A famous handbag designer once told me that when it came to the contents of her own bag, it was about as far away from the immaculate, Insta-ready vision as you could get. “There’s a whole layer of crap along the bottom that hasn’t been touched for ages,” she revealed. Oyster cards, lip balms, fuzz-covered sweets – you name it, she carried it. “Hurrah,” I thought at the time. I’d figured it was just scruffos like me who lugged around bags that look like the bin monster from Sesame Street has thrown up in it. But, it turns out, even the glossiest of women have a world of chaos hanging off their shoulder. How heartening.
I have a theory and the theory is this: the more interesting the person, the more stuff-filled their bag. This is an entirely unsubstantiated theory, but it makes me feel better about the state of mine. I have tried to be a minimal Mary – keys, card, phone and nothing else – but every time I get round to chucking away the wad of old receipts that live in the corner of my handbag, it takes but a few days for it to all build up again. But, this time, with added hair grips and loose buttons. It’s not all bad, though – if there was ever a global shortage of lipstick, I could sort it with the 10,000 currently sat in my cross-body.
Having said all of this, it’s spring – and with spring comes the intrinsic desire to spring-clean. I don’t know about you, but I’m too knackered to think about sorting my entire wardrobe (if you’re not, here are some excellent tips); however, a bag I can deal with. And, while I’m not suggesting a mass cull (earlier theory withstanding), I have discovered that there are a few easy ways to keep bag-crap in check. So, here we go:
If you have a giant tote bag
According to planet fashion, big bags are big news, which, after (what feels like) a lifetime of inconceivably tiny bags dominating the scene, feels like good news. However, these are undoubtedly the worst for encouraging major hoarding – if it’s big enough to fit the kitchen sink in, the chances are you will. So, to ensure it doesn’t take a full half an hour to locate your house key, what these bags require is the storage genius that is a felt organiser. These are inserts that you put inside your massive bag and use the myriad pockets to organise all of your stuff. Etsy has loads that come in several colours and can be customised to fit the exact measurements of your bag.
With fewer pockets but plenty of shelf appeal is Mango’s handbag organiser. Stick all of your essentials into the pouch, then you always have the option of whipping it out and using it as a mini bag when you head to the pub.
If you have a shoulder bag
Though less cavernous than a tote, shoulder bags are still ripe for stockpiling all manner of tat. The best thing to keep it under control is a pouch – maybe two. Muji – the home of all storage solutions – has zippy styles in mesh, making it easy to see what’s in them. Use one to keep your keys, phone, cards and wallet in and another to stash pens, notebook, hairbands and lip balm.
If you want something smarter, then check out Aspinal's sleek leather pouches that can be personalised with your initial. Or, if you fancy going mega posh, then have a look at the ruffle-trimmed pouches from designer La DoubleJ. Dreadfully expensive, but so utterly gorgeous that they can easily double up as an evening clutch/holiday bag.
If you have a work bag
The ultimate work-bag sorter-outer has got to be Knomo’s Mayfair Organiser. This is a water-resistant zip-around folio that holds all gadgets imaginable, from your laptop/tablet to chargers, batteries and adaptors. There’s also space for a phone, notebook, pens and purse. It comes in two sizes, depending on the size of your laptop.
Goodordering’s retro-style Musette bag fits a laptop, as well as having two front pockets for pens/notebook etc. It also comes with a long shoulder strap so that you can use it as a stand-alone bag when you’re dashing between meetings.
Or, for something jolly, check out Trouva’s amazing selection of printed laptop cases, including this brilliant flamingo one by illustrator extraordinaire Jessica Russell Flint.
If you have a cross-body bag
Ah, a cross-body bag. My handbag heartland. Despite their modest size, a lot can get lost in a cross-body. In the interests of maximising space, I’ve converted from a big purse to a smaller card holder. This cuts down on bulk, as well as stopping me hanging on to quite so many receipts. My tip would be to get a bright one so that you can easily find it in the dark depths of your bag. Comme des Garçons does brilliant fluro card holders, and Arket has a lovely orange leather wallet that will stand out.
The same goes for your phone – Etsy has a lovely range of Pantone phone covers that come in every colour under the sun, naturally.
If you have a mini bag
OK, so there’s not a lot of room for error in a tiddly-widdly handbag, but just in case things have gone awry, may I suggest a jazzy “Hi! I’m right here” keyring and a coin purse? Ark Cambridge has a gorgeous and affordable selection of little leather bits, including purses, pencil cases, notebooks and sunglasses cases. The snap coin purse is slimline enough to fit into the most micro of micro bags.
As for key rings, Bimba Y Lola strike the balance between jolly and stylish.
If you have a holiday bag
Oh, the joy to be had in a holiday bag. Printed! Tasselled! Woven! Spangled! Lovely, lovely stuff. As they never seem to have a secure means of fastening, I’d suggest borrowing a pouch from earlier to keep all of your valuables in. Or, if you want to be really clever, then grab a waterproof pouch from Emma Lomax, which is perfect for trips to the beach.
Aside from that, you’ll want a snazzy ebook/Kindle holder reader – look at Oliver Bonas – and a splash-proof make-up bag for suncream, insect repellent, aftersun etc.
And now that you have fabulously tidy belongings, I’m betting you’ll want something to put them in...