The summer months are a good time to tackle many projects, including organizing your garage and closets. Today, we’re sharing tips on how to shape up your car. Though some may walk, ride a bike or scooter, or take public transportation to get about town, many people (raising my hand) travel by car. For some, it’s a second home or main “office.” When you spend a lot of time in your vehicle, keeping it organized is a necessity as you’ll need to not only feel comfortable, but also find what you need with relative ease.
To begin a car uncluttering and organizing project, take everything that doesn’t belong in your car out of the car (check under your seats), looking for things that are obviously trash (empty water bottles, food wrappers). Next, categorize the remaining items (chargers with chargers, first aid supplies with first aid supplies). Then …
Be selective about what you need to keep
Depending on your lifestyle, you could have a variety of things you need to regularly keep in your car. If you’re a mobile entrepreneur, you may need office supplies, brochures, or client forms. If you’re a parent, toys, books, or hand sanitizer may be more important things to keep in the car. For people who do a fair amount of long-distance driving, street maps, money for tolls, or audio books are the likely must-have items. Think through all the things you need to have with you on a regular basis so that you can …
Decide what will live inside your car and trunk
You will want to store some things inside your car (e.g. in the glove compartment, center console, pockets on the backs of each seat, side door pockets) and other items inside your trunk. Use frequency of use as a benchmark along with size and volume of specific items. For things you use often, store them inside your car and think of your trunk as archival or large item storage. And, if you live in an area where there are seasonal extremes, you may also want weather appropriate items (ice melt, gloves, sun shades).
Based on the size and features of your car (or truck or SUV or minivan), place things in the locations that make sense to you — like in a kitchen, store things where you use them. And, consider keeping a container inside your car to collect garbage. Here are suggestions on where to keep some things:
- Registration, insurance card, and emergency numbers
- Car manuals
- Collision kit
- First aid kit
- Cell phone charger (this can also be kept in the center console along with a tire gauge)
- Container or resealable bag of coins (for tolls or parking)
- Coupons and gift cards
- Trash bags
- Emergency car kit (read more about emergency supplies)
- Spare tire
- Mylar blankets
- Extra change of clothes
Choose your containers
Containers help you keep everything in its place and easily accessible. They also can help keep loose items from shifting and flying about if you have to stop suddenly or in the event of an accident.
Here are a few to consider:
- Milk crate. A crate is great for keeping sports equipment, toys, and things that you need to do something with (packages to mail, things to return). Consider putting a milk crate (or laundry basket) in your trunk.
- Trunk organizer. The compartments in a trunk organizer make it easy to keep similar items together and separate them from others. They can hold many things (like groceries and car care supplies) and have outer pockets for papers or maps.
- Mobile office organizer. Use this mobile unit on the passenger seat to hold hanging file folders and to keep pens and note pads close by if you often work from your car. Some organizers have lids to keep items from slipping out and others forgo file storage and give you enough space for keeping CD’s, tissues, and other items.
- Plastic envelope. Plastic envelopes are great for keeping coupons and receipts and can easily be stored in door pockets or behind-the-seat pockets. Or, put your registration and insurance card in an envelope in your glove compartment.
Create a maintenance routine
Once everything is arranged in the way that works for you, make a plan to keep your vehicle organized and road-trip ready. A simple way to stop the build up of trash is to empty your garbage container each time you fill up your tank. Because you refuel on a regular basis, combining these tasks will almost guarantee that your ride will be clutter free. What about all those supplies that you need to have all the time? To be sure you don’t run out, check your stash once a week (or once every two weeks) to make sure you have all you need and can restock if you don’t.
As with any maintenance routine, keep it simple. The more complex the steps, the more difficult it will be to maintain. Don’t wait until you get your car detailed to focus on keeping it clean and orderly. Do a little bit each week and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to keep everything in its place.
Longer days during the summer are a wonderful feature of the season. It’s a great time to tackle tasks that require working outdoors. If you live in a house or townhome, summer is also the perfect time to organize your garage (if you have one).
