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How I keep my bag sane

Keep your bag sane

Next month, we’re going to do another Project Simplify. Remember that? It’s a series we do here in the spring, where we declutter, clean, and organize some part of our house—group-think spring cleaning, holding each other’s hands for accountability. It’ll be quite a bit different than in previous years (more on that soon!), but yep, you’ve asked for it, so we’re doing it.

But I thought it’d be fun this month to do some back-to-the-basics talk. We haven’t done this in awhile—short posts with quick thoughts about keeping life’s certain compartments a bit saner. We’re kicking it off today with bags. Purses, handbags, clutches, diaper bags—whatever you carry, let’s talk about simplifying them.

The first time I met Myquillyn, I was carrying a tiny thing of a purse; it was basically a wallet with a strap, and ever since, she’s jokes that i only carry around tiny purses. You may have the same assumption about me, but I only wish this were true. I hate clutter and needless stuff, as you well know, and I really don’t have much use for carrying more than I need.

Helpful reminders for keeping a bag sane and clutter-free.

But—I’m a mom, a writer working from home, and a mostly-functioning member of society. Try as I may, I can’t just get by with a tiny little wallet.

What’s in my bag

I change bags from time to time, as my workload and the season changes. The past few months I’ve been using this number:

Tsh's bag

it’s a simple small tote from Martha Stewart’s home office line. I like its marriage of form and function—it’s nice on the eyes, but it’s nothing fancy. It carries my stuff like a boss.

Inside Tsh's work bag

I like how it snaps open for easy access, too.

Inside Tsh's bag

(You might also recognize my laptop case from Gussy Sews. My wallet is also from The Burlap Bag, and of course, I’m currently reading Shauna’s new book.)

I don’t always carry this bag around, of course—for date nights, grocery runs, and otherwise everyday mom stuff, I usually schlep around this canvas tote I bought in Turkey a few years ago.

Tsh's everyday bag

It needs a serious washing. But it is reversible.

Inside Tsh's everyday bag

But when I need to have my act together, and when I need to look like I know what I’m doing, my black tote does the trick.

Here’s what I also love—these little pockets and inserts to keep my stuff sane:

Martha Stewart bag inserts

I keep papers and receipts-yet-to-head-home in the larger one, meds and grooming supplies (hair bands, lip stuff) in the smaller one, and in the medium one? I keep wipes. Because what mom doesn’t need them eighteen times a day?

A few other ways I keep my bag sane:

1. I empty it frequently. As in, near-daily.

2. I jettison whatever I don’t need for whatever it is I’m doing. Having a smartphone helps me tremendously in this department—it carries most info I need. I really detest carrying too much stuff.

3. I keep like things with like, nice and contained. Those little bags? So simple, yet so helpful.

4. I rarely take receipts because I have an online copy of the transaction with my bank account. (Exceptions, of course, are with work expenses and purchases I may need to return.)

5. But when I do keep a receipt, I keep it in my zip-up bag, and then I stab it on my receipt holder-thingy when I get home.

6. I just… don’t carry much stuff. Decluttering is always so much easier than organizing lots of stuff, so it’s my number one secret to staying organized: get rid of it if you don’t need it.

What’s in your bag?

We’re all in different stages of life, so not everyone operates like me. I’d love to know what’s been your strategy for keeping a decluttered bag.

Update: Just got word from the powers-that-be that there’s a one-week promo at Staples starting this Sunday, March 10—spend $40 on any Martha Stewart tote and/or accessory and get $10 off! I’m still waiting to hear back from them if a coupon is required, but I’ll update here when I know. That’s kinda fun.

This month, we’ll also talk about the basics behind streamlining beauty and self-care products, menu planning, and budgeting. What are some other back-to-the-basics topics would you like to explore? Oh, and of course, how do you keep your bag under control? And what essentials do you have to carry with you?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Whitney

    I keep a really simple purse. In fact, I recently went to a baby showers where I was one of the few mothers in the room and they played a “how many things do you have in your bag?” game. I totally lost, because I had my wallet, my phone, my keys, lip gloss, and a pad and pen. It was very boring. But it’s the way it works for me!

    To be fair, though, I do shove a lot in there when I’m on the go. It can hold books, toys, snacks – w/e we need while we’re out. But those change constantly and I get rid of it all when I come home. I put it back and the purse goes back to being light.

  2. KateC

    Lately I have left my purse hanging in the closet in favor of a slightly larger Vera Bradly bad I got for Christmas. It has lots of side pockets for my phone, wallet, calendar (no smart phone), etc. Unlike my purse it holds my knitting so I can easily take it with me in case I might have time to work on it. I like those little zipper pockets – those would be handy.

