How to Organize Your Car

I don’t know about you guys but, for some reason, my car is always the last place I think of cleaning.   It’s no wonder that it had turned into a giant mess.  The seats were stained, there was junk everywhere, and I don’t even want to think of what fossilized food bits were lurking under the kids’ booster seats.  My poor car was in bad shape and was in desperate need of a deep cleaning.  It was in such bad shape, that I actually took it in to have it professionally detailed.  Not good!!!

Given how disgusting my car was, I must say that the money spent on having it cleaned was definitely worth it but not something that I want to do again. 

Thus “Project Car Organization” began…

Tips and tricks to organize and clean your car!
Once I had my nice clean car back, there was a huge box of “stuff” remaining that the car detailers had collected from my car.  I went through everything and figured out what I needed to keep in the car and what had to be put away elsewhere.  Like organizing any other space, you need to get rid of what you don’t really need or use.  If you are trying to figure out what items you should store in your car, keep a list in the car for a month and write down everything that you wished you had that you didn’t.  At the end of the month, go through everything that is in the car and ask yourself if you really need those items that you didn’t use throughout the month.

Okay, now you need to organize everything!!

My Jeep Liberty has the teeniest, tiniest, glove box ever.   Even my registration papers had to be jammed in there and they were constantly getting stuck in the back.  Trying to add any maps or other paper work in there was pretty much impossible.  So I ended up giving up on the glove box in favor of a folding file folder that I store under the front passenger seat.

Use a file folder in your car to store insurance papers, maps, coupons, car receipts, etc.
Use a file folder in the car to hold insurance papers, maps, car related receipts coupons, etc.
I have a section for maps, insurance papers, the car CD manual, car receipts {such as oil changes}, coupons and trailer papers.  The file folder is from the Martha Stewart line at Staples and I picked it up when I found my planner.

Now that the glove box was freed up, I put in a dry cleaning sponge {this is great for dusting the dashboard}, an extra pair of sunglasses, and some pens and paper.

Tips and tricks for organizing and cleaning your car.
See?  I told you it was the smallest glove box ever!!!

We have a car DVD player that hangs from the front seat head rests.  I was initially reluctant to get one of these but it really is a sanity saver when we are going on long road trips.  There are actually two screens but, most of the time, the kids just watch on the same screen.  On the other head rest, I have a storage pocket for all of the other kids toys, games, books, snacks, etc. {and it also holds the second DVD screen}.  My kids are both huge talkers so they are usually much more interested in yakking our ears off than playing.  I think the toys are really much more for my benefit when I just need a little bit of quiet time.  If we are doing a bigger road trip the kids do bring a few more toys but, in general, they just have a couple of items each that are stored in the car on a regular basis.

Tips and tricks for organizing and cleaning your car!
The organizer bag is from The Container Store.  It actually looks like it is empty but there are really items in there!  The pockets are just nice and deep.

Okay, now those odds ‘n ends items.  This is where I really narrowed things down. Here is my must have list:
  • moist wipes for my crazy, messy children {also great for quickly wiping down the dashboard if I am waiting in the car}
  • anti-bacterial spray which I use daily for work
  • a little lipstick for those days that I have to run out of the house without makeup {this happens way too often!}
  • my USB cable so I can play my iphone tunes
  • a place to hold my quarter and loonie for shopping carts {I keep the change in an empty medicine bottle}
  • little garbage bags {I use those rolls of small garbage bags that are supposed to be used to hold dirty diapers – perfect car size!}
  • my dollar store back rest.  Best dollar spent ever!
  • sunglasses
Tips and tricks for organizing and cleaning your car.
Everything fits in the middle console or the cup holder organizer that I picked up at The Container Store.  I also have a sunglasses holder that is clipped above my sun visor.  I have really light sensitive eyes and it can switch from rain to sun and back again many times throughout the day around here!

Car organization and cleaning tips.
{Okay, I really should have cleaned those glasses while I was at it!}

I have a bag of jumper cables and some basic repair tools {not that I would know how to use them!} that are stored underneath our floor mat in the trunk.  I also keep six bottles of water, some granola bars, a flashlight, and a couple of blankets in a bin in the trunk for a little emergency kit.  There is also an air compressor, an umbrella, and a few little parts for our tow bar that are stored in there as well. 

Tips and tricks for organizing and cleaning your car.
I have two first aid kits – one with more basic, frequently used supplies {band-aids, Polysporin, anti-bacterial wipes, tweezers, Tylenol, After Bite, etc.)  and one with less used items such as larger bandages and gauze, a triangle bandage, an emergency blanket, scissors, etc.  

Tips and tricks for organizing and cleaning your car.
If you remember my Boo Boo Box from last summer, this is just a simplified version.  I’ll usually add a few more items before we leave for a camping trip.

Tips and tricks for organizing your car.
Now that the car is cleaned and organized, there is just a minute or two of daily maintenance to keep it that way.  I am also trying to make sure I schedule in a little extra cleaning time about once per month.


