At some point, everyone has been that person holding up the line searching for money or a subway ticket at the bottom of a ridiculously cluttered purse. Here are some tips to help you organize a bag and choose a handbag you can sort through easily, and keep it neat on a daily basis.
1) Pick a bag that will help you to be organized, not hinder you. As much as I sometimes love to carry a huge, shapeless blob of a handbag, they are more difficult to organize than more structured models. A bag with a square or rectangular shape; one that can stand up on its own; and one with pockets for a phone, wallet, and more, will be easier to keep under control than a slouchy, rounded, or pocket-less bag.
2) Pockets are good, but more pockets might not be better. The best bags will have individual pockets for little things you need to access frequently and quickly, like your phone and wallet. You will probably also want a zippered pocket inside your bag for smaller items, like keys or mints, that tend to slide to the bottom of the bag where you can't retrieve them. Depending on your daily activities, having a small pocket on the outside of your bag can also be extremely convenient. If you're constantly reaching for your point and shoot camera, like me, that outside pocket is a great place to stash it.
If you're shopping for a new bag, think carefully about how many pockets you really need. If you already have a bag that seems to work perfectly, think about where its pockets are located. I'd be slightly wary of buying a new bag with a whole bunch of tiny pockets -- they often seem so useful in the store, but you can end up frantically searching each little compartment for your keys every time you want them. Remember that many products, especially those made for women, are all about looks and less about practicality. You don't need to buy a dowdy bag, but do consider how you'll use a bag in real life before purchasing it.
3) Declutter regularly. At the end of the day when you look in your bag, you will probably find a whole bunch of stuff you don't remember acquiring. Take a few minutes each evening to remove it all and put it in its proper place, whether that's a file folder or the trash can. Some of it might be important and you don't want it to stay in your bag for a week and then fall out in a parking lot. Some of it will be junk that you have no need to carry around with you.
4) Put little bags in your bigger bag. If you carry a lot of stuff with you, a great way to simplify it all is to use smaller bags or pouches inside your handbag. The obvious example of this is a makeup bag. Rooting around your purse for a powder compact is annoying, but reaching for the makeup bag containing your powder, eye shadow, and other cosmetics is easy as pie-flavored lip gloss. (Do they make that? I might want some.). But makeup isn't the only thing you can sort into little bags. If you're carrying Band-Aids, Tylenol, and tissues, have a dedicated medical pouch. Put your hair brush, eye drops, and hand lotion together. And so on. This way you're basically dealing with five medium-sized objects in your bag rather than 25 tiny things. It also speeds up the process of switching from one bag to another. And if you do go for the giant amorphous bag, it's a must.
5) Give everything a place. This is exactly the same principle you'd use to organize a room in your house. If you always put your keys on the table by the front door, you'll never miss them. If you always put your gum in the small inside compartment of your bag, you'll never wonder where it went. Try to keep this as consistent as possible from one bag to the next. It might seem like overkill, but I'm convinced that over a lifetime, you can lose many hours searching for your glasses in a handbag.