Handbag Clutter

This week we have been talking about making decisions about what is clutter and what isn’t. Recently I received an email from a reader named Lesley who shared with me a story of why she decided to declutter and downsized her handbag. Here is what Lesley wrote~

“Hi Coleen, I have recently come across your website and I am enjoying it very much and finding it very inspirational. I was reading some older posts from your archive and came across one regarding handbags, and I wanted to share my experience with you. Three years ago my large, very cluttered, handbag was stolen. It contained too much information about my life, too many things I really did not want to lose. As well as cancelling all my cards, I had to change the locks on my house and car, get a new camera, mobile phone, replace my favourite make-up, warn all my friends that their addresses and phone numbers were in the hands of thieves and possibly fraudsters (My address book was in there).

It was just awful, and it made me realise how much stuff I carried round that was not necessary. I switched at once to a hip bag/fanny pack. This has two benefits. It means that you are limited as to what you can carry and you realise very quickly what you really need with you, and it means you do not put your bag down or hang it on a chair etc. You have a wonderful company in Australia called Happy Cow, and they make some lovely and very stylish hip bags, which are an excellent more fashionable alternative to the standard canvas bum bag. I learnt the hard way, and I would never go back to a big cluttered bag now.”

This is just one example of where cluttering can become a real issue. However there are plenty of other examples ~ mould, dust, pests, fire danger, inconvenience, wasted money, relationship strain, stress… . All of which are as good a reason as any to decide to clear that clutter.

Today’s Mini Mission

Will I ever use this leftover craft supply or will it still be tucked away unused in five years? Be realistic about the likelihood of using up leftover craft supplies and let them go if the chance is unlikely. Perhaps a local school or craft group could find a more immediate use for them.

Eco Tip for the Day

Avoid using plastic straws. Even tiny little bits of plastic like that add up to lots of waste. The less demand we put on supply the less of these insidious little things add to the pollution of our planet.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Clutter you don’t care about Hi folks, well after reading the heading of this post you are probably wondering what on earth I have written about. So lets get started. My home isn't clutter free. People probably […]
  • Someday You know how the saying goes ~ "Tomorrow never comes." Well someday is usually even further away than tomorrow. So keeping stuff simply because you might need it someday is a fools game if […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Wow! That’s a great idea! I’d prefer not to carry a purse at all and have always had the smallest one possible. Now that I use a diaper bag again, I’ve found the weight a shock! I got a very small bag for quick trips, and was given a beautiful large diaper bag that I use for when we are out all day. Both bags are always ready to go, but I have a small inner bag that keeps the things I always need with me. I move that little bag into whichever one I am using, and I can also pull it out to keep with me if I want to leave the diaper bag somewhere. You have made me think about whether there is more I should leave out.

    • Hi Angela, I remember when the time came that I no longer needed diaper bags. It felt so liberating to go out without it. Although I did used to thinking I was forgetting something as I headed out the door to begin with. Having had my kids close together I got my diaper bags carrying days behind me in one four year stretch. When my daughter started driving was another liberating event. Then when I no longer needed to stock school supplies. And now the kids have left home I no longer need three bedrooms. I love the little darlings to death and am happy to have them close by but getting them to a point where they no longer are in the nest is what good parenting is all about. I feel I have achieved that.

  2. This is definitely something important to think about. It’s amazing how much sensitive information we carry around with us all the time, which relates not only to ourselves but to all kinds of other people. I got very tired of carrying a large bag around with me and finally realized that for most of my daily errands and activities I didn’t need any of it. I was able to find a bag which is like a wallet with a kind of zippered pouch on it and it has a long strap so I carry it on my shoulder or crossbody. It holds all my various cards and essential items and I never have to put it down which is a good thing for me as I have been known to get distracted and forget my handbag on a couple of occasions. Once I left it in a gas station café in Iceland and imagine the panic as I was carrying all our passports and plane tickets to get home. Luckily it was there waiting for me the next day. I am also careful when travelling to keep my bag in front of me and to avoid a style with a zipper across the top, as I was once mugged on a crowded train and before I realized what had happened the thieves (young kids) had unzipped the bag, removed my wallet and disappeared. So I prefer to keep my bag as simple and streamlined and secure as possible.

