Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keeping the Car Organized

John Gruen -
Between road trips to visit family, shopping, and the overall busyness that comes along with the holidays, does it sometimes feel like you spend more time in your car than in your living room? It's important to treat your car as an extension of your living space. The goal, of course, is to keep that space as organized as the rest of your home...or more organized! Having a place for helpful items in the car means that you can cut down on time preparing to get out the door, have a more pleasant trip with fewer inconveniences, and your car will stay neater since you've planned a home for everything.

The car essentially has 3 distinct areas:

The cockpit - The driver's space is the most important space in the car, right? Everything that needs to be accessed should be within easy reach. Distracted driving is a very serious issue so safety should always be the first priority. The ability to find what you need when it is safe to do so will minimize distractions. I keep the following items in a storage spot inside my car's driver side door.
  • Hand sanitizer. I use it every time I get into my car. I assume I've ALWAYS touched something germy when in public. Overkill? Maybe...but it seems to work to keep me healthy.
  • Mechanical pencil and paper. For all of those times you need to grab a phone number, jot down an address, or heaven forbid, share your insurance information with another driver, it's essential to have these around.. I find that pens dry out easily in the car, and traditional pencils break. Mechanical pencils seem to hang around longer.
  • Extra straws and napkins. Sure, it may be healthier to avoid the drive-thru, but the drive-thru is often a fact of life. Another fact of life is that they will typically forget some key piece of your order there. Missing food aside, I'm certainly not going to turn around for a missing straw or napkin. I keep spares clean in a resealable storage bag.
  • Spare change. This is a given in most cars, but establish a place for it. In my car, change goes in the ashtray, but most vehicles have a spot designated for change. As the change container fills up, keep just a few quarters and bring the rest with you into a store with a coin machine, like Coinstar. Most coin machines don't charge a fee if you receive a gift card as "payment" for the change you put in. It's a great service, and a way to keep the coin situation from getting out of control.
The passenger cabin -  I always think of the front seat as "first class", back seat as "coach", way back as "economy".  Perhaps that's because my family treats it this way.  The amenities vary according to seating class.
  • Snacks. Keep non-perishable, non-melting snacks handy. You may argue that snacks in the car aren't a necessity, but at some point you will be rushing and tired and stressed and in traffic and someone in the car will be ravenous. At that point, snacks will seem more necessary than gasoline. A resealable plastic bag in a pocket behind the seat or in the door works well.
  • Trash receptacle. If you're going to eat in the car, you need a trash receptacle. Actually, you need a trash receptacle no matter what. I have a fancy, yet inexpensive, little trash bin that attaches to the back of my passenger seat. Driver and passengers can all reach it. A more basic trash solution is a plastic shopping bag. The key is to make sure it's secured and doesn't create it's own mess as it rolls around the car. Another interesting option is to use a dry food storage container, lined with a plastic bag. It stays clean and covered.
  • Cleaning supplies. Waiting in the car seems to be an inevitable part of my day, whether it's waiting to pick up one of the kids or waiting for my next client. It make sense to have something to do while waiting in the car, and yes, I clean my windows and car interior while I wait. Window cleaner wipes are a wonderful invention to not only keep the insides of windows clean, but also remove dust and mysterious stickiness from the interior. Cleaning supplies also come in handy for situations that, well, require clean up.

The cargo area - You have to leave room for actual cargo, of course, but these are the items currently in my trunk:
  • Extra rain ponchos in a resealable plastic bag
  • Small, basic tools in a plastic shoe box
  • Reusable grocery bags (all folded and stacked inside one)
  • A large towel (for wet and muddy dog/messy kids)
  • A small first aid kit
  • Depending on the season, I also keep sunscreen, bug spray, and sports equipment contained in bins or boxes. Focus on making things easily removable so you can reconfigure and make space easily.
Car storage spaces vary widely from vehicle to vehicle. Some have tons of little nooks and crannies to stash stuff. My car is bare bones minimum, but it still works pretty well for me. The goal here is to identify what you should keep in the car, find the most likely space in terms of what can be reached from where, and then use bags and containers to keep everything under control. Treat your car like your home...Whenever you have any time at all - even if it's just a minute - use it to pick up trash, put things away in their proper place, and straighten up. Many more ideas can be found on my "organizing the car" board on Pinterest.

Did I miss anything? What else do you keep in the car?

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