Keeping your purse clutter free

A woman’s purse can be a scary place. I try to keep mine clean and organized, but there are times when it devolves into a giant bag of clutter. Keeping a list of items that can be in my purse has helped me to keep it clean.

I recommend storing nothing more than the following items in each of these purses. If you can get by with fewer items than I have listed here, then I applaud you! Most importantly, get into the routine of daily clearing your receipts out of your wallet or money clip because I’ve found that receipts are the greatest clutter creator.

Minimalist purse:

  • Money clip with cash, subway/metro card, one credit card, and your driver’s license
  • House key and car key

Small purse or clutch:

  • Money clip with cash, subway/metro card, one credit card, and your driver’s license
  • Tube of lipstick
  • Powder compact
  • Cell phone
  • Collapsible brush or hair pick
  • Pack of Listerine breath strips
  • Four quarters (no other change)
  • Safety pin
  • Band-aid
  • House key and car key

Daily purse:

  • Pen
  • Small notepad
  • Powder compact
  • Collapsible brush or hair pick
  • Tube of lipstick, lipgloss, or chapstick
  • Pack of Listerine breath strips
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tube of lotion
  • Tube of sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Small paperback book
  • House key and car key
  • Wallet with cash, checks, subway/metro card, credit cards, and driver’s license
  • Cell phone
  • Four quarters (no other change)
  • Two tampons
  • Pill holder with a few pills each for headaches, cramps, heartburn, diarrhea, and allergies
  • Pocket pack of kleenex or two McDonald’s napkins
  • Ponytail holder
  • Safety pin
  • Fingernail file
  • Two band-aids

Corporate work purse:

  • Pen and pencil
  • PDA or small notepad
  • Powder compact
  • Collapsible brush or plastic hair pick
  • Tube of lipstick, lipgloss, or chapstick
  • One Brush-up teeth wipes
  • Pack of Listerine breath strips
  • Pair of skin-colored pantyhose in protective packaging
  • Hand sanitizer (smaller than 3 oz.)
  • Tube of lotion (smaller than 3 oz.)
  • Tube of sunscreen (smaller than 3 oz.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Prescription glasses, contact lens holder, and bottle of saline (smaller than 3 oz.)
  • House key, car key, and office key
  • Wallet with cash, checks, subway/metro card, credit cards, driver’s license, and workplace ID
  • Cell phone
  • Four quarters (no other change)
  • Two tampons
  • Paperclip and two safety pins
  • Pill holder with a few pills each for headaches, cramps, heartburn, diarrhea, and allergies
  • Pocket pack of kleenex or two McDonald’s napkins
  • Business card case filled with your business cards
  • Ponytail holder
  • Tide To-Go stick
  • Fingernail file (non-metal)
  • Two band-aids
  • Ziplock bag (for liquids and gels when flying)

I recommend putting your house key and car key on one side of a pull-apart key ring and your office keys on the other side of the key ring.

20 Comments for “Keeping your purse clutter free”

  1. posted by Lucy S. on

    Also, depending on where you live – I would suggest including:
    – a small collapsible umbrella

    and also:
    – a small travel toothbrush and paste, and very small floss case.

  2. posted by Martin on

    Surely this article should be marked NSFMen? I *want* women’s bags to remain mysterious to me, dammit!

  3. posted by Monkey's Aunt on

    I had to laugh. I’m looking to do some purse downsizing, but I don’t carry a quarter of that stuff around with me. The work stuff, I have in a shoebox size container at my desk. I do have a small pouch with essentials I switch from bag to bag.

    I think part of paring down is being low to no maintenance. The expectation of perfectionism (especially from women – this does seem to be a women’s list)if not perfection is wonderful to let go off. Do you realistically need this stuff for yourself or in case someone else asks?

  4. posted by Erin on

    Monkey’s Aunt — If you’re not someone who often travels for her job, then don’t carry the items listed in the corporate purse list. Your list is probably the minimalist purse list at the top of the page.

  5. posted by Ryan on

    Of course I only use Kleenex manufactured or McDonald’s branded napkins.

  6. posted by stacy on

    good grief!! My everyday minimalist purse contains cash, driver license, debit card, cell phone, and keys. It’s the smallest purse I could find, and no more than that will fit. My big bag for longer excursions contains the above plus a few snacks, two cloth diapers, diaper cover, wipes, and a waterproof bag to bring home dirties. Any of those things would not be necessary if you have no child in diapers or if you use the disposable kind. I only carry feminine sanitary items if it’s that time of the month. I keep things like sunglasses, lip balm, coins, umbrella, motrin, and a pen and paper in the car all the time, so don’t need that stuff in my bag.

  7. posted by Andamom on

    You are absolutely right! Is there an article on wallets in general? My mother’s wallet is enormous — she keeps coupons, change, bills, store cards (who knows why she has these), photos, and other clippings within it. Even my husband jokes about its enormity.

    If you post about streamlining and minimalism here, I would like to send it on…

  8. posted by Mary on

    I have found that I need to carry about 5 dollar bills. I paid for lunch with a check card but then didn’t have any money to leave for a tip.