  3. Cheltz

    I do keep receipts, which I empty out often, and other than that? My wallet and keys. I have a tiny purse.

  4. Nat

    Great. Thanks. I have a giant black hole for a bag! I do try to up-end it often, and you should see what falls out!Have to do it more often!

  5. Juliette

    Zippered little mesh bags are my favorite way to keep my bags organized. Everything has a space so you can find things quickly. They also make it easy to switch bags since they’re like portable pockets.

    My Kindle and my camera are also always in my bag. This way I’m prepared when I have to wait at a bus stop -or while my husband takes a call.

    • Tsh

      Yes! The only reason my Kindle wasn’t in my bag was because it was on my nightstand when I took these photos.

  6. Nicole Robinson

    You’re reading my mind. Just yesterday, I vowed to clean out my workbag this weekend. It’s so heavy. I’m not entirely sure what’s in there. I suspect it’s several books that I started reading and never got the chance to finish. I should really start using my Kindle.

  7. Ewa

    I’m a HUGE, HUUUUGE fan of the Healthy Back Bag (
    It comes in different sizes, so I got myself a small one for day-to-day commute. It easily holds my notepad, pens, wallet, phone, lunch (in flat container) and a paperback book, keys (all inside, easily accessible) and lots of other small things (tiny mirror, lip-care product etc) in the outside pockets.
    I also have a baglet for the quick trip to the shop or cinema (holds my keys, phone, notebook and pen + fold away bag for shopping if needed). And I am thinking about getting a medium size, which would comfortably hold my small laptop and a larger book.
    (I am in no way connected to HBB, I simply and truly love their product ^^)

  8. Victoria

    I have several bags for several purposes. I keep a small simple black purse that slings over one shoulder for grocery shopping outings. I have a Vera Bradley bag that zips and has 6 pockets inside and a flat bottom that I use when my husband is going to be driving, since it fits my dishcloth yarn and needles, so I can use the passenger time to knit. When I go out to blog I like my land’s end canvas tote the medium sized one, fits my laptop and blogging binder perfectly. When the kids and I head to the library it is the biggest canvas tote from land’s end and it usually comes home bursting!

  9. Rebecca

    I keep a wristlet (cash, card, phone, keys) in my messenger bag so I only have to take the wristlet into stores with me, but I can still have my tote for the things I need when I’m out for several hours.

  10. vera

    I am a mess when it comes to my purse. Usually there is a huge pile of receipts and other little pieces of paper scattered throughout. It doesn’t matter how big or small the purse is either! One of these days I will figure out a way to keep it all organized. I have to dig around searching for my cell phone (you would think I would just keep it in one specific place/pocket!).

  11. Seriously Sassy Mama

    A bunch of crap is what is in my bag. I really need to find a bag I like and get it organized. I want a sane bag.

    • Tsh

      Ha! Like your honesty. 🙂

    • Shannon

      Oh gosh! I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m in the same boat!

      • Maria

        And I! Something the kids were playing with that they gave me to keep for them, that is probably there. Receipts, bills I’ve paid but havent got round to filing, and so that I don’t loose them I keep them “filed” in my bag. And honestly, a million other things. The little portable pockets are a good idea, that might help me. My bag also doubles up a a changing bag (child number 3 still needs things) because by now I can’t be bothered to carry 2, so sometes I might find a pair of socks left over etc. and it really isn’t that big! Perhaps if it wereit would be better. It is in such a state my husband teases me! But it does have outside pockets which help me a lot, because otherwise I loose my keys… Hopefully you’ve just inspired me to improve.

  12. Pamela

    Such a timely post! I just received a wonderful bag for Valentine’s Day and after 12 years of carrying a diaper bag, I had no idea what to put in it or keep it tidy, lol! I think I’ll head to the sewing room to make myself some of those little zippered pouches to keep things orderly! Thank you!

  13. Steph

    Now that my daughter is three, I’m enjoying having to keep minimal stuff in my bag for her…just an emergency snack or two. But I’m pregnant so the full-on supplies are coming. 🙂

  14. My Inner French Girl

    Love this post! I actually was about to publish a post similar to it, mostly because I’m obsessed with both purses and productivity.

    Like you, I can’t stand schlepping around too much stuff, but since I run my small business from home, care for four active dogs, foster one puppy, volunteer with two animal welfare groups, and am largely the manager of our household (with my husband, who works full-time outside the home), I can’t get away with just a wallet with a strap (although I have two of those, too!). My obsession with purses means that I have over 15 of them, of all different sizes, as well as several totes.

