Along with all the other New Year’s resolutions most Americans wind up making and then breaking, there are some that are not only worthwhile but can add peace of mind and even some measure of safety.
High on the list is the resolve to clear out all the accumulated detritus and debris – junk – from the family car. If just looking at the mountain of stuff you carry around with you daily is enough to give you a headache and prompt further procrastination, take a few minutes to check out these 10 tips to get you started on this important task.
Learn and live the six-month rule. Like reorganizing your closets at home to get rid of items you haven’t worn in quite some time, when applied to the family car, think about what you haven’t had any reason to use for the past six months. Obviously, this may mean storing elsewhere the snorkel and beach gear in the dead of winter when it’s clearly not going to be required for family outings for at least a half year. Ditto the ice scraper and sandbags you carry in the trunk as winter precautions. Be judicious and ruthless when it comes to parting with or removing items from your car. You can always store them in a box in the garage or basement, for easy retrieval later (unless, of course, your organizational skills are really bad and you can’t find what you’ve put away).
Ditch all trash. Old fast-food wrappers and containers, pizza boxes with crusts still in them, that pile of discarded water bottles, soda cans, juice containers, along with napkins, packets of condiments, plastic cutlery and such have no place in a tidy car. Get out a big plastic trash bag and start dumping them in. If the bottles and cans are recyclable, put them in a separate bag – and then take them promptly to the recycling area to claim your money or place in a recycle bin. Besides getting rid of the trash, you’ll also help your car to smell a lot better.
Pick up blankies, binkies, Game Boys and music CDs. What family doesn’t have an assortment of carry-along items that just have to accompany them on any outing? Over time – and it doesn’t take much time for these items to really pile up – the family car is chock full of all sorts of extraneous bits and pieces. Make it a point to clear out whatever doesn’t come as standard equipment in the vehicle. Teach your children to pick up after themselves, carting their toys and music CDs, Game Boys and other amusements back into the house. Not only is this going to contribute to a less-crowded vehicle, but who needs a CD or Boy Scout flashlight sliding under the driver’s foot or hurtling through the air as an errant projectile during sudden braking?
Remove items hanging from the rearview mirror. Maybe that dreamcatcher, or the multi-colored necklace you got as a gift, or the healing crystal you just had to have all seemed like a good idea at the time, but the fact is that they shouldn’t be hanging from the rearview mirror. They’re distracting, serve no useful purpose and simply should be moved elsewhere – preferably someplace where you can better appreciate them.
Scour the cubbies and bins for forgotten items. Don’t just do a cursory sweep of the car’s interior. You also need to dig into the cubby holes and hideaway bins for items you placed there, when? Likely as not, you’ll be surprised at what you uncover. Whether it brings back good memories or not, revisit tip number one. If you haven’t had any use for it for six months, it should go.
Don’t forget to look under the seats. Maybe you think that it’s only what you can clearly see that matters, but there is also quite a bit of junk that may be hidden underneath seats. Magazines you thought you’d read while waiting for someone at the mall or the doctor’s office, paper maps and Trip-Tiks, directions you scribbled down in case you needed them – pull the stuff out and give it the boot.
Unearth goodies from the console. One side benefit of cleaning out the front-seat console may be the treasure trove of coins you discover. While cupholders may initially prove a handy receptacle for change, it usually winds up going into the console when you can’t fit your portable beverage into the cupholders. Bring a plastic baggie or a cup with you and plop the coins into it to take into the house and count. Better yet, keep a container in the house or garage where you accumulate the money until you decide to do something with the largesse.
Clean out the trunk. By far the largest area and biggest junk accumulator is generally the trunk. Here’s where most families tend to lose interest in the job. After all, that’s where the spare tire (or spare tire inflation kit) is stored, along with a first-aid kit which, by the way, every family car should have. But you probably forget it’s also home to numerous items you may have displaced from inside the car to a less conspicuous place. This doesn’t mean these items belong in the trunk. Be ruthless and clean the trunk as carefully as you would the car’s interior.
Get thee to a car organizer. After you’ve gone through the inside of the car and the trunk and gotten rid of what you can, you’re still likely to have some stuff that you feel you need to keep in the car. Fortunately for you, there are a number of car organizers available to help keep these things from flying around and/or piling up. Whether it’s an expandable compartmentalized grocery bag holder for the trunk or other types of organizers, these are inexpensive and very practical ways to keep things in order.
Make it a family affair. Why go it alone in getting the junk out of the family car, especially since what you’re dealing with is the result of the habits of everyone in the family? Decide to have a family car clean-out party, set up a day and a time, and cap it all off with a celebratory meal out or a pizza that’s delivered. Turn a task into a fun event.
Bottom line: Whether you consider the family vehicle a living room on wheels, a mobile office, a commuter car or a car-pool participant, every household can benefit from getting rid of the junk that has no business being there.
This article originally appeared at The Car Connection.