How to Choose the Best Handbag for Organization

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It has taken me many years to figure out how to find the best handbag for organization.

A purse that makes you feel disorganized and very frustrated isn't working for you!

So, what makes the perfect handbag, you ask? Well, there really is a secret sauce – a formula to follow when you buy a new purse, bag, or tote.

Personally I always look for the following features before I buy:

  1. It has to have a single large main compartment.
  2. The perfect handbag should zip closed.
  3. There should be a small outer pocket on one side only.
  4. A useful purse should be about as tall as a standard iPad is wide.
  5. The bag should be more rigid than floppy.
  6. Two handles, long enough to carry on the shoulder, are better than one.
  7. It helps if the inner lining is a light, solid color – no patterns.
  8. The handbag should be lightweight when it is empty.
  9. If the handbag is actually attractive, that is a bonus. (I'm being sarcastic here.)

While it is hard to find a bag that ticks all the boxes – I try to make sure that any purse I purchase has at least a few of the above features. This is why each one is so important.

black tote bag with woman putting computer inside

BAGS YOU MIGHT LIKE

1. The Best Purse Has a Single, Large, Main Compartment

purse on side with open center

Over the years I have bought many different styles of purses and I have found that I stay better organized when the purse I choose has one, large, central main compartment.

I am sure you have seen or used bags with two identical, main compartments side by side. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea – but in fact, this style can cause a lot of frustration.

Think about it, if both zippered compartments look the same when the purse is closed, then you end up guessing which compartment your wallet, phone, or whatever it is you are looking for is actually in.

You open one, and the thing isn't there. So you have to open the other and you end up wasting time.

If the purse has a single large pocket, then you only have one place to look for that thing you need.

2. An Organized Handbag Has a Zip Closure

A handbag with a zip closure is much more practical than one with a snap closure or open top.

It keeps you more organized and it's safer.

Have you ever had your purse on the passenger seat while you are driving and hit the brakes kind of hard?

Your purse flies off the seat and onto the floor. If it's not zipped shut, the entire contents of your bag spills out everywhere.

Also, it is harder for someone to pilfer your wallet, phone, or other valuables if your purse is zipped shut.

3. A Useful Handbag Should Have a Single Outside Pocket (On One Side Only)

The perfect handbag, for me, has a single, small outside pocket that zippers shut.

I use this outside pocket to store my keys and a keychain with my store rewards cards or membership cards.

This way I always know where my keys are and when I checkout at a store, I always have easy access to my rewards cards so I get all the discounts.

This simple organization tip has saved me a lot of stress.

How many times have you thrown your keys in your handbag – and then had to dig into the abyss to find them again?

You know the momentary panic that sets in when you can't find them. It's horrible – and completely unnecessary.

Just like having a single main compartment – the same logic applies here. There should only be one outside pocket on your purse – not two or more. With multiple outside pockets you will end up zipping and unzipping all of them to find what you are looking for.

You should also reserve this pocket for your keys or other item of your choice only. Don't put anything else in there to clutter it up!

If all the purses that you own have this little, single, outside pocket – then you switch handbags easily and still know exactly where to find your keys.

4. Ideally Your Bag Should Be Wider Than Deep

If your bag is wider than it is deep, it should be shallow enough for you to see everything that is inside.

Right now, a standard iPad is about 10 inches high and seven inches wide – and I think something just a bit wider and deeper is a perfect size for a purse.

This is roomy enough to carry lots of stuff and if you need to take your tablet on the go, it should fit inside your handbag comfortably and you should still be able to zip your purse shut.

5. A Perfect Handbag Will Have Structure

My perfect handbag will have some structure to it and ideally will stand upright on its own.

This means that it won't flop over when you put it down and things should stay in order inside.

Because of this, I like a rigid tote bag style better than a hobo since it's not as functional.

If you love the slouchy look of a hobo bag, don't worry – here are some tips to keep your hobo style bag organized.

6. A Purse With Two Handles Is Better Than One

I, personally, like bags with two handles because when you need to look inside your purse, the handles separate and stay out of the way.

Tote style bags typically have two handles.

It is nice if these handles are long enough to sling the bag over your shoulder so you can have your hands free if need be.

Another way to keep your hands free is to choose a true cross body style bag – which I prefer when traveling.

7. Your Purse Should Have A Light Colored Lining

When your purse is lined with a light color fabric, it makes it easier to see everything inside.

Darker linings or linings with busy patterns are not as practical.

If your favorite bag has dark interior you might consider using something like this motion activated purse light.

8. The Perfect Purse is Lightweight When Empty

A lightweight purse will put less strain on your shoulder than a heavy one.

Let's face it – we all carry around too much stuff. When you add that weight to an already heavy bag, it becomes uncomfortable to carry.

Try to choose a handbag that doesn't weigh too much when it is empty.

9. Your Purse Should Look Nice

Finally, you want a purse that reflects your style.

You want to feel confident when carrying it.

Tell Me About Your Perfect Handbag

With so many requirements, it is not surprising that I have not yet found my perfect handbag.

There aren't many purses that fit my style that also are lightweight with a zippered single, main compartment and one outside pocket with two handles and are longer than they are wide.

But I keep looking.

You probably own a few favorite handbags – what is it that you like about them the most?

Obviously, the features that I think are ideal may not resonate with you. So, I'd love to hear what you look for when buying a purse.

Let me know in the comments below.

You can find more tips for purse organization here.

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13 Comments

  1. I found this article because I googled “Is there such thing as a perfect purse” and it led me here. I agree with your idea but would add 2 small pockets one inside and one on the outside on one of the ends, not the same side as for the keys. The little inside pocket would be like a mini makeup with a clear pvc vinyl pocket small enough to hold your lipstick, and or gloss, and maybe your mascara basically whatever your 3 or 4 must carry beauty items. Being made of the pvc vinyl it is clear and so you can see what is in there and if a lipstick loses it’s lid you can see that and be able to keep it contained so the rest of the purse is not ruined. The small outside pocket that would fit on one of the ends would hold pens it would be lined with the pvc vinyl so that if one of your pens blows its ink your not ruining your entire purse. It would be big enough to hold a couple pens, not so deep you lose it and not so tight you can’t get them out or clean up after a blow up. Those are a couple things I would add. YES THE PERFECT PURSE.

    1. I agree with everything you said I have said that also now where is that bag? I have looked and can’t find it.
      Cynthia Castleberry

  2. I once had a purse that had nice zippers that’s didn’t tear my hand apart while i was getting inside it
    Is that a crazy request for a purse or what 😬

    btw has anyone found any other purses not mentioned already
    I am checking those out but some links are no longer there

  3. OMG! You have just described what I’ve been looking for in a bag that isn’t $500 or more. Why is this so hard? I have bought multiple bags in 2021 trying to find this. I’ll settle for one that is missing some of these components only to conclude they are really necessary. Too big, too small, black lining, no zipper, too many pockets. Ugh!

  4. I don’t carry a purse because I can’t find what I am looking for. I’d like a bag about the size you mention – big enough for an iPad (though I actually want to carry my planner, not an iPad). What I want is a shoulder bag with a strap long enough to go on my shoulder, but short enough that I can hold it in close to my body with my upper arm. Straps are always too long and hit too low on my side. A cross-body bag would be great, except my breasts are larger than average and a strap right between them really makes them too obvious.

    1. Hi Roxanne,
      Take a look at this cross body planner bag from Erin Condren. The last picture, in particular, shows it on the person with the cross body strap. I have this one in metallic suede and like it a lot (the suede does tend to get dirty so I had to treat it but the canvas may be a good option too). It is roomy enough to fit a planner or iPad and you can adjust the strap to the length you like – I am not sure if putting it on the shortest length would be short enough to be snug over your shoulder and close to your body – but the strap is adjustable. If you do like it – keep in mind that the EC Black Friday Sale is coming up starting 11/18/2020 for EC Insiders (free to join) which will be 30% off the entire site. Good luck finding that perfect purse – I am always on the lookout, too!

  5. I am sooo glad to have found someone who is looking for the exact same things in a bag! I agree with you on every thing. I am still looking, also. Good luck to us!

  6. Loved your article. I have the same purse requirements as you have. I have decided that men design women’s purses because I’m still on the hunt.

  7. I love this article. I can never find the perfect purse, which sounds very similar to your purse. The only thing I’ve changed just recently is that it must be a backpack type because I have problems with my shoulders and this helps distribute the weight behind me. I also want the zippers to be able to be clipped closed (think anti theft). Finding a pretty one with these features is almost impossible.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Oh yes – backpack type purses do present a security issue – especially if you are in a busy city. And finding a cute one is even harder. I do like Travelon brand bags for their security features (including clippable zippers). I have a crossbody and love it but I haven’t tried the backpack style. I did a quick search and here is one by that brand: https://fave.co/2QpqmOb (affiliate) – and this one too: https://fave.co/2DOyXn2. What I especially like – aside from the security aspects – is the light colored interior. I don’t understand why manufacturers put black interiors in purses and handbags – it makes it impossible to find anything!

  8. Neena, This must be an issue for Professional Organizers! 🙂 I actually thought it was just me that “fussed” about the construction of purses. I like your list of requirements, but I’m usually on the hunt for one with multiple pockets. (Which of course, does not exist.) A feature that I add when I finally decide to just construct my own purse is a lobster claw near the top of the purse for my keys. I’ve complained enough that my family thinks I should start a company for creating purses. For some reason, I thought ladies were happy with the choices available. Until there is a better purse, we can always hold classes on “organizing your purse,” right?

    1. Hi Debbie,
      You are definitely not the only one in search of the perfect purse! I am not a fan of a lot of pockets because I get confused (my simple mind at work 😉 ) but I have been know to use a purse organizer insert similar to this one. I can no longer find the exact one that I have, but I like the inserts because you can quickly change purses by pulling it out of one bag and putting it into another. I love your lobster claw idea for keys too. I think at one point I did that using a carabiner – but it probably put me in the fashion doghouse. Let me know if you find the ONE – I’d love to hear about it!

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