What’s in your work bag right now? In addition to your wallet, cell phone, and keys, you’ve probably got a stratum of crumpled receipts, an uncapped lip balm crusted with mystery grit, and maybe even a small family of unidentifiable napkin-wrapped snacks.
Time for a hard reset, perhaps?
Curating and organizing your work handbag essentials will not only lighten your physical load, but it’ll also clear some space for your mind to be a bit more at ease. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of what to put in your work tote bag. (Hint: That ancient, dried-up mascara isn’t one of them.)
Read on if you’re ready to kick the clutter and set yourself—and your work bag—up for stylish success.
These items are personal and unique to you alone. They can’t be quickly reproduced by a trip to the store. So, if you’re wondering, “What should I pack in my work bag?” start here.
First and foremost, your keys should have an identifiable and easily accessible location in your work bag. There’s nothing more disconcerting than digging through a dark bag at night when you want to quickly open your car or apartment door.
Frankly, it’s a matter of safety to keep your keys in the same, easy-to-grab spot.1 Many bags may even come with a built-in key holder. That cute little ribbon with an eye-hook attachment that you always ignore? Believe it or not, it’s there for a reason. Learning to consistently use this handy device for your keys will significantly reduce your fumblings.
Like your keys, your wallet should have a go-to home in your work bag. Who wants to be fumbling around, hunting for their credit card, when the coffee shop line extends around the block? Depending on your wallet size, perhaps a zippered outer pocket or an inner slip pocket is an ideal location.
While you’re refreshing your work bag essentials, take a moment to give the same organizational treatment to your wallet. Old receipts should be filed or tossed, expired credit cards and zero-balance gift cards should go, and maybe filter through all of those rewards cards so that you’re toting around only the ones you use most frequently.
3. Electronics (with Chargers)
Technology is a lifesaver, but it can also be bulky. No two ways about it—your work bag needs to hold your must-have devices and all of their accouterments. But they sure do take up a lot of room:
- Cell phone with charger and cable
- Laptop with charger and cable
- Headphones (and charger if wireless)
- Mobile charger or battery pack
- USB card
To access them all at the office—without sifting through a spiderweb of cables—tuck them away in a work tote with plenty of zippers and slip pockets that’ll keep each one in their place.
Your work bag is more than a purse—sometimes it’s your entire office. If you find yourself doing work while on an airplane, in a coffee shop, or even on a park bench, you’ll need more than your basic purse items to succeed. To keep you in top condition throughout the day, don’t leave home without a work bag that’s equipped with these refreshments.
4. Water Bottle and Snacks
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We know—we sound like your mom right now. But, if you’re not carrying around a reusable water bottle yet, this is your gentle—but firm—reminder to do so now. Staying hydrated not only keeps you feeling and looking good, it also can improve cognition, sleep, and mood.2
Equally essential alongside hydration is maintaining a balanced blood sugar level. Carrying just one small, no-mess snack in your work bag can be the difference between a productive afternoon and a mid-day crash.3 If you prefer packing lunch for work, you can make some room in your tote or carry your lunch bag separately until you arrive at your precious office fridge.
Some small bites that hold up well in your work bag and keep your hangry side at bay include:
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
- Protein bars
- Nut butter
Remember to consume or replace your snack regularly. Letting it crumble—or worse—fossilize in your work bag? Not a good look.
5. Beauty Cosmetics
Whether your look is glam or simple, by late afternoon on a busy workday, you might start feeling like you’re in need of a pick-me-up. Sometimes a splash of lipgloss or a dab of blush is all it takes to perk you up for the rest of the day.
For this reason, a small cosmetic case or makeup bag stocked with simple, go-to products that you already know and love is an essential component of your work bag. What exactly you determine to be essential depends on your look. Maybe a swipe of mascara is enough, or maybe you like the look of fresh eyeliner. Whatever your preference, pack your work bag with only essential products from your favorite brands.
