This might seem like a metaphorical question but I assure you it's not. Quite literally, your choice of bag and what you choose to fill it with is causing you neck and shoulder pain.

We all love a large tote bag, some even completely oversized and with that, we fill it with everything but the kitchen sink, sling it on one shoulder and carry it around with us all day - to our detriment!

Most people have a dominant side and it's on that side that we carry our bags that are often too heavy and overloaded. When this happens, we depress our shoulder and roll it forward causing asymmetry and it stretches the muscles in the upper back and neck. Over time, left untreated (and I'll go into some detail on what you can do a little later), this can lead to serious pain and long term issues like muscle spasms or a pinched nerve. Let's not get to that point- shall we?

The beginnings of the handbag

The humble handbag began as just that, a bag that could be held in your hand, that was small but could fit some amount of money and small trinkets. As women entered the workforce in the 20th Century the bag grew in size and began to be worn over the shoulder. Today, we have large tote bags carrying an enormous amount of stuff that quite frankly, we don't need. We seem to have grown into this mentality that we might need it so we just "pop it in our bags" - after-all, what harm can that do, right?

The autopsy of your bag

The autopsy of your bag

Women tend to carry way too much in their bags because we like to feel prepared. We like to have important things at our finger tips but the word important is so subjective.

Besides, if we carry a large tote bag, we don't want it to look and feel empty so I guess we throw everything in there to fill up space.

It isn't uncommon for women to carry car keys, house keys, cell phone, wallet, makeup bag, notebooks (yes, 2 not just 1), breath mints/gum, a book, headphones, hairbrush, phone charger, skincare, snacks, old receipts, empty wrappers, laptops/iPads and the list goes on. You can see how quickly this list will grow.

Have you ever taken the time to perform an autopsy of your bag? Even for hygiene - have you taken a close look at what lurks in the bottom of your bag? Perhaps, old mints or lollies that have fallen out of their wrappers and seem to be stuck to the lining of your bag? Perhaps, old torn out notes and receipts from months ago? This is an exercise worth doing and one that I did a year ago and found it incredibly satisfying.

I have tips below on how to perform your own autopsy of your bag and start carrying only items you truly need to carry in your handbag.

What can you do to address a painful neck & shoulder?

Here's a list of practical tips and actions you can take to address the heavy bag that's weighing you down.

  • Avoid bags with chain-link straps or skinny straps. These offer you no support and can dig into your shoulder. Ideally, the best support is a back pack where the weight is distributed evenly but if you're like me and love a handbag, then you can choose a bag with wide, thick straps that will offer you much better support
  • This is a no brainer - lighten the load. Experts suggest your bag shouldn't be more than 10% of your body weight or 5% of your body weight if you're carrying it on the one shoulder. Keep reading for tips on how to lighten the load and stop the chaos of your bag
  • Alternate shoulders so you stop carrying the load on one side alone
  • I mentioned choosing wide strapped bags but another option is a cross-body bag to help distribute the weight over a wider area. I actually alternate between my tote bag with large, wide straps and my cross-body bag
  • At the end of each day, stretch your muscles and begin to incorporate back and shoulder strengthening exercises

Performing your own autopsy

Where to Start?

  • Clear out your entire handbag - you'll be amazed at what you'll find
  • Bin all the unnecessary items - old receipts, notes & lists you don't need; napkins & tissues that have been crumpled and are unsightly, mints & lollies sitting at the bottom of your bag
  • Take alcohol wipes or a damp cloth and give the lining a good clean

Ahhh, doesn't that feel better?

You only need these 8 Essentials

  • Wallet/purse & keys
  • Touch up make up (just the bare essentials lip balm, powder, blotting paper)
  • Travel tissues
  • Mobile phone
  • Medical needs (Panadol, feminine products)
  • Breath mints
  • Small notepad & pen
  • 600ml or 300ml water bottle - to keep you hydrated. Unless you're hiking or going somewhere where there is a lack of access to water, I really don't see the point in carrying around 1litre or even 3 litres of water!

Brilliant Tips to get organised

  • Put your make up in a small pouch as you don't want lip balms or powders to either melt or spill into your handbag
  • Put your mints in a little container or buy mints already in a container. You don't want them spilling into your handbag and melting
  • Choose a notebook that comes with a built in pen holder and make sure you always put the cap back on the pen
  • If your tote bag has side pockets or built in mobile phone holder, this is where you're best to keep your mobile. It'll help you get to it quickly and you don't need to rummage through your bag

So, you're now convinced to get that tote bag with wide straps or a cross-body bag!

Check out our tote bag and cross-body bag in our stylish, up-cycled denim range and our beautiful, artisan created hand-block design, tote bags.