Your car is an actual living space -- just like your home -- especially if you spend a lot of time commuting, ferrying kids to their sports and other activities, driving to appointments for your job, or running errands. When you and your family slide into a clean and neat car, you feel more empowered.
It's also safer to have an organized car. Without a large number of empty drink bottles, coffee cups, wrappers, magazines and toys in the car, you save yourself from potential projectiles should you get into a car accident. Also, items won't roll beneath your brake pedal, which could possibly prevent you from stopping your car.
An clean car keeps your essentials such as your cellphone, sunglasses and change right at hand, allowing you to focus on the road, instead of digging through your handbag or piles of clutter while you're driving.
A neat car is a safer car, for you and for your driving teens, so share the tips in this article with them.
You'll notice that new vehicle models have more organizing features than ever before. Consumer Reports' July 2011 study revealed some of their picks for cars with cool storage features:
--The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Buick Enclave have lots of bins and cubbies.
--Most Chrysler and Dodge minivans have under-floor bins in front of the second-row seats.
--The Mazda 5 features clever storage compartments under the 2nd-row seat cushions.
--The Ford F-250 has huge console storage compartments.
If you're car shopping, assess the vehicle's storage features. If you'd rather transform your existing car, easy, affordable tools, tubs and totes can turn your car into a neat space that helps you and your family be more efficient. First start by cleaning everything out of your car, giving interior and trunk space a good vacuuming and assessing what storage tools will meet your needs. You'll find many top-rated car organizers at Target.com, ContainerStore.com, HousewaresandBeyond.com, Organize.com, OrganizeYourRide.com and StacksandStacks.com, says Consumer Reports.
Here are the top choices in car storage:
--Front-seat car organizer. Author and professional organizer Vicki Norris suggests Case Logic's front-seat car organizer, a unit that sits on your passenger side seat, holding your cellphone, tablet, papers and other easy-grab items you may need during your ride. "The insulated cup holder in this product keeps your coffee hot or your iced tea cold," says Norris.
--Trunk organizer. The Modular Hauler System, by Mountainsmith ($50 to $100-plus), is recommended by Norris and is composed of three color-coded cases that fit inside a larger flexible case. Each section can hold grocery bags, or you can assign each family member a color, so that each person can be in charge of their own equipment and supplies. With zippered closures and pockets, each module can be secured to keep items from falling out. Some brands of modular trunk cases have Velcro on the bottom to prevent the case from sliding around in an empty trunk.
--Folding crates. These heavy-duty folding plastic crates are ideal for storing weighty sports equipment, books, garage sale finds and other items that need durable containment and protection. If you shop at warehouse stores such as Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's Wholesale and other large-volume shops, these crates will securely hold all of your groceries, including breakables such as eggs and glass drink bottles. These types of crates come in multiple colors and collapse flat when not in use, and their easy-grip handles allow you to transport heavy items into and out of your car. They cost about $5 to $10.
--Litter/recycling bag. Place two sizable, waterproof, durable trash bags in your car for easier, instant disposing of empty coffee cups. Mark the second bag as a receptacle for recyclable aluminum cans and glass bottles. They run about $3 to $10.
--Visor organizer. A small organizer that clips onto your sun visor can hold parking garage tickets, valet tickets, event tickets and other paper items. Simply slide these flat items into the visor organizer's pockets and you'll never worry about where they might be in your pocket or handbag. They cost anywhere from $5 to $20.
--Small catch-all. Norris also suggests Case Logic's catch-all organizer (less than $5), a neoprene pouch that hooks onto your dashboard vent and "provides a safe landing place for your sunglasses, cellphone, wallet, or notepad and pen while your hands are on the wheel," says Norris. This design's snug fit and deep pocket ensures that items will not fall out while you're driving.
--Change purse. Keep a small, zippered or snap-closed change purse in your car's console for easy access to quarters you might need for parking meters. You can usually get them for $5 or less.
--Organizer for kids. A waterproof, durable-fabric modular organizer (about $20) on the back seat -- attached via a seat belt for security -- allows children to access their own games and healthy snacks. Cup holders keep sippy cups and drink bottles upright and cleaner than they would be rolling around on the car seat or floor. This unit works double duty when you unclick the seat belt and bring the organizer to the beach, park, playground or any other location.