See the Happy

7 Tips to keep a tidy car

Years ago when my kids were young (and one didn’t even exist yet) we were searching for a new van. When we finally found one that we felt would work for us, we ended up choosing to trade in our old one. I wasn’t planning on doing this so I hadn’t bothered to clean out my old van.  Well, it was quite embarrassing as we had to ask for a garbage sack and then another to clean out everything that was in our van.  I was mortified at the amount of stuff that covered the floor, seat and trunk of that vehicle.  Has this ever happened to you? Well, from that time forth I promised myself that I would never let my van get that bad again, EVER!

Over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks to keeping it tidy in between the more extensive cleanings. Now this doesn’t mean my car is always immaculate, it just means that if I have to give someone a ride on the fly, I am not embarrassed to do so.

1. A trash bag, or two. This is the first things I recommend. Not having a trash bag was my biggest mistake.  My cup holders were my trash before and those could only hold so much, so then where did it go? On the floor.  After getting my new van and making my new commitment to keeping it clean, I remembered that I had seen a cute trash bag at The Quilted Bear and decided, no matter the cost, I was gonna get one.  When I went to buy it, the booth that I remembered seeing them in was empty.  I asked about it and they told me that the person who made those no longer sold them.  So I made my own, and now I sell them in my booth at The Quilted Bear in Draper Utah and on Etsy as well, find these trash bags for the car HERE.  Yes, you can just throw a plastic grocery sack in your car for the trash, but I feel that sometimes you just need a little bling in your life and replacing an ugly old grocery sack with a beautiful, trash bag (which you can actually place your ugly grocery sack in, cause recycling is good) can bring a little smile to your face.

2.What goes in must come out-Vow to take something out of the car every time you leave it to go in your house. With little ones there are always toys and different things that they bring for the car rides and their stuff can pile up very quickly.  If you take something out, and tell your child to do the same each time you leave it, your car will stay clean longer.

3. Window Wipes- Keep  a package in your car.  This one I picked up from a friend years ago when I was complaining to her about how much I hate, hate, hate the smudges on the windows that seam to appear from no where when you have little people traveling with you.  Especially in the winter months when they love to draw in the fog of the window.  I remember my parents getting on my case when I would draw on the windows, I didn’t understand why they were such party poopers.  Funny how, once we have children of our own, we understand the why to things like that.  So many times I would notice the smudges and I’d tell myself, “right when I get home I’m going to get the window cleaner and a rag and clean those windows.”  But then I walk into my house and everything from the outside world is forgotten, because then I’m distracted with the mess before me and the list of a million things to be done. Consequently the windows in my van stay a smeared ugly mess.  But when you have window wipes right there available, you can do it as you’re waiting to pick up the kids after school, just before you run into a store, or BEFORE you go into the house after running your errands. The wipes make it convenient to clean up the smudges at the time that you realize they exist.

4. Air freshener. Smell makes a big difference for me. I love getting into my car when it has a pleasant smell rather than sour milk or stinky feet.  I think that when your home or your car smells good it can affect your mood for the better. For me it almost closes my eyes to the mess. I have tried everything from the “little trees” to the Bath & Body Works “scentportables”.  Right now I have a scented sachet from The Quilted Bear which I have had since mid December. 

5. Small broom and dustpan.  This is the newest edition to my pursuit to a clean car. Earlier this month I was giving someone a ride and as I was taking the booster seat out to make space I noticed crumbs on the floor.  Crumbs sure can make a car look icky. I don’t have time to vacuum my car every week.  In the winter it’s even worse, the last thing I want to be doing is vacuuming my car in the freezing cold, so it just doesn’t happen all winter.  I found myself trying to sweep them out with my hand and wished I had a little broom. So I bought one to keep in my van and it works really well for a quick crumb elimination.  Of course it isn’t as good as a vacuum but it looks so much better than crumbs, crumbs everywhere.  In some of the newer minivans they now have a built in vacuum- why didn’t they think of that before! Of course you could ban food from you car all together, but when you’re hauling toddlers everywhere you go, sometimes for your sanity, they need snacks in the car.

6. Surface wipes- weather you want to use these or just baby wipes, keep something available to wipe down surfaces of the car.  Dust accumulates fast as well as finger prints.  These are great for when you’re waiting in the car for kids, in line at the bank, or stuck in traffic. Do a quick wipe down. I really like these specific ones, they smell so good and really make the surfaces shine.

