12 Genius Ways To Organize Your Car (That Would Never Work For Parents)

by Christina Antus
Originally Published: 
A brunette woman in a burgundy shirt from the back driving her car down a road
MilosStankovic / iStock

I recently ran across this handy dandy article about how to organize your car. I’m not at all criticizing the person who wrote this. In fact, these are great ideas and this person clearly has her shit together. I haven’t had my shit together since I had my second kid because I lost it along with the 40 misplaced cups of coffee I’m still looking for.

I want to be a neat-freak and organized, I do. But, let’s face it, the last thing most of us want to do at the end of the day is clean our car — our mobile trashcan on wheels that is the home of toy parts, discarded socks, and sippy cups that have become an accidental science experiment. The average family vehicle is home to empty juice boxes and cookie crumbs the baby would still eat if you let him, and sometimes you do if it means he’ll stop whining.

The only time my car was ever clean after I had become a parent was when we bought it. The reality for me is that my car would never stay like the one in this article. To further explain the impracticality this has for my life, and other parents like me, allow me to elaborate:

Photo 1. Pack a Kit in a Decorative Bin: A wicker basket makes for cute storage outside the house, too. A deep one, like this, is great for keeping emergency supplies and tools at the ready.

What I want to know is why anyone cares if their car bin is cute. You’re not hosting a party in your vehicle. Or maybe you are — I don’t know what you do with your time. A wicker basket is a terrible idea for most families, unless your end goal is to have a pile of wicker sticks scattered across your interior like storage confetti from getting kicked around the car and stepped on. My car needs a bin made out of the indestructible stuff airplane black boxes are made out of.

Photo 2. Fill Easy-Grab Pouches: Store smaller necessities, like a first-aid kit, toiletries, and kids’ favorite car activities in fabric bags that zip to hold everything in place.

Have you ever seen kids try to unzip anything? I have, and you know what this is? A huge, frustrating tantrum waiting to happen. It once took one of my kids 45 minutes to use Velcro. I can’t help her zip anything up going down I-25 at 75 miles per hour. All I can do is turn “Can’t Stop the Feeling” up on the radio and hope she’s inspired to feel the funk and forget about zippers for awhile. I can also guarantee that if your kids find out there is a first-aid kit in your car, you’ll be out of band-aids in 12 seconds.

Photo 3. Create a Glove Box Command Center: When you have dedicated file folders for important papers, you’ll never rifle for receipts or registrations again.

My glove box is probably the cleanest thing in my car because it houses my registration and proof of insurance. That’s it. That’s all that fits in there, besides two pairs of broken sunglasses. A three-ring binder would never fit in a glove box. So it would have to go on the seat or get casually tossed on the floor with the rest of the crap in your car. In the event a police officer pulls you over, you will probably be able to find the folder with the plastic on the front torn off, and your registration and insurance paperwork fused together with the sticky remnants of 3-week-old grape juice.

Photo 4. Re-purpose a Remote Control Caddy: Utilize the space near the floor (without actually cluttering it up) with a group of hanging pockets.

This looks amazing. And clean. I’m excited about the idea of this, but there is no way on this side of hell anyone in my family would ever put things back in those pockets. If they tried — which I highly doubt they would, because placing socks in a laundry basket is hard — they’d miss. This idea would last a half of a trip to Hobby Lobby before someone started throwing those markers from the remote control caddy while yelling, “I can’t stop the feeling, so just dance, dance, dance.”

Photo 5. Fill a Shower Caddy: These deep bins can sit between seats, keeps quibbling siblings’ stuff separated, and is easily removed thanks to the sturdy handle.

OK, this only works if you have a minivan. What about the rest of us who don’t? This bin ends up on the seat. That’s where it sits. Right on that smooth, slightly inclined seat without a flat surface or a pocket to secure it in. So when you slam on your breaks because someone threw a pencil at you from their remote control caddy pocket, this slides forward faster than an octopus on a downhill Slip ‘N Slide. The contents would come sailing out onto the floor like a tidal way of practicality gone wrong — a visual representation that ironically symbolizes how your life’s organization has become since having kids. The shower caddy only works for non-minivan-ers if it is securely fastened to the seat with liquid nails or sticky remnants of 3-week-old grape juice.

