Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organizing a Purse

January tends to be a time when people have organization on their minds. People make resolutions to become more organized or to de-clutter. People are putting away Christmas decorations and trying to make space in their homes for the gifts they've received. Orthodox Christians generally are trying to get their houses ready to be blessed, which means every room must be presentable; no shoving things in one room and shutting the door. And since people tend to be spending a lot of time inside, it's natural to think about how to make our homes more pleasant and livable.

I'm no exception. I have a lot of plans for making my home more functional this year. I want to spend less time looking for things, less time shoving stuff back into closets, less time rearranging thing so they'll fit. I have plans for my laundry room, my closets, my kitchen, my bathrooms. But I decided to start small. I organized my purse.
I'm very fond of my purse for several reasons. Most importantly, it belonged to my cousin Alison, who departed this life a year ago at the age of 34 due to an infection complicated by type 1 diabetes. She was a kind, smart, funny, beautiful person, and I love carrying this reminder of her everywhere I go. Secondly, I like that it's green, my favorite color. (My family would probably call it my signature color.) Finally, I like that it's nice and deep and holds a lot of stuff.

The downside to the depth and capacity of my purse is that invariably what I need is at the very bottom. It leaves me digging around with my arm in it up to my elbow, or pulling out all the contents and piling them somewhere in order to find what I need. Very soon after I received the purse, I realized that constantly trying to find my keys in the depths of my bag wasn't going to work. I bought a carabiner (big clip) to put on my keyring, so I can clip it to the strap. It's one of the best organizational things I ever did. But you can see how sadly I was lacking order in my handbag. Here are its contents. Note that this picture is not staged in any way. I just pulled everything out and piled it on the ottoman.
In my experience, the main steps to organizing something are editing, categorizing, and containerizing. For me these steps are pretty fluid. Sometimes editing and categorizing might take place simultaneously, and depending on what you're organizing, either one might take place first. Editing is determining what needs to be kept and what doesn't belong in the area being organized. Categorizing is sorting the items and grouping like items together, and containerizing is storing the items so that they're accessible and will stay sorted. A good way to start the editing process is to sort everything into keep, discard, and store elsewhere piles.

This is my store elsewhere pile. It contains an eyeglass case, a pair of sunglasses, a clip, an emery board, and a lip gloss. I realized I don't take off my glasses when out and about, so I don't really need the eyeglass case. I'm now keeping prescription sunglasses in my car, for easy access when driving, so I don't really need to carry around the sunglasses. The clip was from a bag of snacks which have been consumed, and the lip gloss and emery board were duplicates. All of these have now been stored in an appropriate place other than my purse.
This is the discard pile. There are lots of receipts, an empty checkbook, expired coupons, assorted paper items.  Some could be recycled, some needed to be shredded, some had to be tossed.
The big wad of paper with the receipts actually wasn't in my purse. It's the stuffing from this purse insert, which was a key part of the containerizing process.

My extended family does a $10 random gift swap on Christmas, and this is the gift I received. I doubt I would have thought of buying something like this myself, but I really think it's going to help keep things accessible. Here's what I put in it: a pen, an eyeglass cleaning cloth, a little notebook, the printout from our most recent Bible study that I want to read over, two zipper pouches, and some mints. The pouches and notebook fit neatly in the main compartment, and the pen, mints, and eyeglass cleaner each fit into a designated pocket. 
The icon pouch contains my little prayer book. A friend of mine brought this pouch back from Greece a while back, and when she gave it to me, I immediately put my prayer book in it. Aside from my key clip this is really the only successful organizing effort I had previously instituted in my purse. The book had taken a beating from being knocked around with the other items.  I've had to reinforce it with book tape. The pouch protects it, and by keeping it from falling open, has made it easier to extract from my purse.

The peace sign pouch was given to me this Christmas by one of our God sons. I'd been thinking about making some zipper pouches for my handbag, so I was really pleased to get this pouch and the purse organizer for Christmas. I'm sure my purse got organized much faster than it would have if the project had required me to purchase supplies and get motivated to do some sewing! The contents of this pouch are an an example of categorizing and containerizing, I grouped like items together and then contained them so they'll stay together. I used this zipper pouch for grooming items. The comb and hair bands went in the side pocket, and I put lip gloss, chapstick, and an emery board in the main pocket.
Now you've seen all the contents of the purse organizer. Here are the other two items currently in my purse: my wallet and a small umbrella.  The wallet got cleaned out as well, and the loose change from my purse is now stowed in the zipper pocket of my wallet.
When I'm not at home, my phone goes in my purse as well, but as you may have guessed, I've been using it to take these pictures.  Typically I also keep a re-usable bag that folds into a pouch in my purse, but I believe I left it at my parents' house over the holidays.  Having now given a lot of thought to the contents of my purse, I think some hand lotion and a handkerchief or tissues would be useful to have.  There's room for a book, when needed, but usually I carry another bag with me to work for library materials, or I stow a book in my knitting bag. Do you have any purse organization tips?  Is there anything I don't have in mine which you consider a necessity?


  1. Personally, I always have to leave room for rocks... LOL! My purse is not my own and frequently becomes the receptacle of anything the husband and kids need toted around - stones included!

  2. Leaving room for rocks makes it a challenge to keep under the recommended limit of 3 pounds!

  3. sorry to hear of the loss of your cousin Alison! May God remember her in His Kingdom! I totally get how this purse would be something you would want on many levels...

    liked the key idea... nice to be organized...

  4. Great 'organizing' place to start out a new year. I over organize so am very impressed with your divisions. I always carry an extra pen and pencil - maybe you said those and I missed it. Good job.

  5. Elizabeth, thanks for your condolences.

    Birdiesgirl, I only have the one pen in there. It seems to work fine for me, since I rarely actually need a writing utensil.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts--I love hearing from you!