    My go-to habit, though, is a doctor-style Fendi I’ve had for over twenty years that houses my wallet, pens, a little notebook, small cosmetic bag, and cell phone. That’s what I carry around almost all the time, but I sometimes switch it with a vintage Coach cross-body purse for when I want to be hands-free.

    When I need to carry my laptop and other paperwork, I throw it all into a great canvas tote I bought at our local Barnes & Noble for a discount right before the store closed. It doesn’t fit a lot — my netbook and a couple of books is about all it can comfortably manage — but that’s fine because it forces me to be streamlined. It’s not ideal that I have two bags, but I don’t carry both around very often.

    I LOVE the idea of carrying those small mesh bags, though! I usually stuff receipts and stuff into a special slot in my wallet, but the bags would work better and help me organize my wallet better, too. Thanks!


  15. Lisa

    I love how neat and tidy your bag looks…Sometimes I throw in my DSLR, and I almost always have my Kindle stuffed in there.

  16. Ashley // Our Little Apartment

    I have a pretty darn simple bag. Much of the time, I don’t even carry a purse. My biggest method for keeping it simple: I have an iPhone case that holds three cards and all my membership/rewards cards are on my keychain. I use cards, not cash for purchases. (I get rewards AND I spend less money. Cash burns a hole in my pocket.)

    If we’re gone longer than an errand or two, I might bring diapers and a book. But usually, just my phone, keys, and some chapstick!

  17. Liz Sniegocki ~ A Natural Nester

    Always in my daily bag: sunglasses & case, a small handsewn zippered bag with lip balm, eye drops, hair band, etc.), keys on a quilted key fob made by a friend, pens, wallet, small moleskin journal, phone, and snacks (little jar of nuts ususally – like yours!). I keep it decluttered by changing bags pretty often – seems I have a bit of a “thing” for bags . 🙂

    Now that my girls are older (5 & 8) I don’t need to carry anything for them!!

    Looking forward to Project Simplify – I need some seious hand holding in cleaning out my office closet …it’s currently a huge pile of stuff due to lack of shelving. I’d also love tips for organizing kitchen cabinets (pots & pans, glassware, etc.).

  18. nee

    It’s processing the receipts on a regular basis that gets me. I am curious about your bank offering a copy of your receipts. Could you give a little more info on how that works? Are you still using Pear? Thanks so much for taking us on next month…can’t wait!

    • Tsh

      I am using Pear Budget, but what I meant was the online register/transaction records I get through our bank. Not a physical picture of the receipts. I do keep those when I think I might need to return something or expense something for work.

    • AmandaG

      I think she just means that the bank keeps a record of the transaction, as seen on statements. Unless I’m wrong…

      • AmandaG

        Oops, browser was open for a while and didn’t see you’d already replied.

  19. Christy

    What’s the blue book?

    • Tsh

      Just a simple journal! Jeannett gave it to me recently. 😉

  20. Kathy

    Thanks for the great tips. My purse so cluttered right now I cannot stand it. Plus I carry around a small back pack for my 2 year old. I feel like my shoulder might fall off some days! I like the pouches you carry around for the wipes, receipts and meds. I might have to look into that.

  21. Noelani

    I am looking forward to Project SImplify’s return 🙂

  22. MelanieL

    You just saved my sanity with the link to the little bags/pouches! I’ve recently thought I should put “like with like” in my purse and these look perfect! Also, I’ve started reading Organized Simplicity and I’m totally in love with it! It’s such a perfect guide for what me and my family want to accomplish in our home, thank you!

    • Tsh

      You’re welcome! Thank you for your kind words.

  23. Nora

    To help me stay organized in the purse/bag dept., I keep duplicate necesseites in each bag/purse I use MOST often. For example I know I can always find a writing tool, lip balm, antic-bacterial, hair clip etc. in the bag/purse i grab for the days events. It saves times on having to transfer those necessary items each time.

  24. Tanya

    reading this actually makes me want to go clean out my purse and maybe even change bags. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Tsh

      It won’t take too long, I usually find! Just a few minutes and you’ll feel loads better. 🙂

  25. Alissa

    I keep asking myself this question:
    I escape from the diaper bag as soon as my kids are out of the newborn stage, but my kids are 3 and 5 and I still have underwear tucked in the corners of my purse. Of course, small boys, small underwear, small price to pay for that added insurance… just have to keep it tucked out of the way during business meetings!

    Oh, and I can’t say enough about getting a purse organizer (lots of options on amazon) to keep all those “extras” in their place and avoid constantly riffling through the deep recesses of your bag to find the chapstick!

