag that fits my slim laptop, my sunglasses case, and a wristlet with my essentials (which I take with me instead of the bag to get lunch). Once a week or so, I take a plastic bag with microwave meals and yogurts, and usually recycle the bag at work. So, occasionally two bags, but one to the extent possible.

  35. I drive to work and rarely take work home with me. So I have my laptop bag (I’ll sometimes bring it home on the weekends, just in case, but rarely have after-hours work at home during the week), my purse (a medium sized hobo), and my lunch bag (unless I have lunch plans out that day). So 1-3 bags to schlep, depending on my schedule, but usually just 2 (purse + lunch bag). If I took my laptop home more often, I’d definitely try to combine the laptop and purse (perhaps as a smaller purse inside the laptop bag). My gym bag lives in the trunk of my car.

  36. Anonymous :

    I walk to work if the weather is pleasant and I’m not bringing a lot of stuff, or take an Uber or drive if otherwise. I am usually just in the office, but sometimes have client meetings at other offices or need to visit government agencies.

    On an ordinary day, I will bring my Tory Butch Perry tote and put the following in it: wallet, phone, keys attached to a card case, water bottle, makeup bag, portable phone battery and cable, notebook, laptop, and laptop charger. Sometimes I will just carry the laptop in a sleeve in my hands while having the bag on my shoulder. If I decide to bring lunch for the day, then that sometimes also fits in the bag, but if it doesn’t, I’ll bring a big lunch box that will also fit my water bottle. I rarely bring gym clothes as I prefer to go home to change first before working out.

    I prefer to use only one bag when going to client meetings, as that, I feel, looks more professional. But I don’t care about what I look like schlepping bags back and forth from the office. It’s more an issue of my minor scoliosis. Sitting hours at a desk takes a toll on my neck and back, and having a heavy bag just makes it worse.

    While I was pumping, I would carry a big backpack that miraculously fit my big cooler, pump, pump parts, and my laptop. I have an Anello backpack in large that was perfect for all this and doubles as a travel bag or diaper bag today. Then I’d have a separate purse for my other items. I would get some comments from people who saw me, like our receptionist, but for the most part clients or partners didn’t really see me walking home.

  37. Anonymous :

    Can someone PLEASE design divided lunch containers that stand up in a tote bag? I’d love to flatlay a sandwich, granola bar, sliced fruit, whatever in little compartments and then close the whole thing. Like a bento box, but flattened into an 8.5×11 shape the height of a sandwich.

    Right now I toss a bunch of squat, cube-ish containers into my tall canvas tote along with my wristlet/wallet, lotion, book, keys, sunglasses, etc. and I hate how much weird space the containers take up. It also involves unpacking and repacking the whole bag every morning because I don’t want anything to potentially spill all over everything (though a spill on the bottom of the bag isn’t the end of the world).

    • Have you tried Rubbermaid Lunchblox? They lock into a custom ice block and stay pretty stable. My son uses them for his lunch and never has messes. Will put link in separate post.

      • Rubbermaid Lunchblox:

      • Yes, those are great. I have some and my son also has them. His set fits perfectly in his lunchbox, but we can also leave out the smaller containers if he wants to take a whole piece or fruit or a juicebox or something, so it gives some flexibility.

  38. Anonymous :

    I work as a consultant in the Midwest, so I drive to work and to my client meetings. I also do daycare drop-off for my preschooler so most days look like
    – a work laptop bag (LO and Sons, a switch from my OMG that my back is really thanking me for)
    – my lunch bag
    – daughter’s backpack
    – 1 of the following – binder, additional box with something that needs to be returned, gym bag

    Was worse when my daughter was young – then I added a pump back back and my daughter’s food each day. Anything that requires more than one trip down the stairs to the garage is too much.

    I generally just take my backpack or small wristlet with me if I’m going out after work. Not super-stylish but I’m past that point. Will ocassionally pack a small purse if I’m traveling for work and have dinner plans.

  39. Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

    I have a medium sized leather tote that fits my laptop, a binder/some papers, notebook, wallet/phone/keys. I also bring one of those soft Built lunch bags, and throw that in the tote on the way home.

