Tell me the cool way you organize your car
June 1, 2019 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a new car (thanks for MeFite help on that!), and I'm trying to organize the stuff I need in a way that's efficient and looks nice. I know there are special car-organizing items online, but I'm not convinced that's the best way. Also, they're all black, so bonus points for cool colors. Tell me what you do to organize stuff. Also, tell me if there's anything less obvious you keep in your car that you're super happy about.

My previous car had a lot more little areas for organizing the stuff I keep in front - which would include sunglasses, a parking pass, change, a phone cord, and my lock for the gym. In the back, I keep bungie cords, ice scrapers, a small snow shovel (I live in Michigan), bags for the grocery store, at least one just-in-case book, a notepad, a clipboard, an extra pair of shoes, and my Garmin navigator device (which I use only occasionally). I know I should have some emergency supplies too.
So please share your cool car-organizing tricks and links to anything you love. My car, if it helps, is a Honda HR-V.
posted by FencingGal to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of those Tupperware cereal containers that I lined with a used grocery bag, and I keep it in my back seat for garbage. Anything with food or whatever on it I throw out right away, but it’s good for little stuff like receipts, wrappers, tissues, etc.

What you have in back sounds like a really good start, I might add an extra layer to wear and a poncho.
posted by jameaterblues at 11:22 AM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, you have way more interesting things stored in your car than I have, so I want to see your organization solutions. But I will say you didn't mention a trash can and I absolutely love this one. Tucks down into the driver's side door well; I no longer have receipts and wrappers littering the place up.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2019

I keep some floss in the car. Sometimes when I eat out I get stuff stuck in my teeth and if I'm not going home right away it's nice to be able to remove it. I also have a trash can but I just use a small mop bucket with a plastic bag in it in the passenger side front floorboard. it's easy to move out of the way if a have a passenger.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:30 AM on June 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and I keep a box of Kleenex in the armrest.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I keep a cute soft-side cooler (similar to this one from this year) I got during the end-of-summer clearance at Target last year. I stash my grocery bags in it, and when I go out to my car to do my big grocery/errand runs I take a couple ice packs with me and drop them into the cooler so I can do the grocery shopping earlier in the errand process (which is more convenient because of locations) and put the cold stuff in the cooler. I usually drop a bottle of water or something in there as well to drink later in my errands.

I have actual literal trash and recycling cans from the office supply in my back passenger floorboard where I can reach from the driver's seat. You could go for two attractive wastebaskets instead.

I keep two folding car sunshades in the back (I have a hatchback) for draping over my groceries/plants/whatever on hot days when I'm out shopping and putting under dirty garden supplies. There are many very cute options out there (Daiso has really cute ones but the reflectix kind started flaking all the paint off pretty much as soon as it got hot here).
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on June 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just moved from a compact truck to a Prius (no longer carrying a gas can) and need to pare down some, but probably not all that much.
Glove box: maps, car paperwork, gloves, hat, cap scarf.
Armrest: change, spare usb charging cable, corkscrew/ bottle opener, ziplock of gum, chocolate and candy, ziplock of spare drivethru napkins, some plastic utensils, small tote bag of cds - new to me car has an audio jack, so may bring these in the house and use my phone.
Driver's side door storage: coffee cup to use for trash, ice scraper, paper towels. I try to bring a small container of windex sometimes for doing the windows. Whisk broom - highly recommend.
Passenger seat: Dog bed.
Passenger side door storage: spare leash, dog treats, tennis ball (Jack Russell Terrier).
Behind the driver's seat: Basket that holds book, bottles of water, granola bars, jar of dog food, extra jar for water for dog (Talenti jars are perfect for my small dog), a bag of grocery bags that I struggle to remember to bring in to the grocery store, sunshade.
In the wayback of the hatchback: Tools - whatever lands in the car plus a cheap multi-tool, pocket knife, and jumper cables, 1st aid kit, duffel bag with fleece blankets, fleece jacket, rain jacket, bag-o-bungies-n-rope, tarp, a couple of pool noodles, sliced open, bungies inside, padding for carrying stuff on the roof, like a canoe or kayak. I have a long ice scraper/ snow brush that has to kick around as it's too big for any container, and a small shovel (Maine - waves, hopes Michigan has started summer).
I have a cig. lighter flashlight, which is super-useful, always charged.

Goodwill usually has nylon duffel bags, cheap; they are ideal for keeping crap in the car. I have used all the stuff I keep in the car. Recently, while waiting for road service, I used the spare water and napkins to clean the dash and the whisk broom on the seats and floor, and rewarded myself with some smushed tiny snickers bars - packaging was intact, and stale snickers are still pretty good.
I am likely to take a back road to see where it goes, and it's nice to have a blanket for a picnic, or because it got cold. I try to have a pair of gloves in my pocket in winter, but the spares have come in handy. You never know if you might have to walk and having a hat in cold weather, a cap in sunny weather, makes a big difference. Have to admit I take a bit of a prepper approach.
posted by theora55 at 12:11 PM on June 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a big garbage can with trash bags in my back seat. I never have passengers back there and being able to dump all my Starbucks cups and such easily and then unload the whole thing once a week or so keeps my front seat nice and clean if I do have a passenger.

I also keep in the trunk a full toiletry kit and a change of clothes because my job is pretty far away and more than once it made more sense for me to stay overnight than drive all the way home and all the way back. Anyway you never know when you'll need a clean shirt.

I try to keep a pretty good stash of cash. They say it's dangerous and somebody could break in and take it but I've also been stranded with no way to pay for anything and I dislike that feeling more than I dislike being stolen from (which has only happened to me once and I had left the car unlocked by accident. Well, god bless them is how I feel about it.)