    I don’t need many of the items on your first list! It’s a purse – not a survival kit!

  9. posted by jd on

    For the guys reading this post, visit and roam around a bit. The man purse/day bag is alive and well… 🙂

  10. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    No matter how minimalist my bag may be, I must have my Chapstick! And I can’t imagine going out without my cell phone, in case of an emergency. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to carry your health insurance card.

    The real trick is to remember to transfer these minimalist items to your larger bag when you’re going to be carrying it. I was out and about yesterday when I discovered I had no driver’s license or credit card! Best system is to be able to pop the minimalist bag right into the larger bag.

  11. posted by Donna on

    I use a cigarette case to carry my cards and folding money. It holds a lot, including insurance cards, credit card, license, debit card, etc. That fits neatly into a small purse, and I add my cell phone, meds, a pen, a lipstick, and some change. I refuse to carry a purse with the contents of my closet.

    My computer tote takes the place of my purse when I go to work because I use one pocket to hold the personal items mentioned above. Then I keep a second supply of makeup, toothbrush, etc in my desk drawer. No need to carry it around.

  12. posted by Klara on

    Im a design-student in the netherlands and too many times Im breaking a limit to how much my back can take, all the paper and pencils and markers not to meantion ongoing projects? but when its just me,going out with some friends; wallet,keys,phone and lipbalm and if necessary sunglasses. I should honestly write myself a list of all i carry around daily and see what I can live without..

  13. posted by Marty Greene on

    I’m probably along with that, but like others have said things like glasses case with sunglasses, cell phone, and small collapsable umbrella are also very good ideas. I’d also add to that (personally) a small thing of hand sanitizer, a tide pen or shout wipe, a small thing of lotion/salve, and more than 4 quarters. 4 quarters, nowadays, gets you less than 30 minutes parking in many places, unfortunately.

    I recently was given a Jimi un-wallet, and it’s amazing. I previously did the cigarette case dealie, but the Jimi is so much handier. The fact that it’s transparent and thus I can keep my IDs on the outside is very handy. The removable money clip is also a nice touch. Holds a lot, but not too much, and is sleek and compact.

  14. posted by KAJ on

    I’m in agreement with Cynthia Friedlob, above, about using a “nesting bags” system. That is, I have a minimalist billfold that I can stick in my pocket for short errands; for any major outing I drop it in my basic daily bag, which is also big enough to hold stuff like small hairbrush, small notebook, camera, little toiletries bag. If I need to carry more stuff (laptop, files, lunch) I then drop the basic daily bag into my messenger bag. The only problem is having to go through several layers to get to the billfold when I’m carrying the messenger bag. But this is the most efficient way I’ve found of making sure I have everything I need and am not hauling around a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

  15. posted by pj on

    That is one big list! I don’t think I would have the stregth to carry that much stuff. I only have one question though: Who wears pantyhose anymore?

  16. posted by KateCoe on

    Why not a Swiss Army knife, an inflatable boat and a handgun? This list is insane.
    Seriously, if you have a desk, keep have this crap in a drawer. Same if you drive around all day.
    Otherwise, if you have some weird sales job where you’re never in the same place longer than 20 minutes, then find new line of work, or get a Sherpa.
    Bottom line: you can’t plan for every contingency, every disaster, every event. Give up trying to anticipate and control every second of your day.

  17. posted by Lindsey on

    Things in my purse right now:

    French clutch/wallet
    small notebook for to-dos
    prescription bottle
    small makeup pouch.

    I was hoping to downsize. The writer might consider REI for her handbag needs. After all you left off the signal mirror and snake bit kit.

  18. posted by Steff on

    This is good, I store clutch contents in my back pocket.

  19. posted by Bonnie on

    Things in my work bag:

    – Small diary which doubles as todo list
    – Cell Phone
    – Work ID tag
    – Keys (I use one of these “octopus” keyrings which lets you unclip/clip keys easily)
    – Wallet – a single $20 note, driver’s license, one keycard and one bankcard, a few business cards
    – Tiny USB key (clips onto the keyring)
    – Tiny lip gloss (which also clips onto the keyring)
    – Hairbrush
    – A small tester tub of combined moisturizer/sunscreen
    – Ipod nano/earphones
    – Compact with mirror
    – 2 pens

    I change handbags from day to day depending on my outfit, but I never really forget stuff. WHen I get home I actually tip my bag up into a designated box every night, clear out receipts. tissues etc so stuff doesn’t accumulate. In the morning I just tip everything in the box in my chosen handbag for the day.

  20. posted by shelli on

    Again, I LOVE so much of what you have to share about de-cluttering, but gosh-darnit, you can BE SO sexist sometimes!

    I do not wear make up, or pantyhose, and I think that we EACH need to decide what’s important in our daily bag, not other people.

    I love all that you offer, except these “lists of suggestion.” And I know that I can just “ignore it” if I don’t like it, but I would hate to see someone struggling with their identity look up to a “list” as the be all and end all, you know? So even though it’s just a simple little list, it’s kind of a big deal, too.


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