Photo 6. Store Tissues in Cup Holders: A to-go coffee cup (an unused one, please) filled with tissues means you can get that cardboard box off the floor for good.

You get that cardboard box of tissue off the floor for good, and replace it with a cardboard cup that holds a fraction of tissue than its original box did. So when your child, in mid-winter, sneezes snot-spray so massive it qualifies for its own zip code, you better use your two tissue wisely. Also, who has the time to wash a Starbucks cup out and fold tissue, so they come out of a re-cut cup lid? Plus, it’s likely to end up haphazardly tossed in the shower caddy before that plummets to the floor and rolls around for all eternity. Which defeats the entire purpose of doing this.

Photo 7. Make Backseats Work Way Harder: Plastic shower pockets hold everything a mom could possibly need on a road trip or a supermarket run with kids.

Because backseats don’t already work hard enough by holding 30-pound toddlers inside 20-pound car seats while they kick them. This is a great solution if you’re traveling. It really is. But a trip to Target? What else do you need to get a few groceries? A wallet, a list, your children. That’s it. You don’t need bug spray, snacks, and toilet paper — unless you’re traveling back in time to before Target existed, so that you can wait in the parking lot for its grand opening.

Photo 8. Fold Open a DIY Shelf: Hack your SUV’s trunk space by making it double-decker. This DIY shelf helps organize cargo and folds up when not in use.

Putting a shelf up in the backseat of my car seems like a good idea, but the sad reality is that it will allow me to stack more crap back there — an evenly divided sea of clutter. Also having the ability to fold back up just means it’ll never get used.

Photo 9. Try a Tray: Corral odds and ends that could use some visual tidying (like sunglasses and coins) in teeny acrylic trays, just like you would your office desk.

Obviously, this person has never seen my office desk. Let’s be honest, it’s not any better in there. There is no room for this in my car. All I have between me and the passenger seat is the shifter thing that keeps my car from going into reverse at the grocery store, and an empty Starbucks cup with weeks-old coffee in it, not tissues. This tray and all it would hold (gum wrappers, Starbucks stopper sticks, dust) would slide right onto my Glove Box Command Center, which would still be stuck to the floor in front of the passenger seat.

Photo 10. Clip-On Carabiners: These handy open-close hooks can hold everything from dry cleaning to umbrellas to grocery bags — and keep items from rolling around the backseat.

If you’re buying a watermelon and can’t figure out how to secure it on the floor without it rolling around like a bowling ball, put it on someone’s lap.

Photo 11. Tame Cord Chaos: Messy cords and cables can be an eyesore — and are dangerous if they slip beneath your feet when you’re driving. Neaten them by putting a phone holder in a cup holder, then using Command Cord Clips to secure wires and chargers.

My car is an eyesore. At this point, I seriously doubt a few cords and cables would make a difference aesthetically. I don’t have any cords lying around the floor of my car, but I would guess a cup-holder tissue box would be more dangerous rolling around your feet and the brake pedals. Neatening them with a phone holder, inside a cup holder, and then clips to secure them sounds like an awful lot of work. Maybe just toss them out onto the driveway and move on with your life.

Photo 12. Avoid Summer Stink: Heat can amplify smells. Avoid fumes in the car from sweaty clothes or forgotten food by neutralizing odors with a spray or masking them using a plug-in fragrance option like GH Seal holder Febreze Car Vent Clips.

The best way to avoid summer stink is to make sure everyone bathes and keep your car clean. In my case, the best solution is to keep the windows down because even though I know there is forgotten food lurking around my vehicle’s interior, the only way I’m going to find it is if it slithers out of hiding. And it could.

No one’s car looks like that. Except the person who wrote the original article. Or my husband. But he doesn’t drive the main car. He has the backup car, and we all know the backup car never has anyone in it but the driver. So, when he scoffs at me and turns his nose up at the filth-on-wheels I claim as mine, I simply shrug my shoulders. When he asks how he’s supposed to get into a car that regurgitates trash when the door opens, I simply tell him to kick the cardboard tissue box aside and use what’s left of that wicker basket to collect whatever trash is in his way. When he’s done, he can hang the basket on the carabiner. That will keep it from getting stuck to the floor with sticky remnants of 3-week-old grape juice.

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