The easiest way to organize your purse (and keep it that way) is by using an insert. Here’s exactly how to choose the right one for your bag and fill it properly so your purse goes from hot mess to no stress.
When it comes to organizing your purse, the goal is to be able to find what you need when you need it and not have to fumble with a bunch of individual zippered bags. Don’t get me wrong, zippered cosmetic bags are great for makeup and small items, but they shouldn’t be the only organization method in your bag. The truth is they take extra time to dig them out, unzip them, grab what you need, use it, zip the bag again, and put it back.
Today I’m sharing how a handbag insert can completely change the game for your purse by making your go-to items easily accessible. I’m also showing you my best advice for storing your purse at home and creating a drop zone for your daily items. This mini-project is great for a rainy afternoon while you’re watching a movie, or it’s an easy way to dip your toe into organizing without emptying out a whole room.
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You can also watch the video on YouTube here. I share all kinds of cleaning and organizing videos there so be sure to subscribe for more!
What Is A Handbag Insert?
Handbag inserts are kind of like a caddy for your purse. They typically come in a felt/polyester material which is very lightweight. You can also get them in canvas or leather, but those can weigh down your already heavy bag.
Most handbag inserts have pockets on both the inside and outside edges so you can store small things individually instead of having to keep them all in little zipper bags. A lot of them also have a removable divider for the middle, so you can organize small things even more.
Benefits Of Using A Handbag Insert
- Every item has its own dedicated place and makes them easy to access without zippered bags
- Keeps the interior of your handbag clean and free of accidental stains (especially great if you may want to sell your handbag later)
- Allows you to transfer all contents of the purse to another bag without taking everything out individually (you can take out the whole insert while it’s full)
- Helps your bag stand upright and keep its shape
How To Choose The Right Insert For Your Purse
The first thing you need to do when choosing an insert for your purse is to measure the interior of the bag. An insert should fill almost all of the width and depth of the handbag, so once you get your measurements, subtract 2-3 inches. This gives you a snug fit but still allows the insert to stretch as you fill it.
I almost always recommend felt or polyester because they’re lightweight and hold their shape very well. For the interior of the insert, either felt or a washable liner is best. Pens leak, snacks spill, cosmetics break, and all these can end up in the bottom of the insert. By choosing a material that’s easily washable, you can keep the insert looking brand new. (PS: This is the one I’m using.)
All handbag inserts have pockets on the inside and outside edges, but some have removable dividers in the middle for added separation. My best advice is to choose an insert that has the removable middle piece, even if you don’t think you’ll use it. It’s better to have it and not use it than need it and not have it.
You can also find some inserts with a zipper compartment in the middle, which is helpful if your purse doesn’t close on top. But if your handbag already has a zipper or snap closure, you can skip that zippered compartment because it’s just another unnecessary step to access your belongings.
Handbag inserts come in a wide range of colors from neutrals to bold colors and patterns. If you use the same bag most of the time, I recommend choosing an insert that is the same color as the interior of your purse. It will look like it was made to be there. But if you change your bags often, you can choose either a neutral black or beige, or have fun with it and get a bright color you love.
How To Organize A Purse Insert
This is such a personal topic because we all keep different items in our bags, but here are some general guidelines for filling the insert most effectively.
- Put the insert in the bag before adding anything to it.
- Give your wallet an accessible home first. This is what you use most.
- Assign spots for other large items like notebooks, tablets, or makeup bags.
- Fill the inner pockets with items you use often like lotion, sunglasses, chapstick.
- If you carry safety items like pepper spray, give it an easy-to-access spot.
- Fill the outer pockets with items you use less often like bandaids, nail clippers, highlighters, and feminine products.
- Experiment with your setup for a few weeks and make adjustments as needed.
Keeping Your Handbag Insert Tidy
The reason you added an insert to your purse in the first place to organize your stuff and keep your bag more tidy. But that’s only half the work. You have to maintain your insert in order to keep it from piling up. Here are three tips for keeping the insert (and the rest of your handbag and wallet) from becoming a hot mess all over again.
1. Set a recurring reminder in your phone to clean out your bag
Receipts pile up, snacks get stuffed to the bottom, and coupons get pushed into corners to expire when you don’t maintain your bag regularly. To help you get in the habit of going through your purse frequently, it helps to set a recurring reminder in your phone. You can do this in the calendar app or the reminders app. Set it for whatever increment works best for you (daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly) until it becomes part of your routine.
2. Be realistic about what you need to carry in your bag
It’s easy to get carried away with what we store in our bags and that overload can lead to lot of excess clutter (and shoulder pain!). By taking a hard look at the things you actually need versus the things you carry “just in case,” you can decrease the weight and bulk of your purse. You probably don’t need every single gift card and reward card you own to be in your wallet. And you likely don’t need 20 pens and pencils. Drop it down to just the essentials, then add a few specialty items based on the day or occassion.
3. Create A Drop Zone
You need a safe place to store your in-use purse at home (FYI, by the door makes theft a breeze, so don’t keep it there) as well as a place to unload and refill it. If you have the space in your closet, a shelf is a great place. On top of a dresser, or in a drawer or cabinet, is also a good option. Make sure there’s enough room for the bag to stand or hang freely, and add a tray for removing excess coins, gift cards, receipts, and keys.
If you like to switch out the items you keep in your purse often, you can store all the options in a turntable or a drawer. This makes it easy to empty, rearrange, or restock your purse without searching all over the house for everything. Plus it’s a nice addition to your evening routine by coming home and emptying your bag and prepping it for the next day.
Shop My Favorite Purse Organizers
Want to get your bag even more organized? Here are my favorite small organizers, inserts, and additions so your purse will be more clean and tidy than ever before. Each item is linked below, or you can shop them all on LTK here or in my Amazon Storefront here.
Mini first aid kit
My favorite purse insert organizer (shown in this blog post)
Ring hooks for clipping keys onto bag straps
Makeup brush holder
Great insert for tall bags
Insert for large bags with water bottle holder
Earbud and phone charger case
I keep my car key fob & house key on separate pull apart “valet” key chains. Then I clip the empty rings to a retractable ID badge lanyard that I clip to my purse. The lanyard allows me to use my keys without unhooking them from my purse and the pull apart key chains makes it easy to give only my car key to the mechanic when necessary.
For now I’m using ALL the cosmetic bags for purse organization – I have a totally unstructured soft leather hobo bag that collapses into a flat mess whenever I put it down.
Brad Gandy says
The lanyard sounds like a great idea, Cheryl! Whatever system you use that keeps things easy and quick to find is one we support. Our methods are simply ideas, not rules that have to be followed.
I may have to switch to smaller clear vinyl bags for organizing – I’m forever forgetting what color bag has what I want in it. In a perfect world I’d find a shallow organizer and “file” my wallet plus whatever assortment of cosmetic bags of stuff I need for the day.
Life is full of compromises – I love the overall look of the unstructured purse but am totally frustrated by the inability to organize things inside it. I might have to break out the sewing machine (and learn about fusible fleece or foam to provide structure) and make my own organizer insert!
Appreciate all your ideas and projects – even if they aren’t for me I often learn something.
Brad Gandy says
We’re glad to help, and we certainly didn’t get here by sticking with the same methods over and over! Organizing is definitely a trial-and-error process, so we appreciate you being honest about what is and isn’t working for you. Thank you for keeping the conversation going, too, since it helps others decide which methods they might like best.