Shift into tidy: Keep your car free from clutter

05/03/2002

By HELEN BOND / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Most of us live in our cars – and they look like it.

Even children can tidy up -- back-seat organizers hold games, snacks and more ($9; cooler, $13; Target).
But there are good reasons to give your automobile's inside the care it deserves. A clutter-free car can make the daily commute and car pool less chaotic and ultimately lead to a safer drive."Clutter tends to distract and obstruct; when you remove it, your focus improves," says Harriet Schechter, author of Let Go of Clutter (McGraw-Hill, $17). "A clutter-free car helps you save time, since you're less likely to waste precious moments rummaging around looking for something that was 'just here a minute ago.' "

Tackling an automobile's interior is no different from other home-organization principles: Start by removing everything you don't need and find a home for what regularly resides in the vehicle. The latter task has become easier with increased interior storage space and plentiful products available to keep seats neat.

Give jumper-cable organization a boost with a sturdy bag ($13; Container Store).
"Wherever there is a need, our industry has invented a solution," says Chuck Rigby, assistant vice president of merchandising for Pep Boys, which operates 58 automotive aftermarket retail and service stores in Texas.

The key, says Ms. Schechter, is to avoid "nifty things" more clever than useful that can create a different kind of clutter.

When getting your car in shape, identify problem areas. For instance, every automobile owner needs a place to stash trash, whether it's a nylon receptacle that attaches to the seat or a paper bag.

Does your car resemble a crowded playpen? Corral those toys and art supplies in a clear, plastic hinged container or an over-the-seat organizer with pockets. Keep your mobile phone and CDs at your fingertips with holders made specifically for the car. If you need to keep snacks in the car, think about a cooler, available in many sizes.

For you multimedia junkies, the Get Organized auto entertainment storage unit holds CDs, videos and a CD game player, and it hangs from a seat back ($25; www.shopgetorganized.com).

For extra trash capacity on long trips, wedge a small receptacle between seats or in another accessible place.
If your car doubles as an office, a plastic file box with a section for office supplies can help you stay organized on the road, Ms. Schechter says.

Most people cram everything into their glove compartment. Clean it out and stick to basics such as a flashlight, local map, pencil and notepad, tissues and a tire gauge.

"If you limit the contents of your glove box to these items plus a few others, you don't really need an 'organizer,' " says Ms. Schechter. "But if you want to use one, a narrow plastic case with dividers – like a pencil box – can work well for smaller items."

Or you can opt for a ready-made product, such as Lillian Vernon's nylon Car Visor Organizer ($10), which attaches to the visor and features three removable pockets for a cellphone, coins and glasses (www.lillianvernon.com or 1-800-545-5426).

And don't neglect your trunk, which some drivers use as a landfill. The Pep Boys' Mr. Rigby recommends must-haves such as jumper cables, flares and tire-repair and tool kits. Water, a blanket and a first-aid kit can also be helpful in emergencies.

Scoop everything into a clear plastic container or the Container Store's Easy Access Trunk Organizer ($10), which mounts at the back of the trunk with Velcro strips to keep it in place. The organizer's pockets hold jumper cables, tools, motor oil, flares and a flashlight. Lillian Vernon's Collapse-a-Crate ($10) keeps packages, toys and other cargo together when you need it and folds flat when you don't.

Stow needlework for those long waits between soccer games (Longaberger Small Gathering Basket, $54, with Classic Road Trip Lid, $45. Corral writing utensils, candy or trash in a container (CarCan, $5 each).
If you want to go smaller, the Container Store's Jumper Cable Bag ($13) keeps cables untangled yet is still roomy enough for flares, tools and a flashlight.

To save space, use products that have more than one use. Pep Boys sells a battery-operated flashlight ($9) made by Fiamm that converts to a stand-alone flare. The Emergency Light and Tool Kit ($30; www.solutionscatalog.com) by Solutions has dual flashing lights to signal for help, a flashlight that can become a hands-free work light and a tool kit inside.

Once you've got your car or truck clutter-free, work to keep it that way, says Ms. Schechter. Remove items daily that don't belong in your vehicle. Use the time it takes to gas up to empty trash and keep things organized.

Now if you could just do something to beat the traffic.

Copyright 2002

Helen Bond is a Dallas free-lance writer.

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