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls

      Maybe keep one of those pouches in the car with the underwear? Just grab it when you are going in somewhere for a long time? My girls are 5 and 3 3/4 (her words). I still need full clothing changes. The 5 yo has major issues knowing when she has to go. She FIGHTS if I TELL her to go and then 5 minutes later will have an accident! The 3yo is only a concern if we are eating while we are out. She still makes a disaster of herself!

    • Tsh

      Yeah, I keep diapers and underwear in a little zippy bag in the car and just leave it there.

    • Debbie

      This comment made me smile…my kids are 8 and 9 and I had almost forgotten about those days of carrying toddler underwear everywhere I went! Thanks for the memory!!!

      • Jessica

        We rectly had to redress the 18 month old in 4 T clothes from the car extras. Forgot to update sizes…. But better than nothing

  26. Melanie Becker

    I love living an organized life and having the right tools and gear are essential in making that happen. The bags you showed above remind me of 1) Our Cindy Tote -which is my, ‘like a boss’ bag. It holds everything I need for my daily duties as a mom, PTO secretary, part-time school staff member, independent consultant and more. I love how comfortable it is on my shoulder and I love that it comes in a variety of prints and can be personalized. 2) Your reversible bag (LOVE, btw) reminds me of our new bag the Inside-Out Tote – again, super comfortable, easy to care for and so functional! 3) I love to carry my own bags to the store and I keep my Market Thermal Tote, along with one of our picnic cooler bags and a large utility bag in the back of my trunk to make my shopping runs easy and efficient. The thermal lining keeps all of my refrigerated, and frozen items cold and the market thermal is huge. It continues to amaze me just how much I can get into one bag! 4) The zipper bags remind me of our line of zipper pouches – both thermally lined and not. They come in wonderful prints and many can be personalized as well. We have a wide assortment of other products that fit the simple life philosophy which is what first attracted me to the Thirty-One company to begin with.

  27. Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker

    Just wanted to say I so needed this post! Want to know something humbling? When my bag gets too junked up, I just switch to a new bag! It drives my husband crazy!

    • Shannon

      Oh gosh – I did that over the summer too. I finally broke down and went through the old bag and came up with $25 and change. Humbling for sure but you aren’t the only one!

    • Maria

      Oh dear! I’m afraid I’m guilty of that too!!

  28. Laura H

    I’ve used the Purse Organizer from The Container Store (Confession – my favorite store!).
    You can lift it out of one purse and plop it into another. You can even wash it.
    For travel, I LOVE my Baggallini Everything Bag! It has more compartments than you ever thought possible and it is so lightweight. It’s great!
    What daily organizer do you use? I have tried countless, but can’t seem to ever find the right one. I used Family Facts on the Go for a while, but they stopped making it. I’m still on the quest. Any insight would be great!

    • Tsh

      Organizer, meaning… a paper calendar of sorts? I don’t. I use apps on my iPhone. But if that’s not what you mean, let me know and I’ll try to answer again.

      • Laura H

        I saw your post on the best iPhone APPs. Great! I added some to my list! I do it all on my phone – travel arrangements, ordering, reading. But I confess I still like to scribble on paper for the calendar. Maybe it’s the over 40 thing. Ha. Tired of carrying it around … I think I will just commit and convert. I can always print it. Maybe a weekly “administrative” or “office” before and after might be a good one for us to tackle. Thanks Tsh. Take care of the knee!

    • Donna

      Try Momagenda…they are a bit pricey…but worth it. I tried to go all digital but with twin 10yo boys, a husband with his own biz, and a FT job…I need to see my schedule in paper in front of my eyes. They are online at…love them!

  29. Heart and Haven

    I haven’t used a purse in more than 8 years! I would blame it on carrying the multi-purpose diaper bag, but that’s only been the past 5 years. Even before that, I worked in Sales and when I traveled I would have my carry-on suitcase, along with my laptop & projector (that would be taken to customer appts). I didn’t want to check baggage (I was usually the only female traveling with a group of men….so they wouldn’t wait anyway, lol). I just got used to having a wallet, keys, cell, and lipstick (that could fit in laptop case, jacket pocket, etc.

    Now that I use a diaper bag (I use a black messenger bag, so hubby can carry it confidently if he has the kiddos): # of diapers (depending how long I’ll be out), wet bag, change of baby clothes, suncreen, hand sanitizer, and camera….and the front pocket is where I put my wallet, keys, phone, and lipstick.

