ADHD and Bags

Did you ever see the Friends episode where Joey starts to carry a bag that looks a bit like a woman’s purse? He is very proud of it and calls it a Man Bag.

This is how Joey describes his new bag to his skeptical friends.

‘At first I thought it just looked good, but it’s practical too. Check it out. It has compartments for all your stuff: wallet, keys, address book.’

Then he reaches into the front pocket and retrieves a sandwich to snack on.

This episode was filmed back in 1999 and while humour can be timeless, a few things date this episode. Not many people carry address books around anymore :).Plus, Chandler and Ross are laughing at Joey for carrying a bag. Fast forward nearly 20 years and that doesn’t seem funny anymore. Right now, I am at my local Starbucks and looking round the full room, everyone, man and woman, has a bag.

Bags are such everyday items it’s easy to forget how helpful and useful they are when you are living with ADHD.

5 Reasons Bags are Helpful When You Have ADHD

1. Peace of Mind

Every time William left my office, he would perform a ritual of patting down the pockets in his sharp suit. Each time there was a slight panic until he found his keys, phone and wallet. Sometimes there would be a decoy item that would feel similar to his wallet. This would raise William’s panic levels until he found his actual wallet.

When William started to carry a bag, these mild panics disappeared from his life. Each time he was leaving one environment, all he had to do was to check he had his bag which was clearly visible.

Knowing all your important and valuable items are in one place brings with it peace of mind.

2. Stop Losing Things

Jenny was in her 20s and had lots of cute bags at home but she never used them. Instead she walked around with her wallet and keys and phone in her hand. More often than not she would leave one of these things behind.

Sometimes she was able to find the missing item by retracing her steps. But not always. That meant she had to replace the lost item, phone her bank to report a lost card, etc. When Jenny started to carry a bag, she saved time, money and reduced her stress levels.

3. Helps You Feel Organized

Having all the items you need for the day in one place (your bag) helps you feel organized, grounded and nurtured.

Besides your valuables, you have items that help your day run smoothly, for example shades, snacks, meds, tissues, a book for entertainment. Sure you can go hungry or pick up an unhealthy snack from the vending machine, squint when the sun shines brightly, wipe your nose on your sleeve when no one is looking or feel super bored in the dentist’s waiting room. But life is much more enjoyable when you have helpful items to hand.

4. Independence

When you have your own bag, you don’t need to ask other people if you can put your belongings in their bag.

5. Mornings are Easier

When you leave the house in the morning, you don’t waste time hunting for important items because they are already waiting for you… in your bag!

ADHD Friendly Tips For Using Your Bag

1. Pick a Bag That You Really Like.

Well-meaning people might offer you their old bags, or you might track down a dusty old bag from your closet. However, use these bags only if you like them! You won’t be motivated to use a bag unless you really love it. So choose it with care.

2. Make Sure Your Bag Has Pockets.

Whether your bag is a messenger bag, rucksack, briefcase or purse, make sure it has pockets.

This way you can have designated homes for your main items so they are easy to find. For example, I have a deep pocket at the front of my bag and that is where I always keep my keys.

3. Empty Your Bag Regularly.

Aim to empty your bag once a week. Bags tend to gather all sorts of random items such as receipts, pens, half-eaten snacks. When your bag gets full of stuff it’s hard to see and find your precious items.

4. Avoid Plastic Bags.

Don’t use a plastic bag. It’s only a question of time before it is mistaken for garbage by you or someone else.

5. Use Just One Bag.

If you have a lot of cute bags, it’s tempting to change your bag frequently to match your outfit. The downside is it’s easy to accidentally leave items behind in the transfer. Consider getting a neutral bag that goes with all your outfits. Or perhaps just change your bag with the seasons (four times a year) rather than daily.

What is your favourite type of bag? Leave a note in the comments section below.

P.S. If you want to see Joey’s bag, here is a link: Joey’s Bag Video


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  1. I have been a notorious key / wallet / phone loser and yes a bag helps, but you can lose those as well oh and if you have more than one things can get complicated, I find it easier no that I have google pay on my phone I can save my cards, and I leave my purse in the car that way I always have one or the other

  2. Patrick says:

    I have been using a backpack for years. It has become a part of me. When school ended it stayed. But it’s wonderful. It helps me stay organized and sane. The people in my life appreciate it because I always have a snack, Advil, or toy on me.
    It sometimes feels like a child’s blanky because I just feel more comfortable with it on my back. But it helps so much with my ADHD.

