Minimalist Wardrobe: The Case for a Single Bag

Like most fashion-aware American teens, I grew up chasing the ideal purse. I gobbled up fashion magazines (Nylon, anyone?) and kept a close eye on what purses were trending among my peers. In high school, I had a collection of (mostly thrifted) purses that took up a good deal of my upper closet shelf.

Currently, I own one purse. I’ll acknowledge up front that prior to my journey to acquiring better and less, I created a great amount of waste. Time and energy spent hunting, shopping, money saved and spent. With the rise of online selling, I was able to recoup most of my financial input, and it’s not like I’ve ever had the ability to drop a serious sum on a designer bag, to the benefit of my wallet ;).

Back in the day, I’d use my meager allowance to thrift vintage tooled leather bags, mini backpacks, large canvas totes, and even source funky fabric for sewing my own. One could certainly describe me as purse obsessed. Then came the dreaded label phase. All of the “cool girls” (I.e.: preppy) had Coach bags and Burberry scarves at my high school.  I still remember the various sizes available. The cooler you were, the bigger the purse. A massive tote denoted high ranking clique status. My teenage desire for acceptance drove me to drop vintage for a bit and explore brand names. As a practical Capricorn, I aimed to save money. Trips to the outlets brought home a small horde of mini Crossbody bags, which I favored for traveling (Crossbody bags are harder to pick pocket or steal when on a bus or subway). I found out that a purse slathered with logos didn’t suit my personality, I didn’t feel any cooler, just a bit more poor.. The cliques I wanted to identify with still had me pegged as an oddball regardless of what I was wearing. Perhaps tolerable, but not really “one of them”. Or so I felt. I noticed that even that clique acceptance transcends physical identifiers. Fun social experiment in understanding internal vs. external validation. Consequently,  I ditched the preppy scene and went back to my vintage/ bohemian roots. Since then, I’ve wandered between a desire to follow trends and practicality based on my lifestyle. Regardless of style, the number of handbags packed into my closet still abounded. In the last 4 years I managed to have around 2 purses, a travel bag, suitcase, and usually 2 backpacks. 2 years ago, I set out to find the perfect bag to end all bag purchases. The goal: One stylish, durable, multi-functional purse. During my quest, I’ll admit, buyers remorse has set in quite a few times. Here are a few of the bags I tried between 2014 and 2016:

Baggu leather tote.
Sold on eBay. It shed leather bits all over my Oxford button ups, making me look like a shaggy yak.

Madewell transport tote.
TOO huge! Beautiful, but too big. I’d lug the tote to class and stuff it full of books, snacks, and tech, wreaking havoc on my shoulders. Sold.

J Crew black leather cross body.
Too small. Had rivets on the inside of the strap, to adjust length. Found out that said rivets, while attractive, were placed just so they could dig into my clavicle. Painful and hardly a useful size.  Couldn’t even fit my iPad mini . Sold.

Baggu canvas daypack. Decent size, functional for short trips. Straps offered no padding and eventually dug into my shoulders. Donated.

Topo Designs camo klettersack. Awesome pack. Used for camping and traveling, pre-downsizing. Ended up being way too big for my current closet and overwhelmed my petite frame. Better for taller/ more broad individual . Sold.

Now, we come to my all time favorite…

The purse to end all purses, for me at least, is:

The Cabmbridge satchel.


  • Definitely durable.
  • Made from strong leather.
  • Perfect 15″ sizing.
  • Bought second hand.
  • Classic rich navy.
  • Adjustable, comfortable strap. Can be worn on one shoulder, or across the body with ease.


  • It’s narrow in depth. Which could also be considered a pro, because of my habit to overstuff bags. The width simply refuses me the opportunity to do so!

I can’t wait to see how this bag will age. It fits my iPad, a moleskine journal, pen case, snack, phone, wallet,  reusable baggu bag, and occasionally another book. I have vowed to love this bag until it falls apart. Which reminds me, must purchase weatherproofing spray. After years of searching, this bag fits all my needs. As a graduate teaching assistant, I need to look professional, while remaining a slightly casual. It can be dressed up or down, and pairs easily with all of the colors in my closet . When I bike to work, I leave it at home. When I go out via car, I take it with me. Simplifying my belongings has meant searching for multi-purpose pieces. Now, a year after purchasing on eBay, I don’t look at handbags. There is no need. Not on eBay, not in new online shops, thrift stores, and so forth.  It took years of  searching, trying on different style personas, graduating from college, etc. The satchel is a classy and understated piece. It reminds me of my British heritage (grandparents are British), cost a minimal amount, evokes a nostalgia for classic school bag designs from the early part of the century, and gets used daily. What more could I ask for? All that is left is the further development of appreciating the things I have rather than constantly seeking the next best “new” thing. When it eventually does die on me, I’ll be replacing it with another pre-loved Cambridge satchel. Perhaps even a smaller size, as this one is sized perfectly for the laptop that I do not own.


2 thoughts on “Minimalist Wardrobe: The Case for a Single Bag

  1. I was thinking about writing a similar post. In the past 3 years, I’ve worn the same purse everyday (APC half moon bag). When I found this perfect bag, I lost the desire to keep searching. I also tried the Madewell transport tote but regret that purchase. It’s too big and floppy and actually too heavy to carry around all day. I also have the Baggu backpack, but don’t like how the straps dig into my shoulders. My APC bag is starting to show wear at the edges and might replacing at some point but even if it fell to pieces today, I feel that it did a lot of hard work and was worth the investment. Debating if I should replace it with a new one or try something entirely new.


    1. I know! After using one bag for so long, it becomes somewhat of a comfort. I love my satchel and I too have given up the search. I’m curious to see how long it lasts. I know I can’t speak for the true longevity of things in my closet, because a lot of them cycle out of my closet before they wear out.

      Of all the bags I tried (it seems like we experiemented with the same ones) I found I like having a bag with structure and sturdiness. Floppy bags don’t provide enough support for my needs. One thing I do to extend the life of the bag is a cleansing/oiling routine! I use neatsfoot oil which is great for leather and sometimes when I’ve run out, unrefined coconut oil. I find it restores the luster and cleans up the rough spots a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

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