How To Keep Your Car Organized, Even With Kids
In many ways, our cars become an extension of our homes. We spend a
lot of time in them and clutter can become an issue. Today’s vehicles
often come with what appears to be plenty of storage. This becomes an
invitation to put more in the car, however, rather than to stay
organized. Here are some ideas that can help you keep your vehicle
clutter-free, even with kids.
Start With the Basics
Most of us have basic essentials we carry in our cars. These range
from an extra blanket or two in the winter to a first aid kit and
perhaps a 72-hour emergency kit. Roadside assistance items like jumper
cables, a tow strap, flares, emergency triangles and other items also
often float around in the trunk.
You can begin your quest to organize by putting all of those items in
their place. Things like emergency triangles, first aid kits, and the
like can fit in the compartment with the spare tire, the jack or another
ready-made cubby in the trunk. Or you can use shower caddies or small
plastic tubs to put them all in one container (or two) and keep them out
of the way.
Inside your car, you likely have a few items like a cell phone
charger, cords, or even a few flash storage cards of media. These are
often just thrown into a center console or bin, making them difficult to
find. A couple of small fishing tackle containers with three or four
compartments under a latching plastic lid are ideal for those items to
store without fuss. They’ll fit in most center armrest consoles as well.
Some of the more obvious solutions are CD/DVD sleeve books, a “pocket
protector” style pen holder for pens and tire gauges (a simple grade
school pencil box can also work) and map sleeves to fit in your door
pockets. These options are available at most grocery stores and auto
Organizing Kids’ Snacks
It never fails. You load your kids into the car, get everyone’s seat
belts and safety seats buckled down, and are just merging onto the
interstate when someone yells, “Mom! I’m hungry!” A difficult
to reach bag of snacks or a passenger’s seat onto which several granola
bars or grapes have been tossed doesn’t cut it. You need organization
that both keeps the food clean and makes it easily accessible by someone
who should be paying attention to the road.
Here the flat fishing tackle box once again comes into play. The
smaller ones can be handed to your son or daughter without the need to
take your hands off the wheel to open containers or serve up portions.
Larger ones can be used by a front passenger to dole out snacks that are
already prepared (and hopefully healthy) without fuss. The flat, square
tackle boxes with little compartments and flat lids are perfect. They
stack on one another, can be organized by snack type or child
preferences, and can be left in the car if the snacks aren’t the type
that spoil. What’s better is that they’re easy to clean and when they’re
done, the kids can just drop them on the floor (which they’ll probably
do anyway) and you don’t have to worry about carpets.
For older kids that have more arm reach from their seats, you can
make snack caddies that rest on the seatback or between children on the
rear seat. These are self-serve and can be made from nothing more than
tackle boxes or anything else that can be securely put in that space to
hold food. As kids, my mom had an egg crate with Tupperware and bags of
granola in it that did the job.
Entertainment is the other thing kids want while on a drive. Perhaps
staring out the window and making faces at passerby was enough for kids
in the 1970s, but now kids expect full, immersive and immediate
entertainment. We can blame the demise of the backward-facing rear seat
for this. Or iPods. That still leaves the problem of keeping the kids
busy without them getting into mischief back there as you drive.
Again, we turn to caddies and storage options. Several stores sell
“remote control holders” that velcro on or otherwise attach to an easy
chair or couch’s arm. These also fit well beside child booster seats or
can be set into seat back pockets like a horse’s saddle bag.
Another option is a full-on seat back organizer. These are usually
found in auto parts stores and truck stops. They are multi-pocket drapes
that attach to the headrest or otherwise hang down the back of the
front seats. They can be found in a variety of styles and types or you
can make your own.
You can try hanging a backpack from the front seat’s headrest (remove
the headrest, loop the shoulder straps around the prongs, and re-insert
them to put it back). This works well for older kids and can be quickly
removed upon arrival if need be.
Take Out the Trash
Last but not least, we come to the inevitable garbage. Kids or not,
we create refuse while driving our cars. Empty drink containers, food
wrappers, unneeded receipts and all the rest. Often it ends up being
tossed into an “out of sight, out of mind” spot and forgotten. There is a
One option is to put plastic grocery bags into an empty facial tissue
box for easy access and dispensing. Just pull one out and put your
garbage in and leave it on the floor or door side pocket. The next time
you stop to fill the gas tank or run into the store, grab the bag and
throw it away.
Dedicated garbage containers are also a good option. Small garbage
cans behind the passenger’s seat, a hanging garbage bag from the 12-volt
outlet cover, or a garbage container in the glove box can work. How
much garbage you generate in a few days’ driving should determine your
With a little thought and creativity, organizing your car is easy.
Even with kids. Yet it goes a long way toward keeping things clean and
avoiding embarrassment when the unexpected guest gets into the car.