  30. Faith

    Loved this post! It has taken me awhile to figure out how to keep my bags organized….now that I do I feel more grown up. 🙂 I realize that I need to carry big purses and they need to have pockets. I carry one bag in the spring/summer and one in the fall/winter. I love my bag from Jenn John’s Etsy shop…it is unique, beautiful and holds up during all my travels out and about. I also got a Cindy Tote from Thirty-One that is good for when I need to head to the local coffee shop to get some writing/work done. My essentials to carry with me are….chapstick, lipgloss, gum, hand lotion, tissues, and nail file. I put all of those in a zippered pouch. Plus, of course, a book, wallet and phone.
    My family is preparing to move to Mexico in July, to work at an orphanage there, full time. I would love to hear more from you about moving overseas with family. Its hard for me to know what to store, what to sell and what to take with us. We are only taking what will fit in our van. And maybe about how to teach our children about letting go of things? Maybe this is too loaded of a topic? Sorry this comment post is so long!!

    • Tsh

      We can touch on those topics sometime! I have alluded to a bit of that in the archives, though, if you feel like searing… 🙂

  31. Shannon

    Oh, this is SO timely. I was just searching for some ideas on how to wrangle receipts & little papers which take over my purse. I love the avery pouches to hold them until I get them home & into YNAB (but my new goal is to do that daily ~ hopefully to avoid the invasion!)

  32. Dana B

    Haha, I’m going through this transition right now. It’s been surprisingly tough! I feel like I’ve used some variety of a backpack forever! If I try to go to something with a shoulder strap, I find that I constantly leave it. I’m just so used to being hands-free that I don’t think to grab the purse off the counter or wherever. But I’ve had a really hard time replacing it. So for now, I’ve switched to a very roomy tote from Vera Bradley that has a laptop slot and a small, crossbody that I can bring into stores, etc.
    My biggest concern: pockets. I love all the slim outside pockets of the VB backpack but I’m ready for a more grown-up (but fun) look than the VB patterns. I’m clicking all the links here, but I’d love to know if there’s a version on Etsy or elsewhere with lots of pockets, backpack or crossbody, as long as it’s hands-free!

  33. Andi

    My purse is basically a giant trash can. It doesn’t matter how often I empty it. I’m pretty sure little elves shove crap in it while I’m sleeping. Just like my mini van, aka, my traveling trash can.

    • Tsh

      Yes to the minivan—I know exactly what you mean. (And in my case, I those those elves are called “small children.”)

    • Alison

      OMG , this is so true! Thank you for my LOL of the day!

  34. Stephanie @ Mrs. Debtfighter

    Loved this post! I have a small purse that gets stuffed sometimes so I need to find a bigger purse. When I do, I love your idea for using smaller bags to separate and keep everything organized. 🙂

  35. charis

    i recently took a picture of what was in my small purse (i do have a separate diaper bag) and laughed at the 8 lip glosses and 2 nail polishes that were in there alongside marbles and my son’s pocket knife i confiscated on the way into sunday school about a month ago. i am ready to work on simplifying again and love your challenges! helps keeps me motivated to go at it, which needs to be done living as a family of 7 in a small 1100 square foot home.

    • Tsh

      Wow, I’m impressed! Our family of 5 lived in 1,000 square feet last year, and we were bursting at the seams.

  36. Rebecca

    I have a clutch type wallet which is absolutely amazing because it holds all the cards I need debit, ins., library, etc. plus has area for change and id. I have a separate pocket for my keys and then another pocket in my bag for my lip gloss and that is about all I carry with me. Then I weekly clean it out and get rid of any receipts that I have gotten for the week which is usually not much.

    Other topics that I would love to see are cleaning out/spring cleaning out our closets. Plus decluttering your junk room/store room or garage. Along with how to decide what to keep once you are done.

    • Tsh

      Those are definitely Project Simplify-ish topics! We’ll get to stuff like that in April. 🙂

  37. Cassondra

    My purse can sometimes be a very chaotic black hole, but I cleaned it out yesterday so hopefully it can be maintained!

  38. Anne

    Thank you so much for this post, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a LOT lately as we try to prepare our life and routines for baby number 2. I LOVE bags. Here are my strategies for bag sanity:
    – try to clean it out regularly (i always save receipts but never actually do anything with them, time to let go of that habit!)
    – use zipper pouches (one for grooming stuff, one for all the extra/non-every day cards, intrigued by the martha stewart ones you linked to)
    – keep a small wallet (only primary cards, ID, and cash so that I can shove that + phone + keys in a jacket pocket instead of carrying the entire bag o’ crazy at all times)

  39. kimmie

    *sigh* I really think I need to move from “purse” to a tote bag.

