Anatomy of a Natural Mama’s Purse

Anatomy of a Natural Moms Purse

A reader recently emailed and asked:

“Katie, I have loved your blog for months now! In a lot of your posts, you mention that you always keep something-or-other in your purse. Your purse is starting to remind me of Mary Poppins… And I would love to see a post: “what is in Katie’s purse?”

Thanks 🙂

Which gave me a great excuse to go through my purse (*ahem* clean it out) and make a list of everything in there. As I was doing this, I realized that it really is starting to resemble Mary Poppins’ famous bag and I probably have everything but a lamp in there…

On the positive, it weighs so much that I get a workout from carrying it! 🙂

My purse doubles (er.. triples) as a diaper bag and on-the-go survival kit so it has a very random assortment of items at any given time. I’ve included the basics in this list, though there are often other items as well. I was aiming for a post that looked like one of those “What’s in her bag?” profiles in a magazine, but I’m definitely not a throw-a-lipgloss-in-a-clutch-purse kind of girl… If you didn’t already think I was a little strange with the whole making my own deodorant and toothpaste thing, you might now…

(Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links to things I obviously buy and believe in… if you decide to purchase anything through these links you have my sincere thanks for supporting my blog. This public service announcement brought to you by the new FCC guidelines.)

The Purse:

1. My purse, a Saddleback Leather Tote,  is by far the most expensive accessory I’ve ever bought. I saved for it for years but consider it an investment because it comes with a 100 year (yep… you read that right) warranty that can be transferred to your heirs. It is literally the last purse I’ll ever have to buy and I wrote it into my will…

It is extremely well made, comes in three colors, has a removable liner that makes it easy to clean, and a handy inside pouch that is perfect if you ever need to conceal anything 😉 It can be carried cross-body or over the shoulder and has an inside pouch that is perfect for wallet/checkbook and a metal hook that I attach my keys to so I don’t lose them the kids can’t take them.

I also love that this purse holds its shape, doesn’t fall over and has enough room to actually organize things within smaller bags inside. Why would one need bags inside of bags? Read on….

The Basics

2. Two things I always keep with me are my phone (in an Otterbox case since I have kids) and a Moleskine notebook which I use all the time for making lists (because I’m mildly OCD and feel more productive when I do) and for outlining random blog posts as they come to me.

The Bottles

3. Long hours as a doula are the reason I carry these items. I always keep magnesium oil, rescue remedy, and herbal hand sanitizer and herbal breath spray from Tropical Traditions. I’m not one to use hand sanitizer all the time but it does come in handy when the kids decide to feed ducks at the park or we have to use a port-a-potty. (Note to self: should probably start carrying TP too…)

The Survival Gear

4. I married a man with many brothers and they all love anything outdoorsy. If I’ve learned anything from them, it is that you can never be too prepared. I have a small bag (see #9) inside my bag with the following items:

  • A fire steel for starting fires– works great for campfires, not so effective on candles.
  • A para cord bracelet– you know, in case I ever need to repel or tie a Christmas Tree to the roof of the car or whatever… I also carry regular hot pink paracord so I don’t actually have to mess up the bracelet if I ever need paracord (logical, I know).
  • A knife- I have a folding pocket knife which has been excellent for cutting fruit or cheese at picnics and taking those little plastic tag-holders off of new shoes. I’m guessing it would also be useful in a defense situation… I also carry a Swiss Army Knife which I’ve used much more than I ever expected to, especially the phillips head screwdriver.
  • Pepper Spray (not pictured)- because you just never know.
  • A whistle/compass (not pictured)
  • A LED Flashlight (not pictured)

The Essentials

5. With kids, someone is always hungry or thirsty. I keep a klean kanteen full of water and a leak-proof Lunchbot with snacks (like nuts, coconut, dried fruit, etc) in my purse at all times because a hungry two year old in a crowded store is not something to mess with!

The Herbs and Oils

6. I keep another small bag with first aid and health essentials. I have a glass jar full of coconut oil and some little bottles of essential oils and tinctures with me at all times. I get the amber glass bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs and fill them with what I need. I usually carry:

The Diapers

7. I’ve always thought cloth diapering was easier, but especially with two kids still in diapers, it saves time and space. I can keep a couple one-size diapers in a wet bag in my purse and they can be adjusted to whichever child needs them at the time. Then, I just throw in the wash and grab a couple more when I get home.

The Just-In-Case

8. Mainly in case of emergencies or food poisoning, I keep a pill container with capsules of cayenne, activated charcoal, and probiotics in my purse at all times too.