Putting together a garage organizing list is not that much different than making any other type of task list. The same principles apply to organizing your garage as with cleaning out your closet, and your goal is to make a list that is clear and manageable. When you get back from your wonderfully restful summer vacation, you’ll be ready to take care of this warm-weather task. Remember to keep these six simple steps in mind instead of randomly jumping head first into the garage:
- Get it out of your head. Jot down the things you need to take care of in your garage. Your list doesn’t have to be massive, though there is nothing wrong if it is.
- Focus. Pick the one thing (or two things) you’re going to work on first, and break this big task into smaller, actionable steps. Work in short time blocks to maintain focus without feeling stress.
- Group like items. Put similar items together in categories — tools with tools, car repair items with car repair items.
- Hold yourself accountable. Select a deadline for completion and put it on your calendar. Be realistic about how much you will be able to accomplish based on how much time you have to work on your project, as well as how much help you’ll have.
- Get help. Partner with someone or several someones to help you get things done.
- Pick a reward. This is perhaps the best part of the plan, besides actually completing what you set out to do. It can be very motivating to have something to look forward to when the project is finished. Not everyone needs this, but it can be helpful.
With this plan in place, think about your main goal(s) for getting the garage more organized. Do you want to fit the car(s) inside? Do you need to find things more easily? Would having a place for storing bulk supplies be helpful? If you feel overwhelmed, referring to your main goal will keep you calm, focused, and ready to continue.
Next, have a look around your garage (i.e., pick one area to begin focusing on) and decide:
What you’ll keep
Do you really need everything that’s stored in your garage? How long have the widgets been sitting in the widget box? Substitute “widgets” with things that you’ve been holding on to because you might use them “someday.” And, speaking of “someday,” when was the last time you used them? Do you still remember why you’re keeping them? Does anything in the garage belong to someone not living in your home?
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to keep, gather these items together so they’ll all be in the same location. If you have similar items strewn about in various parts of the garage, it will be more difficult for you to find them when you need them.
What you’ll purge
Along with deciding what you’ll hold on to, you’ll have to figure out what needs to be thrown out (e.g., items with broken or missing parts), what you’ll recycle, and what you’ll donate to charity or give away to someone in need. Be sure to only give away things that still function and are not in disrepair. Ask yourself, “If I saw this in a store, would I buy it in the condition it’s in now?”
What your zones will be
What are the categories of things that need to be stored in the garage? Do you need stroller parking? What about:
- Yard maintenance equipment and gardening supplies
- Tools, ladder, workbenches
- Car maintenance supplies
- Painting supplies
- Holiday storage
- Sports equipment
- Bulk products
Once you come up with your zones, sketch the garage (with wall dimensions) to see where you will store items. For example, you may want to keep bulk paper products closer to the entry door to the garage. By doing this, you will avoid going into the heart of the garage for items that you will use inside your home.
What storage options you’ll use
A popular garage organizing option is to use shelving units (e.g. free-standing units or a track system, like Elfa Utility Garage or Rubbermaid Fast Track System). The benefit of using shelving is that you won’t have to stack containers on top of each other. Stacking means that you’ll have to remove one bin to get to another, a process that would likely stop you from reguarly putting things back where they belong.
Pegboards and slatwall systems allow you to use the walls to hang items that you use often (like brooms, rakes, hammers). Cabinets with or without doors may also meet your needs. Consider adding other components depending on your lifestyle (e.g. a vertical bike hook).
What containers you’ll use
Once you’ve selected your shelving, choose clear, sturdy containers (remember to add labels) to group your like items together. Be sure to get containers with covers to protect the contents from dust and crawling critters. You can choose lids of the same color to store certain categories together (like red lids for all painting supplies).
Armed with a plan, you can attack your garage organizing project in small chunks so that it’s manageable and not overwhelming. Your car and future self will thank you for it.