  40. I try very hard to carry only 1 bag at a time. I have a black leather Kate Spade tote/shoulder bag that I bring to work on days when I think I’ll need to take papers home. I often put a smaller crossbody inside it, which can hold my phone/wallet/keys/etc. I also have smaller purses for days when I don’t expect to bring any papers home. If I unexpectedly need to carry lots of work home, I have a black leather Lodis briefcase that lives at the office. I’ve probably had it for more than 10 years, and I also use it for court. On days when I have to go to court, I often carry a smaller purse along with my briefcase, even though I’d really rather have just 1 bag. For travel, or on days when I want to bring a change of clothes, I use my black OG, which I *love.* It can hold my work papers, change of clothes, plus a smaller crossbody such as the Lo & Sons Pearl with no problem. I’m realizing I have quite a few different bags for different purposes but I love them all!

  41. Sunshine20806 :

    3rd year associate in the Northeast here. I drive in to work every day and carry a lunch bag and a large tote-sized purse/bucket bag with me into work. I typically leave my briefcase in the office unless I have brought it home with work inside. My tote purse has a smaller wristlet wallet in it with all my essentials. When I go to a meeting or court, I put my files in my briefcase and then just include the wristlet wallet in my briefcase, while leaving my large tote purse in my office. I hate walking into meetings with a briefcase and large bag, so just transitioning the wristlet between them eliminates that.

  42. Have JD will Travel :

    I drive to work everyday and drive 3 or 4 times a week to hearings. I travel up to three hours one way for hearings, but usually about an hour each way on average. I carry a large laptop bag from Target to my hearings because I have to carry an accordion file and my laptop into each hearing. I don’t spend too much money on my bags because the weight/ constant travel would be an abuse to any nicer of a bag. I also work in a legal aid type position where a nice bag would not be expected. I have a larger laptop because my administrative record is on a CD and therefore my laptop has to be big enough to have a CD rom thing.

    Unless leaving direct form home to a hearing, I don’t bring files or work laptop home. So, I stuff lunch, cardigan, etc in the bag to/from work. I also keep a “go bag” in my car that has essential toiletries, extra suit, extra shoes, cash etc. Life saver for anyone else who travels regularly by car.

  43. Equestrienne :

    I drive to work, but I still feel like a bag lady. I carry my purse, which is a smallish cross body with short straps as well. I have a big quilted leather bag that usually has work in it or files. I often will stash my lunch bag inside the black bag because lunch is usually leftovers at my desk. Then I carry a Trader Joe’s reusable tote for my gym stuff, but at least that stays in my car so I usually only have the purse and the big black court/file bag to schlep. If I have to be in court I will just toss what I need in the big black bag and leave my purse at my desk. I’m not sure what the big black quilted bag is. I got it in a luggage shop because I had some specific needs that more traditional designer bags didn’t meet. If I have dance or am going riding in addition to regularly scheduled activities then there are more bags. Bags upon bags upon bags. My fiancé calls me the bag lady.

  44. Anonymous :

    Longchamp Le Pliage, Large, in the Gunmetal color. I bought this color because it works with both black and navy. It’s not necessarily the most professional bag, but the utility of it is unbeatable.

  45. I usually take the bus so I am not a bag lady. My Von Baer Business City Leather Laptop Bag is more than enough and the adjustable strap makes it easy to carry.

  46. Elizabeth B :

    I bike commute, so usually it’s a pannier with planner and often computer and purse stuff. I ride in work clothes unless it’s a business formal day. Then I pack a change. If it’s hot out, a second pannier with a change of clothes. Lunch usually goes in the Bike basket or strapped to the rear rack- I bring from home almost every day. My wallet is a wristlet clutch- it holds phone and cash and such, so if I need to leave the office, I take just that and my planner. There are also lots of bike panniers that look nice enough to take to a meeting, like Po Campo and Basil.

  47. Dodie Price :

    I have a rolling under the seat tote that I use, and a crossbody bag with removable strap. If I need more than that, like a messenger bag, I slide it over the handles of the rolling under seat tote. All this is not a worry for me right now, though, because I had a STROKE at work. Did you know the FASTEST growing demographic of stroke victims is women in their 30-40’s? The major cause is not heart disease, it’s stress. Anyway, I am on my second rolling bag, and I do love it. Now used mostly for the hospital. Wonderfully lightweight, organized, and I don’t give a s**t what people think about me rolling it along. :D Beats an aching back any day. It’s main compartment can easily hold a big binder, it has water proof pockets great for the gym, two water bottle holders zip up, and large water proof pockets perfect for lunch/etc.

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