Friday, September 25, 2009

Handbag Organization Tips for Busy Moms

Earlier this week, I found myself in the middle of Costco with a broken nail, and all I wanted at that moment was a nail file. Luckily, my mother was there with her makeup bag and the ancient little metal nail file she has carried my entire life. It occurred to me that I really should have a nail file in my purse all the time. Actually, there are a lot of little things I really should have with me wherever I go – and I don’t. My purse is more likely to be full of action figures and doll brushes than anything useful in an emergency.
We all know that woman who has anything you might need tucked away in the dark recesses of a substantial shoulder bag. I have been studying these women and I have decided they usually fall into one of two categories: The MacGyver and The Mary Poppins.
My dear friend, Kelly, is a MacGyver. Just like the '80s TV hero who was always prepared to whip up a life-saving device, Kelly carries a purse that has her ready for anything and everything. If I ever encounter that popular board game question about which one item I would choose to take with me to a deserted island, I don’t even stop to think because my answer is always the same: Kelly’s purse! I am confident that a family of four could survive quite comfortably for an extended weekend out of the contents of that bag. She carries snacks, scissors, a first aid kit and enough beauty supplies to rival my collection at home.
On the other side of the coin (purse) is Mary Poppins; this type is known for carrying items ranging from amazing to inexplicable. My friend, Melodie, is a typical Mary Poppins and the wonders of her purse never cease to amaze. I will never forget my request for a pair of scissors that resulted in her pulling out the longest, sharpest set of sewing shears I have ever seen. A mention of a headache yields a pharmacy of every over-the-counter pain reliever known to man. She always wins that “What’s In Your Purse” baby shower game, hands down.
I have been doing this mom thing for seven years now and I decided it is finally time for me to have a big girl purse that is less of a portable toy box and more of a logical collection of useful items. I am tired of relying on others for little necessities when I am out and about, and I want to be that go-to girl that can help others out in a pinch with a much-needed safety pin or band-aid.
I want to find a balance between the MacGyver and the Mary Poppins; just enough to get by, but not so much that I develop bulging biceps just from hauling my bag around.
Inside the Butler Bag Hybrid - Olive Martini Inside Hybrid Butler Bag
At first, I thought I needed a new purse, so I went online to research the latest and greatest organizational bags. At, I stared, drooling, at the gorgeous leather purses with interior compartments that had a place for everything. But then I sobered up when I saw the prices. I’ve decided to ask Santa for one this year but, until then, I needed to find an economical way to tote necessary items around as neatly as possible.
I also needed to decide what was necessary and what was just too much. I started a list of what I thought were must-haves for the kids and me on a daily basis. When I got to the end, I realized I was either going to need to start dragging an Army duffle bag behind me on a wheeled cart, or I was going to have to cut down the list considerably. Perhaps the solar blankets and emergency rations could go in the trunk of the car? Maybe a change of clothes for my 7 year old was a little too much? Basically, I was clueless as to what items really deserved to take up real estate in a moderate-sized handbag.
As I usually do when faced with a domestic situation in which I feel clueless, I turned to my vast collection of household hints and organizational books. I thumbed through a few before discovering the gold mine in Emily Barnes’ “Simply Organized.” She devoted an entire chapter to purse organization and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Basically, she recommends using several small zippered bags to carry all the little things that would usually end up in a jumbled heap at the bottom of the purse. Instead, the little bags can be quickly removed when it is time to change purses, and she always knows where to find a pen or a stick of gum.
She listed the contents of her little bags and I was fascinated. I never thought to carry my own tea bag with me, but I am usually disappointed in restaurants’ selections, so that is a perfect solution! A tiny sewing kit, a collapsible cup and a tape measure are also items I never would have considered, but each would be great to have at the right moment.
Soon after filling my purse with several carefully packed little bags, I headed out with the kids to run some errands. Much like the feeling I had when I left a training course with my brand new CPR certification, ready and looking for anyone who needed my help, my purse and I were prepared for any hangnail or runny nose that crossed our path.
I was so proud of myself when I had disinfecting wipes for the shopping cart handle and my very own pen to whip out at the bank. Of course, I no longer had a militia of plastic Army guys to amuse my son while we waited in line, so I dug around for something to distract him. He wasn’t intrigued with my idea of filing his nails as entertainment, so perhaps I need to toss a few toys back into my bag for old time’s sake.

Small bags for purse organization

These suggestions are from Emily Barnes’ “Simply Organized” (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1997). Note: bags should be zippered and preferably see-through for easier access.
• Makeup Bag 1: lipstick, blush, comb, small brush, mirror, telephone change.
• Makeup Bag 2: breath mints, gum, cough drops, small perfume, hand cream, nail clippers, small scissors, tissues, nail file, matches.
• Small Bag 1: business cards, wet wipes, tea bag, sugar substitute, pain reliever, small calculator, mini sewing kit, hand sanitizer.
• Small Bag 2: mini first aid kit, collapsible cup, tape measure, spot remover, feminine protection, toothbrush, dental floss.

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