The Bag in a Bag

9. Why does one need a bag-in-a-bag? For organization… My hubby found these Eagle Creek Quarter Cube Pack It Bags and they fit perfectly in the Saddleback purse. I could probably fit up to four of them in the purse if I needed to, but they hold a lot and most of the loose items above fit well in one of these.

The Miscellaneous

The random items in my purse vary daily, but often I carry:

  • Superglue (again, you never know)
  • A tape measure (you’d be surprised how much this gets used)
  • A toothbrush, or five…
  • Business cards
  • A ring sling for baby
  • Extra baby blanket – I love these that a friend just told me about and they double as a burp cloth or swaddler
  • safety pins and a sewing kit
  • lip chap
  • extra rubber bands for hair
  • travel scissors
  • Vitamin C
  • a lighter or matches
  • bandaids
  • extra cash
  • kleenex or handkerchief
  • pens and pencil
  • books

So, that’s a look inside my (40 lb) purse… what do you carry? What is the most unusual item you have in your purse right now?

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Reader Comments

  1. Fascinating! thanks so much for sharing. I can’t carry that much with me all the time, it would kill my neck (I carry a very very small leather purse, barely big enough for my few cards, phone and keys). But I love the insight and might make up an extra bag to carry with me in the car of the extras you mentioned that I don’t already carry.

  2. I’ amazed there isn’t a hair brush in your purse

  3. I so wish I had a friend like you! Your purse resembles mine. Even down to the cost of the purse which is something I too, saved for and expect it to last a lifetime. I can’t think of anything more unusual than what’s in your purse, but I always carry a Sharpie.

    My friends think I am so weird and can’t believe all I carry in my purse, especially since nothing in my purse has to do with make-up. Which brings me to my reader request…..I’d love for you to do a post on your friends. Are they lifetime friends you’ve known since grammar school or high-school (so they “get” you), or have you moved from where you grew up and now are friends with people in your town or parents whose kids play with your kids. And do you relate to each other? I am at a loss for friends who live this lifestyle. Most everyone thinks it’s a little odd that my daughter has pet the cow who’s milk she drinks and asks for milk like this, “mommy, can I have some of Custard’s milk” (Custard is the name of the cow). I don’t even get into the fact that we drive 50 miles round trip once a week for our milk.

    Thanks for the fun post!

  4. Do you have a purse or a back-pack? lol and thats kinda a mean looking knife 😛

  5. Wow that is something. you must feel like a pack mule! lol (you must be talking about camping for a week. 😉 When I take my three kids anywhere, My purse is full of: drum roll please – my wallet, keys, phone, diaper, wipes. Oh yeah, we sometimes take a jug of water a snack if we are gone longer than an hour. I must be a guy lol

  6. Hahaha! Glad to know I’m not the only one with a fire starter and essential oils rolling around in the bottom of my purse! 🙂 And I too have had shocked looks when I’ve pulled out my knife and wiped it off with a baby wipe – yes, normally to slice apples and such.

    Cute purse, by the way!

  7. Love that someone else feels the same way about not having their purse/diaper bag/first aid kit/emerg kit “purse” fall over or collapse all the time. It has to be one of my biggest pet peeves to not have a sturdy bag. I’ll have to check yours out. Thank you for the post!!

  8. Wow! I carry 5 credit/debit card/license in my back pocket. A diaper and wipes (only one in diapers) are stored in the car. The keys are tucked into my pocket or the spare set (used 50% time) is around my arm. That’s it! I’m working on a stash of basic items in the trunk of the car. I suspect when we leave toddler/baby stage and I get out more the needs will change and I will begin to haul something around…maybe. I’m inclined to obtain a small backpack for my toddler to carry to hold his water, snack, and some EOs. We are SO different! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Yes! I carry super glue too! and duct tape and many other “emergency” essentials. I’m a college student, so my friends generally think it’s weird how much stuff I carry– but they are always grateful when I pull out some obscure item that they need in a pinch.

  10. I’m in awe and feeling slightly jealous! Though I think I’d get arrested here in Brooklyn for carrying a couple of those items. There’s a ban up here on all sleepytime tinctures. 🙂

  11. love this post. i LOVE LOVE LOVE that bag! uh oh…. now i want one 🙂 you are very influential on me!

  12. I am clearly under-prepared. I keep a change of clothes for each kid in the trunk, along with 3 cloth diapers, a changing pad, and wipes. We also have a mini-first-aide kit that just lives in the car. When going out, I just pop water bottles and snacks in a basket. We ride our bikes a lot of places, so this has me thinking I should put together a little first aid kit for the bike too. I don’t even tote anything with us usually (except the kids!). This definitely gives me some ideas!