  40. La Mc Coy

    Lovely posts. love organization. lmc

  41. BSewoods

    Yep…I’m the one whose best friend said “it looks like u ate lunch out of your bag!” .
    I carry a large LV which carries everything, therefore everything gets shoved in . I’m in the process of re-reading the book ORGANIZED SIMPLICITY. I Quit my job last july and my life feels just like my purse!!! I have GOT to get it together :/

  42. Sharon

    I try not to carry too much stuff around either. I usually carry a thin canvas bag. A couple years ago I reached into my sister’s [big!] purse to grab something and realized she had a whole big plastic container of gum in there. I made fun of her, especially since she was complaining about her purse being so heavy.
    I’m in the midst of reading Bread & Wine also-love it so far!

  43. Sarah

    I hate that I carry a purse, but it’s become a necessity since women’s clothes never have enough pockets. I mostly hate that I often carry a purse PLUS a backpack or tote bag.

    In my little purse (cross-body, tiny messenger-type, I’d leave behind anything I had to remember to pick up):
    –wallet (small, men’s style, used to live in my pants pocket)
    –kleenex. I swear I’m allergic to everything.
    –small pill container (Advil, Benedryl, Excedrin)
    –eye drops (for my contacts)
    –small mirror
    –pocket comb
    –pen and small notepad
    –various IDs/keycards (I have 3 for various work-related locations)
    –work keys (home keys are clipped to a belt loop if at all possible)
    –earbuds for my phone (which lives in a pants pocket if at all possible)
    –business cards
    –public transit pass
    –small knife/multitool
    ….and I think that’s it. Going to work I carry a backpack, going shopping I carry a reusable tote in addition. I don’t have a car, so leaving stuff there isn’t an option. It annoys me frequently if I want to carry a water bottle or book that don’t fit into my tiny bag, but don’t have another reason to carry a bigger bag.

  44. Lauri Newell

    Little zipper bags have saved my life too! I’ve been using some left over from a home business years ago, so I’m excited to see a replacement option. I keep one with personal stuff (hairpins, lipgloss, scissors, etc. oh, and kid-chopstick-holders), and the other is my diaper bag. It fits 2-3 diapers, a few wipes, disposal bags and mini-hand-sanitizer. So when I trade bags, I just grab my planner/wallet, and those two zipper bags. I also usually carry a re-usable bag that zips into its own little case. Thanks for your tips!

  45. Suzanne

    Thank you for these helpful organizing hints. I always look forward to your posts in my inbox because your ideas and gorgeous photos are so inspiring. No more black hole of a purse for me! xoxoxo

  46. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    I finally ordered an LL bean bag- it will be perfect with a few smaller bags to contain tiny essentials

  47. Dena

    I went to the makeup department in Walmart and got a couple of colored but see through make up zippered bags for a couple bucks each. I use them to carry travelling lotion, carmex, tissues, that kind of thing. My bag has a middle zipper compartment that I keep my purse stuff in and then I just keep a set of extra clothes and diapers and wipes in the rest of the purse. It’s a big bag but with my little zippered bags nothing gets lost.

  48. Anna

    I’m a mom of two little boys and I carry a Swiss Gear Mono Sling from Target. Goes easily over one shoulder and I can toss in my wallet and iPhone. Lots of pockets to store stuff like chapstick, and easily holds my Kindle, but I try not to carry much. Of course that bag is mostly for quick trips, or outings without the kids, because otherwise I also have a diaper bag in tow. Like the idea of consolidating with a tote of that size and only having one bag to carry around.

    • Jessica

      Hi Anna just visited your site and loved your comments on the working for home. My company could really benefit from allowing some to work from home. I can’t stand working in a cubical, the noise, arg. They just totally don’t trust us to not be under their eye, which is totally ridiculous. You’re right, why stay employed at a place who when push come to shove, doesn’t trust you. I need to mull this over…

      • Anna

        Jessica – check out this website. The environment that we work in is called Results-Only Work Environment. Here is more information. I’ve been working in a ROWE for 2.5 years and would not have it any other way!

  49. kim vaccarella

    I couldn’t find a bag that worked for me so I created one! Bogg bag is large enough to carry everything, is sturdy, tip proof, washable, waterproof, doesn’t dig into my arm or shoulders. It comes in 9 great colors. Bogg bag has a patented system – It comes with 3 clear accessory bags that can be “popped in” to any of the holes inside or outside of the bag. It can also be accessorized and customized. ALL of this while being fun, functional and fashionable. Check it out you will LOVE it like me!

  50. lulu

    I switch between two bags frequently ( or sometimes not if one of them has become a ‘dumping ground’ for all that stuff that we seem to accumulate!) the mesh bag idea is genius – I had a little purse inside my bag for my lipstick and comb BUT I love the idea of larger mesh bags for papers and receipts. Now I’ve cleaned out both bags. Thanks for the inspiration : )

  51. Rose

    My bag is like a mystery lucky dip. It’s not too big and it’s always got my wallet in it, but out and about with my three boys (6, 3, 1) I can usually pull out a change of clothes that will fit at least 2 of the kids, underwear for all of them, a snack, a distracting toy, a drink, change (when you really need it), a pen, some lip stuff (love that you call it that!), a band aid and a pair of sunglasses.
    Also, it’s a simple cloth tote with a design by a young Aboriginal guy – Dion Beasley who lives in a very remote part of Australia and has muscular dystrophy as well as being profoundly deaf – and a brilliant and unique artist!

