Being a bag lady.

Why Being a “Bag Lady” Keeps Me Organized


Sometimes I’ve been called the “bag lady”.

No, I am not homeless.  All is well and good in my part of the world.

It is because bags are a part of my organizational system.

Being a pastry chef and sugar artist who owns a cake boutique and also teaches and writes basically means that I am a freelancer with multiple sources of income.  This suits my multipotentialite tendencies well.

I am never bored and there is always something interesting going on. My schedule is never the same from week to week.  On any given day I could be working from home, a local location, or at an out of town assignment.

Sometimes being on top of everything and keeping it organized can be a bit tricky, however.  If I ever feel unprepared it gives me anxiety and I am not my best self (those closest to me will attest to that). So I always do my best to make provisions so that doesn’t happen.

Why Bags?

While struggling with how to stay organized and prepared, I saw a medical drama on television where the doctors had “go bags” for when they had to leave with little or no notice.  A light bulb went off.  I wasn’t a doctor but a go bag would be useful.  I tried it and it was a lifesaver.

How My Bag System Works

At any given time I have 4-6 go bags. It depends what my schedule is and where I need to be.

The bags are different colors and sizes and sometimes they aren’t bags specifically but may be a cart or something on wheels depending what is involved and how much I have to carry.  The differences make it easy to distinguish them apart so that I don’t pick the wrong one at the wrong time.

I can stock or restock them, as required, on a daily or weekly basis.  For the occasional bag, I can stock it bit by bit as I am getting ready for an event.

I store the bags in a coat closet or keep them in my van if my life is especially hectic.  They are easily visible and I can grab and go!  And whenever I need a particular item or important paper, I know which bag to look in.

Bags for Recurring Gigs

I have a very nice professional looking black bag that holds everything I need if I am meeting with a potential cake client (I go to them for the appointment).  It carries my portfolio, contracts, business cards and various office supplies that I would need to complete a contract.

I have a document case with wheels that I use for the classes that I teach at the college.  It has wheels because those textbooks are heavy and I want to save my back.  Add a binder with lesson plans, quizzes, and graded work, various office supplies, and other required tools (chef hat, thermometer, etc.) and  I am ready for the semester.

Reusable grocery bags work well for classes that are local and don’t usually require heavy lifting. I keep a different one for each of the different schools where I teach at because there are different requirements at each one. I may need to keep uniform specific items in there as well as curriculum or handouts. I also have a cart available if for some reason I do have to bring in something large or heavy.

A red canvas bag works nicely for my laptop, power cord, and a notebook when I have to write or answer email and will be on the run.

Bags for the Occasional Gig

When I teach out of town, it usually requires that I bring a lot of tools with me for my class. Whether I drive or fly, I have a large suitcase on wheels and a toolbox on wheels.  Wheels are essential here for moving so much stuff from point A to point B.

The Everyday Bag

For me, this is my purse.  Gentlemen, this might be your briefcase. I make sure I am prepared for most situations.  I have a mini-pharmacy that can take care  of most of my needs (ibuprofen, cold meds, allergy meds), A travel toothbrush in case I don’t get a break in between meetings or gigs, a small notebook in case I find that I am inspired in the middle of something (you can also use your phone for this but sometimes I like to draw so I go old school here), and my phone with my Google calendar on it.

The Satellite Bag

This is not really a bag at all but the glove compartment of my van.  When meetings or classes go longer than anticipated and I have to rush to the next one, I like to keep a small backup of things in there to keep me prepared.  I keep 8-ounce bottles of water and granola bars in case I don’t get the chance to eat (this is quicker and cheaper than heading through the next fast food drive through).  I have some personal items and breath mints in there (need to make a good impression), extra napkins for a spill or Kleenex emergency, and an extra chef hat (you have no idea how easy it is to misplace those buggers).

How You Can Make This Work For You

You have a different serial life than I do but the system can work for you, too.

It doesn’t require a lot of money to start this system- work with what you have.  The only purchase I made specifically for this was the document case on wheels. Everything else I already owned and repurposed for this.  Most of the bags I have were promotional items from companies or events I (or my husband) attended.

This system can also include hobbies, volunteer work, or other recreational activities. A gym bag or dance bag if you like to work out, a small supply box to go to art class, or a golf bag all work with this.

Think outside the bag.  My husband has a file box with a handle that he uses to carry things home from work when his briefcase is just too small.

Decide where you may have an organizational problem and try it out.  If it doesn’t work for you, you are no further behind than before.

Do you think you this system could work for you?  What do you do to keep on top of things when you are on the go?

Photo Credit: Matt Edward

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