+ Tips and Tricks

Seven Essentials for Organizing Your Work Bag


Old Navy Faux Leather Zip Top Bag ($30)

1. Agent 18 Macbook Sleeve ($19) // 2. Pure Copper Water Bottle ($22) // 3. Zero Gravity Earth iPhone Case ($26) // 4. Abbitt Leather Tassel ($36) // 5. Ivanka Trump Zip Pouches ($59) // 6. Graphic Image Notebook ($158) and Y Studio Brass Pen ($115) // 7. Clava Coin Purse ($28)


While some companies like Dagne Dover and Lo & Sons understand that women need a work bag with pockets, pouches, and organization, most designers don’t.  So what do you do when you find a great bag, at a great price, that lacks anything resembling structure?  You organize it yourself.  Here are seven essentials for keeping everything in your work bag neat and tidy.

I bought this bag from Old Navy last week.  I’m impressed by the soft feel of the leather and the strong construction.  It’s a knock-off of the Cuyana Oversized Carryall Tote, but a really good one.  I think it will make a great work or carry-on bag.

1. A Laptop Sleeve.  So many readers are searching for cool bags with laptop pockets, but that is such a rare feature.  Lodis bags have it, as do the more affordable Mat and Nat bags, but most of the other brands with this feature are hideous.

The solution for a bag without a laptop compartment is a padded laptop sleeve.  I love this marble-print one from Nordstrom Rack.  Kate Spade also makes some cheeky ones.  But if you need leather, I recommend Etsy.  Something handmade (like this Harber London sleeve) will be more affordable than what’s available at retail.

2. Copper Water Bottle. There are lots of great water bottles on the market, but drinking from a copper bottle is said to have ayurvedic health benefits.  I just like it because it’s anti-microbial.  If you’re not into that, these S’well bottles and Bkr bottles are cool.  And best of all, they have tight-fitting lids to prevent spills inside your bag.

3. A Cool Phone Case spices up your favorite device and makes it easier to see inside your bag.  Because who likes to forage around in their purse searching for their phone?  This Zero Gravity case is the one I use.    For something under-$10, this rose gold H&M case caught my eye.  Need something durable?  These Defense Gear cases look chic and are built to safeguard your phone.

4. A Chic Key Fob.  I always lost my keys in my purse, until I bought a key fob with a clip on it.  Now, I attach them to the zipper on the inside pocket, and I always know where they are.  Tassel’s are chic and the easiest to find.  But I also think this little monkey is kind of charming.

5. Storage Pouches are essential to keeping your bag organized.  I keep makeup, hair ties and a travel sized brush in one.  Work essentials like business cards, paper clips, etc. in another.  And then my pain reliever, band-aids, chapstick, etc. in a third one.  It keeps everything in its proper place and not rolling around the inside of my bag.

These Ivanka Trump pouches are nice.  DvF also makes a really chic set.  For different-sized, leather pouches, try Mark & Graham.

6. Notebook and a Pen.  Even in this high-tech era, I always have a notebook and pen with me.  These Graphic Image notebooks are durable, chic, and refillable.  And you can often find them on Amazon for under-$100.  Need Supply Co. also has simple spiral bound notebooks for $26.

I also think you should always carry a pen.  It’s a sophisticated throwback to carry a good quality one, like this brass pen from Y Studio.  Personally, I prefer the vintage pens you find on eBay (like this ballpoint pen from Tiffany) to anything you’ll find in the stores.

7. A Coin Purse.  No, it’s not for holding spare change.  It’s for holding your earbud headphones.  Because who needs those getting tangled up in your bag.



  1. AP says:

    Cuyana updated their website yesterday with the fall preview and it includes a work satchel with a laptop sleeve. Looking forward to seeing more pictures of it, but it seems promising.

    July 25, 2016/Reply
  2. Carolyn says:

    A coin pouch for earbuds – so smart! I’m going to dig out an old coin pouch tonight!

    July 25, 2016/Reply
  3. thb says:

    I also put a brightly colored clutch in mine with “essentials”. That way when I have to leave my post I don’t have to carry my “everything tote” along. Lots Easier.

    July 25, 2016/Reply
  4. LS says:

    Excellent post! A couple thoughts:

    1. Despite being a knock off, this tote appears much better proportioned than the Cuyana one. That one has wimpy little straps that make it impractical IMO.

    2. I did the storage pouch thing a couple years ago at Belle’s and it was life changing. Switching purses is a breeze. I only have one bag instead of three, but it does the job.

    3. I try not to carry any unnecessary weight because I walk everywhere. For me, a cord taco keeps my headphones from getting tangled while being very lightweight. Highly recommend.

    July 25, 2016/Reply
  5. Tif says:

    I love these kinds of posts, Belle! The ipsy pouches I receive each month are perfect to use in my work bag to keep things separate (make-up, coins, earbuds, pens, tampons, etc). Not sure why it took me so long to realize I didn’t need to buy new pouches when I get a new one in the mail every month!

    July 26, 2016/Reply