According to a recent study, the average American spends about 100 hours per year in their car just commuting to work. If you add in all the other hours that we spend running errands, traveling for leisure, or just getting from point A to point B, that number would be significantly higher. In fact, it’s quite possible to spend more time in your car than in some rooms of your house. And just like your house, your car can quickly become messy and disorganized. It only takes a little work and planning, however, to keep your car in order. Here are a few tips to help you keep your car clean and looking good.

1. Clean up

The very first step toward getting your car organized is to empty everything out of it. Start by emptying it of trash, then gather up all your loose belongings that have accumulated in the glove box, on the back seat and the floor, and in the trunk. If it’s been a while since you’ve done any cleaning, you will probably be surprised at the things you find; a CD you haven’t listened to in months, a half pair of socks, or possibly $20 in loose change. Think of this as your own mini treasure hunt! Make sure to keep track of what you remove from the car so that you know where you’ve had trouble staying organized. Also, as you take each item out of the car, put it into one of three piles: items that you use often, items that you occasionally use, and stuff that you would need in an emergency (such as a first aid kit). Once everything has been removed from your car, it’s time to vacuum it out and clean up the carpet, upholstery, and dashboard. You may also want to take this opportunity to wash your car so that it is totally clean before you start the next phase.

2. Make a Plan

Sit down and take a moment to think about the mess you just cleaned out of your car. What were the problem areas? Where does clutter tend to pile up the quickest in your car? Now, try to come up with a couple of specific solutions to help you avoid cluttering each problem area. For example, if you end up eating in your car a lot, you may want to consider placing a trash bag in your car to contain the trash. At this point, you should also think about how you use your car. Are you a road warrior, logging numerous hours commuting to work, or do you only use your car to go to the grocery store? Whether you are a mom driving your kids to and from soccer practice or a realtor driving with clients, you can plan out a strategy that is customized to your specific needs and driving habits.  Just make a list of what you need close at hand and what can be stored in the back of the car or the trunk. Whatever your car usage or organizational weakness is, there’s a simple solution that will work for you.

3. Store It

Now, it’s time to find the proper place and storage solution for the items that you need in your car. First off, make sure you have the essentials packed and easily accessible. Every car should have vehicle registration and car insurance information in the glove box. You should also have a simple tool kit, spare tire and jack, jumper cables, and a first aid kit packed neatly in the trunk. Here are a couple of other necessities to consider packing in your car as well:

  • Cell phone charger
  • Flashlight
  • Paper towels or wipes – to clean up spills
  • Cash/Coins – to pay for parking, tolls or anything else

You can store your stuff in a variety of locations in the car or trunk, as long as it’s not on the floor of the car. Putting anything on the floor will put you on a slippery slope that quickly leads back to a cluttered car. Also, keep in mind that loose objects in the car can be dangerous during a crash or even a sudden stop. You want to find a storage solution that can store everything you need in your car, and that works for your driving lifestyle. There are a ton of options to help you store items inside your car and in the trunk. You can buy fairly inexpensive cargo containers and bags, or you can use something free and simple. An already-owned backpack, plastic bin, or cardboard box is a cheaper option that can be just as effective at keeping the clutter to a minimum. You should keep close track of what comes and goes in your car. An extra bag in the glove compartment or under a seat can be used to carry unnecessary items from your car to your house. This is a good way to make sure you don’t lose track of your belongings in your car and will help to keep clutter from piling up. In addition, some items in your car are seasonal, such as snow chains and ice scrapers. Like seasonal clothes or holiday decorations, these items can be safely packed away in your garage or at a storage unit until they are needed again.

4. Regular Maintenance

If you don’t take a little time to maintain your car, it will quickly become cluttered again. Regular maintenance will ensure that your car looks good, runs well, maintains its resale value and that it lasts a long time. There are a few simple things you can do on a regular basis to keep your car looking its best.

  • Take Out the Trash
  • Vacuum the Interior
  • Wash & Wax
  • Regular Service
  • Re-organize