Purse Organizer Insert
Graphic: Chelsea Stone

There is no downside to a tote; they are all beautiful and useful in their own special ways. But if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to come up with one tote con, I guess I would say that that totes are more likely than other purses to become handbag black holes.

What I mean is that a traditional tote bag does not contain any internal organization, save for maaaybe a small side pocket. And that’s part of what makes totes the best type of bag! They are a receptacle that has evolved beyond the confines of pockets and zippers. I’d argue that the simplicity of the tote encourages one to also simplify their life in terms of what they carry around with them. There’s nothing like throwing you phone, your wallet, and your keys in a tote and calling it day.

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But unfortunately, life is rarely that simple. As a frequent tote carrier, I know all too well that the amount of stuff in your tote is directly proportional to the amount of times you take it out on the town, until it’s just a bottomless pit filled crap that you’re a little afraid to actually sift through. After all, a tote is more than equipped to hold all your belongings, but it never promised to be neat about it.

So after about four years of carrying my tote, I recently decided to dump it out and assess what was inside. What I found was about 20 old coffee receipts, 3 lip balms, 3 lotions, a stain stick, 2 small pouches containing essentials like makeup and first-aid items, random sticks of gum, sunglasses (no case), 2 hand sanitizers, a pen and a Sharpie, a mini plastic water bottle (empty), old MetroCards containing no funds, earbuds, and inexplicably, sand. So yeah, it was maybe time to make a change.

Instead of abandoning my tote altogether (the horror!), I turned to Amazon and after much deliberation, opted to invest in a purse organizer insert. Mind you, the process of finding the perfect insert wasn’t easy. I first had to find the exact dimensions of my tote, then compare them to the dimensions of each insert I was considering to ensure that it would actually fit.

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What I appreciated about this specific organizer was not only the range of sizes, but also its many pockets (and pockets inside of pockets), its zippered section, and the fact that it has a key leash. Plus, it’s made of felt, which is a sturdy yet un-fussy fabric that holds its shape well while still providing some flexibility once it’s in your bag. I opted to get mine in beige, but there are quite a few colors that could certainly suit any tote.

Now instead of carrying around a literal garbage dump, I’ve minimized my load down to just one of each of the aforementioned items, barring the sand and other superfluous crap that had somehow been hiding in my handbag for years. Since I’ve incorporated this insert into my daily toting, life feels much less chaotic in general. Yes, I still enjoy all the portable storage space that a tote bag bestows upon it’s carrier, but now, I can actually find things in my bag. What a concept!