Commuter style: Do's and don'ts

Juggling book, laptop, yoga mat and more, how to organize and lighten your load

 Christine Polk Mohr, 37, attorney

The most together commuter ever! She's got all that she needs and not a single thing more, arranged for easy access, including work ID, office and home keys, lunch, cloth shopping sack. Her system -- flawless! -- developed over time.

What's right: A while ago she swapped her heavy leather Coach bag for the much lighter all-black fabric Vera Bradley bag (on her left shoulder). Instead of a wallet, a credit card holder (in bright yellow; easy to find in her purse) holds the necessities. The leopard tote is lightweight too. She takes work home but is careful to pare files down. And she keeps a small makeup bag and her gym shoes at the office to further lighten her load.

What's wrong: Not a thing. (Beth Rooney, Chicago Tribune / September 7, 2012)

If there were an Olympics of Schlepping, I'd medal for sure. That's because I'm a haul-a-holic.

My daily commute involves at least three separate bags: a purse, a tote and an enormous purse annex. That doesn't include the laptop, which sometimes goes in the tote but often gets its own bag-on-wheels, despite the dreaded nerd factor. So that's my confession.

I've tried to cut back and I have reduced (a little) my heavy haul by relying on my phone for photos instead of carrying a camera, eliminating one of the two coffee thermoses I bring to work and spending a couple of minutes before leaving the house to examine what's in those bags to make sure I'm not carrying around heavy stuff (books for the library, a dog leash) that I don't need.

To walk you through the do's and don'ts of gearing up for your commute, I stopped commuters at rush hour to talk about strategies to look good and lighten their loads. And, yes, I admit, this is a classic example of "Do as I say — not as I do." I'm trying to do better, and so can you.

shopellen@tribune.com

Walter Ortiz

21, art student/sales clerk

"I really don't need much. I'm just going to work." His backpack is lightweight and contains only what he knows he'll use on his daily train commute: a sketchbook, sunglasses, iPod, charger, phone and Game Boy. Also, just in case, a small medical kit if there's a skateboard accident.

What's right: Backpack distributes weight evenly; contents pared down to essentials; skateboarding to his job from the train station is fast, cheap — and green.

What's wrong: Nothing.

Andrea Swift

36, stock exchange sales

"I normally don't have this much stuff. I normally (just) have my tote (the bag on her right shoulder) and try to fit everything in there. Normally I even have my laptop in there, and lunch goes in there too. I'm going to yoga, and this (black bag) is my workout bag."

What's right: Despite all that gear — three separate pieces — she looks chic and put together.

What's wrong: The Gucci bag she uses as a tote is heavy, even when it's empty. And she confesses she's hauling two big bottles of water — one sparkling, one regular — a large cosmetics bag and more. "I guess I do need to clean out my bag." Miniature cosmetics, less water, a lighter tote bag would help.

Christine Polk Mohr

37, attorney

The most together commuter ever! She's got all that she needs and not a single thing more, arranged for easy access, including work ID, office and home keys, lunch, cloth shopping sack. Her system — flawless! — "developed over time."

What's right: A while ago she swapped her heavy leather Coach bag for the much lighter all-black fabric Vera Bradley bag (on her left shoulder). Instead of a wallet, a credit card holder (in bright yellow; easy to find in her purse) holds the necessities. The leopard tote is lightweight too. She takes work home but is careful to pare files down. And she keeps a small makeup bag and her gym shoes at the office to further lighten her load.

What's wrong: Not a thing.

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on ctnow.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.