Monday, July 13, 2015

Simplifying the Handbag Collection

Handbags and purses should be reviewed and pared down periodically, just like any material items that accumulate in everyday life.

My personal style, maintenance habits, and income are in very different categories than they were 10 years ago, so it's time for me to gradually edit through my belongings to reflect that change. Today I took some time to go through my assortment of handbags. I've been keeping a storage tote on a shelf in my closet where I toss all of my handbags and purses*. Every few months, I will rotate through my collection and select a new bag to use for daily wear. (It's like going shopping in my own closet!) I've noticed that I seem to alternate between the same two or three handbags, depending on the season, but I also saw that, paradoxically, the storage tote was overflowing as it tottered on my closet shelf. Clearly, I had forgotten just how much stuff I had.

I made it my mission of the day to sort through this tote and immediately eliminate any unnecessary purses and/or bags. Decluttering and editing unnecessary stuff from my life is important to me; I like for things to be simpler and more streamlined in my home and in my life. It cuts down on so much wasted space, time, and energy. I wouldn't yet consider myself a minimalist, by any means, but I am gradually attempting to adopt a minimalist attitude as I try to simplify where (and what) I can. Although I must have had 20 different bags in my storage tote, I decided right away that I wasn't going to agonize or second-guess any decisions, but I would just get rid of what I could quickly and easily eliminate.

Some of the choices were obvious: two small totes that were actually part of the gift packaging for a set of lotions or bath products; a mint-colored handbag that I bought at a boutique near my old job nearly 10 years ago, the exterior and interior fabrics of which have since start to rip and peel; an ugly cream-colored clutch that I mistakenly bought for one-time use to bring to a family member's wedding reception. Only one choice made me hesitate, where I thought, Oh, this is cute, but I did eventually realize that I had really outgrown the $15 hounds-tooth hobo bag that I bought from from Payless a few years ago. What made that choice easier was only the fact that I had recently been given a similarly colored and structured handbag that was of a much better quality and of a more fashionable pattern.

It had been more than three or four years since I last used any of these bags, and some of them I had never used. So why had I kept them for so long? The two reasons why I kept these particular bags were: 1.) At one time, I did like some of these handbags very much; and 2.) Some were hardly (or never) used, so they were "still good" and to get rid of them would be wasteful. Here's how I processed those feelings.

Things You Used to Like that Are Now Shabby

This is always tough, but is just part of the life-cycle of any material item. (Please remember, we're not talking about people or the Velveteen Rabbit here. These are just some ratty old purses!) Two of the purses that I discarded fell into this category. I couldn't carry them around proudly or confidently any longer; they were just in too poor of condition. I recognize that I am privileged to be able to make this kind of distinction, so when I do carry a new or nice handbag, I try to remember to be grateful because there is no need for me to hang on to shabby or broken things.

Unlike items with sentimental attachment, which I mention briefly in closing, once-loved but now-shabby items remind us of why it may be better to invest in a few quality pieces that will last and last, rather than several lesser-quality items that will fall apart after a while. Also, they serve as reminders for the necessity to clean and care for the items that we have and want to last. Although I did get quite a bit of use out of these handbags for what I had paid, my next handbag purchase will be of even better quality, and will hopefully be longer lasting and more durable.

Things You Never Use(d) but Keep Just in Case

This is the kind of material clutter that is dangerous and fills the screen during any Hoarders marathon on television. For items that aren't sentimental, it may be baffling why people keep things that they neither like nor use. This usually comes from a mistaken sense of thriftiness: people think that they may be saving time and money in the future by preemptively replacing something that they may (or may not) need or use at a future time. Unfortunately, many people do not actually end up using these items because instead, they go out and buy newer or better replacements, while the old ones seem to collect dust and take up space.

Three of the purses I had been hanging on to put me in this trap. One was an evening bag that I used only once, but because I had spent money on it at one time (not even a lot of money; probably less than $20), I felt like I should hang on to it. Buying this purse in the first place was a mistake: I didn't like it then, and I had only bought it on impulse because I mistakenly thought I needed one for the occasion. Hanging on to it for eight years when I never used it again was my second mistake. Although I can't get back the money I originally spent on it (I'm realistic enough to know that I don't do yard sales or services like eBay), I can correct my second mistake and finally get rid of it.

The other two bags, which were freebies, were perfectly good, by anyone's standards: clean, cute, and functional. This is why I had never got rid of them before! But seriously, nearly a decade has passed and these things never saw the light of day. What was I waiting for? I might as well donate them and let someone else enjoy them. Like I said before, I already have enough stuff, and I am grateful for what I have. I don't need to surround myself with a stack of "just in case" things, because realistically, I will never use them and they are just taking up wasted space. Clean and uncluttered space makes me happier than a stockpile of stuff. I'm at a point in my life where I am beyond the "just in case" mentality: if that time comes, these things aren't going to help.

Decluttering Tip: Don't overwhelm yourself! Just try to work through what you can accomplish quickly and simply. It's best not to overburden yourself, either physically or emotionally.

There are a few other handbags that I did keep, which I probably should get rid of, too. Those that didn't make the cut in this round of editing were a few handbags to which I have sentimental attachments. They remind me strongly of a certain time period in my life or of certain places and memories with which I associate them. Perhaps I will review these and either eliminate them at a time when I am more prepared to deal with the associated emotions, or maybe I'll eventually reintegrate them into my rotation.

For now, I will choose to feel good about the progress I have made, because getting rid of five units of anything, especially handbags, is a worthy accomplishment that shows progress! Getting rid of items that no longer suit me is one step toward a simpler and more peaceful life.

*In case you're wondering, What's the difference between a handbag and a purse, you are not alone! A quick internet search dredged up an answer, which seems to support my existing (though limited) knowledge on the subject.

A handbag is larger than a purse, and the terminology seems appropriate to its function: a larger bag carried by hand (or shoulder!) that contains one's personal effects! Unlike a purse, a handbag seems to be a more utilitarian, structured, and a more valuable (expensive) accessory. A purse, deriving from the idea of a coin purse, is a small bag or pocketbook for carrying only one's essential valuables, like money and keys. Purses, being smaller than handbags, are also cheaper: some vague and general guidelines suggest that a purse can refer to any small handbag under $100.

I thought I had read somewhere that, while it is generally considered rude to hang your purse on the back of a chair, it was acceptable for smaller purses or clutches to be left on a table while dining out, while handbags belong under one's chair; however, as I've tried searching for this advice, I'm finding only articles that say that even a small purse being left on the table is also rude! Apparently I must re-evaluate my manners! Perhaps I'll search for more information on purse etiquette at a later time.

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