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Could Your Wallet, Keys or Purse Use a Spring Cleaning?

Oversized purse

A dear friend of mine went to the doctor because she was having chronic shoulder stiffness and back pain. The doctor was puzzled, finding no evidence of an injury or obvious cause for her ongoing pain. As my friend prepared to leave, she hoisted her designer purse on her right shoulder.

“Wait just a minute,” the doctor said. “How much does that thing weigh?” With the scale handy, they weighed that bad boy and discovered she was carrying around 22 pounds of stuff every day. A too-heavy purse is not only a pain to carry around, it can cause asymmetrical posture and an unbalanced gait.

She traded in her purse—which was heavy to begin with because of its extra zippers, studs and metal buckles—for a lighter model, and removed all but the necessities. Within a month, her pain had vanished.

When I presented a workshop at the Pagosa Springs Women’s Retreat, we did a fun exercise to see who had the oddest thing in their handbag. One woman pulled out a jar of jalapeno jelly, another had a ceramic camel, and the winner carried a life-sized replica of the U.S. Constitution. Our purses can sometimes become receptacles for everything—and anything.

How Many Keys Are Too Many?

Too many keys

Another friend told me that she had gone to the mechanic because her car sometimes wouldn’t start. She learned she’d damaged the car’s ignition switch. How? Her massive key ring contained 22 keys and a number of decorative fobs; its weight had pulled on the switch over the years and worn it out.

(UPDATE: Thanks to Money Beagle for alerting us to the scary fact that heavy keys may have contributed to more than a dozen deaths due to ignition-related accidents in GM cars. You can read more about the affected car models and recalls in this USA Today article.)

When I left the publishing company, it seemed like a good time to simplify my keys. At the time I owned a ring that looked like something a prison guard would carry, filled with keys for everything from my safety deposit box to the keys for a house we no longer owned.

After removing the nonessential keys, I was surprised to discover that I only needed to carry two—a car key, and a house key. My purse instantly lightened up by several pounds.

Wallets can get jammed with an over-abundance of stuff, too. Over time, things like old receipts, notes and expired cards can accumulate, until the wallet will barely close. How about those membership and loyalty cards we all hate to carry (but which retailers love)? I

f you have a smartphone, you might try an app like Stocard or Key Ring Rewards Cards, which lets you enter and store the numbers—and lose the plastic cards.

Lightening Up and Letting Go

It’s not easy for me, but simplifying helps me let go of my desire to control everything.

Carrying less means accepting that I won’t always be prepared with every little thing I might need in every circumstance.

The payoff is that I can go shopping or strolling without experiencing shoulder pain from a too-heavy purse. It’s also easier to find things inside the bag without having to dig.

How about you?

What items do you deem essential to carry in your purse or wallet? How many keys do you carry? Is your wallet svelte or bloated? If you’ve discovered any strategies for carrying less, drop a comment below!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is the author of 16 books, including Small Bites, 101 Things To Do With Bacon, and BERRIES. She enjoys sharing ideas to simplify cooking, gardening, and home projects. She is also the owner of Cross Media, Inc. and founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society.

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13 thoughts on “Could Your Wallet, Keys or Purse Use a Spring Cleaning?”

  1. What a wonderful idea! We often don’t think of cleaning out our purses or wallets. I’ve been slowly downsizing to a purse that just fits all my essentials. I’m going to look through it and my wallet tonight and see what “essentials” I could do without.

  2. I have a nice, small, crossbody bag that I use when I go to the store. In it I place my phone, keys, credit card and driver’s license – which is about all it holds. I love using it because it keeps my hands free and it is not heavy. Last night I realized that almost everything else in my regular, heavy purse and bulky wallet wasn’t necessary and now I am on a mission to find a smaller, lighter purse and wallet. It is such a great feeling to downsize these items and my shoulders will also appreciate it!

