As a result of our fast-paced lives, many people's cars have turned into something like a second home. Between commuting, transporting kids to activities and running errands, many of us spend hours each day in the car. And when you spend that much time there, you need a lot of stuff.
Or, perhaps it's more accurate to say, you end up with a lot of stuff: pens, hand wipes, tissues, water bottles, plastic utensils, cushions for pets, a stockpile of chargers (some of which you're no longer sure what they charge), reading glasses, sunglasses, snacks, receipts, papers, bug repellent (you're not sure from which summer), empty fast-food cups and wrappers, 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 can easily find 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 get 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 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 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 people find what they need while you're driving.
Over-the-seat organizers work well for kids and also can 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 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 in your trunk, keep a couple bins in the back to contain objects that are always in your car. This includes items such as reusable shopping totes, a first-aid kit, blanket, extra water bottles and snacks and sports equipment. It will save space to have these items organized, and you won't have random objects strewn around your car or rolling back and forth as you drive.
Again, there are storage products specifically designed for the trunk, but a couple of basic bins will work, too.
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 consider a car vacuum.
It's so much easier and less time-consuming to do a little cleaning now and then. You'll also save yourself from having to do a panic clean if you suddenly discover that you have to transport a friend or family member.
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 see you taking care of a valuable possession. And although many of us feel as if we live in our cars, at least it's only one room to keep neat and clean.