Finding the things I can control, and taking charge

When I was operating Frances 2.0, I would most often be found with amazing vintage accessories – mostly in the form of handbags from the 1920s to the 1960s. (And bonus points to Paul for encouraging my vintage accessory collection so much that he allowed me the largest closet in the house to store it all!) But when the occasion called for it I would use a “modern” bag because they tend to be more practical if you want to carry more useless junk.

Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.

On an average day, as Frances 2.0, my funky bags would contain 1 set of keys; 1 mobile phone; 1 chapstick; 1 nail file; 1 bank card; 1 piece of ID (drivers’ license); 1 handkerchief; 1 pen; business cards; and on occasion a bit of cash. When we’d go on holiday I would carry a shoulder bag that allowed me to carry a bit more so that I could pop small souvenirs in it and not have to hold them.

Shortly before Paul died we’d gone to Spokane because I had several work meetings; I carried a larger bag so that I could take a small notebook with me. The day after we returned, we got an unexpected, short-term foster placement (who went home two days before Paul died, thank goodness!). But as I was “Mum” for the week, I kept the larger bag so that I always had my notebook handy for when the child’s caseworker called with updates.

When I was thrown into Frances 3.0, the bag in use was still my larger, black shoulder bag. I remember those first few days finding myself being handed so many things and needing to carry so many extra things: Paul’s wallet so that I had his ID for filling out forms; his glasses and tie clip for the funeral home; paperwork from the funeral home; extra handkerchiefs; and a million other little random things. Eventually, Paul’s wallet, glasses, and tie clip came out of my bag and were placed on his valet in the bedroom. The funeral home paperwork was eventually removed too. But I never had the energy or care to swap out my bag.

So, for nearly five months, I’ve become that woman who goes to the post office and just stuffs the mail into her bag – bills and all. Along with all sorts of other things I’ve collected along the way. I dig forever to find my money when standing in line to pay for things. My bag has become a packrats’ haven; stuffed so full it will not zip closed. And the last several days it’s been driving me a bit mad.

Today, in a frantic search to find something, I tipped out the contents of my bag and found the following:

  • A wallet with eight cards (credit, debit, membership); three pieces of identification; and countless business cards
  • A business card holder with my cards and those of people I don’t even recall receiving cards from
  • Two chapsticks; two lipsticks; two travel-size hand lotions; and a bottle of clear nail polish
  • Four plastic toothpick flossy thingys
  • Fourteen handkerchiefs (!!!)
  • A bottle of multivitamins that someone gave me weeks ago – with an unbroken seal
  • Three packs of Love Hearts; a handful of Murray Mints
  • $11.18 in coins and £31.80 in cash and coins (Last trip to the UK: About 13 weeks ago)
  • Two USB memory sticks
  • Eleven pens
  • A ChicoBag
  • Two pairs of earrings; 17 ponytail holders
  • Toothpaste, a toothbrush, and floss (from a recent trip to the dentist)
  • Three sets of keys
  • A pocket mirror
  • Sunglasses
  • Airline tickets for a UK trip in June and two Portland trips this summer
  • An insurance check (for $6.58) that needs to be cashed by the 1st of October or it is invalid (may as well just throw it away)
  • Three name badges from last week’s business meetings
  • Nine envelopes containing yet-unpaid (but not all late) bills
  • A notebook
  • Two mobile phones
  • A handful of crumpled receipts and empty gum wrappers
  • One binder clip and two rubber bands

There are very few things that I feel I have control over these days and very few things that I can make firm and lasting decisions on. But I think that it’s time I give Frances 3.0 a needed upgrade and re-introduce myself to the joys of carrying groovy vintage bags – this is certainly something I can control. My goal for this weekend is simple: clean out the crap and settle back into a small, cute vintage handbag – complete with nearly no contents. It’s a small step toward finding normalcy, but sometimes small steps are better than no steps at all.

Join the conversation!