Need I clarify that my friend with the car Martha Stewart would be sated to be chauffered in is not a mother?
I am sure there is a mother or three out there who has somehow managed to hide her station wagon from kids with sticky hands and leakiy diapers and 47 of the smallest Lego pieces ever shoved in teensy pockets. Or a mother who has interns to vacuum all that junk off of the seats every day. Or some Real Housewife, maybe. But I do not know these mothers. And I am not one of them.
I have good intentions. I splurge on the $13 handwash that includes lots of scrubbing down and Windexing off and other detailing I can't seem to make myself do. Still, I end up with makeup somehow smeared on the steering wheel, piles of empty water bottles rattling around and tiny parking meter slips wedged in everywhere. And seriously? Who can ever get those rugs clean? I need the car wash gents to handle that for me, and I relish the four hours it lasts.
I have taken some steps this year to make my car a saner, cleared-out space. After all, I spend enough time in there and it is a small enough space that I am not totally overwhelmed to tackle it and re-tackle it (unlike my basement).
Chances are, you will still be able to find a snack's-worth of half-granola bars and Ritz crackers in my car. But you will actually have a place to sit, tuck your purse and rest your to-go cup of coffee. It's not pristine but it doesn't look like we've been living in it for a month on our way to the landfill, either. Here's what I do (and re-do and re-do) to clean the kid- (and mom-) clutter from my car:
1. A hook for my bag. This may seem like a ridiculous purchase from my favorite, overpriced store, but it is, in fact, a car-cleaning saving grace. I decided to stop complaining there was no good place in my car to put my purse and make a place for one with this hook from Container Store ($6.99). By hanging my bag (and sometimes, jacket or scarf), I move most of the clutter from the passenger seat. None of it slides and spills all over the floor if I stop suddenly.
2. A stash of fancy trash bags. I got rid of the little pile of kleenexes and receipts and banana peels that stuck around the car (or my purse) too long by collecting all the small shopping bags under my sink and putting them in the pocket of driver's side door. Here's the key for me: I only use the smaller bags, and prefer the fancy kind I was saving for some...oh, I don't know what could constitute a GOOD-bag worthy event, but I am sure they exist. Double bonus, this cleans out all those bags I've been saving since '97. I hook the bag around the gear shift, making a proper rubbish receptacle at hand at all times. When it is full, I drive down the alley and drop it in a trash bin. Done.
3. Bins. I learned this tip from a mom I babysat for years ago. She kept an emergency bin within kid-reach. Forget first aid, this mamafied bin was full of baby-sized water bottles, energy bars and other snacks. Any time a kid whined in the carpool line or was DYYYYYYYYIIIIING of thirst, BAM! Problem solved. I keep a small bin of snacks and refillable water bottles, and another with a full box Kleenex, cough drops, ibuprofen and sunscreen. If I'm giving a ride to girlfriends or stacking the backseat with small children in carseats, I toss the bins in the way-back to get out of the way easily.
4. Hook for my keys. I have a keyless sort of car. The key merely needs to be present and detectable by the fairies in the dashboard, not in the ignition. This presents a problem of where to put the keys. It sounds like a silly issue, but when they get wedged in between the seats or slide around on the floor, I worry I will lose them altogether. I could drop my keys in the cupholder, but then I wouldn't have room for my coffee-IV and Camelbak of two-day-old water. If I plop them in my lap, they inevitably get caught under my skirt. PROBLEMS, PEOPLE! MAJOR FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS! To solve the key issue, I bought a clear, adhesive hook ($3.99)from the home store and stuck it near the steering wheel. I hang my keys there -- no fuss, no lost keys, nothing unwanted up my skirt.
5. Pay someone else to do the cleaning at least once a month. That could be a kid who is desperate for allowance dollars. Or it could be an industrious Junior Achiever who lives next door. Or it could be the nice crew at one of the seventeen hand-carwash garages in your neighborhood. If you're doling out a lot more than you are used to for this service, get a punchcard or bribe the kids with all the stale granola bars in the emergency bin they can eat. That should do it. And yes, do put all the supplies in a plastic bin.
If all else fails, turn up the music a bit louder, wear sunglasses so that any drivers in the lane next to you won't recognize you amidst the piles of recycling if they peer in the car. And then, if you must, unfriend the people with prisitine cars.
What are your best car-clutter clearing tips?
It's the last week! Can you believe it? Back to You is a month-long project designed by Meagan Francis of The Happiest Mom and me to help moms remember to take care of ourselves during the busy back-to-school season. We will have great tips, giveaways, challenges and accessible activities to help you feel healthier, happier, gorgeous and even more fabulous.