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Let’s face it, we often find ourselves spending more time in our cars than we’d like! With commuting to our own jobs, responsibilities and activities, hauling friends, kids’ friends and stuff around town, running errands, and dropping kids at their ever-growing list of practices, school events, and extra-curriculars, it can start to feel like we LIVE in our cars! Worse yet, it can start to LOOK like it, too. If you’re tired of battling the clutter and losing, you’re not alone. Take control of the car chaos once and for all with these super smart tips for keeping a clean car interior. With a bit of effort, your car will look and feel great all the time – no sweat!
1. Start with an overhaul. Ok, so this first step is a BIT of a sweat. But once you overcome this hurdle, it’s smooth sailing! Before you can keep your car looking great, you have to MAKE it look great. So take every single thing out. Empty all the small compartments, pockets, boxes, doors, nooks, crannies… everything. Make three piles – garbage, keep in car, put away. Once your car is completely devoid of all items, you can vacuum the floors and upholstery, dust the dashboard, console and steering wheel and make sure it looks like new. Spray it with a fabric/air freshener to really take it up a notch. Once it’s perfect, you can start putting items that belong in the car in their proper spots.
2. A place for everything… and everything in its place, right? So make sure that every item you want to keep in your car has a specific spot. When you use it, make sure you put it back exactly where it goes. Sunglasses in the console box? Ice scraper under the seat? Extra gloves in the door pocket? If you’ve got young kids who come with a lot of extra baggage, consider keeping an organizer on the back of the seat in front of them – you can fill it with wipes, diapers, pull-ups or extra undies, crayons, paper, small books, a sippy cup of water, non-perishable snacks and anything else they might need! It doesn’t matter what you keep in the car, just make sure it has an accessible spot and that it gets replaced when you’re done with it.
3. Be a trash collector. It’s no use denying it, you’re going to encounter trash in your car – gum wrappers, receipts, tissues – it’s inevitable. You need a designated trash bag so that garbage doesn’t end up in every nook and cranny. Try a small trash can located on the passenger side floor (like this plastic cereal dispenser turned trash can). Or a bag on the back of the passenger seat. It doesn’t matter, just be sure that it won’t tip over and that it’s within easy reach so you’ll actually use it. If you have an SUV or van, consider placing several trash receptacles strategically throughout the car within easy reach of your passengers. (Here’s a tutorial for a DIY car trash bag, and a link to an Etsy shop where you can buy them).
4. Daily declutter. Once you’re home for the evening, do a super quick once-over where you are sitting. Grab anything you can easily carry – garbage, water bottles, etc – and take it with you. This daily spot check will keep clutter from accumulating unduly.
5. Wipe it down. Keep some sort of wipes handy in your cup holder or console so you can quickly wipe away spills, dust or other debris. When something leaks in your cup holder, you can take car of it immediately instead of waiting for it to congeal. You can also wipe away dust from your dashboard and steering wheel before it builds up. There are specific wipes for cars, like these Armor All wipes that come in a handy container. Or you can use something like Wet Ones or baby wipes.
6. Don’t take it “to go.” This can be a difficult change to make, and it may not work for some families, but consider a hard and fast “no eating in the car” rule. You’ll find that most of what you vacuum up and most trash items relate to restaurant drive-thrus. If you have to eat on the run, make sure everyone has access to trash bags and picks up after themselves, just as they would at home.
7. Try a “you bring it, you take it” rule. It’s impossible for you to keep track of everything your kids tote along. Backpacks, lunch boxes, jackets, bags for sports or dance, musical instruments, extra shoes, stuffed animals or blankets if they’re younger… you’ll go out of your mind trying to cart it inside. Institute the “you bring it in, you take it out” rule, and have an appropriate consequence for when they leave their items behind (like having to vacuum out the car by themselves). Not only will this teach your kids responsibility, it will keep you sane and your car clutter-free!
8. Just the essentials. Create an “essentials kit” for your car with items that may be needed while you are out and about. This can be separate from the first aid kid that should also be kept in your car – or you could keep a smaller, less obtrusive first aid kit within your essentials kit. Some items to consider: tissues, napkins, and wipes for runny noses and spills, commonly used medications (in childproof containers), a few dollars in change, a car phone charger, dramamine in case of car sickness, a plastic bag (good for so many things, from tummy trouble to messy clothes from “accidents” to a makeshift trash bag for larger items), a scissors, Swiss army knife or leatherman, nail clippers, gum, hair ties, and safety pins. If you’re worried about space, take a look at this kit that fits into a wipes container.
9. Be prepared. It’s a good idea to be prepared for any seasonal occasion that might crop up – especially when out with young kids. Keep a car organizer like this one in the trunk or cargo area of your car with seasonal items inside. Switch out the items with the changing weather and seasons. For summertime, that might mean sunblock, bug spray, sunglasses, hats with brims, towels and maybe extra flip flops and swimsuits. For cold weather, especially in snowy areas, keep extra warm clothing like socks, hats, mittens and scarves, blankets, a foldable shovel, etc. It’s a good idea to have a section that you keep stocked with the same things year-round: non-perishable snack items in small bags, water bottles, flashlights, tire gauge, umbrella, etc. Keep it personalized to your location and family’s needs. For very young kids keep an extra change of seasonally appropriate clothing as well. If you’ve got everything you could need already in your car, you’re less likely to haul around loose items that become clutter when not unpacked. If you really want to do it right, think about trying something like this organized trunk transformation!
10. Stick to a schedule. Set up a schedule and stick to it. For example: Every day when you arrive home for the night, do your daily declutter/spot check. At the end of every week, empty all the garbage cans and wipe down the interior with car wipes. At the end of every month, vacuum out the whole car including the seats. If you set daily, weekly and monthly cleaning goals, nothing will build up and the tasks will be more manageable.
Kimberly Mueller is the “me” over at bugaboo, mini, mr & me, a blog that highlights her creative endeavors. She especially likes to share kid crafts, sewing attempts, recipes, upcycled projects, photography and free printable gift tags/cards. When she’s not enjoying being married to her best friend, chasing after the natives (AKA her three kids) and attempting to keep the house in one piece, you can find her with a glue gun in one hand and spray paint in the other. Aside from DIY pursuits, she also enjoys writing, reading, music, singing (mostly in the shower) and the color yellow. Kimberly recently published a craft book entitled Modern Mod Podge. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest,Bloglovin’ and Instagram. Email her at: bugabooblog(at)yahoo.com
Looking for more ideas to stay organized? Try these: