What to Keep in Your Purse or Handbag

Leather Purse: Spilling Necessary Items
Julia Nichols/E+/Getty Images

You know you shouldn’t care, but you're always fascinated by those little photo stories about what some celeb or blogger or random woman who just seems to have it all together keeps in her handbag. They have eye cream tucked into their purses for when they're on a flight, or they carry around a good luck charm given to them when they were five. These lists rarely make any practical sense, but you keep reading them anyway.

 

You're not alone because people keep writing the stories! 

We all want there to be a secret to perfectly organizing your handbag, and that, of course, leads to a perfectly organized life. 

Alas, there is no real secret, and the contents of your bag will be different, obviously, depending on whether you’re going to work or a party. But there are some guidelines about the essentials you will usually want to carry in your purse.

1. The Basics

This is what most everyone will need to have on them in almost all circumstances. They include money (cash and/or credit cards), a driver’s license or other ID, and any other necessary cards (like insurance), probably all inside a wallet. 

You also need your car and/or house keys, a tampon, because you never know (and desperate ladies in restrooms will thank you), and a cell phone, unless you’re one of those enviably un-anxious people who can cavort about without one and never worry that you’re missing something.

2. The Sometimes Basics

These are things that probably don’t need to go in your bag all the time, but will be needed often enough that you should get used to taking them and place them where you won’t forget them. They might include a checkbook, umbrella, or reusable grocery bag.

3. Your Personal Basics

These are things you feel weird and helpless without, and they vary from each individual.

It might mean you need a small camera, notebook, pens, gum, and glasses. You might need a knitting project or paperback book or photos of your cats.

4. Makeup and Skincare

If you wear makeup, you probably don’t need to take it all with you. Foundation, for example, can usually be applied at home and left there. What you need to bring along is anything you use for a quick touch-up – pressed powder and lipstick being the most common. Whether or not to bring eye shadow, concealer, or blotting paper depends on your skin and routine.

If your hands tend to be dry all day, or if you’re prone to sunburns and spend lots of time outdoors, bring a travel sized moisturizer and sunscreen (or even better, a combination of the two.)

5. Hair

Some women don’t need anything, some need a brush, some like to have an elastic or clip to put their hair up if it starts getting in the way. Depending on the requirements of your day, you might also need some sort of product.

6. First Aid

You don’t have to cart around the entire contents of a Walgreen’s in your bag, but if your feet blister easily, carrying some bandages and blister block will save you time and money later. If you have seasonal allergies or get headaches often, or if you take any prescription medication, carry a few of the necessary pills in a small plastic bag or container so you’re not left stranded.

Your stuff might need emergency supplies too. If you find you’re always tearing your clothes, a safety pin or two in your bag could be a lifesaver. If you suddenly find that you are spilling coffee on yourself on a daily basis, start carrying a stain stick. You will soon find that you're not the only one using it.  Strangers tend to borrow them all the time. 

7. Sustenance

Maybe you're one of those people who forgets to drink water all day so you decide to remedy that by carrying around a water bottle in your purse. Maybe you need to carry fruit strips with you if you forget to eat all day and then wonder why you feel terrible at 3:00 p.m. 

You might not want any of this, but if you frequently find yourself buying beverages from vending machines or contemplating eating your own fingers as you wait for your table to be ready at restaurants, consider making food and drink a regular addition to your bag.

And that leads us to this thought: Should you be carrying a simple handbag? Or do you need to start using a backpack? Many women find it's easier and more comfortable to carry their belongings for the day in a backpack. This is especially true if you're carrying a laptop to and from your office. 

Pare the contents of your bag down to just the essentials, then think about the most comfortable bag for you to use.