The Organized Handbag

Kelly Pratt has tips that will help you organize your purse, in your own way, so you can find things you when you need them.

“She had the loaded handbag of someone who camps out and seldom goes home, or who imagines life must be full of emergencies.”

Mavis Gallant

Does this quote apply to you? Or do you find that, like most women, you spend an inordinate amount of time searching for keys, pens, wallets, sunglasses, or cell phones in that black hole known as the handbag? Here are some tips, tricks and fantastic tools to make this indispensable accessory work for rather than against you!

Tip 1: Containerize

If you are a purse fanatic and change bags frequently, or if you prefer slouch- or hobo-style bags, you will save time, energy and money by containing like items together within your larger bag. Internal containing also makes switching purses a breeze. To successfully contain, begin by creating categories of your purse contents. Some of these categories might be—

  • Cosmetics
  • Checkbook
  • Wallet
  • Receipts
  • Mints and gum
  • Keys

Some of my favorite internal containers for purses are mesh pouches, available at; Switchables (beautiful, high-quality leather pouches), available at Franklin Covey retail stores and at; and the Purs’nal Pal handbag organizer, available locally at Two Dancing Cats and online at


Because finding keys tends to pose a unique challenge, particularly if you carry a large, one-pocket style purse, I want to make special mention of a fantastic little tool called a “keeper.” This little beauty is a hook that attaches to your key chain so you can hook your keys to the side of your purse instead of letting them slide to the nether reaches of your bag. Say goodbye to I-think-I-locked-my-keys-in-the-car heart attacks. To view the product line, visit


Receipts seem to have a life of their own. They multiply exponentially and often defy containment. Receipts are an item that absolutely must be stored in a dedicated pocket or container, not only because they can create a huge mess but also because they’re reference material. If you don’t have a pocket of your bag to dedicate to receipts, any of the containers mentioned above will work well. You might also use a coupon holder so you can categorize your receipts by store (which makes making returns a snap) or purchase another container of your choice. Levenger makes a special receipts folder with sides for both business and personal receipts. To order, visit|PageID=5609|Level=2-3|Link=PT|special=search|ID=SearchClicked|i=3.

Tip 2: Use an Organizer Bag

Organizer bags have built-in dividers, pockets, and sections to help you keep your purse contents under control. An organizer bag might be a good option for you if you prefer having one bag for everyday and switching only for special occasions. The good news in organizer bags is that they’ve come a long way in terms of style, size, and color in the past few years, so you don’t have to sacrifice form for function. provides a list of features to keep in mind when selecting an organizer bag. Some of these are—

• Easy access to purse contents

• Built-in wallet or slots for cash and credit cards

•Clear ID holder

• Cell phone pouch

• Checkbook storage

• Place for cosmetics

• Pen slots

• Key clip or place for keys

• Outside slip pocket for frequently-used items

• Case for sunglasses/glasses

• Slot for receipts/paper

If you are an organizer bag kind of gal, also keep in mind that your bag will be heavily used since you will less often switch off to another one, so invest in a high-quality bag that will last.

Your purse organizing style will also determine which organizer bag will be the best fit for you. Again from, here are some guidelines:

If you are a perfectionist who loves a perfectly organized bag, choose highly structured, streamlined, medium-sized bags with lots of slots and zippered compartments to keep everything in place.

If you are a packer who takes lots of “extras” for just in case, choose large bags or totes with various-sized compartments to hold extra items (like a novel and band-aids) so everything isn’t jumbled together.
 If you are a dumper who just throws everything into your purse, choose medium-sized bags with open slots that will help keep everything organized but maintain accessibility.
 If you are a declutterer who constantly throws things out of your purse and carries only the minimum, choose small or mini bags or travel clutches with integrated or attached wallets or coin purses.

(For the full article, visit

Tip 3: Make Your Most-Used Items Most Accessible

This tip may sound pretty self-evident, but if you are constantly digging for the things you use most, it’s the one that will save you the greatest amount of time and frustration. Just because you have an organizer bag with an obvious cell phone holder doesn’t mean you have to put your cell phone in it, particularly if it’s in a handy location for your lip balm, which you use more often. Your handbag is your away-from-home toolkit—make it work for you!

Tip 4: Dedicate a Separate Bag to “Kid Stuff”

“Mom, will you put this in your purse?” Ever heard that golden question? Or felt a tug on your purse handles only to look down to see a little hand depositing anything from hair bands to Happy Meal toys to candy wrappers? At this writing, I have a stray hair clip, a tube of Blistex, and an ice skating competition practice CD in my purse. How much of your purse space is taken up by the little kid stuff? If you are consistently carrying around an extra 5-10 pounds worth of stuff that doesn’t belong to you, you may consider carrying an extra tote in the stroller or assigning a pocket of the diaper bag to the “stuff.” You could also assign your children to be the “stuff” tote keepers so you can maintain some sanity in your bag. If neither of these options apply and your children’s stuff is generally of the smaller variety, you could use a mesh pouch to hold these small items until you get home.

Tip 5: Clean It Out!

Just like houses, purses get messy. And just like house clutter, purse clutter needs to be cleared. Designate a time at least once a week to restore some order to your bag: remove receipts, retrieve stray mints, collect spare change, toss the garbage. You can also use this time to assess whether you need to create any new storage systems or acquire any additional storage containers.

Tip 6: Storage

If you have a passion for purses, you likely have more than one or two bags. Rather than tossing your bags into a pile in the closet, use one of the following ideas to display and preserve them:

Hang your bags on door or wall hooks or decorative knobs or handles. If you love this storage method but have a lot of clutches, use a length of ribbon to create a handle. Simply create a loop of ribbon by tying the ends of the ribbon in a bow, slide the loop under the clutch’s top flap, and snap it in.

Store bags in cloth or mesh cubes. This method works particularly well if you don’t have wall space for hooks or don’t have more than three or four bags. You can find these cubes at Target or online at

Select a specialty holder. Some of the best are—

∙ The hanging purse organizer, available at

∙ The 8-pocket clear vinyl handbag file, available at

∙ The Park-a-Purse organizer, available at

∙ The Purse Rack, available at

To maintain your bags’ shape and to avoid scratches, you can also stuff your bags with acid-free tissue or paper (don’t use plastic) or slip your purse into a pillow case before you put it into your chosen storage container.
Best wishes making your arm candy fabulous and functional inside and out!

Happy organizing!


For more information or help with all of your organizing needs contact Kelly Pratt at

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