  13. I carry phone, tissues, keys, chapstick, water and tube ticket (I live in London). I hate to carry a heavy bag 🙂

  14. If I ever go on “let’s Make a Deal,” will you come with me!!! 🙂

  15. I recently learned (from a female cop that volunteers at my library) that, while pepper spray is great for defense, using chemical mace is even better because it works against dogs. she said postal workers carry it for that reason. honestly not sure what is in chemical mace though, so I don’t know if this was helpful at all!

  16. Wow! Your purse sounds a bit like mine. Lol. Although I usually have a foldable brush, a sharpie, and an emergency poncho in mine. Although your list does remind me of a couple of things I need to add to my bag. Now ask me what I keep in my car at all times…..

  17. Seriously? You are one prepared mama! I can’t imagine carrying all of that, but you would be ideal to get stranded with anywhere. Hats off to you!

  18. Wow! I think you thought of everything! 🙂

  19. Number 8 – what are the capsules of cayenne for? Assume the activated charcoal is for food posioning? And probiotics… what do you uses these for in an an emergency?

  20. I loved reading this. A jack knife is a must. I carry one in my purse and one in my pocket at home. I gave one to my DIL for her birthday and she has thanked me multiple times since.

  21. Lemmee see…In my purse I carry my wallet, keys, cell phone, three lip glosses, one lip balm, business cards, door flyers, coupons, hand sanitizer, aspirin, pens and pencils, a notepad, maybe a pair of gloves, some safety pins, bobby pins, earbuds, and anything else I may need, depending on the occasion. My friends call my purse (A matte black messenger bag) a “Bag of Holding”.

  22. OMG somebody as crazy/sensible as me. This looks like the contents of my bag. The tape measure is amazing and doubles as a toy for restless kids in cars and at appointments as well as actually measuring things (I don’t leave home without it). Also the swiss army knife I would be totally lost without ….plus rescue remedy and many many more. People think I am mad until I produce something that actually helps them. Thanks Katie you make me feel more normal all the way from Australia.

  23. I’m really surprised that no one has mentioned fingernail clippers! Besides the obvious wallet, keys, cell phone, chapstick, paper, and pen, nail clippers are my #1 necessity! Hangnails are super annoying and sometimes painful, and I can never seem to remember to cut them while I’m at home but at soon as I go somewhere they start annoying me again. Also they can be used to cut other things like those plastic thingies attaching tags to new clothes. I have come to the rescue of many people by offering them my finger nail clippers 🙂

  24. The two things I carry around (and/or have in the car) are tape – scotch and masking – and post-it notes. Thanks for the awesome post!

  25. What kind of jar do you have your coconut oil in that it doesn’t leak when it gets warm in the summer, for example, and liquifies? I would hate to have coconut oil all over my bag

  26. For everyday, I don’t carry a purse. I have a pouch that attaches to my belt big enough to hold credit/debit cards, lip balm, keys, and some cash. But when we leave town for any reason I have a large leather bag that I pack up. My husband and I are empty-nesters, so I don’t have the children’s items. However, I have most of the other items. The first time I packed it up we were going camping for a week. Our Jeep was packed to the rafters when I carried the bag out. My husband pitched a fit, telling me there was absolutely no room for it. I put my foot down and said if my bag didn’t go, I wasn’t going. He managed to find room for it, complaining the whole time about the weight and size of it. After we arrived in the wilderness (we don’t go to campgrounds) he grumbled some more as he hefted it out of the Jeep. Then he started making little comments, “gosh, I wish we’d thought to bring a sewing kit”. My reply, “In my bag.” “Wow, we should have brought sunscreen.” “In my bag.” “Dang, if we just had some super glue I could…” “In my bag.” When our week of blissful back to nature was over, he carried my bag to me and ducking his head sheepishly he said, “I will never say another word against your bag.” And he has kept that promise. No matter how overloaded our Jeep is he always finds room for my bag.

  27. Do you use a planner? Agenda? If so Please share.

  28. Actually, this type of knife in a self defence situation would prove to be either useless or even dangerous as it can be used against you. If you have never trained with a weapon, it much easier to imagine a response than to effectively execute it. I would highly recommend looking into this subject being that you are a reputable blogger and inform your readers accordingly. Women need to be better educated about self defence…


  29. Just wondering, but what do you use the cayenne pills for ?
    P.S. Friend told me about your site two days ago and I feel like I have printed off over half of your website ! Love it all, thanks so much!

