As a result of our fast-paced lives, many people’s cars — especially parents’ cars — have turned into something like a second home. Many of us spend hours each day commuting or transporting kids to activities, and when you spend that much time in your car, you need a lot of stuff.
I get it. You need hand wipes, tissues, water bottles, plastic utensils, cushions for pets, pens, a stockpile of chargers, reading glasses, sunglasses, snacks, papers, sunscreen, bug repellent, first-aid kits and sports bags. And so, just like at home, your car needs to be regularly cleaned and organized. A few minutes each day or week will save you time in the long run and go a long way toward ensuring you have what you need and are not distracted while driving. Here are some ideas.
Clear trash regularly
Make it a habit to take trash from your car into your home every day for disposal, and ask your passengers do the same. Or plan to remove all the trash from your car every time you fill it up with gas. Keep each door’s compartments clear of trash, and remove cans and bottles for recycling. You’ve heard it before: Mess begets mess. Tidy up regularly to avoid having to set aside a significant amount of time for a major cleanup.
It’s annoying to have food wrappers and other trash on the floor, but most people don’t have a garbage can or bag in their car. Buying a designated receptacle for your car is an easy fix, and there are a lot of good, inexpensive options available.
Keep supplies such as hand sanitizer, wipes, pens, pencils, tissues, crayons and activity books in a designated place. Make sure they’re all easily accessible to back-seat passengers so you don’t have to help them find what they need while you’re driving.
Over-the-seat organizers work well for kids and can also be easily accessed from the front of the car, if necessary. Again, there are a lot of good options available, just think through what you want to put in the organizer before making the purchase. Some will hold a tablet in a clear pouch for videos, while others are great for water bottles, tissues and other supplies. Some unzip and fold down to make a little desktop for kids.
Another option for storing kids’ supplies — or just basic supplies for a back-seat passenger — is a simple, small bin with a lid. Items such as crayons, sticker books, juice boxes, snack packs and toys can be stored in a clear container that can be easily brought in and out of the car and restocked as necessary.
Lastly, there are some fancy canvas organizers that can sit between two kids on a back-seat bench and are kept in place with a seat belt. If you’re looking for something more temporary and easy to take in and out, one or two regular canvas bins can also hold snacks and supplies.
Compartmentalize the trunk
Unless you’re regularly hauling large items around in your trunk, keep a few bins in the back to contain objects that are always in your car — items such as reusable shopping totes, a first-aid kit, a blanket, a few water bottles and snacks, and sports equipment. It will save space to have these items organized in bins, and you won’t have random objects strewn around your car or rolling back and forth as you drive. Again, a couple of basic bins will work, but there are also storage products designed for the trunk of your car.
Wipe surfaces and vacuum your car regularly. Don’t wait until your car floor is covered in crushed pretzels or smells like a dead animal to clean it. Keep some wipes or a microfiber cloth in your glove box for quick cleanings. If you have very young kids and are constantly cleaning up crushed food or dirt, you might even consider a car vacuum. It’s so much easier and less time-consuming to do a little cleaning here and there, and you’ll also save yourself from having to scurry and clean if you have to transport a friend or family member at the last minute. Plus, you won’t need to do a major detailing when you’re ready to sell your car or your lease is up, because you will have kept everything clean.
Taking care of your car not only makes it more comfortable for you and welcoming to your passengers but also sets a good example for your kids — they get to see you taking care of a valuable possession.
Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik.