How to pack the most efficient work handbag

Last year, I lived and worked in a small town where I took so much for granted, including something as banal as what I chucked in my handbag.

Work was a two minute drive, or 15 minute walk away. I could pop out whenever I wanted to get something to eat, or just go home if I had forgotten something. I also had my own office, so I always had extra jackets/food/blankets/books/everything really in either my office or in the boot of the car.

Now that I’m in a proper city, I can’t just take a walk home. I also take the train instead of driving to work because of the ridiculous traffic and kak parking fees. And I work in an open office so I can’t just leave half my life in there.

So this means that my work efficiency begins right from the moment I leave home, based on how well my bag is packed. Of course, you don’t want to be lugging a suitcase of unnecessary crap around (especially if you work as a journalist like I do) but you also don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have what you need.

I’ve made a list of the absolute work essentials for your handbag, so that you have just what you need and nothing more.

Coin purse Just big enough to carry your most important cards, as well as some emergency cash, but not as bulky as a proper wallet.
Earphones Whenever I hit a low-energy work slump, I turn up the volume on my favourite motivational song (without disturbing my co-workers). Also useful for plugging in at the end of the day when you use public transport and don’t want someone taking the opportunity to chat you up.
USB cable/charger Let’s be honest, no battery lasts the whole day, especially not when you’re constantly Instagramming/checking Facebook/editing photos (That’s actually my job ok!)
Lanyard I used to think these were super geeky in uni, but now my bright green lanyard is perfect for my train ticket holder, as well as my office building access card.


Diary/Year planner Stay ahead of your deadlines by planning your days. Also, working for a magazine means we plan each issue months in advance, so a diary is essential. Bonus: my diary has spaces to doodle and colour in, so that I can be a little creative even in meetings.
Mini notebooks/notepads We might live in a digital world, but nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking something off a handwritten to-do list. Pretty note paper is also so much more inspiring than a screen.
Enough pens and pencils Is there ever enough? Probably, but I always like to have more than I need. A fineliner for those pretty notes, a ballpoint pen for filling in forms, a pencil for taking notes in rainy weather (I learnt this from my first Journ lecturer, Gillian), and of course, coloured pencils for doodles.


I’m not a huge makeup person, so I don’t need to carry brushes and blenders and all that jazz. I got this super cute cotton pouch, which is actually really small but somehow fits what I do use, which is just the basics. Do your full makeup at home if you must, and carry just the essentials to touch up.
Foundation Look for something with longer lasting coverage and an SPF.
Eyeshadow Choose a colour that is suitable for work, but that can also be glammed up. For me that’s a subtle bronze.
Lip balm Because chapped lips are never good.
Lipstick Again, get something that can be professional and fun (I got this deep plum shade from Clicks for just R15!)
Eyeliner/kohl If I had to wear just one type of makeup, it would be my kajal.



While perfume does last linger than deodorant, you will need another spritz towards the end of the day. Mini bottles are perfect for your handbag and are less likely to break in there. My favourites are DKNY Golden Delicious and DKNY My NY.

Bonus: keep those little sample perfumes that you get free with magazines in your purse for when you don’t have your actual perfume bottle on hand.


If you go for after-work drinks straight from the office, the last thing you want is to look like you’re still in work mode. Keep a pair of bold sunglasses, one piece of statement jewellery (like these earrings) and even a pair of goes-with-everything heels in your bag.



Whether you buy lunch or take a packed lunch from home, you’re always going to need extra snacks.

Vitamin B tablets These are amazing for your energy levels
Fruit Apples and bananas can easily be chucked into a bag, and are not messy to eat at work.
Cereal bars I love these because they give me the satisfaction of eating a chocolate bar but they’re slightly healthier.
Instant cappucino/mocha sachet For when you don’t have time to get takeaway coffee.
Water I have only just realised the importance of staying hydrated when you’re running around.
Sweets Because sometimes you just need sugar.

And there you have it, everything you need to pack the perfect work bag so that you can be your most efficient you. Let me know if there’s anything else you think should be on this list.


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