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An organized car makes for a smooth ride

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HOW DID YOU get to work this week? And your kids — how did they get to school? For many of us, we got there and other places – errands, meetings, appointments, the gym, entertainment destinations – in our favorite chariot, otherwise known as the car. Is your car organized to support your life?

Not long ago I worked with “Linda” (not her real name) to organize her car. Linda is on the go from morning till night; her car must be organized to accommodate her lifestyle. It’s a home away from home, doubling as office, snack bar — a staging place for the day. Linda’s car was very cluttered, but organizing it only took an hour. (This may offer hope to those who think organizing the car will take all of Saturday!)

Trunk tricks
Linda needed the basics in her car to be prepared for her day. This included clothing, food, travel aids and errand supplies. Fortunately, Linda was thinking ahead and purchased three trunk organizers at T.J. Maxx. They resemble duffel bags, with ample pockets and dividers, and a sturdy bottom. Other styles of trunk organizers are mounted either at the back of the trunk or between the tail lights. Another option is a collapsible crate or folding cargo bag. It’s there when you need it, and out of the way when you don’t.

We emptied the car of everything, and separated things into the basic categories above. In the first trunk organizer, we placed clothing: hats, walking shoes, jackets, sweatshirts, rain gear and exercise gear, along with sunscreen and hairbrush, which previously floated in the trunk.
Linda likes the option of food on board, so the second trunk organizer held food items, as well as perishable food stored in a small Igloo lunchbox inside the trunk organizer.

The third bag contained things Linda needs for her errands, such as a picture frame to be replaced, shoes to be resoled and library book returns. In that same bag we placed navigation aids: Thomas Bros. map, EBMUD park maps with hiking trails, flyers and articles that Linda plans to visit in her Bay Area travels.

Behind the wheel
Be a prepared driver by keeping necessities within reach. I don’t like digging through my console for things, so I use a basket to keep things handy. Longaberger ( makes a versatile basket with Road Trip Lid that sits on the floor between seats. The basket is $54, and the special wooden lid is $45. These are not your typical baskets. They are handmade of hardwood maple for those looking for something different than plastic bins.

In the basket, I keep a pen and paper to record brainstorms while stopped at a red light. (You could also use a hand-held recorder.) Also stored here are a few tapes, mileage record notebook, mints and the key to my mailbox. When I have an ink cartridge to recycle, it goes in the basket till I have another reason to go in the store. Things to mail, sunglasses and eyeglasses are also in the basket. Post-its work well for that one thing that you cannot forget today — stick one on the dash or steering wheel as a reminder.

Glove box
Keep things in here that you don’t need to reach as often. Car manual, car registration and proof of insurance, car record book, tissue or napkins, lint brush (the only way I arrive anywhere without dog fur on me is to use the lint brush after leaving home), and meter change (an old film canister works for change) and CDs.

Some drivers like to store car registration and proof of insurance in a visor organizer. There’s also room for 12 CDs, a pen loop and mesh pocket for little things like gum or business cards.

No litterbugs
You won’t have room for your coffee in the morning if yesterday’s soda is sitting in the cup holder. Make a habit of disposing of car trash as soon as you’re near a garbage can. For small trash, I recommend a car can. Found at the Container Store, it has a lid and fits in a cup holder.

How prepared are you in case of car trouble or an accident? Be prepared with a blanket, pillow, first aid kit, snacks, water, flashlight, toolbox and jumper cables. Keep a spare key in your wallet. Some auto insurance companies provide a plastic car key that you can carry separately from your key ring.

For the kids
A back pocket organizer works wonderfully for little ones to have their important things close at hand. Attach it to the back of either front seat to hold books, water bottles, games and toys. Longaberger also makes a basket for travel with a chalkboard lid.

Take the high road to keep your car organized, and you’ll stay focused on the road ahead.