    • Helps in early illness to ward it off and can also be given (hopefully never needed) during heart attack until help arrives

      • Really? Do you have any articles or anything I can refer to for that heart attack thing? Or uses for cayenne pill article? As for the purse, I’m almost the same. Mine is referred to as Mary Poppins bag as well lol. Mine has no coconut oil but I have almost exactly the same stuff PLUS an emergency crank flashlight, a tiny Keychain multitool for car accident (has seatbelt cuttet, flashers, led light, siren, and glass shatter thing), I also have a tiny tape measure that surprisingly DOES come in handy a lot! My lip balm has the perfect shade of red to go with ANY outfit and gimme some color, can also be used for blush! I keep mascara and a two sided lighted mirror which can be used for ANYTHING! Make up, light, grab attention from a high point if I’m ever stranded in the woods! I have a HUGE fear of getting into a horrific car accident and having to break way put of the car cause it went into a body of water or something and then being stranded in woods/desert for days! Lol I know weird.. I have SO many survival type things and things can double as safety/survival tools I can’t even list them all! Also Wellness Mama I think you would really love this site called The Grommet! They have to coolest most unique things on there!

  30. Is the pill case pictured the one you have? Its precious. Where is it from?

    Also, based on all the (brilliant) stuff, I imagine the bag to be big. Can you give a visual of the amount of space inside the bag… a shoe box size? a cereal box size? etc.

    I love this list, being prepare saves time, money, and stress….something all Mamas would benefit from!

    • It is 🙂 There is a link above but I got it from Amazon…The internal space is at least a shoe box size. I can even keep my laptop or files in it if I need to

  31. I am much like you! A nanny and generally very over prepared for all things. I get a real kick out of using one of my weird items to save the day!

  32. Oh my! I had to laugh reading this article, I hope you have a good osteopath (I can give you the name of 1 in North East Scotland! I can be smug and laugh (kindly of course) because my babies are now teenagers and I haven’t had to carry wet wipes and all the other paraphenalia for a good while now. In fact just this week I bought a small bag and all I have in it when I go out is my wallet, mobile phone, umbrella (Scotland, what can I say?) and pocket hankies and a lip crayon and keys. Bliss! Loved the article, you sound like a wonderful mum and it was great to get to be nosey…

  33. Wauw, amazing list. Maybe one day I am prepared like this as well. The one thing I would add to it are reusable bags.

  34. I have silver colloid lotion for after meals and mosquito bites. I am making sugarfree candies with my essential oils so it is very easy to consume in public.

  35. I have also doubled my purse as a diaper bag. I used the ergo tote from Coach. Over the years I have learned that your back and spine are very important things and you need to treat your body well. If you have to carry that much weight switch to a back pack style. Especially for diaper bags.

    A woman’s purse should weigh under 5 pounds.

    I still keep all the essentials with me, I just keep them in my car.

    I also pre pack event bags. I keep the one for baseball games packed and refill when necessary.

    40 lbs on one shoulder/side is going to a lot of damage to your spine.

  36. We just discovered Saddleback Bags a couple months ago and I am saving up for that purse! We are long past the diaper stage and the grandkids live in other states, but I work full time and am a full time student. I almost always have my laptop with me, and have been on the lookout for a sturdy purse that will double as a computer bag at all times and a book bag on school days. When one of my professors came in with a Saddleback satchel I was quite sure I’d found the company to make such a bag, was delighted to find the bag on their website, and then spent quite some time combing the site… because I had to find the perfect backpack for my hubby while I was there, of course! Love your site and all the good info!

  37. I work full time, am a student and have two little ones so i carry about as much as you do, if not more, and everyone laughs at me. I actually have the same Saddleback tote but I never use it because I can’t fit all my stuff in there! Do you really carry all of the items mentioned above at the same time, or do you rotate things for different situations?

    • Depending on the season, where I’m going, and which/how many of the children are with me usually determines what’s in it.

  38. Hi Katie – What size/color of the Saddleback tote do you have? Is it indeed the large Dark Chocolate Brown as pictured in the beginning of your article? I am just curious how long you’ve had it now, and how it’s held up with your busy lifestyle, regular use, kids, etc. Thinking about getting one myself. 🙂 Thanks in advance!!

    • I have a small dark chocolate espresso one and I love it! It holds up really well! It has a couple of scars now, and it is clearly not brand-new, but the construction is amazing and I love it as much as day 1! I think my kids really will fight over it one day when I am gone.

      • Wow! I can’t believe you fit all of THAT into the small tote! I hear the older (and more broken in) those bags get, the better they look and feel. I am definitely willing to invest in a product that only gets better with age. Now I just need to decide on a color; the Tobacco is calling to me, but it’s so darned “light” looking and I’m afraid of staining!

