Yet another comment this morning to me about how clean my car is. Well, I guess it is, but I guess it’s just normal to me to have it that way. Yes, I did take all the seats out a few weeks ago and vacuumed to make room for field trip goers that I was driving to and from. But really, it usually is just that neat.
It’s interesting that I DON’T have a no eating rule in my car. We do eat in there. Maybe not super messy stuff – like Cheetos or powdered donuts! But we have nuggets, goldfish, and the standard toddler snacking fare in the car many days. So, how does it stay so neat, with three kids under 6 years old? I’m not THAT neat?
Here are some of my tips that I have implemented over the past few years:
- Have a place for trash to go.
If you accumulate LOTS of trash during a single day, think about getting a small bath trashcan and just putting it in the floor of your car. Throw a plastic shopping bag in there (from Target or the grocery store… we all have those!) and then take the bag out every few days. I have a small bag in my console that collects tissues, gum and wrappers. I actually made it out of a few paper lunch bags (to give it a little heft). You could use a bag, a plastic bin – they even sell vinyl bags for trash collecting specifically for the car.
- What comes TO the car goes back OUT of the car.
I have a rule when we get home from school. You take your own backpack up to the kitchen – so that mommy can unpack lunchboxes and get folders unpacked and organized. And anything else come out of the car, what you TAKE to the car, you have to carry back in the house. It’s kind of like hiking in the forest – Carry out what you carry in.
- Stock supplies in the car.
I have small children – that always seem to get covered in stuff. Or get stuff on ME! So I have wipes in the car – not in a diaper bag – just accessible for any kind of wiping or cleaning needs. I have used them for EVERYTHING! First aid, muddy shoes, spilled coffee (oops mommy) and well, for the traditional use for wipes! Also have pen and paper – just throw a notebook in the glove compartment with a pen clipped to it. Also, a first aid kit: this could be store bought it or just a baggie of band-aids. Our family is, well, challenged with walking sometimes, so I have LOTS of band-aids, Neosporin, antibacterial spray and a few other things. Also, think of specific needs your family might have – things that seem to always be needed when you are in the car. We have a few books and toys for when we are waiting at various places. Also, think of specific needs for each season such as bug spray & sunscreen for summer; maybe gloves or an ice scraper for winter. And make sure they are all gathered in something. Find nooks and crannies to store these things in your car. Or get a caddy or a seat organizer. Nothing is on the floor – nothing is flying around the car! I have a couple of spot in my van where things can be stored – then I have a “kid kit” in a backseat organizer.
- Eating in the car.
Establish what rules you want for your car. These will vary greatly depending on how much time you spend in the car and the eating habits & ages of your kids. I mentioned our eating rules for our car. We do sometimes eat lunches in the car. I have divided lunch containers that I use if packing from home. And I have emergency plastic cups and bowls that I use to divvy out chicken nuggets or some kind of food from a drive-thru when we are on the road. This helps to decrease trash explosions and reduces spillage!
Things will happen. And a few things you can plan ahead – for those just in case moments. Things like jumper cables. Or extra clothes for your kids. Or for YOU! Most of these “emergency” supplies don’t come to the car until after you have the emergency and DON’T have the supply you need. When you end up carrying home a pants-less child because of an accident. I have extra clothes for my kids in the car (you can guess my emergency that I didn’t have supplies for). Just think about who you guys are and where you go – and if there’s room, stick a few things in there. You will hopefully never have to be glad you did. But if you do, whew!!
Keeping things off the floor – while having what you need – is the trick to have a neat and highly functioning vehicle. But that IS the trick, right? Easier said than done? Some days, it’s just not going to happen, but one rainy Saturday, clean out that car! And you will be amazed how much space there is. And you might even find that lost soccer sock or the missing chicken nugget… Gross.