The Art of Schlepping

Love running out the front door with your arms full of 60 million* different things that you inevitably drop or lose? Me neither.

Whether or not I need my wallet/phone/bike helmet/change of clothes/climbing shoes/ cup of coffee / the book I’m reading/sunglasses/snacks is up for debate, but so long as I’m carrying it all, I may as well be thoughtful about what I’m carrying it in.

For years I made do with a bag for work and my son’s old Lands End backpack that he’d outgrown in the 2nd grade. Finally, after a lot of thought, some trial and spectacular error, I have a schlepping system. Here are the tools I use:


The backpack truly is the secret weapon of busy women. Free your arms from the tyranny of bags and just say no to juggling! From a sporty pack to a hip, versatile knapsack to a sleek leather case, you can bring everything you need and have a place to stash your sweater when it gets too hot. A great backpack is my go-to bag of choice.

This is my go-to pack, from Patagonia
Kate Spade makes an elegant leather backpack.
Something like this would be perfect for travel. Just imagine you, and this bag, traveling together on a train through the south of France…

Cross-Body Bag

Those of you who have followed this blog for sometime know my feelings about the glory that is a cross-body bag. There is no slipping of purse straps off my shoulders, no shifting of handles from hand to hand as I deal with my coffee, phone and life. Plus I just love the way a cross body bag looks. It says, “I’m grown up enough to own a nice bag, but that won’t stop me from breaking out into a dance should the occasion** arise.”

I love my Patricia Nash cross-body bag.
I also love my other Patricia Nash bag, which enjoys snuggling up to my boots.
Some more Patricia Nash, just in case you were worried she didn’t have a bag with coins running down the side…

Activity Bag

When I was growing up, my mom had what we called the string bag, a generous bucket of storage made of natural fibers that she used for every fun outing. The beach, the mountains, the park, the pool: when the string bag was packed up and waiting in the hall, it meant we were about to do something fun.

Your activity bag should be something you don’t mind getting dirty but still be respectable. It should look like you on the 5th day of vacation, relaxed, a little messy, and ready for anything.

This Hat Attack bag is relaxed and classic.
Another Hat Attack bag. I’m pretty sure snacks taste better coming out of a bag like this.
OK, I need to find a way out of the black hole that is googling images of raffia bags…

Evening Clutch

There are, of course, some situations in which you really can’t tote a backpack or string bag. For more elegant situations, a simple envelope clutch that is small enough to rest on a table next to you, or easily in your lap, is good to have. Or, my sister has a slim little case that carries her phone and credit cards that she can wear on her wrist. Perfect.

Summer wedding?

Any given Saturday evening.



Two things to consider when choosing a bag or backpack:

Compartments or no?

Some of you love having a million little compartments in your bag or pack to tuck specific little items into. Others like to drop things into a deep well of space and sort it out when you get to where you’re going. You bag is basically your desk on the go, and you know how much organization you need, or how little you can tolerate. Your stand on bag compartments is one of those important questions in life that you need to answer.*** Leave your strong opinions about this in the comments.

Eye Candy or Camouflage?

I have owned some wildly bright and fun totes in my life. Right now most of my bags are in subdued browns and navies that coordinate with my shoes. A mix of the two would probably be the most sensible, but you should grab the bag that calls your name.

While most of my bags are pretty mild, the notable exception is my bright orange climbing bag. I never get it mixed up with anyone else’s bag, and it alerts everyone to my presence. Where are we climbing this weekend? Just look for the bag…

Hey, is Anna here? Yep.

Mud and Grace readers have a lot going on. Some of us carry the weight of the world; others of us just show up with the snacks. Whatever your load, take time to organize the gear you need to run your life in a great looking bag. Then head out for your adventures without a second thought to all you carry.


* rough estimate

** Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go comes on

***Will you have children? What are your political beliefs? Where do you want to live? Do you want a compartmentalized bag or the freedom of a big open tote?

