Most of us spend a lot of time in our vehicles. Sometimes they can feel like a home away from home — or even like our major place of residence, if we have long commutes, multiple jobs, or otherwise spend more time in the car than we do anywhere else. All that means stuff can really pile up — in the backseat, in the front seat, in the trunk, on the floorboards. Before you know it you’re ankle-deep — or something comes flying from the backseat during a sudden stop, scaring you to death. Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to declutter your car and keep it that way.
Deal with trash. The first step is to deal with trash. Go through your vehicle and gather up all the trash into a trash bag (or two). If you can do it without losing your momentum, separate the recyclables from the trash. Otherwise, just pitch it all and resolve to do better next time. Once you have all the trash removed, set up a system for dealing with the trash as you go. You can get yourself a fancy car trash bag that velcro’s to the console or you can just keep a plastic shopping bag handy to capture trash and be thrown out at the end of the day or week.
Put items where they actually belong. You’re sure to find things in your car that aren’t trash but that also doesn’t belong in the car. Bring a laundry basket or other receptacle and fill it with the items that go elsewhere, such as the house or garage. Then put the items away immediately. For items that belong in the glove box or center console, put them there right away — but be honest with yourself about what really needs to live in your car full time. The same goes for the trunk. Organize your emergency supplies and be honest about what you need to have in the truck at all times.
Put systems in place. Find organizers or other systems that will keep things tidy. Seatback organizers are great for all those bits and pieces that kids tend to have in the backseat, as well as for maps and other items. Make good use of your seatback pockets. Clear the change out of your cupholder or ashtray and put it in a recycled mint tin or another small container. Trunk organizers are great for keeping your emergency supplies handy and also for corralling things that have to be transported in the trunk. Once you set up a system, remember to use it!
Wipe it down. Once all the visible clutter is tamed and removed, take a moment to wipe the surfaces of the car down with a wipe or a rag and cleaner. Remove the gunk from the cupholder. (A silicone cupcake holder in the cupholder can help cut down on messes.) Dust the dash, clean the knobs from any fingerprints and stickiness. Seeing it all clean will be the motivation to keep it that way. While you’re at it, shake out the floor mats, vacuum, and even go for a wash and wax.
Make it a habit. Now that you’ve decluttered and cleaned, make it a habit to keep things that way. Throw trash away when you generate it or collect it in a bag to throw out each day or week. Take items back into the house or garage each day rather than letting them pile up. Do a quick scan for messes and wipe them up before they get sticky or gross. Scan the backseat each day if you have kids so that the old layer of Cheerios and crayons don’t get a chance to build up.