Store membership cards, discount cards and coupons, receipts, bank slips and extra pieces of ID are just some of the things that can find their way into a wallet and have a hard time getting out.

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Scott Stensaas’ brown, bi-fold wallet is about 1 ½ inches thick when he begins laying out its contents. There’s the usual stuff — cash, drivers license, a pair of credit cards, a pair of gas cards, a library card. And a lot more.

“Ooh, here’s my voter registration card … some photos, my business cards, bank deposit slips, receipts, my insurance card,” the Flint, Mich., attorney continues as the wallet slowly loses its bulk. “This is really the absolute minimum of stuff I can get by with. I might take some stuff out that I wouldn’t want to lose if I went on a trip, but otherwise, this is what I need.”

Talk to a sitcom fan about wallets bursting and most give the same reflexive response — “Costanza wallet,” coined for the “Seinfeld” television character George Costanza and his ridiculously jam-packed billfold.

While the show exaggerated the clutter carried around by actor Jason Alexander’s character — hard candy, guitar lesson fliers and discount cards to a Florida gas station — the truth is that it’s easy for wallets to become de facto organizers and even cause physical pain.

Beat the beefy billfold blues


Is your wallet on the portly side? These spring cleaning tips can get it to a reasonable size:

• Clean receipts out daily, especially any with credit information on them. Same goes for ATM and bank slips.

• Stick to one credit and debit card, if possible.

• As a practical matter, travel with the minimum amount of cash.

• Keep membership cards or grocery-store cards at home unless making a special trip.

• See if places such as video stores can use a phone number to verify membership instead and switch to utilizing key ring cards.

• There’s no need to carry a Social Security card, so file it at home.

• Keep car insurance and registration cards in the car glove box.

• Store emergency information — for things like AAA — on a slim piece of paper or in a memo on a cellphone.

Store membership cards, discount cards and coupons, receipts, bank slips and extra pieces of ID are just some of the things that can find their way into a wallet and have a hard time getting out.

“People like to hang onto stuff and they say: ‘Oh, I might need this and I’ll file it away later,’ but you never grab your wallet when you’re home because you don’t need it, so you forget,” said Robin Riddell, a life coach.

Wallet sciatica is the medical term for leg and back pain caused by sitting on a wallet for too long, causing the pelvis and spine to contort slightly and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.

It might seem slight, but chiropractor Micheil Hanczaryk said the effects add up from the pelvis and spine getting thrown off by what’s essentially a speed bump on your backside.

“It’s like if you tried to walk but put quarter- or half-inch shims in one of your shoes … something’s going to go the wrong way,” he said. “Any amount of stuff back there is no good because even a little wallet will cause you to shift, but the bigger the wallet is, the more of a problem we have.”

Hanczaryk also carries just some cash, ID and credit card in a slim case in his front pocket. For those who can’t streamline that much, he advises taking the wallet out while driving and carrying it in an inside jacket pocket when possible.

A recent change in wallets caused Michigan State University student Eric Lerche to trim his contents and switch from being “a Costanza kind of guy.”

“I’d have things in there like punch cards for coffee houses I’d only go to once, maybe 20 or 30 receipts, business cards and membership cards, and it got to be that when I was sitting and studying for a long time, it would throw my back out,” he said.

“It was probably two inches thick, but now I refuse all of those membership cards and only keep receipts for major purchases. All I really need is my license, debit and credit card, health insurance and a student ID and cash, too.”