When I started decluttering, I focused on various areas of my house. I started in my closet, then moved on to my bedroom, and then the kitchen. It didn’t occur to me that my car was just as cluttered as my house.
At some point I wised up to the fact that I had a messy car. I was always afraid that someone might ask for a ride, because they would see the mess that lived in my car.
I often road to lunch with my coworkers, and they had spotless interiors in their cars. I could never understand how they kept them so clean.
The secret is in two parts, and I’ll share it with you today.
Part 1: Remove the items you don’t use daily
I always subscribed to the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared.” This motto has led to a lot of clutter over the years. This was definitely the case for car clutter. I tried to have everything I might need in my car. That included jackets, pillows, blankets, tools, jumper cables, spare parts, money (change and bills), sunscreen, and probably some other stuff that I can’t recall at this point.
How much of that really gets used though? That answer varies depending on your location and the season, but you don’t really need most of the stuff you think you do.
As you are going through your car, evaluate each item. Ask yourself if you have used each item in the last year. Then ask yourself what would happen if you needed that item and didn’t have it.
Pillows and blankets, are great for long trips, but they don’t need to live in your car. Tools might be needed if your car breaks down, but would it be better to keep them at home and call your spouse or friend to come get you when that happens?
Think about what you really need in your car, and put everything else back in your house or garage. For us, that meant removing the blankets, pillows, and tools. We kept a small first aid kit, jumper cables, and one bottle of sunscreen. We also have sweaters or sweatshirts that are kept in the trunk seasonally. For us, in a warm climate, that means they are in the car in the summer when we need them for the overly air conditioned stores and restaurants. In the winter, we always wear them, so they stay in the house rather than the car.
Part 1 Bonus Tip: Not everything needs to be out in the open or in oft used areas. Store the jumper cables under the trunk floor with the spare tire. The owners manual can go in a plastic baggie and get stored under the floor of the trunk also. Find places to stash those rarely used safety items so they aren’t on display.
Part 2: Every time you arrive at home, remove everything that doesn’t belong.
I know… your exhausted after a long day and a long commute. I am too, but it literally takes seconds after turning off the key to gather the items that don’t belong. The fast food bag from lunch, the toys the kids dragged along, the errant napkin, the french fry that escaped it’s container. All these things can be gathered up in mere seconds and whisked away.
I used to travel a lot for work, and the fast food bags would pile up in the back seat. It’s a disgusting habit to toss trash in the back seat, and one I’m not proud of.
I have started grabbing that trash at every stop, not just at home. If I stop at a store, movie theater, or any other destination, there is almost always a trash can available. I gather my small bit of trash and drop it in the trash can.
Have your kids get all their stuff as they exit the car. My daughter often brings little playthings when we go about our daily life. She brings toys, or books, or things to color and draw with. Unless we tell her to gather up her stuff when we get home, it stays in the back seat. As you are gathering your items, make sure you ask your kids to gather theirs.
Part 2 Bonus Tip: Remove trash every time you stop for gas. I don’t always follow through with the goal of removing everything when I get home. I use my gas stops as a reset, and gather any trash and drop it in the trash can. Most gas stations have a trash can within steps of the pump, so it’s super easy to grab the trash and toss it in the trash can.
It’s really quite easy to stay clutter free in your car. Much easier than keeping your home clutter free. Take some time this week to clean out your car and see if you can keep it clutter free for the rest of the month. After that it will become second nature and you’ll find it easier to keep it clean and uncluttered. The best part is that you’ll be able to invite others for rides without being super embarrassed.
Who’s up for the clutter free car challenge? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.