How to Create a Highly Functional Handbag

When Professional Organizers give classes or workshops, like the one I did last week for Deborah’s Palm, one of our favorite ice-breaking activities is a handbag scavenger hunt.  Participants work in pairs to discover how many weird and wonderful items from a list are lurking within their purses.


The point, of course, is to show how easily clutter can build up in all areas of our lives, with the handbag representing just one small part.  Take a peek in your purse.  Do you even know what’s in there, or is there room for improvement? Here are some tips to create a more functional handbag:

1. Turn everything out (yep, you knew that was coming, didn’t you?).  Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past week, and ditch the nasty half-eaten candy, out-of-date coupons, and multiples of the same item.  One of my recent workshop attendees had 6 pairs of glasses in her bag… you get my drift.


2. Don’t keep anything in your purse which you don’t honestly need while you’re on the move.  Could heavier items live in the car or maybe in your desk at the office? Do you need to carry an umbrella at this time of year?  How many make-up items will you realistically use during the day?

3. Are you carrying around certain keys, with no idea any more what they do?  Remove those from your key ring and keep an orphaned key collection somewhere at home, until you feel brave enough to toss them. Handbags can get really heavy: you don’t want to be weighed down by excess metal.


4. What’s missing from your bag that you really do need? I’m always amazed how many people go through life without a pen and something to write on. Ideally, you should carry your calendar (paper or electronic), too. For me, must-haves also include chapstick, snack and a mini bottle of water, but your personal essentials will be different.

5. Choose your purse carefully.   Mine is just a tiny bit too small, and it really disciplines me to keep reviewing what’s taking up precious space. When buying a new bag, always check to see if your must-haves fit in there nicely.


6. So that you can transfer things easily from one purse to another, check out products like Purse Perfector, which is essentially a simple inner-purse to hold everything.  Or, do what I did a few years ago, and get yourself a Miche bag. I don’t get paid to recommend Miche, but I wish I did: everyone who compliments the style of my bag gets really wide-eyed when I show them the magnetic cover, which makes changing your purse a 5-second job. Now available in 3 sizes and design-your-own options, Miche could seriously reduce the space taken up by bags in your closet, and speed you out the door each morning.


How many handbags do you own?  And what’s the strangest thing in there?

{Image credits: all bags featured are by Miche.}

If you would like friendly, confidential Professional Organizing help to turn chaos into calm, contact me to take the first step toward a sorted, stylish space.

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6 Responses to How to Create a Highly Functional Handbag

  1. Stitchfork says:

    Hello my name is Cathy and I am seriously attached to many handbags! But I am pretty organized inside the bags as I change them for different times and travel. Will have to go peek at your Miche bag site!
    xo Cathy

  2. Tricia Rose says:

    I call my car ‘The Travelling Handbag’ – but I do clear out my real handbag regularly. It has many mansions, so i always have Steristrips, antibiotic sachets and disinfectant (accident-prone family), brush, airline-friendly nail file, pen, book, business cards, lip balm, all the money stuff, phone, diary and my expanding rule. No wonder it weighs a ton!

    I would LOVE a Miche bag, if i could trust myself to swap it over when aesthetics demand…

  3. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My handbag is ALWAYS a problem. I have small one because we all know what happens with a big one! Have you read Nora Ephron’s essay on handbags?

    I own 3 handbags and there’s really nothing strange in any of them – really! perhaps just too many ordinary items.

  4. I really needed this post! I have always taken the Boy Scout “Be Prepared” approach to my purse, and carried everything I possibly might need. But these days, getting a little older and all, I am realizing that the extra purse weight is really taking a toll on my neck and shoulders. No good!

    It’s just that I’m terrified of forgetting to put something back in my purse when I do need it, and so I keep stuff in there. I need to print out this post and sit down with my purse (same one for a year — wow, that’s a first!), and make some tough decisions.



  5. Shelley says:

    I probably own around 2 dozen handbags, but I don’t use them all. Since Bill bought me a big clunky camera I only use the larger purses and the last purse I bought was of a size with the camera in mind. One day I’ll have a nice compact version… As a blogger I always regret it when I don’t have my camera to hand. My mobile phone has a camera, but it is a poor quality and I’ve not worked out the technology to get photos from it onto my computer (I’m 55 and that’s my excuse – that and after being on call for 20 years I don’t love mobile phones). The oddest thing perhaps that I carry is a tape measure. I have often read that when thrift shopping this is handy. I must admit I haven’t used it as often as I thought it was, but it’s a dinky little retractable thing and I keep thinking it will come in handy… Pens? At least 3 or 4 in there…

  6. Delishhh says:

    What a great post! 6 glasses?? I actually do empty my purse once a week. What i learned early on is that i would have tons of receipts in my bag and i hated it, every time i took something out a bunch of paper fell out too :) SO now i have a little plastic envelop just for receipts in my purse. And i actually do have a smaller purse in my purse with the essentials if i just have to grab and go or switch purse. Great post!

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