        • My husband has the tobacco bag and it darkens with age, but honestly it looks better and better with a little scruff and staining.

          • I finally took the plunge and got the small Saddleback tote in Chestnut! The color is gorgeously sophisticated yet will transition well between casual and more “formal” functions. I am loving the rich quality of the leather and how roomy the bag is. Well worth the investment as I am tired of buying lower-end purses that wear out and break in a short period of time! I also bought a small clutch purse on sale via Dave’s Deals in Tobacco (it darkened a bit after I waterproofed it); great color as well and I can’t wait to use it. Thanks, Katie, for turning me on to SBL … I am officially an addict now!! ????

  39. Very fascinating! =) I love how prepared you are! Was wondering too if you carry your homemade cloth baby wipes with you in your purse and if so do you store them in the wet bag too? Trying to get ready for the arrival of our firstborn in May and wondering what the best way would be for storing and carrying them when on the go.

    • Yes, sorry about that. I store them in the wet bag, pre wet and then just put back in there and add the diaper once used.

  40. Hi Katie!
    Thanks again for all your awesome info!! I really do appreciate it! Thanks for helping my family and I get healthy! Where did you get your pill container? is it stainless steel on the inside ?
    Thank you!

    • I found it on Amazon. It is. It had a plastic insert that I removed and now it is completely stainless.

  41. Great thank you!

  42. Wow that’s a lot to carry. 18kg!

  43. Since my son was born I switched from carrying a purse that seemed to attack random items to carrying just a wallet/wristlet that has a compartment to fit my cellphone (in an otter box) and has just enough space to fit my checkbook. Since I rarely leave he house alone that usually goes into my son’s diaper bag (a medium sized canvas tote). I keep everything needed for a diaper change to its own smaller bag. I have a smaller cooler style bag for milk and food and utensils for my son. Snacks for me go into side pockets and then the bag itself gets filled with toys, extra clothes, etc!

  44. Ok, how big IS this purse????

    Love following you! (Wow that sounds creepy… You know what I mean.)

  45. Hi, do you use Mountain Rose Essential Oils? How did you decide to use that company with so many out there? Thanks!

    • I purchase from a lot of different companies, but primarily from them. Their quality is excellent and they aren’t a network marketing company (which I’m not a fan of).

  46. I received this bag in the chestnut color/large size for Christmas. SO excited for it to be my last bag! Love it!

  47. I just wanted to say something regarding the knife. I’m friends with a cop and he said if a cop ever finds a knife on you and asks what it’s for, don’t say self-defense because then you’ll need a concealed weapons permit. Just say it’s for opening things or cutting fruit when you’re away from home.

  48. I’ve wanted a Saddleback purse ever since I originally read this post from you. Now I finally have the money to make the purchase! 🙂 But I am torturing over which one–I think your comments say this one is the small tote. But I saw on your Instagram that you also have a different Saddleback purse (sorry to seem like a stalker!). If I were to choose one bag to be my all-purpose purse (I’m a mom of five kids), which Saddleback bag would you recommend? Thank you SO much!!

    • I have the small tote and the Love 41 Simple tote (also saddleback). I love them both but would probably go with the Simple Tote (it is cheaper anyway) and it holds everything I need with lots of room to spare: (I have in black)

  49. I just want to tell you that I love your blogs! I share them all the time! any-who..
    Since I started college I moved all belongings into a small cramped room that I share with someone else. (Angry Face)
    I have since then gave all my purses to my younger sister and mother and have graduated to the back pack method!
    I spent what seemed a fortune on my back pack (it includes a side cooler pocket for drinks), but since I carry it pretty much everywhere I didn’t want something that would hurt me in the long run! I have no children as of now but we are very similar in what we carry and I love it. All my friends call me Mama Ro because I also have a Mary Poopin’s back pack.
    Along with all my school supplies (pens, pencils, calculator, sharpies, small stapler, single hole punch, notebooks (vary), text books (vary), a binder or two…. I also carry these items
    First Aid (band-aids of all sizes, gauze and tape, a small scissors, lavender oil, pan away oil, capobia oil)
    Others (sun screen, EO bug spray, granola bars/protein balls, nail clippers, lip balm, extra socks, water, peppermint stick (for headaches)), I’m sure that I am missing something.
    With all that I am still as “healthy as an ox” I am now out of college (for 1 year) and to be honest I still use my back pack just with out all the books. I now just use a wallet and toss it in and out.
    And, I wouldn’t change it! Ill just add all the kiddo stuff when the time comes!