Stow and Go
Chances are you spend quite a bit of time in your car. The average American commutes 26.1 minutes to work each way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And if you live in a traffic-intensive city like Los Angeles, New York, or Washington D.C., where the average commute lasts more than half an hour, your car might feel like a second home.
When you add in trips to the market and the gym, your child’s playdates, and the many other errands that are part of everyday life, that “second home” can quickly become a cluttered mess, stressing you out and decreasing your car's usable space. Make your life a little calmer and keep your ride a little cleaner with these 10 ways to maximize car storage.
No Junk in the Trunk
Far too many car trunks are crammed with junk: forgotten sports equipment, empty food packaging, multiple bungee cords, and that sandy blanket you never washed after your last trip to the beach. Start on the path to better storage by clearing everything out of the trunk. Throw away trash, return misplaced items to their rightful homes, and then vacuum the trunk thoroughly to remove dirt and grime. Once the trunk is empty and clean, add a couple of collapsible storage bins—you can often find these at dollar stores, so there's no need to spend much—that are large enough to keep grocery bags upright on the trip home, carry toys to the beach, or hold your daughter’s soccer gear on the way to the field. When they're not in use, simply fold the bins flat.
Clean Up the Movable Feast
If the aroma of old fast-food French fries wafts out of your car whenever you open the door, the rattle of empty cans punctuates your every turn, and you no longer need to keep a food diary because you can just look over the empty packaging that litters the floor of your car, it’s time to get your kitchen-on-wheels under control. First, toss all the trash. Next, stash some empty plastic bags under your seat so you'll always have a trash bag handy. Third, commit yourself to tossing all leftovers, wrappers, and disposable cups as soon as you arrive at your destination. Your car will look and smell much better, and you'll open up space for the things you actually need.
Gather Emergency Supplies
Every car should have a basic emergency kit, but that doesn't mean you should strew random supplies haphazardly throughout your car. Instead, load a backpack with a small first aid kit, a space blanket, a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, flares or a reflective hazard sign, bottled water, a granola bar or similar long-lasting food item, a cellphone charger, a roll of duct tape, and a small tool kit or multi-tool. Keep the backpack in the trunk or under a seat where it will be easy to grab when needed.
Watch Out for the Dog
Fido may love his car rides, but the hair he leaves all over the seat is no treat for the next person who sits there. Plus, dogs’ toenails can be rough on car upholstery, particularly leather, leaving behind scratches and tears. The solution? Protect your car’s back seat with a cover whenever your dog is along for the ride. While there are products sold specifically for this purpose, an old towel or throw blanket works just as well and is easy to toss into the laundry when it gets too dirty or hairy.
Keep the Back Seat Neat
If you chauffeur kids around town, you know how bad the back seat can get. Between their snacks, their jackets, their papers from school, and their toys, clutter multiplies with alarming speed, taking over the seat and the floor. Keep things under control by hanging a small bag—a plastic grocery bag does the job nicely—over the backs of both front seats to give your kids somewhere to toss trash. Place a box in the center of the back seat to corral car toys and, as a bonus, keep the kids apart, which might cut down on the annoying cries of “She touched me!”
Stash Necessities in the Glove Compartment
The days of storing gloves in the glove compartment are decades behind us, and in many modern cars, the small tilt-down receptacle isn’t really big enough to hold more than a few small articles. So what should you keep in there? It’s the perfect spot for your sunglasses, a package of facial tissues, a small microfiber cloth for dusting the dashboard, and perhaps a travel-size comb or brush. Whatever you do, keep it tidy and resist the temptation to jam unnecessary items in the glove compartment.
Conquer Console Clutter
The center console is often a car’s equivalent of the kitchen junk drawer, packed with all manner of miscellany, making it impossible to find what you need when you need it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a couple of small dollar-store drawer organizers, it’s easy to keep the center console in order. Use the organizers to neatly sort essentials. Your list may vary, but possible items include your phone charger, lip balm, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a coin pouch with parking meter and toll money, a few paper napkins or paper towels, pen and paper, hair scrunchies or rubber bands for ponytail emergencies, moisturizer, and a travel-size lint brush to touch up your clothes when needed.
Looking for a spot inside your car to store important papers? All you need is an expandable file folder with multiple pockets and a clip or strap to keep it closed. Use it to stash your car’s proof of registration, insurance card, receipts and records for repairs or basic maintenance, owner’s manual, and a pad of paper with pen. Once everything is neatly organized in the appropriate pocket, stash the entire file folder under the front seat, where it will be nearby when you need it, but not cluttering the car.
Put Your Visor to Work
Your car's window visor can do more than just block the sun from your eyes. Strap a few elastic bands around the visor, and you'll have a spot to stash your sunglasses, tuck a packet of wet wipes, hold CDs (yes, some people still listen to them!), clip your garage or gate opener, store your work ID badge when you’re off duty, or hold any other fairly flat item that you want close by while you're on the road.
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