What’s on your summer to do list? Organizing your car

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:

Glove compartment

  • 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)

Door pockets

  • Maps
  • Container or resealable bag of coins (for tolls or parking)
  • Coupons and gift cards
  • Trash bags


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.

12 Comments for “What’s on your summer to do list? Organizing your car”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    I live in a rural area, and my mailbox is accessible by car several hundred feet from my house. I keep a cloth tote bag hanging from the back of my passenger seat. I sort junk mail directly into the tote for recycling. That way it NEVER COMES INTO THE HOUSE!

  2. posted by Debra on

    I would add reusable grocery bags to the list. I keep a few in the trunk because the fact is that no matter how much you think you will get them from the hook in the garage or whatever, you Significant Other will text “can you pick up milk, eggs, cheese, and some fruit on your way home from work…”

  3. posted by luxcat on

    also a package of hand wipes, a small foldable umbrella, and a rain poncho or extra jacket. I don’t keep sunscreen in the car because when the car heats up the lotion seperates and gets quite nasty. sunscreen wipes might work.

  4. posted by pru on

    Once I used to keep rolls of quarters in my door for tolls and parking, but over time the weight destroyed the plastic pins holding the pocket to the door. I had to have it professionally repaired. I’d suggest to others that they make room for this in a center console or globe box area. But yea, yea on the suggestion for keeping change in the car.

  5. posted by J.B.C on

    I just cleaned the car on Saturday, vacuumed, washed everything. All of the necessities fit nicely in the glove compartment and center console. Each car trip to the park or out if town for the day I take out the toys, sippy cups, pieces of food and food wrappers so the car is never cluttered. The trunk is a different story…. my husband is very handy and it has become a miniature disorganized garage. There is just enough space to fit groceries. Ironically we helped a guy on the side of the road t last week. His serpentine belt had come loose, and my husband found the exact bolt and nut in the trunk that he needed to help secure it. And things like that happen all the time. Interesting.

  6. posted by Julia on

    You really shouldn’t keep emergency kits in the trunk – at least during winter. If you get stranded in bad weather, you DO NOT want to get out of your car unless you absolutely have to. Stay in your car to stay dry and warm.

    So, in the fall when it starts to get cold, move your emergency kit (and blankets, and extra clothes) into the cab where you can access it without getting out of the car.

    So, for the purpose of this post, where would you keep an emergency kit IN YOUR CAR (not trunk) during winter?

  7. posted by [email protected] on

    Wow! I have next to nothing in my car! In the glove box I have my registration and instruction book and my current insurance card. There’s an ice scraper under the seat (not that I need that right now!) and my dog’s leash in case we’re out. Oh, and in the very back I have jumper cables. You never know when you might need those. But that’s it.

    I’m really good about keeping it clean. The main reason is because I HATE cleaning the car so if I can keep it clean, I don’t have to clean it as often and that makes me really happy!!!!!

  8. posted by luxcat on


    It might depend on what sort of climate you live in and what emergency you are preparing for. Here for example, we do not get blizzards but we do get earthquakes, so it’s fine for the kit to be in the trunk.

  9. posted by Another Deb on

    I keep three potholders in the car; two for the steering wheel and one for the hip belt. In Phoenix it can get heated up so much that you get branded right through your clothes! Today I got into the car after work and drove one mile before stopping at the store. The key had only been in the ignition for ten minutes or so, but was already too hot to touch!

    Of course we carry water in the car and the flexible sunshades. Yesterday I held the shade over my husband as he installed a new battery in his vehicle at an auto parts store. It made a great difference!

    I recently stopped to help a young lady who had been in an accident on a busy highway. It was 105 degrees out and her small dog needed to be held while she dealt with the police and such. There was no collar on this sweet, but hairy critter, and I held that thing in my lap for over an hour. A bit of rope in the glove box would have been a handy thing to have at that point!

  10. posted by Marjoryt on

    Some other things I keep in the vehicle, based on years of traveling with 4 kids, a husband, and various animals:
    A plastic bowl (most often used for watering animals, but has also held snacks, berries, flowers, and change).
    Tape: I usually keep duct tape or masking tape, the end of the roll with no more than a yard or two left. A new roll usually does not last well, but a little works ok. We have mended, fastened, attached all types of things.
    A twin blanket we don’t mind losing. Very useful for getting under the vehicle, leaving behind if it gets dirty, or giving to someone who needs it more. Most often, I’ve given them to people whose animals were hurt, or to a homeless person in need.
    Cheap sunglasses – in case we forget or lose a pair.
    A telephone book. Even with my cell phone capabilities, you’d be surprised just how useful a phone book can be!

  11. posted by VikzAtl on

    I’m a hypermiler… I keep nothing in my car except for a tire inflator, gauge & flashlight. If I could toss out the rear seats I would. One note to fellow hypermilers, use caution when tossing out that box of kleenex, your wife will not be appreciative when traveling in your car.

  12. posted by Cautionary tale on

    A cautionary note: I had my fifteen year old Honda stolen a week ago. The police told me that Hondas are big theft items, stolen then stripped for parts, so my chances of getting it back are virtually nil. That said, the loss of wheels was annoying, but what really got my goat was what I lost with the car: a huge load of laundry (about half my wardrobe), about $20 in quarters, a pair of binoculars, some gift cards, a Swiss Army knife, road maps, reading material, my favorite sweater. It’s great to keep stuff handy in your car, but be careful, if your car goes, so does it. (And be extra careful about keeping documents in the car, it could cause identity theft as well as auto theft. )

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