  52. Krys @ Improving Krys

    Thanks for these tips – I’m constantly grumbling about how much stuff I keep in my purse. I’m not very good about emptying it out frequently, though. I should do that tonight, and see how long I can keep up a near-daily check up on it. I think that’s what is needed!!

  53. Jennifer

    Just yesterday I bought a purse insert off Amazon to corral all those little things that end up in the bottom. For me, those little things include hand sanitizer, pocket knife, nail clippers, tape measure, Bluetooth headset, and several lipsticks/gloss (I love carrying more than one color). My bigger stuff includes wallet, checkbook, Kindle, 2 notebooks (one for notes, one for scripture memorization), and of course my iPhone. BTW, I have a business card holder exactly like yours except for the logo! It was a gift from my company. I agree that going through my bag daily and getting rid of unnecessary stuff is essential. Looking forward to the declutter project!

  54. Mallory

    A receipt stabber. GENUIS! I work in a restaurant, and use one of those daily. Why didn’t I think of that??!?!?

    I started putting all my “little junk” in a zip pouch a few months ago so it could transition from school bag to purse easily. It holds my pens, gum, bobby pins, hand sanitizer, nail file, and chapstick. Then I just have my wallet and keys, so it’s easy to find things! I love it.

    • Tsh

      Guess where I bought it? A restaurant supply store. 😉

  55. Yvonne

    I have always been a small purse type of mom, but have been wanting to carry around my big girl camera (Nikon D3100) more and would love to find the ‘perfect’ bag to carry around my everyday stuff as well as my camera. On the hunt now… 🙂

  56. Stacey K

    Yay! I’m so glad you’re doing another Project Simplify. We’ve had three babies in three years, and I go to school part time. No matter how hard I try, the house gets away from me. I’ve tried several times to do it on my own, but somehow the community of Project Simplify keeps me trucking. As for the bag, I carry a diaper bag, which is so full of JUNK sometimes I can’t find the diapers. I’m definitely going to sit down with my bag as soon as my homework is done this afternoon!

  57. Stephanie

    Super helpful post. I especially like those accessory pouches (smart!).

  58. Ashley

    Tsh, you were right on with emptying your bags on a daily basis. I try to do this nightly as well, it works wonders to get rid of the clutter of receipts, expired coupons, snotty tissues, granola bar wrappers… Since I still have one in diapers, I have a small portable changing pad/diaper & wipes holder that I can easily transfer in and out of whatever bag I happen to be using. That way, I am not toting baby stuff around when I am solo.

  59. Christa

    I also compartmentalize the things in my purse. I usually carry a ThirtyOne tote, but everything inside is completely organized by type.
    -wallet (money, cards, receipts, coupons)
    -small cosmetic bag with lip gloss, small brush, deodorant, lotion, hair ties, etc.
    -even smaller cosmetic bag with feminine products
    I keep 2 drawstring bags that are always stocked. One with my 1 year old’s diapers, wipes, and change of clothes. The other with my 5 year old’s cheerleading stuff. That way, when I leave the house with my son, his stuff is ready to grab, but if I don’t take him with me, it’s easy to grab just that one bag out of my purse. Same with the cheerleading bag.

  60. Dorothy (@TheSaneMom)

    I stopped carrying a purse a while ago. I would always keep to much stuff in it. Now it’s just one back for the kids when we are out and about.
    I am a receipt queen so I don’t know if I’m ready to give up my paper copies. Very often, it has come in handy that I keep my receipts. It is time to create a place for my receipts though.

