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Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Purses and Backpacks

When we head out to work, school or the grocery store, we want the important stuff to come with us, so we pack it in our purse or backpack and go. It could be money, a phone, baby wipes or the power cord to your laptop…but you count on them being there. It’s great! Everything is conveniently stored for easy access. Or is it?

The truth is, our bags tend to get overloaded and disorganized over time. The important stuff can get lost or misplaced in a sea of inbound odds and ends. They get put in there while on the go when you don’t always have the time to decide where an item belongs and neatly store it in its proper compartment. Or they are assumed to be in there when, in fact, they got left behind.

Organizing to the rescue!

Why Organize Your Bag? Our handbags, backpacks, diaper bags and work bags do a lot for us. The point of keeping them organized is so that you can be confident you have, and can find, what you need when you need it…without a lot of digging around. But good organization will also help you protect your belongings from getting crushed, crumpled, broken or scratched. Plus, keeping the load as light as possible will protect your shoulders, back and the bag itself.

Maintenance No matter how many times you get your bag organized, more stuff will eventually accumulate. You’ll have receipts from the grocery store, snacks you grabbed in a pinch, business or appointment cards, pamphlets from interesting places and much more. It’s great to have a place to stash them in the moment, but regular clean-outs are a must if you want to maintain the functionality of your bag.

I have a running joke with my kids that “Mommy’s pocketbook is not a trash can.” Of course, they retort with lots of maniacal laughter in their sweetest sing-song voices “Mommy’s pocketbook is a trash can!” Then they proceed to sneak their snack wrappers into my bag. I suppose it’s better than them littering on the ground, so I often let it slide. But that’s because I know it won’t be in there for long before I do my routine maintenance and organizing.

Organizing Education Speaking of kids, backpacks can be a nightmare. Teaching your children to regularly clean them out and keep them organized may be one of the best ways you can aid their education. I’m serious. School is a whirlwind of notes, homework, projects, Chromebooks and food, all coupled with tons of movement from place to place over the course of the day. Unless you’ve got a natural in your brood, backpack organizing must be taught and retaught. Otherwise, assignment details get lost, homework doesn’t get turned in, projects get ruined and last week’s lunch may start to announce its presence. Once learned, this important skill will follow them through life!

Clean Out, Sort and Contain All that being said, are you ready to get your bag in order? Here’s the plan.

  • Clean Out Regularly: The more often you remove the temporary residents of your bag, the easier maintenance will be. If you don’t do it right way, make it a weekend ritual. Remove anything that has landed in your bag that doesn’t need to be there. Remove trash. File papers and any important receipts. Wash your water bottle!

  • Sort and Contain: Containment is key, whether it’s your silverware drawer or your purse. Try sorting and containing by category:

Hygiene - lotion, gum, floss, menstrual supplies, Band-aids, lip balm, touch-up grooming products, hand sanitizer, etc.

Writing Utensils - small notebook, sticky notes, pens, pencils, highlighters Wallet - money, change, cards, receipts Kids’ Supplies - diapering supplies, snacks, entertainment Loose Papers - files, notes, business receipts, business cards

Handy Gadgets for Organizing If your bag, purse or backpack doesn’t have all the compartments needed for keeping items separate and findable, you may want to consider adding an accessory that serves the purpose. Think about how hard it is to organize a freezer drawer. Everything just gets tossed in on top of each other, then finding your frozen green beans becomes a chore. That’s why freezer organizers are so popular and why purse or bag organizers, in a small but important way, can change your life too!

Purse Insert: If you have a larger bag, it can be incredibly helpful to use a purse insert. No more fishing expeditions to find your wallet or, perish the thought, your EpiPen!

Smaller Purse/Bag Insert: Even if your purse is on the small side, if it doesn’t have enough useful compartments, these inserts are a great solution!

Accessory Bags: Got makeup or electronic device accessories floating around your purse or backpack? Give them their own compartment that’s easy to find!

Sunglasses Bag: If you don’t have a case for your sunglasses, or the one you have is too bulky, these clippable pouches make it easy to store and find your sunglasses.

Pro Tips for Keys Keys are probably the most important inhabitants of your purse of backpack. And when you need them, you don’t want to have to search for them. Ever wonder, “Did I leave them in my purse…or did I put them down somewhere else when I came home?” Or, has your teenager come home from school and realized their keys aren’t in their backpack, then noticed the Nike lanyard with the house key attached mocking them through the window? It happens, and it can be maddening.

There are a couple of simple things you can do so you never (cross your fingers) lose your keys again.

  • First, be consistent. I recommend designating a spot for your keys and always returning them to that spot when they are not in use. It could be a certain pocket or compartment, or it might even be somewhere you can attach them. If your purse or backpack has a handy place to clip your keys that wouldn’t be damaging, that’s a great way to tether them exactly where you want them. The built in clips aren't always the most durable or conveniently located, but there are plenty of add-on options that can work. Then, you just need to make it a habit to always return them to their spot.

  • Second, keep it simple. Use an uncomplicated key ring that is functional without all the extras. Keys are harsh on bag interiors and can get heavy. Designating a pocket specifically for your keys not only helps you find them easily, but also keeps them from scratching other items in the bag. Your mobile phone will thank you!

As far as organizing projects go, keeping your purse or backpack in order is comparatively simple. The difference is, it has to be maintained much more frequently than most spaces. If you stay on top of it though, you’ll be glad you did. The time required will be minimal, and reducing the stress of disorganization will pay off every day!

This post is part of a series called "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" about spaces outside the home or office that may need organizing attention.

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