I've included car organization as one of the areas to work on in the Organized Home Challenge because sometimes it seems we spend as much time in our vehicles as in our homes.
Since we spend so much time there my goals (and hopefully yours too) for this area are to have access to what you truly need easily and quickly, as well as not to be embarrassed to let others ride in your car because you don't want them to see the junk you're carrying around.
Of course, organizing your car has some challenges that some other areas in your home don't have, such as extremely limited space and in your home you don't need to worry about how your organizing will be impacted by motion, acceleration and deceleration.
Are you new here? The Car Organization Challenge is part of the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).
During this week I want each of us to really think about the functions of our car, and not consider it a moving file cabinet or extra space to store items. Instead, my goal is for us to only carry essentials around so the space stays as uncluttered as possible.
Therefore, think of this week's challenge as a chance to prioritize what you keep in your car down to the essentials, and have a truly decluttered and functional space.
Please note, before I begin the steps of this challenge, that if your household has more than one automobile you should try to make time to work on car organization for each vehicle this week.
Work on one at a time, and once you've repeated all the steps for one vehicle circle around and do the steps again, this time for the next auto.
Hopefully you can finish them all in a week, since vehicles have relatively confined spaces. However, if you can't for some reason just schedule time in your calendar sometime soon to finish them all.
Many times the first step in these Challenges is to declutter the space, and the Car Organization Challenge is no different.
Therefore, the first step in organizing your vehicle is to remove all the stuff from it that doesn't belong. This can include the obvious stuff, like trash, but can also include items that you decide should not be stored in your car and instead should be placed in your home and just brought to the car when needed, and then returned back inside.
Remember, there is a fine line between wanting to be prepared while in your car for certain events, like emergencies (good) and thinking of your car as an additional place to store items (bad).
Only you can draw that line for yourself, but please note that typically the space in your car should be as minimal and uncluttered as possible, so there is as much room for people to sit comfortably in the vehicle as possible.
Instead of just removing stuff from the car, I suggest actually taking everything out of the car and then making a mental decision about each item, deciding individually if each thing deserves to go back into the vehicle.
I've written a couple of articles on decluttering various parts of your car, which can give you more in depth instructions:
The driver and passengers spend their time in the car's interior, so that is the next step in the Car Organization Challenge, to get it organized and in order.
Remember, that unlike your home where you can get up and walk to something you need when you need it, most of the time you're in the car you're restrained by your seat belt, which is a good thing safety wise. However, it means you've got to have essential items within easy reach.
Also consider though, that many activities are inappropriate while driving (especially when you're the driver). Therefore, keeping your cell phone close in case of an emergency is fine (and even enabling hands free dialing and talking is a good idea), but making it easier for yourself to text, or apply makeup while driving is not.
This is just common sense, so always keep safety at the forefront of your mind when working through the Car Organization Challenge.
Auto trash can, available on Amazon
[Click here to purchase]
To keep your car organized and clutter free the single most important thing you can do is have a way to collect trash in this confined space.
You may recall in the Home Recycling Center & Trash Challenge that one of the steps was to place a garbage or trash can or bag in each room of your home. Well, think of your car as another such room and get one in there today.
You can either purchase a container designed for holding trash in your car (such as the one shown above, to the right), or you can just use a disposable plastic grocery bag. Whatever works for you. Just make sure you do this since it makes such a big difference!
There are many types of trash cans and bags available, some sitting on the floor, others attached to the back of a seat, etc. You can choose which ever one you like best and fits your needs. You can click here to see many examples of car trash cans available at Amazon.com.
The next area in your vehicle's interior to organize is the glove box or compartment. Car manufacturers already know you need some things handy in your car, and they've given you this typically small space to hold it.
Since this is a small space, I've found it is best to keep only what you really need in there, or you'll never find what you need, when you need it.
I've created a comprehensive list of essential and recommended items to keep in your glove box here, as part of the declutter glove compartment mission.
Make sure to also grab your copy of the printable vehicle maintenance logs on the sister site, Household Management 101, which I suggest you keep in your glove compartment, to help you track your car's maintenance and gas mileage.
Car visor organizer
[Click to buy on Amazon]
Many of the small items I've listed above that could be kept in the glove compartment could also be kept on the car's visor, if you get a good visor organizer (such as the one shown on the left).
The advantage of having this stuff on a visor is that you can reach it more easily, while driving. Think about how difficult it is to reach over and get into the glove compartment, which is on the passenger side, while you're in the driver's seat.
Therefore, many people like to keep things more handy that they need to reach while driving, such as their sunglasses or music CDs. Just make sure everything is properly secured so it doesn't fall out and hit you while you're driving or need to make a sudden stop.
Further, I will confess to having mixed feelings about these visor organizers, since changing a CD in your car is really not a huge priority while actually driving and could make you unsafe. So again, use common sense about what you keep in a visor organizer and what you don't.
[Click to buy on Amazon]
There are many clever ways to organize the items in your seats, but remember always that the main point of seats is to let people sit in them.
Therefore, I tend to like to keep the seats clear allowing people to comfortably sit in them.
However, an underutilized area that I really like to use for storage and organzing is the back of seats, especially when you've got kids. When you've got kids you've got to not only consider what you need to drive, personally, but what will keep them happy in the car.
Now, I'm telling you you've got to get a DVD player and video games for kids in the car. I remember taking lots of road trips as a kid without these items and doing just fine.