    • Hi Christine, you make some very good points here. Although my bag is a little larger than yours it is after the same style. It is small and on a long strap that I but across my shoulders and keep it in front of me for security reasons. A long strap can be easily wrapped around your leg too if it is necessary to put it on the floor while dining in a restaurant.

  3. Good post. Angela and Christine have good comments as well. I do not like a purse. Never have. I try to make sure all my clothes have a pocket. I carry a small “change purse” just a bit bigger than the health card, drivers license, debit card, money and a couple of loyalty cards for grocery stores I carry in it. It has a small zippered section for change. That’s it. I have found that anything else I need (tissues, nail clipper, etc.) can be carried in the car. When I was working I made sure to have these things in my desk. I have a very small purse with a shoulder strap that I can use if I need but I don’t think I have used it in over a year. If I don’t have a need for it soon it will be decluttered.

    • Hi Deb J, you have a very minimalist approach to what you carry, well done! I think I could streamline my purse a little more and I really should get onto that. One of the things that clutters up my bag are cafe and restaurant loyalty cards. There a a few I like to frequent and if I can get a free coffee of cheap meal occasionally I will. However a little forethought would save me from carrying all the cards around with me at once.

      • The little “change purse” I carry will hold about 10+ cards. I don’t carry that many but could. I love the thing. I got it cheap online. Actually, I think it was on Ebay and I got 3 of them for $5. One I gave away because I didn’t like it but the other two were exactly alike except for color.

  4. For years now I have emptied my bag at the end of every day, the main sections and all the pockets; I also empty my purse out of any low pieces of change and receipts.

    Although a couple of months back whilst I was decluttering some bags and was checking them before donating/chucking I found an ipod. Not quite sure how that one missed my inspection but I’m glad I stumbled upon it all the same – I had just been talking about buying a new one, as myself and my OH were always wanting the one we already had at the same time so we were constantly debating who would get to use it.

    As a purse related decluttering tip – get rid of any clubcard or points cards you don’t use or need – I did this a while back and only kept the ones I know I use frequently, it makes it much easier than fumbling through 101 cards at the till. And of course if you are registered to them all they likely have your email and so send spam your way. Thinking of this now I might see if I can’t cut the ones I have down ever further.

    • I also clear out my bag on a regular basis but I am not as diligent as you cleaning it our each time you come home. Losing a iPod in there wouldn’t be hard, they aren’t very big and easy to lose in the lining crevices.

      I like you last point Jane. If only the places where I use these cards at would have a register of participants on their computers so I didn’t have to carry them all. I noticed yesterday while cleaning out my bag that I am due free coffees on three of them. I will use those and declutter the cards because I don’t frequent those places so often.

  5. Handbags! I have been trying to improve my handbag situation for some time, switching to a smart phone helped a lot as I no longer carry a seperate phone, camera, ipod and e-reader, its now all in one. I’ve also been using ‘notes’ in my iPhone rather than carrying a notebook but I had a busy Nov and Dec, I had to resort to a notebook again. My friend has bought a cover for her iPhone which also holds cards ie debit card, visa, license, so I may look into that in the New Year, unfortunately I also have to carry work cards too and every store seems to insist on a loyalty card to swipe these days, especially to get discounts or rewards, I’m going to look into which ones are able to manually load a number and I may be able to store those in my phone instead, or can manually look it up in their system.

    • Hi Moni, a smart phone sure does reduce some of the stuff one needs in their bag. I often use the camera in mind instead of making notes. If I see something I want to investigate when I get home I just snap a photo of it. Everything from signs, shop fronts or even business cards. Also I can voice record notes, text messages etc so if I can’t be bothered typing I can simple speak into the phone.

      • Colleen – since this post I have made some in-roads with my wallet and little card holder – have redeemed a number of loyalty cards ie buy 10 get 1 free type, no use walking around with these in my wallet, gave my son one for our local Turkish restaurant, you’d have thought I’d given him gold. As for the store loyalty/membership/discount/reward type cards (the plastic swipe card) I have a small card holder to hold these – two cards had expired so they’re cut up and gone. I have made enquiries at the stores, and most of them are happy to operate their points/rewards programmes by looking up my details in the computer. I’m still waiting to hear back from a couple of places but at least one of them I haven’t shopped at in over a year probably closer to two years and so it doesn’t make sense to carry a membership card to their store 365 days a year.