Some products that we love to have on-hand are:
- Makeup wipes
- Brow brush and pencil
- A small travel eyeshadow with a brush
- BB or CC cream, concealer, or foundation
- Light fragrance
- Mini brush for your hair
- A hair tie or two
- Lipstick or lipgloss
- Blush (try an all-in-one lip and cheek tint to save space)
- Moisturizing lotion
6. Non-Beauty Cosmetics
In addition to your beauty cosmetics, there are a few items that your work bag cosmetics case should contain:
- Travel size pain reliever
- Breath mints
- Sanitizer or sanitizing wipes
- Eye drops and spare contacts or glasses (if you wear them)
7. Feminine Products
Periods can be unpredictable, but they shouldn’t be embarrassing—nor should they derail your entire day.4 Luckily, having just a few feminine products on hand is all you need to avoid any menstrual mishaps.
While there is absolutely no shame in carrying all your feminine products to your office’s bathroom in your hand, you might choose to keep them in a plastic bag, a cute pencil pouch, or even a specialized menstrual product zipper pouch proclaiming such wonderful things as:
- Shark Week
- Vampire Teabags
- Oh Bloody Hell
- Code Red
- Nonya Business
- Stuff For My Uterus
Sure, you might be a boss lady who barely misses a beat. But, sometimes, even you can be thrown off by the unexpected such as:
- An internet outage
- A less-than-punctual city bus
- An office thermostat set to 58 degrees—during a snowstorm
The bottom line? There are a lot of unknowns, but the perfect work bag paired with absolute must-have work accessories can prepare you for just about anything.
8. Pen And Paper
Whether you’re a doodler, a public-transit poet, or simply a fan of a handwritten grocery list, having a small notebook and pen on hand in your work bag can save the day when you can’t (or don’t want to) use your electronic devices. Just make sure the notebook has a hardcover to withstand some jostling as you make your way to and from the office each day. Oh, and keep your pen carefully capped. Ink stains and spills don’t exactly pair well with a nude-colored work tote.
9. Weather Wear
As sure as the earth turns, you’ll set out from home one morning with the sun on your shoulders—only to return home trudging through a sleet storm. Or maybe you live in a climate that’s prone to rain showers, wind gusts, or sudden blizzards. Whatever the case may be, carrying a little wrap, a light sweater, a poncho, windbreaker, or even a packable parka in your work bag is a smart hedge against bad weather—or an overly air-conditioned waiting room.
Pro tip: If your local weather tends to be particularly wet, keep a compact umbrella tucked into the corner of your work bag as well.
10. Non-Electronic Entertainment
What is this thing? A rectangular stack of papers bound together on one side? Yeah, yeah—paper books are so passé. They’re so 1990. Until, of course, the internet goes out, the train hits a dead zone, or all of your devices die at exactly the same time with no outlet in sight. Suddenly your tattered paperback book goes from boring to bestie.
Books aren’t the only non-electronic form of entertainment around. Think about carrying some small form of entertainment in your work bag to keep you occupied on your lunch break or your unbearably long commute.
It doesn’t need to be the board-sized version of Trivial Pursuit. Just try one of these:
- Rubik’s cube
- Crossword or sudoku book
- A portable craft like felting, knitting, or needlepoint
- A deck of cards
- A wooden puzzle
BÉIS Work Bags Work For You
Cleaning out and organizing your work bag is both awful (hotel chocolates from that conference last year—yikes) and rewarding. At BÉIS, we applaud your efforts and want to help you maintain a gorgeously-curated bag of essentials.
With your busy workday in mind, we’ve created a collection of work totes that take you from home to the office to a chic dinner party effortlessly.
Plus, these sleek, sophisticated bags come with all of the bells and whistles. From adjustable straps and full-zip closures to inner pouches and subtle key ring leashes, we’ve made a carry-all that makes staying organized both easy and stylish.
Say goodbye to the mess at the bottom of your old work bag. Switch to success in a satchel today with BÉIS.
- Duberman, Amanda. “34 Things Women Do to Stay Safe Show the Burden of 'Being Careful'.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-women-have-to-do-to-be-careful_n_7072080
- “The Importance of Hydration.” News, Harvard T.H. Chan, 22 June 2018, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/#:~:text=Drinking%20enough%20water%20each%20day,quality%2C%20cognition%2C%20and%20mood
- “Snacks for Adults: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000338.htm#:~:text=Even%20though%20snacking%20has%20developed,from%20overeating%20at%20meal%20time
- “Infographic: End the Stigma. Period.” UN Women, UN Women, https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2019/10/infographic-periods