The Only 9 Items You Really Need In Your Handbag

Handbags are wonderful. They’re pretty, and they make great companions to certain outfits. Sometimes they are even collectors' items, often becoming really memorable parts of one’s wardrobe. But they can also be never-ending black holes of all the things we carry around with us on the daily — things we don't actually need to be lugging around, but do so anyway simply because we can.

Almost all women are guilty of carrying around way too much stuff in their bags… including (or rather, especially) me. I need that whole box of tissues because I always need a tissue. And yes, I’m carrying around an entire eye palette because I’m obviously going to do a smokey eye for lunch and therefore need as many options as possible. Sound like the habits of a crazy person?

Well, recently I’ve learned to actually consider everything that I’m carrying around with me on a daily basis rather than just throwing it into my bag and counting on the fact that I’ll use it. I cleaned out my handbag and kept only the absolutely necessary items I need and put everything else away.

So, if you’re like me, then sit down with your handbag and reevaluate exactly what you need to lug around with you. I can tell you off the bat, you don’t need that extensive makeup brush set. Or that huge perfume bottle. And no, don’t even try to convince me that you won’t survive with a whole bottle of foundation. The only things you really need are these nine essentials that will not only save you when you’re out, but can double up as other products as well.

1. Hand Sanitizer

If I could, I’d bring a sink with me everywhere I went. Unfortunately, warm water and soap aren't always something you can guarantee you will find when you’re out. The next best thing is hand sanitizer. These days, hand sanitizers are so advanced that they guarantee killing 99.99 percent of germs (as the one pictured above claims). Plus, there are so many varieties and scents (I know you’ve spent some time deciding which five to buy from Bath & Body Works) — they all smell good and refresh your hands before you eat, shake someone’s hands, or get off the subway.

2. Lotion

And after you sanitize your hands, the liquid may leave your skin tight and dry, especially in the winter. This is where lotion comes into the picture. While you can certainly leave your heavy duty creams and lotions at home (it is probably best if you leave your pot of La Mer in your bathroom where it belongs), carrying a small bottle of multi-use lotion can not only moisturize your hands but also act as a makeup remover, lipstick remover and can tame your fly-aways. A small travel bottle can easily fit into any bag or clutch, and will save you from multiple beauty crises.

3. Tissues And Other Cotton Products

I cannot tell you how many times I was out and sneezed, and then wished I had a tissue. That might only be me because I’m prone to a runny nose and have terrible allergies in the spring. That being said, I’m usually offering a tissue to my friends because I’m the only one who carries them around. Tissues, cotton pads and Q-tips are so helpful when you’re at home, and even more helpful when you’re not at home. Need to clean up some mascara that fell under your eyes? Grab a Q-tip, squirt some lotion onto one end and you’ll be as good as new. Removing lipstick with lotion and a cotton pad is just as simple. While they’re easy to overlook, cotton products are necessary for cleaning up any mess on the go. Plus, no one likes wiping their nose on their sleeve.

4. Powder

Like I said before, it’s kind of excessive to be carrying around a bottle of foundation all day. Normally, once you apply your foundation in the morning it’s going to stay there for the rest of the day. While I admit that even my foundation disappears by the end of the day, it’s nothing a little powder can’t repair. Plus, carrying around a powder compact like this (it’s only $3 by ELF and it’s amazing — their Shine Erasers are just as good) also means you have a mirror with you at all times. This little thing not only touches up your makeup and cleans up the oil on your face but also allows you to check if you have food left in your teeth from lunch. Once you have a compact like this on you, you’ll never leave home without it.

5. Medicine

While I’d never wish sickness upon anyone, it’s better to be prepared for it if you eventually catch a cold or have a bad stomach reaction. You know you better than anyone else, so if you have a tendency to catch a sore throat, keep some cough drops in your bag. If you typically get bad headaches or migraines without warning, keeping some Advil on you can’t hurt. Depending on how your body functions and the medicines you usually take to remedy any problems, you may want to consider keeping some on you at all times. You can never be too prepared for situations like that.

6. Feminine Products

And just like medicine, it never hurts to carry around a pad or tampon with you everywhere you go. While I like to think I do a good job of keeping track of my body’s schedule, there are times when it will completely, utterly surprise me. In moments like that, I like to be prepared. Whatever your preference is, carry a backup product with you in the event that you aren’t expecting your period or get random bleeding. Plus, if anyone you ever know needs one, you’ll make their day.

7. Clips, Bobby Pins, And Hair Ties

If you've ever been caught in summer heat without a hair tie or bobby pin, just know that I feel your pain. Thankfully, I learned to keep them stored in my bag so I’m never walking around with hair flying out of my bun or tangled all around my face. Bobby pins are so easy to lose, so clip them onto a few hair ties with an additional clip in your bag. That way, they’ll stay together and will be super easy to find in your time of need. And if you happen to lose all these guys in your bag, the chances that you already have a bobby pin in your hair from an updo you did last week are very high (it has happened to me plenty of times).

8. Lip Products

I purposefully put lip products toward the end of this list because almost every girl I know keeps at least two lip products in her bag. Two products is fine, but keeping your whole lipstick arsenal in your bag probably isn’t doing you any favors. While I used to have a tendency to fit as many colors as I could in my bag, I limit myself to cult staples I know will never let me down: a moisturizing chap stick and a neutral lip gloss. Using small sample size items always helps because they take up less space, and relying on a color you know always looks good will also be a benefit. I know we all get caught up and just start throwing lip products in our bags, but keeping these staples will ensure you always have backups.

9. A Small Bag

Last but not least, you need a bag to store all your goodies in. My bag is quite small, about the length of a pen, and pretty slim in width, so it easily fits into almost all my actual handbags, with the exception of clutches, of course. Keeping a small bag like this makes it super easy to find my necessities as well as making the switch from bag to bag effortless. Instead of having to fuss with all this stuff individually, it’s just one step. Whether your bag is floral or even an old makeup bag, anything that keeps your things snug and safe will do.

Congratulations! You officially have everything you absolutely need in your handbag. These nine items are guaranteed to be helpful if not every day, then every once in a while. Plus, collectively, they’re a lot lighter and compact than any full-size lotion or tissue box you may have stored in your purse previously.

So take on the world! But not for too long, you’ll eventually have to restock these products. I know you can handle it!

Images: Author's Own, Giphy