STEP ONE - Clear out to the car. Grab a garbage bag and two bins – one for things that are to stay in the car and one for things that do not belong in the car.  Work your way through your car tossing the items into the appropriate bins.  Remove car seats and shake out any removable car rugs.  Once your car is organized, this step should be really quick!

STEP TWO - Vacuum Get out your vacuum {or handheld} and any little attachments that it may come with.  I have a long skinny attachment {that is great for getting into those little spaces} and I mini vacuum attachment that connects to the hose.  Vacuum down floors, removable rugs, and upholstery.

STEP THREE - Wipe and Clean
Dashboard and other rubber or vinyl surfaces- I use a water bottle to spray down all of the surfaces and then wipe them down with a Norwex microfiber cloth.  If you have added grime that you need to remove you can make a paste with baking soda and water and use a small scrub brush {or toothbrush} to get into all of those little spaces.  Once everything is clean, I give the plastic and rubber surfaces a final wipe using Armor All spray for a little extra shine.

Upholstery and carpet – The Norwex cloths can also be used to remove minor stains from the upholstery.  For deeper stains, I use a mixture of dish detergent and water and a stiff brush.  Funny enough, the worst stains that I have had to remove on my upholstery have just been plain old water marks.

Mirrors and Glass -  I use water and a Norwex window cloth to clean the mirrors and glass.  I have also heard that the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work great on the front headlights although I haven’t actually had to try this.

Now that things are more clean and organized, I can’t believe that I spent so much time driving around in such a messy car!  Two months later and things are still looking good!

Does anyone else have any great car organization tips to share?  I would love to hear them!

Happy organizing!!  Have a great week!


  1. says

    I love all your ideas Jenn! My problem is I do a Great job the first time…and LOVE a clean organized car- but then the slip happens. I don’t keep up on it! ARGHH!!! I am liking your first aid kit! Thank you for sharing all your great ideas!

  2. says

    Jenn! I feel inspired…funny how being a Mommy makes you think of the “what if’s” way more. Meaning a first aid kit in my car!!! Must jump on your bandwagon my friend! xoxo

  3. says

    I bought a mini utility bin from 31 and it is perfect size for “walmart bag” trash can! I have a small bin in the trunk that holds all of my misc stuff and then a small tote bag in the front seat for all my cords, pens, tissue, wipes etc this works out great because I am usually the only one in the front, but if I have an extra passenger the tote easily moves to the trunk. I tried the cup holder organizer, but couldn’t stand it as I usually have a soda and water with me at all times! lol. Thanks for the share…I forsure need a quick wipe down and vacuum!

  4. says

    Hi, Jenn! This is my first visit to your blog. I’m visiting from Yvonne’s party. Great tips! I must agree that that is indeed one of the teensiest glove compartments I have ever seen! Wow! My husband and I ARE the fossilized bits in the car since we’re “of a certain age.” I drive a luxury car that looks like a dumpster, and his is 20 times worse. I might as well have bought an actual motorized dumpster! Seriously, until I take my car in for its regular service, it doesn’t get washed! Their complimentary wash is the best thing that could happen for my car, I’m sure!!! Sad, but true. I have a lot of the items you suggest, but they’re just all loose and hanging out willy nilly. I like the containers you suggested. They appear to be compact and handy. We don’t have small children (obviously, since we’re old!), but we do take frequent road trips. These same ideas will apply! Great tips!

  5. says

    I love how you have a place for everything in the car! Thanks so much for sharing! I especially appreciate the paper file for auto information/maps and the emergency kit. Well done!

  6. says

    I’ve used one of those sponges to get the cat fur off my furniture, but never knew it was good for dusty dashboards. Thanks for the tip!

    I’m visiting from StoneGable. Would love it if you’d stop by and see my Homemade Gnocchi Tutorial.


  7. says

    Wow. Thanks for the great ideas. Why is it so hard to keep the van clean? It seems like a never-ending project. These ideas will definitely help. I’d love for you to link up this (and any other ideas you’d like to share) at “One Creative Weekend” on

  8. says

    Awesome tips. I’m glad I’m not the only one whose car gets neglected! You have totally inspired me to go and tackle the beast! And a beast it is, we drive a big suburban! I found your blog through Craft o Maniac. Your blog is awesome! So many incredible ideas, I can’t wait to look around some more. I just became your newest follower, and would be flattered if you stopped by my brand new blog and took a look. If you feel so inclined, follow me too! Thanks so much for the tips!

  9. says

    Great tips! Thank you!
    Just an FYI:
    If you live somewhere where the interior of your car gets above 80 degrees, you shouldn’t leave plastic water bottles inside. The heat allows BPA, a known carcinogen, to leak into the water.

    • Crystal says

      While I agree with you these water bottles are part of an emergency kit and I would say leave them in there anyways because if by chance you ended up in an emergency would you rather have some water that has some BPA in it or no water at all. You do not want to dehydrate yourself especially in an emergency. I feel that if you only drank the ‘BPA water’ in an emergency you would be fine, I just wouldn’t drink it on a regular basis. I would get a stainless steel bottle and use that on a daily basis.

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