  3. Jacque M says:

    What great ideas about bags! I liked the tip about cleaning out once a week. I’m going to start doing that! I wanted to share somethings that really help me eliminate chaos since I change bags more often than I used to. I hope I might help others as well!

    I have 2 bags within my purse. One is my “wallet bag” it’s a zipper bag with slots for credit cards, my ID, etc. It’s big enough to fit my phone, a lipstick, a small lotion bottle (I have a “thing” about my hands) and a pen. It has a loop on the outside that my wrist can go through. It’s everything I need if I’m running in somewhere where I don’t need my whole purse. My keys are on a clip and clip to the zipper on the outside, but there is space to zip them inside if I need to.

    The second bag is my “purse bag”—the stuff that I want to make sure I always have in my purse no matter what bag I have—it has my meds, touch-up makeup items, bandaids, etc. It’s the size of a small makeup bag.

    If I have more than two “bags within my bags” I start to forget what stuff goes in what bags, but I know others who like to have one or more additional bags.

    Also, this is not a bag, but I also have a colorful, clear plastic envelope that holds all my coupons.

    Something else that helps to choose bags with the same type of pockets. So anything that I keep in the side zipper pocket of 1 bag can go in the side zipper pocket of the next bag. I work really hard to build habits about where I put things, like my phone and keys so that I put them away in the right place even when I’m not paying attention. It’s like what you said you do with your keys in the deep outside pocket.

    Oh! One other thing! In my work tote (separate from my purse, not quite a briefcase) I have a zipper pouch big enough to hold a spiral notebook, my paper datebook, pens, highlighters, and any critical pieces of paper or reports for what I’m working on currently. I can grab it and know I have the most important things I need. If I look in my work tote and don’t see my bright zipper pouch, I know I better go find it!

  4. Wow, Jacqueline! How germane this subject is to my current situation. I am a substitute teacher and have yet to find The Solution to my organization woes. I have been switching among various totes, soft satchels– often trading in/out during one work week! I have intensely perused Amazon and eBags, to no perfect avail and of course with ADHD– it must be exactly ‘just-so’.

    After (Microsoft) window-shopping and months of pondering, I discovered a solution that, for me, is perfect: a diaper bag. I’ve seen moms around the city carrying very chic handbags… but oops (or poops)! I see babies on those moms’ hips: those are diaper bags! Then commences my very focused, OCD online search; I’ve nearly whittled down the choices from the many designs and features from which to choose.
    I so look forward to designating the bag’s handy pockets– in AND outside– for office products I like to have on hand, plus my lunch, and my laptop. One warning to myself: when I reveal the original intent of said bag, I shall prepare for the “eww!” look when I reveal the original intent of the bag to my 13 year-old!
    Many thanks for a great post!

  5. Melissa B says:

    I can’t live without my giant purse! In there I have the essentials plus my massive daytimer, a notebook to write down thoughts and ideas as they come in, water bottle/coffee mug, a book, headphones, snacks, and essential toiletries and medications. It is pretty heavy but I find if I switch to a smaller bag, the one thing I left out will be the one thing I need. I can actually get quite anxious if I have not brought a pen or my daytimer as being a person with ADHD if I can’t write something down or check my calendar for other obligations, I am liable to make a mistake or forget something. It feels like a hassle but in the end it is much better for my mental health!!

  6. Fi says:

    Wonderful tips! And don’t forget the option of a bag-in-a-bag for people who like to change their bags with their outfits. There are lots of “utility” organizers that are meant to be filled with your things and then transferred from bag to bag when you want a change. My favorite is the Swap-It Pocket by Thirty-One.

  7. I especially appreciate bags that have many compartments. Also, I’ve learned that before I leave, it’s good to check that keys, wallet, phone, etc. are still in the bag. Sometimes I take something out, like my phone, and forget to put it back in the bag. I have a little card with a list of essentials. I clip the card to my bag’s handle when I’m home. That card reminds me, just before I leave, to check that everything is back in the bag where it belongs.

    • Melissa B says:

      That is a fantastic idea!! I love it! I might steal it.

    • Jacque M says:

      I love the essentials list idea and the habit of clipping it to the outside to check it. Brilliant!

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