7. Folder for coupons.  I tend to keep coupons in the car for unexpected stops to restaurants or other favorite places of mine like Joann, Micheal’s and Hobby Lobby.  YES, you can eliminate clutter by just getting their apps, this has cut down a lot of the coupons I carry but places like Joann will let you use more than one coupon so I like to hold on to the adds. Keeping them in a folder keeps them together and helps your space look less cluttered.

BONUS TIP- Join a carpool.  Being a part of a carpool where I pick up 5 other girls besides my daughter, forces me to keep clutter out.  We use every seat in my van on the day I drive so before we head out to pick them all up I do a once over real quick, where I make sure the space is clear for them to walk/sit.

I hope these tips are helpful in keeping your car tidy between cleanings.  Feel free to share, in the comments, things you do to keep your car from being a cluttered, embarrassing mess.  I would love to see them.


29 thoughts on “7 Tips to keep a tidy car

  1. Terrie Cunningham

    Loved this article you wrote and all the pictures were very motivating . I have one of your “car trash bags” you made and LOVE it!! I need to be better about keeping my car clean. When I bought my car I swore I’d never let it get messy but I’ve slacked a bit so thanks for your advice. I will start anew again tomorrow. It really does make a difference to get into a nice clean, good smelling car versus a smell, cluttered car.

    1. Meg Post author

      Terrie, I am so glad this article was helpful to you. It makes me happy that you are loving the trash bag I made. Good luck with keeping your car tidy!

  2. robin Rue

    These are all great tips. I have stopped letting my kids eat in the car. It saves me from cleaning up their mess after the fact.

    1. Meg Post author

      Kindness in Demand, I hope the tips help. I think starting with one thing, like the wipes in the car, will totally lead to another later and you will find that it gets better and easier to keep up on it. Baby steps, GOOD LUCK!

  3. Laura

    These are great tips…as much as I’d love to blame my son, I am probably the worst culprit. I get so busy during the week that by the time I get home I end up going, “ah it can wait until tomorrow” and then it drags out for a couple of weeks until I hit clean out mode. I would say I am probably more conscious of having my son clean up than I hold myself accountable for…but I think these tips will help greatly! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Meg Post author

      Laura, I hope they help. I tend to do the same thing, getting so busy and then too tired when I actually have the time. I have become pretty good at making use of every second in the car though, so waiting at red lights, in line at the bank, or waiting to pick up kids, I try to use that time to look around my car and see what I can do to make it better. Good Luck!!

  4. Angela Tolsma

    I am a what goes in must come out girl. I don’t have a garbage bag, because every stop means everyone takes their crap with them. But then again, I don’t have kids and only deal with adults. I totally have window wipes, in fact I have a car cleaning kit in the car haha

    1. Meg Post author

      Angela, good for you!! These are great habits have. Now if I could enforce them in my home as well, LOL. It sounds like you have it down:)

  5. Lisa Collins

    I need to start carrying wipes in my van badly. With toddler twins they are always covering the glass in hand prints and other various substances lol!

    1. Meg Post author

      TWINS Lisa? Wow, you have your hands full and yes, double the hand prints. I love having the wipes on hand to take care of the messy prints when I see them. I admire moms of twins, Keep up the good work:)

  6. Angela

    I love these tips! If there’s one thing that drives me nuts is to see the car not tidy. From your tips I guess my favourite is what goes in must come out!!!

  7. Terri Steffes

    I travel a lot in my car for work and my car is constantly trashed. I loved your tips and am going to vow to keep it in better shape!

  8. Tereza

    These are fab tips. Keeping the car clean, especially in the rainy England, is something we are struggling with. Let’s see whether we get better! x

  9. Christine

    I love the what goes in must come out rule, but I’d have to obey it first to lead by example and I am terrible at it. I swear I always have 2 or 3 sweatshirts in the car, plus numerous extra outfits and diapers for the kids. I have started to shove it all in a bag so that when I do want to take it out it is easier and now it is all in one spot at least!

  10. Melissa

    we all spend so much time in our cars I for one need it to be clean and fresh smelling. Your tips are great even though I do most of that already. The coupon folder should be in the car because we always forget them.

  11. Jean

    Some great tips for keeping a tidy car! Especially the case when you have kids, but I think some of these apply to my car when there is only me in it!

  12. Josue Bessler

    I really appreciate your tip to try and focus a lot of your efforts on the parts of the car that touch the road the most. My wife and I have been thinking of getting our son a new car, and we want to make sure that he keeps his car clean. I will be sure to suggest to him that he should focus on keeping the parts of his car clean that touch the road the most!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *