How to Switch Handbags Quickly and Easily

Not so long ago, I owned one handbag. ONE. It was a black hobo with two external pockets, and I used it for everything. But when I began to want my bag to align more closely with my outfit, I realized that one slouchy black leather hobo didn’t actually feel right with everything I wore. And now, several years later, I’ve got a lovely collection of bags. I would say that I generally swap bags every day or every other day, even on the weekend. My bag choices are similar to my other accessory choices: I want them to feel harmonious with my chosen clothes. And that means the one-bag-fits-all philosophy no longer works for me.

I’ve gotten loads of questions over the years about how I swap bags so frequently without leaving items in various unused bags, wasting gobs of time in transferring items, or just getting frustrated and fed up with the process. I’ve tried to answer them individually, but now I’m going to answer them generally and visually. And the answer I’ll give? Compartmentalization.

how to switch handbags

This is what you’ll find inside any bag I carry every day of my life. OK, in the dead of winter there might be gloves/mittens and sometimes I’ll shove a book in there. But this is the bulk of it. Eight items: Sunglass case, wallet, makeup bag, checkbook (I’m old-fashioned) handkerchief (I’m allergic), phone, keys, miscellany pouch. All of them easy to grab and transfer. When switching, I’ll dump everything on the bed, put the previous bag away and pick my new one, pop everything inside and go. Usually takes three minutes or less.

makeup bag

The black bag is my LeSportsac makeup bag and there are probably five or six glosses and balms floating around in there, but I also keep a Tide pen, Band-Aids, fashion tape, a pill case, a foldable brush/comb combo, anti-shine powder, nail clippers (no lie), and lots of other stuff. I may not have kids, but I’m as prepared as many moms for everyday personal emergencies. This little makeup bag came with a larger handbag, and it is one of my most valuable possessions. I have had bottles of hand lotion and cheek stain burst in there dozens of times, and the inner coating has prevented any leakage. I LOVE YOU, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAKEUP BAG.

compartmentalized handbag

The polka-dotted pouch is my real secret weapon. Inside is my gum, tissues (sometimes you need something disposable for your nose issues, ya feel me?), business card holder (I didn’t mean to match my phone case and card holder, it just happened), and ANOTHER pouch that holds the various loyalty/rewards cards that would otherwise bulk up my wallet. Many items, one pouch. Mine is Cath Kidston and the smaller one hails from Etsy. I recommend oilcloth or other coated materials that are water repellent. Not that it’s wet inside most handbags, but just makes them less likely to get gunked up quickly.

And there you have it: My not-so-secret secret to swapping bags on a near-daily basis. Could this system work for you?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2014-10-27 06:22:04.

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15 Responses to “How to Switch Handbags Quickly and Easily”

  1. livi

    I like your system, but I find it limits the size of handbag I can carry. As does the various purse organizers I have used. I only switch my bags every few weeks depending on the season or the kind of use I need it for. I just switched from a backpack style purse that was great for summer activities to a bag with a shorter strap that is easier to wear with jackets and coats.

  2. Anamarie

    I used to change bags almost daily – I use one large tote now. When I changed bags daily, it was really important to me to have my bag contents compartmentalized, as you say. I used a set of four small bags that clipped together, which I bought from Target. I divided the contents into the four bags -make up, medications, miscellaneous small items, lipglosses. Target now has this set online, similar idea. They even call it a “purse kit set.” I still use the multiple-small bags system, but have added another bag to the mix – a drawstring jewelry pouch in which I store charging cables for phone and tablet.

  3. Cynthia Peterson

    I have a purse organizer I bought on EBay that I LOVE as it fits in almost all the bags I own. Even when it doesn’t, I can quickly empty it into the new bag because everything is in there.

  4. Carolyn @ At Least I Will

    That’s the great thing about switching purses is it forces you to reevaluate everything you carry around with you. It’s amazing all the little things that find a home in it over time.

  5. better_silence

    I’m glad I’m not the only person with a miscellany pouch! And mine is also oilcloth, which I love. Pouches help me because my most common bag is a bike pannier, and small things will get lost at the bottom. But if I want to carry a small bag, it’s time-consuming to pare my stuff down. I have some really tiny bags that are now too small for my phone 🙁

  6. Dana Burrell

    I don’t have many purses but obviously more than will easily fit in my small, 3 1/2 foot wide, old-house closet. I do enjoy switching but my issue is handbag storage. I’d love to see how you and others handle it

  7. what not

    I mostly use the same bag every day, but I want to sing the praises of the miscellany pouch. Mine contains: band-aids, ear plugs, hair bands, tooth picks, dental floss, emergency (menstrual) pads, moleskin, gum, advil, cough drops, dayquil, and a mini Leatherman (knife, scissors, etc). This stuff can get me through almost anything, and aside from the Leatherman (not allowed on planes), comes with me on excursions throughout the world. Such a great little item!

  8. Betty

    Hi, I just wanted to point out that the smaller of your bags in the last photo is the Unikko print by Marimekko. I didn’t see that particular print on the Etsy page to which you linked, but the seller doesn’t seem to be crediting the manufacturer of the fabrics she is using. In most cases, that probably isn’t a huge deal, but Marimekko is certainly protected intellectual property. In fact, I can’t tell if she made the bag out of Unikko fabric, or if she just sold you a Marimekko pouch that she bought. I just thought you would want to know 🙂

    • Sally McGraw

      Hi Betty! I actually found that zipper pouch by searching for Marimekko on Etsy, and the vendor had several credited prints she was using at the time. Looks like she’s stopped using their prints since.

  9. Wockyjabber

    This is a great idea. I can’t tell you how many times I switch purses and then realize that I left something really important in the other bag.

  10. No fear of fashion

    Yes this system could work for me. At the moment I am using a bag-in-bag by Tintamar. It works very well as it has compartments. Lots of them. But I might try the system of different little bags as well. You are right in saying they should be water repellent or such for exactly that reason you mention.
    This is what a bag-in-bag looks like :

    And this is where they sell them (I have no shares LOL.) They come in different sizes!


  11. Shanda Perry

    I love your system! I do (almost) the same thing, since I like to switch handbags almost daily. And I have a tip for you, Sally – if you haven’t already heard about it: there’s a great app called Key Ring. It organizes your loyalty cards, library cards, etc. Almost any loyalty or membership card with a bar code. I’ve freed up a lot of space in my wallet thanks to this app.