Where's the mess to go?
December 13, 2013 3:59 PM   Subscribe

My family owns a Mazda 5, which suits our needs. However, there is stuff all over the floor. What do you do to organize the car so it's passable (i.e., kids can get to the way back without wading through books)?

The kids (2 girls, 9 and 7) each have their own book bags, and their own purses, but things accumulate in the car. We'd like to say things can't stay in the car, but that's relatively impossible. They are good at putting things where they belong, but we're having difficulty finding a place where stuff belongs, so to speak.

Are there over-the-seat organizers that are slim, so people can get to the back of the car? Or other organizers that you've found useful in keeping the back seat of your minivan/wagon organized? Thanks!
posted by China Grover to Grab Bag (18 answers total)
My first thought is that they shouldn't be leaving things just sort of miscellaneously hanging out in the car.

When I was a kid, we used the pockets behind the front seats for things that absolutely HAD to stay in the car for whatever reason. Anything that couldn't go in those pockets couldn't stay in the car. Period.

Is there are reason that books and toys and "stuff" belongs in the car?
posted by Sara C. at 4:08 PM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Establish one rule: only three books per person per trip, to be taken into the house after the end of the trip.
Mildly enforced, with humor, and:
The grown-ups check, and if necessary clean out, the car at the end of the day (or in times of calendar crisis: week).

[the methodology being: don't let stuff pile up, and not: add organizers to the existing bulk of the mess]
posted by Namlit at 4:10 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a kid I got one (1) toy for your average car trip. That toy could be almost anything: a book or an action figure or whatever, but just one. In retrospect that was a great idea.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:17 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

We got a plastic bin for our mini van. Had some sort of rule that was supposed to limit what went in it, but the reality was a lot went in and I would get frustrated and empty it from time to time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:32 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Each kid gets a container to keep in the car. Maybe a canvas bag, or a plastic food container. Earbuds, books, fleece pullover, whatever, it goes in their container. If it doesn't fit, it's their job to put stuff away.
posted by theora55 at 4:32 PM on December 13, 2013

Response by poster: We do limit what they can bring (i.e., one thing, either a book or doll) that is supposed to come out each time.

The problems we are running into is that our car doesn't have the seat-back pockets. That is causing some of the storage issues; the stuff that does stay ends up on the floor, then it gets stepped on, which we are trying to prevent.
posted by China Grover at 4:48 PM on December 13, 2013

As someone whose vehicle (a Mazda 6 wagon - go Mazda!) was once overwhelmed with the flotsam and jetsam of a 6 and a 9 year old, the key for us was to declare a moratorium on clutter tied to an event that would simultaneously distract and alarm them a bit (I think we did it just before Christmas one year - "In honor of Santa coming EVERYTHING needs to come out of the car!") and as Namlit and others have indicated, set some rules on the quantity and quality of what gets brought in the car.

The key for us was finding the right moment to declare the new rule. If the kids sense some gravitas behind the timing (a holiday, the start of school, etc) they seem more inclined to self-police, and it becomes easier to nudge the new behavior toward habit.

ON PREVIEW: if actual storage is the issue, maybe look at something like this(?)
posted by jalexei at 4:54 PM on December 13, 2013

We use backpacks. It reduces the amount of crap that gets left in the car.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2013

I used to have small backpacks over the front seats of my car to serve as pockets/organizers. They were just inoffensive kids' backpacks I got for a few bucks.

I also know a guy who decorates his car like it's a house, and he made little custom over the seat organizers that worked the same way out of vintage kitchen linens.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2013

A shopping tote (ideally one with slightly stiffer sides, like an insulated one?) fits nicely between the second-row seats of a Mazda 5. When the junk starts to overwhelm, I have my kids toss everything in the shopping tote, which makes it easy for them to find stuff or for me to carry it all inside the house. And it's lightweight, easy to move around so people can get to seats, and can just be tossed in the back when not in use.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:57 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Funny enough I just found this through Pinterest today while creating the social media plan for work.

20 Easy DIY Ideas and Tips for a Perfectly Organized Car.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:26 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mazda 5 owner here. Even when the car is completely empty it is hard to get in the way back.

A Mazda 5 is great if you usually have to fit four people or less and occasionally need room for five or six. It works and it's fantastic, but getting number 5 and 6 in place is basically an unnatural act, requiring climbing and clambering. This is true whether you get their via the middle row or via the hatchback.

Sure, get back packs. But if you want a third row that is easily accessible for daily use you might need a real mini van, rather than the awesome "mini mini van" that the Mazda 5 is.

(When are you seating people in the way back? Play dates? Car pools?)
posted by alms at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2013

Seat back organizer is a better search term on Amazon and gets you into the bigger organizers rather than the ones that are for two toddler toys and a bottle. Farther down that page are some seat hooks that you could use if you were going to assign each child a reusable shopping tote or canvas bag.

A seatback organizer would solve your problem of no factory-installed seat-back pockets.

If you're regularly using the third row of seats, I would put an organizer over the front driver's and passenger's seats and the third on the far driver's side seat in the second row. That should preserve enough clearance for each seat in the back row.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:57 PM on December 13, 2013

On exiting the car, remind wee travelers to take their things. It's a gentle jog that reminds them the car isn't for storage. When that fails, bring their things inside.

That's all there is to it.
posted by zippy at 6:35 PM on December 13, 2013

Keep a BIG tupperware in the garage. At the end of each trip everything left in the car goes into the tupperware. They know where to find it if they want it later.
posted by 256 at 7:24 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids or a big car (hell I don't even drive that often) but for some reason I have this post pinned on Pinterest since I'm into organizing. You might also want to try a search on Pinterest for some inspiration.
posted by radioamy at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2013

And apparently people sell custom car organizers on Etsy, who knew?
posted by radioamy at 10:36 PM on December 13, 2013

We have a plastic container that fits between the seats of the minivan that sort of works. Every now and then I throw all the crap on the floor into it, and then once in a while -- usually before a roadtrip -- we empty out everything and start over again.

I agree with Eyebrows McGee about stiff tote bags, like the LL Bean ones, working well, too, and they have the advantage that when I forget to bring a shopping bag I can dump it out onto the minivan's floor and use it. But then I have to tidy it up again...

The seat covers I bought have pockets on the back, but they're useless. They don't hold much and they're hard to reach for kids who are using car seats, and kids are even less likely to put things in them than they are into a bin or tote bag.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2013

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