    • I’ve thought of getting a crossbody bag for years, especially for traveling — thank you for the reminder. Here’s to downsizing and sparing our shoulders! Thanks, Lisa. xo

  3. I gave up carrying a purse years ago after it got stolen at work. It was such an incredible nightmare to recover from the theft.

    I had to close my checking account – which was set up to have all my paychecks automatically deposited and to pay all of my bills automatically – so I had to re-do all of that.

    I had to cancel all of my credit cards. And I had to get a replacement driver’s license, which was just an amazingly difficult task, because all of my ID was in the purse, which was stolen! Seriously, they wouldn’t replace it without a certified copy of my birth certificate, which I had to write away to Hawaii in order to get. Of course, I couldn’t send them a check for the $14 fee for the birth certificate, because the checking account had been closed. Plus, since I was hauling around my savings account statement in my purse as well, I had asked to bank to freeze that account. So now I had NO access to any money at all! Seriously, I had to borrow the cash from a friend in order to get a cashier’s check to send to Hawaii for the birth certificate!

    Suffice it to say, I made some changes after that. Long story short, I only carry the bare minimum now – one credit card, one debit card (for a separate spending account that I opened so my primary checking account info NEVER leaves the house) a few loyalty cards for places I regularly shop, my driver’s license and a bit of cash. It all fits in a cute little zippered pouch which I carry in my pocket, and everything else (checkbooks, surplus credit cards, a small cash emergency stash etc) stays safely at home!

    The only inconvenience with my system is that I have to make sure I’ve got decent pockets – preferably with zippers! But it’s an enormous relief not to have to worry about a purse any more!

    • Cat — who expects to have their purse stolen at work? That experience does sound like an absolute nightmare, but I like how you’ve simplified everything to the bare essentials now. Your comments always challenge me to dig a little deeper when it comes to the art of simplifying, and I always appreciate the thoughts you share. xo

  4. The ignition problem can be even more serious, as I believe the ignition issue with GM cars that have led to lots of deaths is also tied to the fact that heavy keyrings were known to be a contributing factor.

    • MB — I had no idea. Yikes! Thank you for sharing this serious consequence to carrying too many keys. I’ve updated the article to include more information.

  5. Great post, Eliza! How about this approach? Think of a purse as we would a school lunch box, and clean it out totally every evening. That’s the approach my best friend uses and, as you can imagine, her purses are always organized, clean and lightweight. Inside and out. Taking a cue from her, I clean out my purse, not every night, but at least a couple of times a week. Makes such a difference. (As for that jar of japaleno jelly, or the life-sized replica of the U.S. Constitution, all I can say is WOW!) Thanks again for the great post!

    • I really like this idea, Patricia! A little regular maintenance is a good strategy, and the speed with which things tend to accumulate makes your several-times-a-week routine just right. Thanks for sharing. xo

  6. Two of the best pieces of advice I have learned to not wind up in the predicament your friend was in, are:

    1. Never buy or carry anything larger than a medium-size bag. I learned years ago that as long as there is room, we continue to add more items. So figure out what your essential items are, and choose purses that only accommodate those items.

    2. Even when traveling on a family vacation, don’t take a giant bag that will hold every family member’s sweater, umbrella, water bottle, etc…choose a nice uni-sex backpack, that hubby and even older children can take turns carrying, instead of Mom hauling everything for the entire family.

    • Jackie – the backpack idea is SO brilliant. Even if we lighten our loads, we mothers often end up carrying everyone else’s things in our bags. Thanks for the advice to stick to a medium-sized bag, too. These are great tips! 🙂

  7. Prior to kids I carried a small wallet, lip balm, and two keys in my tiny purse. Now, with children in tow, I find that I need to carry a lot more (diapers, wipes, change of clothes, snacks). My boys are young, and one of these days I’ll go back to a tiny purse, that will now likely include a cell phone. But in the meantime, I switched to carrying a backpack that I carry over both shoulders. I can still carry what I need (though my bag is far less than 22 pounds) and it’s easier on my back than a traditional purse or diaper bag.


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