Top 7 Fall Transitional Pieces


All I want from my wardrobe is to pull the perfect pieces out of my closet, get dressed in less than three minutes, and love my outfit all day long, every day, for the rest of my life.

Is that too much to ask?

I hope not, because that’s where we’re heading. But fall can be a tricky season to dress through. We’re all craving our cozy sweaters and wool plaid jackets, but most days are still quite warm. It would be all well and good if it were just hot out, but mornings can be  chilly. Thus we all have to layer, which is one of the toughest chores in fashion.

The following pieces will help build a bridge between your summer and winter wardrobes. Find them in the rich colors you reach for in the fall, along with classic denim. Keep these items in heavy rotation as you eek out a few last days in your sundresses and tank tops. Then stir them into the mix when you start to pull sweaters out of storage.

A classic cargo jacket

Sanctuary, new last spring

This work horse will slip over you sundresses as easily as it will a cashmere sweater. Wear it with jeans, a skirt or even a comfy pair of joggers on the weekend. It has the hip feel of a leather biker jacket without the weight.

A nano-puff vest

Isis, new two years ago

Ever wonder why you feel so comfortable in a vest? The longer the eye can run in a straight, uninterrupted line the better it feels. (This is why you are tempted by solid color, sleeveless sheath dresses.) A vest not only adds warmth, it adds visual harmony to the universe.

I suggest a nano puff because they are warm but less bulky than traditional puffer vests. Add one, or five, nano puff vests to your wardrobe for easy warmth and interest. If you need more inspiration just google “Kate Middleton, vest” to see about a million pictures of this wardrobe staple working for one of the world’s most photographed women.

A trendy layer

Life in Progress, 2nd Hand

Think of trendy items like that soccer player you dated off and on for a few months in college; Cute and super fun, but your not making any plans around them or investing too much. You might try fuzzy faux fur, a jumper or a nautical-inspired scarf. I found this bomber jacket at Value Village (Fall Style Research Part 1 – Value Village)  I’ll pop it on over skinnies or wear it with a skirt when I feel a little trendy energy would help me get through the day.

Skinnies (or your fit of choice casual pant) in a fall color

From left to right; BDG, Lucky Brand, Old Navy, Generally new

I find skinny jeans are the easiest for my life of bike commuting and Frye-boot wearing, but find a shape that works for your body. ( Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece)  I’ll rotate through these, pairing them first with tank tops, then lighter blouses and finally my sweaters.

A light weight plaid shirt

Target, new last winter

I found this at Target, and I wear it all the time. I sized up to a large, then had it hemmed several inches shorter so it had more of a boxy feel. It satisfies my need for rich fall colors, but the shirt itself is so light I can wear it on a warm day.

Closed-toe sandals and a cute pair of sneaks

Roxy, new. Clarks, new last summer

When you aren’t wearing boots, an easy pair of slip on shoes can take you all over town and into any number of adventures. Right now you can find so many styles of cute sneakers. Vans and Converse are classics. Toms are always fun. Just because this shoe is casual, don’t assume it isn’t versatile. With a nice blazer you can dress them up easily, with a fun t-shirt they look hip and funky. Find your favorites and wear them all fall.

Closed-toe sandals help transition summer wardrobes into fall by providing a little more warmth and structure. You don’t want your toes freezing off on your bike ride in to work!

The perfect cross-body bag

Patricia Nash, new

If there was ever a time you needed your hands free, it’s back-to-school, holidays-approaching, pick-up-another-box-of-mason-jars-because-the-apple-tree-is-going-nuts-this-year fall. The size and color of this Patricia Nash bag work for my needs and taste. Find one that fits your life.

These items will tide you over until you are ready to go fearlessly into the cooler weather. You can pull them out again in early spring, when you can’t stand a single item in your winter wardrobe and are itching for your summer clothes.

Happy Fall!

P.S. Do you have a great fall transitional piece? Email me a picture and I’ll include it in inspiration.