June 26th, 2012

How To: Organise Your Handbag.

If you’re anything like me, then you lug around the world in your handbag. From the mail to hairbrushes, kids jumpers’ to iPads – the bigger my handbag is, the more stuff I find to fill it. What I’m sick of? This: The phone rings while I’m trying to find my keys. They’re both in my bag. The bottom of it. Trapped in a jumbled mess from hell that includes a leaking lip gloss and a squashed muesli bar. Don’t pretend you haven’t been there too…

Organising your handbag is a life changer but it’s also a little like the Dewey Decimal system – if you don’t follow it precisely then you’re never gone find that book. Here’s how to de-clutter and turn your handbag into a shrine of organisation.

Start From Stratch

The first thing you need to do is to put a towel down on the floor and then tip the contents of your bag out on to it.  It’s time to untangle, throw away and separate all your stuff. The aim of this exercise is to group everything into items that can be separated out into pouches or containers. When I say everything I mean all of it – the loose lipsticks, the hair bands, the kids toys, the breath mints – everything either goes in the bin or in a pouch. The final aim is to have a handbag that contains a series of these pouches – you can use anything from little cosmetic bags, old sunglasses case (great for pens) to zip lock bags – each one dedicated to a different use or need.

Make-Up Minimalism

When it comes to make-up you need to be brutal – what do you really need? Actually use? I’ve whittled it down to a tinted moisturiser, bronzer, mascara, blush and gloss – this can get me through most face scrapes and doesn’t overwhelm my handbag (or destroy my back).

Streamline your cosmetics to the daily essentials and then just add extras – a night time gloss, red lipstick etc – as you need them. Keep hair ties, spray, bobby pins in a separate mini-zip lock bag. This prevents them from getting products and cream on them.

Money, Money, Money

Your coins need to go in a separate coin purse – they just do. All those ten cent pieces floating around with all those receipts in the bottom of you bag just isn’t working out for you is it? Coin purse. It’s the way forward. Keep your wallet for notes and cards only. I found switching to a bright wallet made it much easier to locate in the darkness of my bag. Gold, silver, fluro pink – much faster to find when you’re in a hurry.

CLICK TO BUY: 1. Maiden Voyage Eel Skin Coin Purse in Violet, $29; 2. Marc By Marc Jacobs Classic Q Key Pouch from Shopbop, $100.15; 3. Olga Berg Mesh Coin Purse in Taupe, $19.95; 4. Kikki.K Sundae Coin Purse, $10.47.

General Electrics

Headphones, iPhones, iPads, iPods, cameras … some days my handbag looks like a JB Hi-Fi outlet. Wrap your cords around the hardware to stop them from tangling together or use a hair elastic to secure them in a loop. Make sure each item has its own pouch or casing to prevent them scratching each other or your sunglasses.

Colour Code It

A fashion editor friend who’s also a mad, crazy organiser uses different coloured silk pouches to organise her handbag. It’s smart. She knows that the pink pouch is the for pens, the yellow for her mobile phone etc… It works particularly well if you prefer big, over-sized totes as it simplifies the whole digging around in the bottom of a bucket feeling. This system is also brilliant for nappy bags – separating all you need for a little one via colour is a life-saver when you’re on the go (or sleep deprived).

Key Party

Most hand bags have a built-in hook for your keys and yet … we never, ever use them. Start to. They’re genius. Keys are so easy to lose in the bottom of your bag and damage things by scratching etc. If you don’t have a clip – dedicate a side pocket to keeping them in place.

Survival Kit

This tip is from another fashion editor: create an emergency pouch that contains the following: six pandol, two tampons, black and white cotton with needle, breath mints and a $20 note. You’ll be amazed just how much you come to rely on it.

Professional Help

If you’re looking for ninja-like precision then you just might need an industrial handbag insert. Action-packed with pockets, zippers and pouches to hold everything under the sun these clever little devices create a false lining that can be transferred from bag to bag. When you want to change bags you simply lift it out and swap it over. Try: bagorganiser.com.au

Every Wednesday and Friday I write for FairFax Media at Life & Style please come and join me the conversation there

  • Charlotte

    Love these tips especially the survival kit! Perfect timing too as I’m looking for a new handbag as my nappy bag is waaaay past its use by date.

  • Elle

    In one of my many attempt to be organised… The best $4.95 investment I’ve made was a “Bobino” cord wrap – ideal for saving phone chargers, earphones and USB cables from tangling – amazing what a difference it makes! I found mine in a little giftware store but you can also pick them up from Howards Storage.    

  • PaulaJoye

    Genius. Love it!!
    Thanks for sharing Elle.

  • Kylie

    You really can’t under estimate the power of the handbag declutter- my every day is a beautiful Bally my husband gave me a few years ago…..I still love it to death and it still looks new on the outside ( I am anal re handbag and shoe care)…… But it was positively vile on inside …..full of kid’s socks, 12 month old receipts, pens, post it notes, little girls hair ties…..shells and rocks from our last beach holiday ( secreted into bag by 7 year old). A few weeks ago I undertook what can only be described as a Major Handbag Contents Purge. Bag now contains wallet, phone, Kindle, keys, neat little cosmetic case that includes essential items only….and that’s about it! It has literally changed my life! I undertake to maintain it!

  • ralral

    Another great two things to keep in your bag if you can squeeze into — Hand desanitiser (I live in Fitzroy in Melbourne and can’t tell you how often I end up using it…dirty doorhandles, all-round grimy feel on some streets and alleys..!), and rosehip oil — can be used as a sheen on cheekbones, moisturiser, hand balm, makeup remover….. I keep a mini size bottle in my bag! x

  • Stefanie

    Great advice, use to have a structured smallish handbag which was easy to keep neat as couldn’t fit too much into it. Recently purchased a new larger one….have realised that the larger bag just encouraged me to carry more stuff and after a work week was just overflowing, will use these tips. Hubby showed me this a while ago and it’s a lifesaver for keeping earphones untangled

  • http://www.jeweldivas.com.au/ Jewel Divas Style

    I was using a bag insert for awhile which has little pockets for everything and you can just pull it out and put it in another bag. I still have a make-up/first aid kit purse with spare lipstick, chapstick, hankies, tissues, safety pins, etc, my glasses are always in their purses, keys just get chucked in. Mints are in a small side pocket with the lipstick of the day. I carry a spare shopping bag, a small file folder for prescriptions, bills etc, two business card purses and now a small business folder with more cards, pens and notebooks. I also have my purse and normal shopping notebook. It sounds like a lot, but because everything has its place in their bag/purse, it’s not a lot that goes in my bag.


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