We bought a new car this time last year and it's the first time I have ever owned a brand new car. So I'm just a tad passionate about keeping it clean and organized. Let's just say that I love to tell everyone about what I keep in my car door and that vacuuming out the car is my idea of a good time.
I'll get into lots of organizing and car cleanliness talk but first, let me tell you a bit about what we're driving and who we're hauling around. We have a 2022 Hybrid Toyota Sienna and we love it. We've been a one-car family since the summer of 2014 (before Cedric was born!) and haven't looked back. So both Chris and I drive the Sienna pretty equally. Currently we're transporting ourselves and our three kids, ages 9, 8, and 2 to and fro plus have room for three additional friends (and another person in the front seat if just Chris or I drive).
Prior to buying the Sienna we drove a 2008 Prius as our family car – and made it work! We had three car seats across the backseat of the Prius and it was totally fine. You don't know what you're missing until you try something new! At about 230,000 miles the Prius was starting to have some bigger issues like our dashboard with speed and gas tank indicator going completely black...not good. We considered a few different hybird and fully electric car options but I had been in my friend's hybrid Sienna and knew I liked the space and features of it. So I lobbied hard for the Sienna and we still feel it was a great choice for our family.
Now let's get into car organization. First, we have two general car rules that help keep the car clean:
+ No eating in the car and only water to drink. We've been flexible with Maeve on this rule if it will prevent a melt-down. However, we've recommitted to a zero-food policy because we know it's not safe to have kids eating in the car, and it's cleaner too.
+ Each person is responsible for taking out of the car whatever they bring in. I try to be really good about this! Often the boys both sit in the third row and they are not great about bringing up and out things they take back there. But with reminding and an occasional trip back there it stays pretty tidy.
Now let's talk specifics about car organization systems and products. Compared to our Prius, the Sienna has much more space for keeping things on hand and smart organization. Some features I really appreciate are having cup holders galore, space to store things in the drivers' side and passenger doors, a deep console, and a large open space below the gear shift and cup holders. Here's how I use those different spaces and the things I keep on hand:
+ Tissues, wet wipes, and baby face wipes in the doors. I find myself reaching for these things often in the car and am always so glad to have them. Discovering the cylindrical "car Kleenex" last year was a revelation. In the driver-side door I keep a car Kleenex, a canister of Wet Ones, and a pack of baby face wipes or Boogie Wipes. I like to have the later on hand to wipes Maeve's before and after daycare, if needed, and find these wipes to be much gentler than Wet Ones. I also keep tissues and Wet Ones in the passenger-side door.
+ Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, a pen, cuticle trimmers, and a trash can in the open console. Hand sanitizer is a must and, during the winter when it won't melt, I keep a tube of Trader Joe's sunscreen here as well. I like to put the sunscreen on the back of my hands to protect them from sun exposure while I drive. I keep cuticle trimmers on hand to keep my nails looking lovely. And, I found a great little car trash can that fits in the open space as well.
+ Packable bags, glasses, face masks and flossers for Chris in the middle console. I try to bring reusable bags with me anywhere I'll need a bag. For places like Target or Home Depot I love to use Baggu bags which hold a lot but fold up small. I keep two of these folded up in the middle console as well as a couple other similar bags. Chris and I both have glasses to use while driving at night that we keep in the car. Chris has become a devout between-meals flosser so I filled a clean, empty hummus container with flossers and that's worked great. Additionally, we always have a couple of face masks in the console for when we need them. I bought a tray that fits at the top of the console that was so handy! Then the console door got something stuck in it that we can't get out – blerg! – and no longer opens all the way, making it harder to use the tray. Anyway, once we get that fixed it will be a great accessory again.
+ Nested reusable grocery bags behind the drivers seat/Maeve's car seat. We dutifully bring our grocery bags to the store and I like to keep them in the car so that we never forget them.
There are also a few other things I'm glad to have on hand in the car:
+ A braided, 3-ft USB phone cord stays plugged in the dash outlet. To connect our phones to Apple CarPlay and to charge them. An extra cord could be handy to have, especially on road trips, and we have multiple USB outlets
+ Seat protectors on every seat with a car seat or booster seat.
+ Seat back organizers for each of the boys.
+ A headrest mirror on Maeve's seat so we can see her. I never had one of these with the boys and love having it.
+ A car air freshener from Bath and Body Works. I really noticed the very first scent I used and liked it. Now I don't notice the scent much even though I changed to a new scent. Probably I'm just used to it? I'd like to try the Mrs. Meyer's car scents next.
+ One thing that I don't have and want to add: a notepad.
Even with all the organizing and no food in the car, the minivan still gets untidy and dirty. Luckily, going to a drive-through car wash and then vacuuming out the car myself is one of my favorite errands. I take great satisfaction in getting the cheapest car wash and leaving with a sparkly clean car inside and out 20 minutes later. I especially love cleaning the car to mark a fresh start, like after the start of a new school year, or to start the holiday season. I'd like to get in the habit of having the car detailed once a year as well although I haven't looked into pricing so I might have sticker-shock.
I'd love to hear about any rules, systems, or products help you keep your car clean and organized!