Kondo 0.8 – The handbag question

I have been writing about the Japanese writer, Marie Kondo‘s approach to tidying up your life. Then I got an email from a reader.

I’m so pleased you blogged about it. I genuinely feel like it is changing my life. Yesterday, I did all my clothes and toiletries, shoes, all the kids’ stuff, kitchen cleaning drawer, bathroom cabinets, and sorted out my handbags with a tray to empty all the contents of my bag each day. Initially, it seemed so silly reading about her emptying her bag, but it is actually amazing, as it means you only take with you what you need for each day, and you end up tidying stuff away, even if you accumulated contents during the day. My bags and notebooks and laptop never owned a ‘space’ of their own before, so I would pile them on the floor, and sometimes it would stack up over the weeks.

I include this excert as the writer refers to the handbag question, an aspect of Kondo which I have also found most helpful. Kondo recounts how she puts everything from her bag into a ‘designated place” each evening, before she does anything else. It only takes five minutes. “Keeping your space tidy becomes second nature” she argues. “The essence of effective storage is this: designate a spot for every last thing you own”.

Marie Kondo suggests that you unpack your bag deliberately, each day on your return from work. You put all your regular things onto a tray or into a special place.

I tried it. I cleared out a drawer near to the front door. For five weeks, I have emptied my handbag and put the following items back into that drawer:

  • Keys
  • Purse
  • Phone
  • Kindle
  • work pass
  • small make up bag
  • umbrella
  • little pencil-case (1 pen, 1 pencil)
  • phone charger
  • sunglasses
  • padlock
  • travel sized shampoo and conditioner
  • ear plugs
  • ear phones
  • diary
  • asthma inhaler
Kondo handbag
My drawer by the door

Extraneous items are scrutinised eg today’s paper, tissues, bus tickets, leaflets, travel details – and go straight in the bin or are actioned. I hang up the empty bag and get on with my evening.

In the morning I open the drawer and take out what I need for the coming day. Every day I need keys, purse and phone. But I do not need every item, every day – for example I wash my hair every other day, in the gym, so I don’t need the shampoo and conditioner on a Tuesday or Thursday. If I will be in my office I won’t need the phone charger.

This small change in my life (as part of a more comprehensive Kondoing) has proved very effective and life changing. I have stopped losing my keys/phone/purse/work pass etc. I have stopped panicking a few minutes before my bus arrives as I madly search for my inhaler, ear plugs or padlock. I don’t need to ask my husband or daughter if they have seen my purse, keys, phone etc. I don’t forget the things that I might need today – such as sunglasses or umbrella. I am no longer just carrying everything around on my back in case I might need it. I have taken a significant piece of stress out of my life. And my loved ones don’t have to search high and low with me.

I have seen “organiser bags”, and hand bag inserts which claim to do “organise” things for you. The first seems to be a handbag with lots of zippers and special sections for a pen, glasses, credit cards, keys. You search for items to fit into the spaces! The insert is the same idea, but rather than one ugly black bag, the company assume you have several bags and change them frequently. You pull out the insert with the phone, pen, cards, books etc in it, and put into a fresh bag.

So what is the problem?

  1. You can’t see what you have got so you just cart it around whether you need it or not.
  2. It is an “organsation” aid that encourages hoarding. It won’t be long before you have business cards and receipts hiding in those pouches.

I have no idea how men manage this. They don’t appear to have handbags which appear to be an inherently female thing.

Any insights?


14 Responses

  1. Elle

    I’m with you! I have been emptying my purse–or my pockets if purseless–each evening for a long time. It gives me a chance to sort through the day’s detritus and symbolically clears the deck for a new day. I also like choosing what I’ll need for each day, and being able to calmly choose an appropriate purse or tote. And of course it eliminates the self-inflicted stress and drama of chasing wandering bits and pieces.

  2. Tim Morton

    Hi Kate
    That was interesting, made me think of Benjamin Franklin

    Mum put a postcard on the front door by the lock and in felt pen it said “Where is your key?” last thing we saw as we left the house.

    I was taught to put my plastic cards in the same slot in my wallet, and the wallet in the same pocket each time to make it less stressful looking for the correct card.

    Recently a guy in Staples said he had photographed all his cards -loyalty and bank, front and back, on his phone and when required to have the bar code read just chooses the correct picture, result, thin wallet.

    I still lug vast quantities of material around in bags, and will try this technique of the drawer.


  3. AnnIe

    I have that very same organiser, the concept is good but it doesn’t quite deliver.

    Kondo has taken a fresh look at how we use our spaces and come up with some innovative solutions, although I haven’t got very far in the book, I’m not ready to go the whole hog yet, but I have made a start and my socks are thanking me. ? The bag tip is genius.

  4. Arlene

    My handbag is very tidy and I am constantly sorting it but I have to admit I like this idea a lot b/c I would be more inclined to actually change out what I use more if I did this. I can’t quite think of a good space in my house though. I also have a fantasy of finding the perfect handbag that I love so much, I just want to use it every day and it goes with everything. Oddly when I travel I only carry what I really need so not sure why I don’t do the same every day. Going to have to have a think on this one!!

    Re the question of men, mine cannot go out without a jacket on and men’s jackets have all kinds of inside pockets for whatever. I suppose a brief case or one of those cross body bags for men could hold a lot. I would not want to be a guy for this and many other reasons!

  5. Stephanie

    K., This is excellent. Don’t they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? I read this and coincidentally read the section about purses in the Kondo book just last night. I emptied out my purse this morning. I am a notorious purse contents hoarder and I desperately need this sanity applied to my handbag. Gianni and I were just talking about this the other day, as he can’t believe I carry around such a heavy bag (on which the zipper was straining during travel because I packed it too full of stuff I didn’t really need). Conceptually this makes so much sense and I am going to try doing as Marie K. does and put on a pot of tea while I sort the contents of my purse at night!

    • Stephanie

      PS Gianni is always “losing” his keys and phone as he can never remember which jacket pocket he put them in. Moments of panic occur as he pads the various pockets on his person. My friend C. is always leaving his wallet in places of having it fall out of his pants. I wouldn’t be able to survive without the organizing system of a zipped bag on my shoulder, although I admit that when I used to run in foreign countries I got by with ID and keys tucked directly into my bra.

  6. Jennifer

    This is so good! I change bags infrequently because moving the contents is such a chore. If each bag is kept empty, how simple to grab just the necessary items (freshly cleaned through and in the designated holding place!) and plop it into the day’s bag. I’m thinking that the Kondo method may be just what I need. Good to know one can easy into it though, since it does seem rather daunting to go all out from the beginning. Great posts about this process!

  7. Vivienne

    I’ve got the handbag organiser you show only in yellow, a colour I chose so that I’d be able to find things inside it even though it was inside a dark bag. It works for me. The main thing is that I do empty it of all excess every night but leave the core stuff there. I’ve been caught too many times having left stuff at home. I’m a bit of a filing clerk at heart and one of the things that draw comments from shop assistants is that have two little bulldog clips for cards; one for store cards and the other for loyalty cards. Bank cards are in my purse. I don’t need to be carrying makeup around with me other than a small lip balm and a comb. Consistency is important. Regarding handbags, I’ve been reducing both the number and weight of my bags for some time now so that most of the time I use a lightweight, rainproof Longchamp bag. There is a good reason why they are so popular! The only time I change my bag is when I’m dressed for some occasion or other. Of course when I am out for a country walk or bike ride I just need my phone and house keys and a jacket pocket is all that is required. Your post has caused me to look again at my system so thanks for that!

    • fabrickated

      What a lovely image you conjure up Vivienne with your segregated cards. You are clearly the Mistress of Organisation. I am the Mistress of Muddle, so my tips are more for beginners. I will investigate the Longchamp bags – I have always liked the look of them.

  8. Sheree

    Up to now the only things in the house that I have “kondoed” are socks and t shirts, but I get pleasure each time I open these drawers! I have always been quite good at emptying bags on a regular basis as I hate to carry around anything that is not needed. I nearly always use a very flat cross-body bag. Having a drawer in the hall to empty everything into is a great idea.

  9. Nat @ Made in Home

    Ahah! I found your Kondo related posts! I have not emptied my bags every night – yet – because I want to sort our my handbags (probably a task for this week along with clothes). I can see the benefits – especially in my case to use other handbags, rather than the same one, because it is easy! Not sure about thanking everything, but I do thank things now a bit more, and appreciate what they do for me.. Anyway, off to read other posts!

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