  61. MelD

    After years of trial and error and going from small bags to large and back again, growing and shrinking a collection of purses… For the last 2 years I have stuck with two tiny bags. All last year I carried a tiny soft leather flower bag and this winter I switched to a mini-satchel. Both have a long strap and I can wear them cross-body to keep them safe, easily reached and my hands free.
    The flower bag is about 7″ and round. It fit my phone, earphones, breath mints, lip gloss, an eye pencil, a concealer stick, nailfile, a lipstick, a pencil and my keys. All my cards fit in the interior phone pocket (too small for an iphone) and cash went in a small zippered section on the outer back so I didn’t have a wallet.
    The mini-satchel is configured differently. Now I carry a small zippered key holder that has both keys and cash (you can’t always use a card where I live). And I have a separate card holder. The inner zip pocket holds all cosmetic-related items as above, and the outer zip pocket holds cards I don’t use often but am glad to have with me on occasion!
    I find I don’t need more than this. My shoulders hurt from years of heavy purses.
    Even when my kids were small I never had the habit of carrying a load of stuff around – different era, I think! As long as I had a spare diaper I was good to go – I breastfed and there was usually some kind of dribble cloth attached to my baby and there has never been any covering nonsense in Europe, you just do it discreetly under a big shirt or something. The kids didn’t have constant water/drinks/food available and none of them used a pacifier. Now all the young moms I see have such heavy equipment; even the strollers are padded and primped!! We had a simple folding buggy that was very light and that was it. In winter they had a sheep fleece foot sack for warmth. They learned to walk and were dressed appropriately, so we didn’t need a lot. (They didn’t wear shoes until they could walk, either!) So much unnecessary fuss, now. But I digress…

  62. Toni Scott

    An organized bag–that’s the bane of my existence! I don’t carry a lot of stuff, but I still have a heck of a time finding things in my purse. I love “pouchees” for organizing any bag. I have two of them. Now if I can manage to put everything back in the proper compartment, I’m golden. But that never happens. I also use the mesh bags for receipts, lipstick, etc. I don’t carry a wallet, but I have tons of credit cards and debit cards, membership cards, insurance cards. I’ve used every card organizer known to man and they just don’t work for me–I’m constantly looking for a particular card. Now I just put a rubber band around them and throw them in my bag!
    My biggest peeve is that I don’t have a bag I LOVE. I have two baggalinis that I like–the latest one is the big Sydney (too many compartments), I have a beautiful LV that my best friend gave me for my birthday (too deep), and my hubby gave me a really nice bag for our anniversary. It’s just the right depth, but it doesn’t have a shoulder strap so it’s awkward to carry. And the hunt goes on…

  63. Esther

    Just bought that bag of yours Tsh at Staples – was hoping for the $10 off but doesn’t look like I scored. I need to run back there anyway so I hope I can get my discount! I LOVE the bag!! I am an Arbonne Independent Consultant and I needed a good bag for my laptop as well as the rest of my professional gear. This fits the bill!! Thank you so much for letting us in on the best bag in town!!

  64. Leah

    Would love to read about streamlining toys

  65. Patty

    I am always on the lookout for the non-existent “perfect” bag. Not too big, not too small, and its design must meet my preconceived organization method of wallet/notebook/coupons on one side, lip balm/hand sanitizer/wipes/advil on the other; outside pocket for cell phone, metal ring on strap for key-clip. I am not OCD, I just know after years with kids exactly what works for me. Oh, and I am always on the lookout for the next perfect lip balm…so far, still using the lansinoh you recommended.

  66. Sadie

    I had my daughter six months ago and I got so frustrated having to lug my purse and a diaper bag everywhere I went. My friend told me about the LARKEN BAG, It’s just a simple drawstring sack that conforms to must shapes and sizes. I put my wallet, chapstick, phone, etc. into it and can move it from my purse into the diaper bag so I don’t have to carry a purse when I’m out and about with my daughter. I really recommend it.

  67. Katieliz

    It’s taken me three babies to figure out how to manage my bags! 🙂 I used to have two: purse, diaper bag. When I was with kids, I’d switch my wallet/phone over to the diaper bag. Well, that got forgotten too many times. Now….I have a lovely purse in a pattern I love, that is as big as a diaper bag. I use one of my freebie Clinique bags inside it to hold diapers/wipes, and I take THAT out when it’s just me. Put it back when the kids are going out with me. I feel positively brilliant 🙂

  68. Julia A

    aside from my necessities (wallet, lip balm, keys, cell phone, travel tissue) – too many receipts and other scrap pieces of paper. A tiny box of crayons; two matchbox cars and a tiny pterodactyl; 3 no 4 pens (last week I had none so now I’m over-compensating), the invitation for the baby shower I went to this past weekend….

    yea, I’ll be cleaning out my purse tonight.

  69. Carter

    This post may have saved my sanity. In an effort to stop buying a new purse every season, I recently invested in two nice leather bags (one black, one cognac) that go with EVERYTHING, but I was worried about keeping the insides clean. We’re also building a garage and tightening our budget, and receipts were constantly getting lost or ruined. I bought the two smaller size Avery bags. The smallest is for lip gloss/hair ties (another thing I can stop buying over and over) and the next size up holds my receipts. Nothing gets ruined, and my bag stays clean. Better for my budget all around! LOVE IT!!!

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