Kids Car Organizer
[Click here to buy on Amazon]
However, keeping your kid comfortable and at least slightly amused can sometimes be a safety issue since happy kids don't scream and yell, and kick the back of the seat repeatedly causing driving distraction for parents (well, at least most of the time!)
Back of the seat organizers, or an organizer that sits on the seat with your kids (and has the bonus advantage of separating their space so they aren't touching) can be a life saver. You can hold a snack, drink (something non-staining, like water preferably), some toys, wet wipes, and even diapers there.
Even if you don't have kids, these back of the seat organizers can be wonderful, to hold stuff you often use, like tissues, maps, etc.
The longer you've got to spend in the car, the more such forethought and organization will help you have pleasant traveling experiences.
While I haven't discussed them too much, make sure you also don't forget to organize and declutter these additional areas in your car's interior:
After you've finished organzing the car's interior, next it is time to organize your trunk as part of the Car Organization Challenge.
One function of your trunk is to hold some essentials that you need when you go out, such as an auto first aid kit and emergency kit.
To keep these items together I suggest using some type of container, such as a bag or small plastic tub, something that holds everything, but doesn't take up too much space. There's an example on the right of such a bag.
If you have not already created this kit as part of that mission I would urge you to do it now. I've created, as part of the article, a printable checklist you can use to make sure you gather all of the right equipment and supplies for your kit to place in the trunk of each of your cars.
Along with safety and emergency types of items, I've found it can be very helpful to also think through the items you often need while out in your car, and keep some in your trunk.
Place an organizer bag in your trunk
[Click here to buy on Amazon]
When my kids were younger, for example, I needed to keep an extra outfit for each child (and myself) handy for when accidents, spills, spit up, etc., occurred while out and about.
In addition, I kept some extra diapers and wipes in the car, as an added precaution to be a backup to my diaper bag. While you may not want to lug certain things around with you in a store, for example, knowing they're out in your trunk can be a great comfort for making you feel prepared for likely kid incidents.
While carrying around those particular things is not as necessary now that my kids are a bit older, my circumstances have now changed some, and I often go to my kids' sports events and need folding chairs. So, I took out some of this other stuff, and now always have these chairs in my trunk, ready for any outing.
My point is for you to think through what you may need for your family and lifestyle. Be aware that what you need to store in your trunk will change with time, so periodically reassess what you're carrying around and add or subtract as needed so you're prepared for what is currently need in your life.
As part of the declutter trunk mission that is designed to be done while working on this week's challenge, I wrote a quick list of suggested items to store in your trunk that you can reference if you'd like ideas of what might be helpful for you.
It is a fine line between being prepared, and having too much stuff permanently stuffed into your vehicle's trunk.
Partially, how much you can transport around on a daily basis depends on how large your trunk is.
Trunk cargo net [Click to buy on Amazon]
However, never forget that the main function of your trunk is to be clear, and ready to transport, temporarily, items from one place to another. Don't ever get your car's trunk so full of stuff from the two categories above that you can't fit the stuff in there you need to transport around.
The item we most often need to temporarily transport are groceries or other items we buy at the store. That's why I recommend everyone have a space cleared in their trunk to hold these bags.
Also consider keeping a cooler or other insulated container in your trunk (or putting it in temporarily when you go to the grocery store) for transporting perishable groceries, especially in the hot summer months.
Trunk organizer [Click to buy on Amazon]
Also, to be eco-friendly, make sure you've got a permanent area designated in your trunk or elsewhere in your car for reusable grocery and shopping bags, so you can use these instead of plastic ones.
One thing you've got to keep in mind, however, when you've got lots of empty space in your trunk is that this is a invitation for loose items to roll all around when your car is in motion.
If this is a big problem for you, or if you've got an SUV or minivan that has a rather limited trunk space area, I recommend some type of trunk organizer. They come in either cargo netting form (see above to the left), or with designated compartments (see above to the right).
These organizer can keep things from shifting around and knocking over while you're driving, which can be very helpful.
As you can see from above, there are all kinds of both homemade or commercially available products you can use to help you with car organization.
However, I will caution that before making your own organizers or storage solutions, or buying something manufactured, really think about how it will work in the car both while it's stationary and while it's moving.
When you come to a stop, for example, unsecured items tend to slide and roll around, which can be either an inconvenience or be a huge safety issue.
That is why many quality manufactured products keep the issue of motion in mind, by securing things with straps, velcro, or weights, for example, to keep things in place.
The key to car organization is to routinely return items to their holding places, and also to throw away trash and take things which accumulate in your vehicle back into your home, where they really belong.
Therefore, get in the habit as you leave your car, each time, of cleaning it out a bit. For example, as you walk into a store bring the trash to throw it away in the store's outside trash bin, or bring everything back into the house after you get home each day.
I often ask my kids, as they leave the car, to bring at least one piece of trash or item lying on the floor with them.
Small actions like this, done consistently, go a long way toward keeping the car uncluttered and organized most of the time.
Further, do a decluttering session periodically on the car as well, especially after long business or family trips, since when you use it for long periods of time you tend to accumulate lots of extra stuff (and trash).
I would love to know how this week's Car Organization Challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized the items in your vehicles in the comments below.
I also would love to see before and after pictures of your organized cars or other vehicles, once you've completed the challenge. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and blog posts and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!
We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from the Car Organization Challenge this week.
However, I know some of you love to know what's coming next, so I'll tell you. Next week we'll focus on one of the first places both our guests and we see each day as we walk in the door, the entryway and mudroom of our homes.
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I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!