I think I've used up a week of my life (and the patience of various grocery store personnel) rummaging in my purse and/or wallet for the right key/card/pen/gum. I've tried various purse organizers, but they just end up as clogged with old receipts and gum wrappers as everything else.
I stumbled onto this hack because of a new purse Rael got me for Hanukkah. He's a bit of a bag fiend, and is also extremely organized, so he has pockets and locations for his stuff in his various (masculine! manly!) backpacks and messenger bags. For example, if I were to ask to borrow his keys (because mine are lost in the depths of my purse), he'd say "they're in the top left pocket with the black zip." I hate love him.
He insisted that the right purse would help solve my handbag chaos. And this, he said, was the right purse.
So I gave it a shot, and he was right — a good purse with enough pockets for your tools (whatever they are) is the first step. The next is how to use those pockets. A few little tweaks have made a huge difference to my daily sanity, and to my level of efficiency as I move through my day (and can be applied to any handbag, backpack or messenger bag):
Use two wallets. This bag comes with a coinpurse attached to an internal strap. Unable to resist this little pouch (even though it seemed useless at the time), I stashed my cash and put my driver's license and most-used credit card in the clear front pocket. My old wallet now carries backup credit cards, reward cards, membership cards, insurance cards, and all the other trappings of adult life which get in the way of my simply paying for my groceries (or whatever).
Identify one pocket (preferably an external one) for your cell phone. Handbags + cell phones create two problems: you can't find it, or you can't hear it. This purse has an external pocket you can't really see in the picture, but it's the perfect size and shape for my iPhone. That is the ONLY place I put my phone, and NOTHING else goes in the pocket. Bonus: because my cell phone now has a specific storage location, I misplace it at home less often.
Add a caribiner to your keychain. There are a million uses for carabiners, those spring-hinged metal loopy hooks. But the most useful for me has been adding one to my keychain and hooking it inside a loop in my purse (or to the purse strap).
Embrace the "shove zone." One thing will never change: I will always mindlessly shove stuff in my purse. Gum wrappers, receipts, stuff my kids ask me to hold. Rather than fight it, I've accepted it and identified the main pocket as the "shove zone." Now that I know where my wallets, keys, and phone are, the clutter isn't so much of a problem. And when I find myself with 2-3 idle minutes (often at gas stations), I clear out the crap and throw it away. I love that gas stations have trash cans right next to the pump.
I still need to do a full dump-and-clear every so often, but not as often as before. More importantly, the constant desperate rifling through my purse is mostly a thing of the past. And I don't feel like such a hypocrite when I ask my kids to declutter their school backpacks.
What's your hack for maintaining a usable handbag?
Related: Avoid locking your keys in the car