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Spring Edit: You Know What Your Main Bag Needs? A Smaller Bag Inside It

This is Spring Edit, the column in which I help usher you and your home into warmer days — or, if you live in a largely seasonless place as I do — then I am here to merely help supply transitional vibes as one part of the year becomes another part of the year. I gave you some great supplies to get for your next queer picnic, some outdoor decor ideas for under $30, and now I’m here to talk about your bag.

It’s time to take a good hard look at your bag. The main one. Whether it’s a large purse, a tote, a backpack, a satchel, a crossbody, a fannypack, a briefcase, shoulder bag, a laptop carrier — whatever bag is your Main Bag, we’re going to pick it up and clean it out. The loose receipts gotta go — unless you’re saving them for tax purposes (hello, former career freelancer here), in which case they should be placed in a file or folder with at the very least a date on it. The jangling change, the straw wrappers, the stretched out hair ties. If it’s loose and largely purposeless, it’s gotta go.

Perhaps you operate with more than one bag regularly, in which case you are not given a free pass on this activity! It means you gotta do it with all the bags you use on a regular basis, which I will define as thrice or more a week. Put the contents of your bag(s) back where they actually belong or directly into the trash. Try to start with as clean of a bag(s) slate as possible.

Now that you’ve got that part out of the way (it was so much easier than you thought it’d be, wasn’t it?!), let’s talk about what should go in your bag and stay there, starting with the lifechanging concept of: bags within bags. Perhaps you’re thinking: Wait, my BAG needs…a bag????? Yes! It does! Perhaps even multiple bags! Bags within bags keep you organized and minimize in-bag messes. Just trust me on this one!

1. A pink small pouch holding a phone and headphones. 2. A leather small pouch. 3. A pink puffy laptop case. 4. A purse organizer. 5. A blue travel bag. 6. A clear makeup bag.

1. Zipper Pencil Pouch ($16)
2. Leather Makeup Pouch ($40)
3. Puffy Laptop Bag ($32)
4. Purse Organizer Insert ($23+, depending on size)
5. Tech Accessory Bag ($15)
6. Clear Bag ($10)

Accidentally getting ink all over the interior of a nice bag I own has happened to me more than I care to admit. It’s an easy problem to avoid, because pencil pouches exist and used to be one of my favorite things to acquire during back-to-school shopping. Nostalgia and function! This one has additional compartments for phones and other small items. Cute pencil pouches can also be used as on-the-go cosmetic bags. But if you need something a little roomier, perhaps to store the sunscreen that should also be in your bag (see below!), then get an actual cosmetic bag that can easily fit multiple items. Chapstick rolling around in the bottom of a bag is almost asking for as much trouble as loose pens! And please do not throw your laptop in a bag without any protection! This purse/tote insert that comes in multiple sizes and finishes, so you can tailor it to your bag. It makes it sooooo much easier to find shit so you’re not digging around in your bag for five minutes just to find your headphones! Tech accessory bags are especially useful for travel. And the benefit of a clear bag is that you can see exactly what’s inside, so it’s a good thing for the important stuff, like keys, an AirPods case, etc.

And now that your bag has a bag of its own — or several! bags in bags in bags! — let’s talk what else should go in your freshly cleared out bag that’s ready to be the best that it can be. Let’s not pretend it’ll soon be filled with all the bullshit you just cleared out — it’s hard to maintain an organized and pristine bag when it’s something you tote around with you every day. It’s naturally going to acquire the detritus of your everyday life. But hopefully being a little more intentional with what you do carry will help ensure you’re maximizing the function and utility of your bag. Aside from the obvious stuff like your keys, wallet, a mask, etc., below are six items I think should go in your main bag if you have the space!

Sunscreen you can use on your hands, face, neck, and ears is so important to have on you at all times! I’ve gone with the fan favorite Supergoop brand, but only you know what sunscreen works best for you. If you need help, check out in the sunscreen installment of our queer makeup column Put This on Your Face. I bought one of these solar-powered portable chargers last hurricane season, and it’s the best, especially when I don’t know exactly how long I’m going to be away from the house. It also has a built-in mini compass and flashlight. The price point on this one is hard to beat. A mini bottle of hand sanitizer often comes in — sorry for this — handy. But they can also really dry out your hands (even the ones that claim to have a moisturizing element), so I also like to keep hand cream on me. I’m for some reason always forgetting to wear sunglasses, which is a problem as I live in Florida. My fiancé is very concerned for my eyes! But I’ve found I’m much more likely to remember them if I keep them in a cute case that’s in my bag at all times. And the thing about carrying Tide Pens around is that half the time they’re not even for you — they’re for others! Do you know how nice it feels to be the friend who whips out a Tide Pen when someone spills something on themselves?! You get to be the hero!

Go forth with your newly organized, well stocked main bag!

Spring Edit is a miniseries all about giving your life a little refresh for warmer weather.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 842 articles for us.


  1. I am a big advocate for bags within bags! I chose my rucksack because it has tons of sections and pockets, but I still have a couple of mini bags in there: one for meds, one for masks, handsan etc. That way the essentials are in ready-to-switch pouches when I occasionally need a different sized bag.

  2. Kayla I could have sworn you have mentioned having bottom energy on here before?? but the entire first paragraph of this article gives me very toppy vibes. Yes I will clean my bag!!! 😳

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