Tips for cleaning and organizing the car

Winter always prompts me to clean and organize the car. I’ll add a good scraper for the snow and ice, a pair of gloves, a blanket and the next thing you know I’ve given it a complete overhaul. Here’s how I keep the cars tidy and uncluttered.

I know this isn’t possible for many of you, but I like to keep the rear seats folded down. If you’ve got kids, this might not be an option. My wife drives a mini van that’s typically used to haul our offspring around, so my little two-door car is usually free of that duty.

I keep the rear seats folded down for two reasons. First, it saves on wear and tear on the seats. Next, it expands the tiny “trunk” area (I have a hatchback, technically a trunk). That way if I have several bags of groceries or other space-hogging cargo to haul around, I can just put it inside without having to lower the seats first.

Speaking of the trunk, those of you who actually have one, might want to invest in an organizer like this one from High Road Organizers. The compartments will keep most cargo from moving around as you drive, and the Velcro on the bottom keeps the organizer in place. If you don’t need it, the whole thing folds up and can be set aside.

I also keep emergency equipment in the trunk. A nice kit like this contains flares, jumper cables, rain gear and more. It’s easy to overlook these kits but they are an important investment.

With the trunk sorted, let’s move towards the front of the car. Those with kids will probably need a container of some sort for snacks, books, tissues, and so on. A portable shower organizer will work, as it can fit between seats. Some will suggest hanging an organizer on the back of the front seat, but I find that it just gets in the way of rear-seat passengers.

My favorite piece of car-organizing hardware is the humble carabiner. Get yourself a big, chunky one like this and behold the myriad of uses:

  1. Hang clothing (or your purse, if you carry one)
  2. Hold umbrellas
  3. Clip on re-usable grocery bags
  4. Bring home dry cleaning
  5. Anchor down large cargo

I have one on each side of the car and I use them much more often than I thought I would. It is well worth the $10.

Now, a few little tips to help you keep the car in tip-top shape.

  1. When you get gas, take a minute to toss trash.
  2. Empty tissue boxes make great car-sized trash bins.
  3. Put important papers like registration, service history, etc., in a small accordion binder.
  4. Keep a stash of zip-seal bags for cleaning up any number of things.

It’s relatively easy to keep the car neat and tidy. For more on the topic, check out our articles on organizing the glove compartment and five things to keep in the car.

4 Comments for “Tips for cleaning and organizing the car”

  1. posted by Karen Henry on

    May I add something? I live in the Northeastern United States where we usually get a lot of snow and ice in the winter months. I also carry a shovel and a 10-pound bag of rock salt in case I have to shovel myself out, or need something under my tires to give me some traction.

  2. posted by Reenie on

    But to what do you attach the carabiners after you’ve clipped your clothes or purse onto them?

  3. posted by Christine on

    When I am in a particularly long row of cars at a stoplight, I use that time to dust my car, sort papers, or adjust coupons, etc. The car gets a nice tidying up (around the driver’s seat) over the course of a couple weeks.

  4. posted by MJ Ray on

    In many countries, flapping a duster around and worse will be regarded as not being in proper control of the vehicle and result in a fine, even at a stop light. People have been fined for drinking. Don’t take chances with other road users’ safety: stop in a safe place off the carriageway to do such things. Tidy up the car when you arrive sightly early for an appointment or something like that – not in a live traffic lane!

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