  6. Leftover craft supplies is the only type of stuff I have a difficult time getting rid of. But, now I take all the leftovers, paper & embellishment, put them in a ziploc bag. Immediately, the bag goes to charity shop. They have a whole craft section and my baggies sell quickly. Win – win

    • Hi Gail, the old saying “The universe will provide.” came true for me yesterday. A friend encountered a lady asking for craft donation for a men’s retirement home. This morning I boxed up all my scrapbook paper offcuts to donate to them. If I have time before my move next week I will gather up a few more things. The tricky part is finding time to get them to my friend before the move. Where there is will there is a way. 😉 Having an outlet like this makes parting with thing much easier.

  7. I had a very similar experience a number of years ago. My purse was stolen (from under my desk at work!) To make it all much worse than it otherwise would have been, I had just been to the bank and had printed statements from several accounts – all of which had to be closed. I had to cancel all of my credit cards, and my primary checking account – which was a NIGHTMARE because I have everything automatically deposited into and withdrawn from that account, so I had to set everything up again.

    And don’t even get me started on replacing my driver’s license! I had to write to Hawaii for certified copies of my birth certificate (apparently having my photo and fingerprints on file isn’t enough to ID me – they needed the birth certificate.) But the thing was… I had to send a check to get the birth certificate, but I couldn’t write one because I’d had to close my checking account. I had NO cash because it was all in my wallet. It was a total disaster that took months and months to recover from.

    At any rate, it was a lesson learned. I now carry the absolute bare bones with me, and all of it fits into my pockets. I even got a separate checking account for the few places that still require checks, so that the checkbook for my primary account never has to leave my house. I carry one credit card with me, and the others are kept in safe places so I shouldn’t have to cancel them all at the same time again. I also keep a small amount of spare cash in a safe place at home, and a bigger chunk in a safety deposit box at the bank. I still haven’t gotten around to getting a passport, but it’s on my list because it’s one of the few forms of ID you can get here besides a driver’s license.

    I must admit, it is SOOOO liberating not to have to carry a bag of any kind with me anymore. It does affect my choice of clothing and jackets sometimes, because I have to have pockets – but it’s a trivial price to pay compared to the nightmare that I went through.

    • Hi EcoCatLady, that does sound like a nightmare. As you say, you did learn your lesson well and some of the tips you added here to protect yourself in the future are good ones. Thanks for sharing your story.

      I love the pockets in my travel jackets and pants. They were great on my last vacation. I have a couple of jackets and pants in my usual wardrobe that don’t have pockets and I find the a pain for one reason or another every time I where them. Perhaps they will be the next candidates for donation to the thrift store.

  8. I wear slacks or jeans with pockets and carry everything in them–comb, keys, small zipup wallet, tissues–in the front pockets–not a very fashionable look I know.. For dr./dental. appts. i use a tote bag to take something to read, medical papers, appt. book, pen, etc. I do see people in stores leave their purses in their carts, and some have lost them to thieves or sometimes have left them in their carts in the parking lot.
    Some sewing is the only “craft” I do any more, and try to go through the supplies often, and did have a few to take on the last trip to the thrift store.

    • Hi Nana, it does surprise me when I am out and about at how careless people are with there handbags. I keep mine over my shoulder at all times and certainly never put it in a shopping cart.

  9. Ok, not only do I have a cluttered purse, I have too many purses still, after donating over 90. I have noticed that I have a tendency to change purses often depending on an outfit or season. When I do, I only change the wallet, phone, lip gloss and a few other things. I usually don’t take/have the time to clean out a slew of recently used purses.

    I’m trying to get in the habit of only having a few purses and cleaning them out once a week. Not easy to keep the numbers down and clutter free.

    • Hi Lana, we all have our weaknesses and it seems your love is of purses. I wish you success and happiness with the goal to reduce even further how many you have. Even I have to remember to clear all the old receipts out of my bag each week. I don’t even think I shop much and refuse receipt where possible but they still seem to mount up. I do only have one purse for everyday and a couple of evening clutch purses. I am too lazy and unfashionable to be bothered swapping them all the time.