I kind of have car trips on the brain this summer. A lot of Americans do, it seems. It is the time of year when we have a little bit more freedom to get out on the open road and head to a fun place. And my list of fun places I would like to go to this year is long. We have been needing a getaway with our girls (and without our girls, for that matter) for a while. So I thought it would be fun to do a series about traveling with little ones, specifically in the car.
I have lots of things to share along the way, but today I am excited to share my tips for keeping the car chaos under control with little ones. And lest you think I have got it all figured out, these are simply my simple solutions to the problems we have been facing with our girls and the maelstrom they bring to the backseat each time we get in the car.
Need proof that I don’t have it figured out yet?
This is the backseat of our car earlier today.
Yeah…it gets like that pretty often.
Here’s what I am doing to control car clutter in our car:
#1 Establish a clean-up routine
As you may or may not be able to tell from this picture, most of the mess is shoes (a girl can’t have too many, right?). And this mess in the backseat actually affects our process for getting ready inside the house every day. We might spend 10 minutes looking for a pair of shoes that end up being in the backseat of the car. But, since we couldn’t find the pair we were looking for, we find another pair. That second pair gets added to the missing first option, and the clutter builds. So I have started a new process for the girls to get used to, just like they are getting used to cleaning up their toys inside the house: When we get out of the car, we clean up what we can.
#2 Ask yourself (and your little ones) if you really need to take it with you
As a mom, I know there are days when my girls need just a little bit more snuggle time with their mom, with their lovies (a blanket and a Georgie), and for my littlest one her pacifier. And I realize there are times when you just can’t leave home without a menagerie of stuffed animals. BUT, there are times when we can reason with our little ones and ask them, “Do you really NEED that?” The question can be used when leaving the house and when out and about. I have kind of come to the conclusion that this question needs to be asked of me when I am out and about. This prevents unnecessary purchases and unwanted items in the backseat of the car. “Do we really need to take every toy you have over at Grandma and Papa’s or can we leave them here and play with them next time around?” If if it doesn’t make the cut, it can’t clutter up the car!
#3 Establish a drop zone
As I said before, our biggest problem with car clutter is footwear. But we have other items we seem to collect. Thus, I set up a bin for each of the girls by the door to our garage entry for them to deposit their shoes as we start this clean up routine. Each girl can toss in her sunglasses and shoes (and other small items) as she walks in the house. The items will always be easy to find. And we can just grab what we need on the way out the door to the car. Having a solution for clutter outside the car may not technically be a car clutter solution, but in our case, it seems like it will help!
#4 Designate car-specific toys and books
Kids need some way to keep themselves entertained during car rides, even really short ones. Having a small bin in the backseat with a few toys and/or books designated specifically for the car keeps our girls interested and engaged. Taking the time to rotate the toys and books regularly insures they are still entertaining to our little ones.
#5 Eat as little as possible in the car
We are so guilty of eating on the run. And food is often a way to curtail a developing tantrum. We are almost always feeding our girls on the go while they sit in their car seats. And cleaning them out can truly become a chore! So, I am resolving to create less mess by trying my hardest not to eat in the car with our girls.
#6 Have mess-abatement at hand
We have a little one that will get into the car with a clean face and will exit the car with a dirty face. It is a mystery as to how she gets so dirty (even if there has not been food involved). So, we HAVE to have baby wipes on hand all the time to clean up hands and faces (and other things, too!). I saw Huggies Clutch ‘n’ Clean wipes in the store a little while back and loved the designs and the idea of having something so easy at hand to clean up messes in the car. And honestly, I was on the lookout for some more when I was approached about doing a sponsored post with Huggies to get the word out about these wipes. We are brand-loyal Huggies wipes users around here and I LOVE now having them in a convenient container for the car. When our little one shows up at our destination with a mysteriously messy face, I can just grab a wipe and get her cleaned up fast.
#7 Get a clean-up cup for each door
This may sound really odd but I use a plastic cup, placed in the in-door cup holder, as a trashcan. I have for years. It is perfect for the type of trash I collect when I am driving around town (straw paper and small wrappers). It makes emptying the trash really easy when I stop to fill-up the gas tank. I just grab the cup take it to the communal trash can and dump it. And when it gets a little bit messy, I just run it through the dishwasher. I usually have my cup in either the driver’s side or the front passenger door, but I am putting a cup in each of the girls’ doors, too – that way they can help to keep the mess at bay with me.
#8 Use a big bin to keep the trunk organized
When my husband wanted to buy our car, I needed LOTS of convincing. But once I was convinced, I told him we could buy the car, if I got to buy the trunk organizer I wanted. He took the deal and I got the big organizer I wanted. I love it because I can put our groceries in it and take it in the house to unload them in one trip (well, the one after I get the girls in the house). It helps to keep everything from rolling around in the trunk. And when I am cleaning out the car after a trip to the store, I can just toss in the extra items the girls have in the backseat on my way into the house. And since the trunk of our car can often be transformed into an impromptu changing table, I hung an extra Huggies Clutch ‘n’ Clean wipes pack in the back.
Those are my simple ideas for bringing order to our car this summer, whether we ever get to take one of our dreamed about road trips. What do you do to control clutter in your car (with or without kids)?