A handbag is so much more than a convenient way to carry our daily essentials - a handbag symbolizes our age-old desire to contain and control our lives. In an over-stimulating world, the perfectly sized bag, containing exactly what you need, makes you feel gleefully self-reliant, organized, and ready-for-anything.
But why is that perfect bag so darn elusive? Half the women I know covet a quarry of semi-abandoned purses, none of which works, all of which once held the promise of perfection. One study published in London's Daily Mail recently found that the average woman buys 145 handbags over her lifetime surely, the American statistics are competitive (or worse). How do our bags become such complicated and cumbersome carriages of belongings---costing us not only the toll of our abandoned handbags, but the cost that chaos always brings?
STEP ONE: Limit what you carry
Clean out your purse standing over a trashcan. Brace yourself for what you might find--shredded tissues, outdated stamps, abandoned hand creams, old shopping lists, nameless phone numbers, forgotten vitamins and grit covered gum. Toss obvious trash and sort whatever remains into two piles - "permanent" and "transient" items. The permanent pile should include things you need everyday: keys, wallet, eyeglasses, cell phone, planner, outdated receipts, writing utensils, notepad, business cards, basic makeup and personal care items. The transient pile consists of anything you're transporting just for the moment - documents to copy, items for repair, newspaper, work projects, bills to pay, etc. Now, pare each pile down to the true essentials. Most people only use about 20% of what they carry, so be brutal. TRUST yourself to make the right decisions (e.g. two shades of lipstick, one blush, one pack of kleenex, a maximum of 10 credit/ID cards should be plenty!) If you like having options, consider keeping back-up supplies in your car or desk drawer, to prevent lugging them on your back. Don't put something in your bag unless you've scheduled a specific time to use it - this includes projects you schlep home from work out of guilt! Establish weight limits for yourself--i.e. no hard cover books, and no files thinker than ½" go with you on the road.
STEP TWO: Select your bag
Knowing exactly what you want to store in your bag makes it easier to settle on a size and style. Ask yourself these five questions. (1) Basic function - Do you like carrying one bag for everything, or a small purse for essentials, plus a tote or briefcase for transient items? (2) Handle style -Shoulder strap, backpack, or handles? (3) Compartments- Lots of little compartments vs. Large general areas throughout the bag? Totes are a common favorite, but they need subdivision to avoid slipping into chaos. Zippered pouches, or a new clever product called a 'purseket" (which provides pockets and slips in and out of each bag) are handy to organize the interior. (4) Weight when full--Style aside, keep this in mind! 5) Search and rescue--- keep in mind that an interior lining--a different color than black--helps you find your stuff more quickly; a bag that's more wide than deep is easier to get in and out of; and whatever bag you choose should be big enough for everything you need, without having to cram things in too tightly.
STEP THREE: Arrange the bag.
Organize your bag into zones, assigning each section its own category of items - for example, "money" in one zippered pocket for security's sake, "personal care" in another zippered compartment for privacy, "communication" tools such as cell phone and planner in an easily accessible space, and "projects" in another separate section. Consistency is the key here! If you follow the same pattern in each bag, you'll be able to locate items with your eyes closed.
Commit to a daily routine of unpacking and resetting your bag each night. Create a purse changing station at home. Store spare handbags on hooks, or an open shelf in your closet, and establish one drawer for all spare wallets, credit & ID cards, travel size toiletries, etc. The state of our handbags reflects what's working and what's not in our lives. If your bag is constantly overwhelmed with items you're not getting to, maybe you need to refocus your priorities. Not unlike an organized desk, a functional bank account, or system for paying bills...keeping your personal belongings lean and organized can help make you far more productive and prepared.