Lighten Your Load by Cleaning Out Your Purse

Me, handing my purse to my husband: “Honey, could you hold my purse for a sec?”

Husband, taking it: “Whoa! What’s in here, bricks?!”

Sound familiar?

Whether your purse of choice is a cool designer number or a small canvas tote, we all tend to use it as a place to stash everything we “need” on the go. The problem is it’s too easy to forget all the items we’ve been putting in there. Then when it comes time to find your keys, a pen, or “that coupon I’m going to use one of these days,” it’s like digging elbow-deep into a mystery grab bag.

Here is our guide to cleaning out your purse—and then keeping it organized.

First, Clean It Out

  1. Take out everything and lay the items out on a table. Make sure to check every single compartment and pocket, inside and outside—even ones you rarely use.
  2. Get rid of all garbage—wrappers, lists, receipts you don’t need, pens that don’t work, dried-up lip balm, a broken and non-repairable bracelet, old kids’ items, etc.
  3. Group together multiples. Do you really need more than one pen, or more than one pair of sunglasses? Likely not. Keep one of each essential item, then put the rest away (but don’t throw it in your junk drawer, natch).
  4. Do you have containers in your purse, such as a cosmetic bag or first-aid kit? Clean those out as well. Throw out that old cracked compact, or the Disney Princess band-aids your now-teenager does not need.
  5. Get rid of seasonal items. Do you really need an umbrella or a wool hat in there when it’s July? Or your seasonal allergy medications when it’s the off-season? How about the heavy set of keys to your in-laws’ cabin that you only visit in November?
  6. Now start returning items to your purse, while evaluating how often you truly use each item. Things like your wallet, keys, phone—of course. But items like a flashlight, hand cream, a granola bar—maybe not? In other words, get rid of the “just in case” items.

Next, Lighten the Necessities

  1. We all have that 1-inch stack of plastic for going out: gift cards, store loyalty cards, health insurance cards, membership cards, extra debit or credit cards. All together they add such bulk and weight to your wallet. Try keeping a small card holder in your car to keep all those extra cards (and coupons!), while keeping only your most-used cards in your wallet. This is a great excuse to get a smaller, lighter wallet!
  2. If you keep your smartphone in your purse, consider using it to replace certain things. Instead of a notepad or a planner, use the Notepad and Calendar apps. Leave your library card and calculator at home, and use your local library app and the Calculator app instead. You can even use the Starbucks app instead of the plastic version.
  3. Ask yourself if you need a second bag for specific errands. For instance, if you keep your knitting or your Kindle in your purse so you have something to do when your kid is at practice or lessons, then put it in a separate small tote and keep it in your car. Then you’ll only need to take it with you when you actually need it.

Last, Keep It Organized

  1. Now that your purse feels a few pounds lighter, make it a habit to do a regular purse clean-out. Whether you do it for 30 seconds every evening, 5 minutes once a week, or 10 minutes once a month, staying on top of it will keep your purse from turning into an abyss.
  2. Get a smaller purse! Having a big, voluminous bag makes it too tempting and too easy to throw too much in there. Besides, a small purse is so much easier to keep organized.


A friend once came over and I had a good laugh when she pulled out a bottle of wine, salami, and cheese and crackers out of her beautiful Burberry purse. At that moment those were necessities! As always, with any organizing project, keep it real and have a sense of humor.


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