According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, around 70% of the population are drivers. For every driver, there are 1.15 cars on the road. Many of those American drivers spend more time every day in their cars than in their homes. That can lead to the accumulation of trash, papers, money, electronics and general junk in your cars. Maybe your car is full of trash. Maybe it’s just a little messy. Either way, this week in the Organized Life Series, we’re going to tackle organizing your car.
This can seem like a daunting task, but take the time, spread out and get organized!
#1 – Empty the Car and Sort!
Put down a tarp or dropcloth and pull everything out of the car. Make sure you get the glovebox, console, door pockets, seat-back pockets, and trunk. If you have small children, pull out the car seat.
Separate everything into 4 piles:
- Things you use every day
- Emergency supplies
- Things you use occasionally
#2 – Clean!!
While the car is empty, clean it. Windows, carpets, surfaces. Blow out your vents. Clean the items you pulled out that get gross – like the car seat!
#3 – Evaluate Your Needs
How do you “live” in your car? Are you a mom taxi? Are you a real estate agent that has to transport clients? Are you a long-distance commuter? Is your car a mobile office? How you use your car everyday should determine your organizational style.
- Mom Taxi – You generally make a lot of short trips picking up and dropping off the kids. The kids need a neat and organized place for their backpacks and toys. They may be eating in the car. You need a handsfree way to get directions, listen to and send text messages, and make phone calls. You need tissues, wipes, paper towels, bandages, and a trash receptacle daily. You need your music so you can go to a happy place. You need to keep your attention on the road to protect your precious cargo.
- Real Estate Agent – You need a clean and neat car to keep those clients. You need to have an organized way to store and access important business papers at stops. A trash receptacle could look too cluttered and take up valuable space. You need handsfree phone access and your phone to be quiet when with clients. You need quiet music to soothe your clients and act as background music.
- Long-Distance Commuter – You probably eat and drink in the car and need to plan for that. You need to keep tissues, wipes, bandages, medicines, change, and a trash receptacle handy for daily use. You need a handsfree way to check traffic, get directions, listen to and send text messages, and make phone calls. You need a good station for your devices so that you can use and charge them while you drive. You need music you really enjoy or some good audiobooks. You need to keep your attention on the road so you can stay safe.
There are many uses to consider, but these topics cover most of your basics.
Do you allow others or yourself to eat in the car? If so, plan for this. Think cooler (or car refrigerator), trash, paper towels, wipes.
Do you need things like bandages regularly or can you just keep a first aid kit in the trunk or back of your car? Do you need allergy, stomach, or headache medicine regularly?
Are you prepared for the emergencies that could occur in your area? (Think hurricane evacuation in the south, fires out west, and blizzards in the north.) Do you have roadside assistance? Jumper cables? Make sure you’re prepared for emergencies, but not so stocked that you can’t get groceries in the trunk.
Do you run errands regularly? Do you store your reusable shopping bags in the car? Do you keep a few bills and some loose change for a drive-thru run? Do you have an umbrella?
Some items are needed seasonally like an ice scraper or snow shovel.
Kids and Pets
These critters have special needs and can be pretty messy. Do you have the appropriate car seats? Do you have snacks and water available if you get stuck in traffic? Toys?
Do you use your laptop often? (Not while actually driving, of course, but maybe while waiting.) Do you have mobile phone chargers? MP3 players? You need an organized way to use, store, and charge these items.
Do you have a Bluetooth device? If you don’t, GET ONE. Don’t hold your stupid phone to your stupid head while you’re driving. Don’t you dare send a freaking text while driving. You need to lead a long and healthy life for yourself and your loved ones. And you don’t want the guilt of hurting someone else. Be smart!
Do you have satellite radio or an MP3? Do you have great playlists? Audiobooks? If not, you should. And you should not fool with these things while you’re driving. Set them up before they even get to your car. Again, be smart!
If you need to keep papers in your car for business, get them into a file box.
#4 – Organize Necessary Items Back Into the Car
Now that you realize you need a lot of stuff, how do you get it back into your car? Easy. Use things you already have to organize, or buy some neat new things. As you put things into your car, consider projectiles. If you have to slam on the brakes suddenly, you don’t want the textbook in the back window to smack the back of your head. You don’t want to have to clean up items from a box sitting in the passenger seat. And you don’t want your puppy sailing towards the windshield.
In the Cockpit
There are some things you need to be able to reach while driving. Your Bluetooth device. A button to pause the music or audiobook. Tissues. Drinks. Snacks. If there’s something you need to reach while you’re driving, get it organized first. Here are some examples to consider.
- Keep a ziploc bag of LifeSavers in your driver’s door.
- If you don’t have a built-in glasses holder, get a clip to hold your sunglasses on your visor.
- Have electronics chargers handy when you get into the car to plug them in.
There are things that you may need to access when the car is stopped. Keep things like this in the glovebox or in the pockets on the back of the seats. You can reach around in a stopped car and get these with no trouble. Car registration and insurance information. Napkins/paper towels. Your handbag or briefcase in the floorboards or back seat.
In the Back
Keep things in the trunk or very back of your car that you need when parked or for emergencies.
#5 – Consider Organizational Tools
You can use things like shoeboxes, old backpacks, tote bags, ziploc bags, and more that you already have to organize your car. Or you can purchase specialty tools. Here are some links to different solutions on Amazon.
- Trunk Organizers
- Center and Floor Consoles
- Visor Accessories
- Door and Seatback Organizers
- Glovebox Organizers
- Mobile Phone Car Accessories – like Bluetooth and dash mounts
- Apple iPod Nano – this is GREAT for keeping attached to your car, setting up playlists and running Audible Audiobooks in your car. Just leave it connected and charging and you never have to deal with it until you bring it inside to update your playlists or add new audiobooks. As a side recommendation, consider buying a refurbished Nano from Apple. You can save around 20% off the new price and still have the Apple warranty. Or, watch local sales. You can’t get a good discount off of an Apple product, but local places and national chains sometimes offer free gift cards or free accessories with a purchase.
For some other great ideas, check out The Container Store.
#6 – Storage
Keep your extra car items stored neatly in your garage or a bin in a closet. Things like car cleaning supplies, extra air freshners, ice scrapers or other seasonal items need to be put away, not stored in the car, but easily accessible.
#7 – Extra Tips
We discussed a few things above that I’d like to cover in more detail.
I mentioned the importance of safely using a mobile phone while driving or in the car. I’ve written a separate article about Using Bluetooth In Your Car.
I mentioned using an MP3 or iPod in your car for music or audiobooks. I’ve written a separate article about playing Music In Your Car.