How to Choose the Perfect Handbag So You Can Find Your Stuff

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It has taken me many years to figure out how to find the perfect handbag. There really is a secret sauce.

round wicker purse

Honestly, a purse that makes you feel disorganized and very frustrated isn't working for you!

Form over fashion, ladies – but in this case I think you can have both.

So, what makes the perfect handbag, you ask?

The Perfect Handbag Should Have These Features

For me, it needs the top 3 features on this list, with the rest being great to have, but often hard to find.

  1. It has to have a single large pocket.
  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.)

This bag in particular has many of the above features and is a good example.

Unfortunately, my perfect handbag is very hard to find. Try as I might, nothing has all of the above features.

Clearly, it seems that purses are not designed by very practical people.

Let me tell you why each feature is so important.

A Fabulous Purse Needs a Single Large Pocket

I have bought many different styles of purses.

The ones with two identical zippered compartments are the most frustrating.

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.

A waste of time.

If the purse has a single large pocket, then you only have one place to look for that thing. It's going to be there.

The Perfect Handbag Should Zip Shut

Honestly, I really don't understand handbags that snap shut or don't have a closure.


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

What happens?

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.

It's the worst.

That one single compartment on your perfect handbag should have a full zipper.

It keeps you more organized and it's safer.

I think an open handbag just invites people to reach in and take your stuff.

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

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.

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

There should only be one, on one side of the purse only. Otherwise you end up unzipping both to find what you are looking for.

You should designate this pocket for your keys only. Don't put anything else in there!

Train yourself to put your keys in there whenever you get out of your car – whether you are out or at home.

Whenever you need to find your keys, you will know that they are always in the outside pocket of your purse.

No matter what.

If all the purses that you own have this little, single, outside pocket – then you switch handbags easily and still be able to find those keys!

Your Purse Should Not Be Too Deep

I like to use an iPad as an ideal dimensions for a purse.

Right now, a standard iPad is about 10 inches high and seven inches wide.

If you carry an iPad or other tablet around, then it should be able to fit in your handbag comfortably and you should still be able to zip your purse shut.

So, assuming you set the iPad on it's side, the bag should be at least seven to ten inches high.

The thing is, you don't want your bag to be too deep.

If the purse is too deep, it becomes a black hole.

All your stuff floats to the bottom and stacks on top of each other.

This makes it really hard to find what you are looking for.

The Perfect Handbag Will Stand On It's Own

Following the same principles, a perfect handbag will have some rigidity to it.

This means that it won't flop over when you put it down.

Things tend to stay orderly in a bag that will stand up on it's own.

Because of this, I like the tote bag style better than a hobo. Even though I love the slouchy look of a hobo bag, it's not as functional.

Two Handles Are Better Than One

Tote style bags typically have two handles.

The thing to remember is that you want the handles to be long enough so you can sling the bag onto your shoulder.

If the handles are too short, you will always have to carry the purse in your hands. This means that you will have to put the bag down when you need both your hands to do something.

Some tote bags have a third long, cross body strap that clips on.

I find this strap to be annoying. It gets in the way, so I end up taking it off.

Then I have to find a place in my home to store this strap.

It's not very practical.

I also tote bags make the perfect handbag because when you need to look inside your purse, the handles separate and stay out of the way.

The exception to a good tote bag style is a true cross body style.

When traveling, I actually prefer a cross body bag, so I can keep my hands free.

Your Purse Should Have A Light Colored Lining

Years ago I owned a black purse with a sky blue lining.

I loved that sky blue lining.

The light color made it so that I could actually see what was inside my bag.

The worst linings are black in color or have really busy designs like this one. That striped lining would drive me crazy!

The Perfect Handbag is Lightweight When Empty

Let's face it – we all carry around too much stuff.

All that weight ends up on your shoulder and can actually cause shoulder problems.

So, it's best if the empty purse doesn't weigh too much.

Who wants to lug around a heavy purse, anyway?

Your Purse Should Look Nice

Finally, you want a purse that reflects your style.

I have yet to find my perfect handbag.

Not one purse has all of the above features. At least, I haven't found it yet.

But I'll keep looking.

Tell Me About Your Perfect Handbag

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.

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    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

  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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: (affiliate) – and this one too: 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!

  7. 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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