by Susan McCarthy
You spend a lot of time carrying around your purse, so why lug around clutter? Declutter your purse in a few minutes and make it easier, and less stressful, to find what you want when you need it.
My first purse was a hand-me-down from my mother. Since I was in junior high, carrying around an old-lady purse did not endear this accessory to me. Over the years, I’ve gone from purses barely large enough to hold a small wallet and keys (and later cellphone) to those the size of an overnight bag.
I was never one to fuss and rotate to different handbags so they coordinated with my outfit (I wear a lot of black) which means that I could carry around the same purse for years. This meant that decluttering on a regular basis was a necessity since it wasn’t like I was bothering to move things over to another purse.
And you can declutter your purse in the time it takes to watch an episode of your favorite sitcom.
Before You Open Your Purse, Do This
Before you declutter and organize your purse, you need to know what you want to carry around with you. See, you can’t decide whether to keep or toss something without a bit of context and purpose. Without a few minutes of forethought, chances are you’ll toss everything but the candy wrappers back into your purse.
Think about what you use on a regular basis. What are you always reaching into your handbag for?
Also important, what annoys you about your purse? What do you go looking for but can only find after you’ve dumped most of the contents of your purse onto whatever flat surface is available? Knowing what annoys you is useful when it comes to organizing your purse because you can think of solutions that will do away with what drives you crazy.
This means that the answer isn’t a purse with more compartments or a set of zippered pouches that can hold your stuff. If you can’t remember what compartment your stuff is in or if it’s too much of a hassle to return things to that pouch (and zipper it shut so things don’t fall out), then why bother?
You don’t need things to look organized for the 30 seconds after you finish cleaning your purse. You want to find what you want and return things where they belong with ease.
Clean Out Your Purse
You can use these same directions for cleaning out your wallet, briefcase, tote bag, gym bag, etc.
At one point, I felt that I needed to be prepared for anything and my purse (and the dent in my shoulder) reflected this. I carried a shawl, hand cream, lip balm, my wallet, keys, cellphone, umbrella, pain relievers, notepad, two pens, bandages, scissors, wet wipes, measuring tape, paper calendar, compass, snack bar, bottle of water, sunscreen, sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, and probably a bunch of stuff I can’t even remember.
I used – my wallet, keys, and phone. Seriously, there were times it was raining, and it just seemed easier to walk from my car to the building without dragging out the umbrella. By the time I ate my “emergency” snack, it was pulverized from getting shoved around with all this other stuff.
It finally occurred to me that ‘useful’ wasn’t the same as ‘used.’
How to Organize Your Purse and Keep It Tidy
Will zippered pouches help keep your purse organized? Maybe. If you carry makeup with you, then chances are you’ll pull out the bag so to touch-up or reapply makeup. Everything goes back in the bag which then gets returned to your purse.
On the other hand, if you only use the lipstick that you carry with you, you might not pull out the entire bag. Instead, you’ll unzip the pouch, pull out the lipstick…and then toss it back in your bag.
Look at the stuff that you removed from your purse. Was it in a pouch? Is that because you return the items to the pouch or because you never use the items? Sure, they may be organized, but if you don’t use the things, really consider the worst-case scenario if you didn’t have the item handy. How likely is this to happen?
Some of the key rules of organizing are that things should be easy to return so that you put them away properly…which means that you can retrieve the item when you need it. Another one of the handier rules of organizing – the more frequently you use something, the more accessible it should be.
That means that your wallet shouldn’t be lost in a swamp with the notebook, makeup bag, and shawl that you use…but nowhere near as often as you go in search of your wallet. If you have a handbag with multiple compartments, keep your wallet in a section by itself. And consider if there is a compartment where your hand naturally reaches.
Keep Your Purse Organized and Clutter-free
Sure, decluttering your purse doesn’t take long to do, but you’ll feel less annoyed and less stressed if you keep your purse organized and clutter-free. And, really, if you can declutter your purse during a sitcom, you can keep it organized in the span of a commercial break.
The biggest source of clutter may be receipts. You can cut them off at the source by turning down print receipts when you know you won’t need them. Also, more stores are offering to email receipts. Yes, it takes time to get your email into the store’s system (it’s usually associated with a loyalty account), but then you can turn down a print receipt, while getting a copy sent to your email account.
(And speaking of loyalty programs, in most cases you don’t have to carry around a card or key fob anymore since you likely just enter a telephone number to get sales prices and bonus points.)
If you do get print receipts, pull them out each evening. Toss what you don’t need for taxes or to reconcile to a bank account and file what you do.
Other than receipts, you may only have to deal with the wrapper from a mint or change from a cash purchase. If you notice that things aren’t being put away where you want them stored in your purse, this is a good sign that you may want to figure out another spot to store the item.
Also, tidying your purse each evening may better allow you to see what you don’t use and can remove it from your purse.
5 Steps to an Organized Purse
Hi, I'm Susan
I'm a former teacher who became a professional organizer (and not because I'm a natural-born neatnik). I live with my husband and fluffy cat on a river in Massachusetts. I crochet, make handmade cards, and love reading young adult novels. Learn more about my decluttering journey here.