I also try to keep one or two charged cell phone power banks because one time at a national monument we spent all day walking around and came back to a closed park and a dead car. In a party of 4 adults we were all running out of juice to stay on the phone with AAA and it was very stressful.
posted by bleep at 12:29 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know there are special car-organizing items online, but I'm not convinced that's the best way.

I inherited my current Honda CRV from my dad when he died. He was a 'spare no expense!" sort of person. I am not. However, a few things came with this car that I appreciate and have kept in regular use.

- a trash can thing for behind the passenger's seat (example, other example). I can put trash in it while driving if I need to and keep one hand on the wheel. It can also organize a few other things.
- basic first aid kit that is easy to find (under seat) and has a little more than emergency bandaids
- cig lighter driven tire inflator (so useful)
- one of those battery jump kits
- small tool bag with sockets, screwdrivers, hammer)
- high quality jumper cables
- places to store all of those things so they're not rattling around in the back. If you like colorful there are some great picnic basket options.
- emergency power bars, blankets and little scrap carpets in case I get stuck on ice
- Emergency $20 for just in case
- a few extra/good pens
- one of those roll-on perfume things in a scene I like (that one is mine)
- spare sunglasses, spare reading glasses
- rags
- emergency oil

I have a spare license (expired but with my lic # on it) and AAA card in the car in addition to the ones in my wallet
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really like McDonald's $1-for-any-size sodas, and I have discovered that an empty large takeout drink cup makes a great little trash can. It can sit in the cup holder, and will hold a surprising number of straw wrappers, receipts, little tabs that come of packages you open, dirty tissues, and so on. It can be thrown away when full, and then my next large drink cup become my new little trash bin.

Now, this is in my minivan, which has a lot of cup holders between the front seats, so it's easy to spare one for this purpose. It might not work as well in cars with smaller consoles, because it means one cup holder is always in use. But it has been a great trick for me.
posted by Orlop at 12:39 PM on June 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

In addition to a lot of stuff already mentioned, I keep a travel-size thing of deodorant (you know how sometimes you're super stressed and you realize OMG I got distracted getting ready this morning and forgot deodorant?!? Problem solved) AND some sharp tweezers because I feel like I always discover a rando chin hair in the car. (I don't do like a full brow tweeze in the car or anything -- although I would not judge anyone who did, the light in the car is always great -- I just yank out the offender real quick once I get where I'm going.) Also useful if you're prone to splinters. I also keep hair elastics, lip balm, and hand sanitizer.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:56 PM on June 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

Spare water for the car has been really helpful for me a couple of times when I have had problems with the radiator. A fire extinguisher. Can't believe how many people don't have a fire extinguisher for their car or their house. Map reader for my maps. A great pressure gauge for the tire valves. A collapsable hazard cone and hazard sign and some bright clothing for visibility. A really powerful flashlight.
posted by effluvia at 1:17 PM on June 1, 2019

I always made fun of my parents for keeping a plastic cup in a cupholder specifically for trash. Until I tried it myself. Now I buy cheap plastic cups at Dollar Tree or wherever and keep a stack of about a half-dozen cups in the cupholder for throwing out candy wrappers, used Kleenex, etc. When it gets full, I toss it in the garbage somewhere and start using the next cup in the stack.
posted by DrGail at 2:43 PM on June 1, 2019

Jumper cables. Bicycle pump. A small pair of binoculars in the dash compartment. Extra fuses and a pair of pliers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:48 PM on June 1, 2019

In glove box: a sandwich-sized seal-bag containing some individual wet wipes and Shout stain remover wipes. And a couple empty small seal bags for other stuff you might throw in there but not want rolling to the bottom and becoming inaccessible.
posted by Quisp Lover at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I keep a stack of index cards and a pen in the storage compartment beneath my a/c controls. Handy for taking notes or jotting down shopping lists.
posted by Roger Pittman at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

We keep a GoGirl and a roll of toilet paper in the console. Also a pencil instead of a pen - pens can freeze in winter.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:14 PM on June 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I bring a car phone mount with alligator clips when I rent them
posted by brujita at 6:56 PM on June 1, 2019

Best answer: If you haven't already, have a hunt around under the trunk carpet etc for any concealed storage compartments in those oddball nooks around the wheel hubs and/or any spare-tire storage space. These places are gold for keeping the car tidy and organized because you can fill them with all the stuff you need to have on hand but don't use often, then it's all out of the way for good.

People have already listed things I keep in the car, so I'll just mention a few extra:
- Bottles of drinking water. Useful for other purposes too, but often I've just been on the go and needed water.
- Black golf-sized umbrella. I don't use it much, but it's useful, invisible in the trunk's black interior, and not in the way.
posted by anonymisc at 12:26 AM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. This is great. Answers have made me realize I can use an extra backpack I already have for a lot of the stuff in the back while I wait for the perfect picnic basket or cooler to show up in my life. For some reason, I was thinking I needed something hard sided.

Since people are interested in this question, I will mention that I already keep a small plastic bin like this in the front seat for miscellaneous papers that aren’t trash (like stuff from the doctor) as well as my emergency book and clipboard and any other small item I’m toting around (including scrapers in the winter so they’re more accessible). It’s easily moved to the back if I have a passenger. Definitely keeps things neater. And I’ll be adding a few more things because of these excellent answers.
posted by FencingGal at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2019

Good ideas, folks!

In the glove box, we use sandwich-/snack-size zipper clear plastic bags to organize the contents. It makes the overall packing of the space less efficient, but a lot easier to find and shuffle things.

In the driver's door storage pocket, we have 2 re-usable grocery bags. If i'm popping into a store for something, it's a half-second to grab those on the way out of the car. That way I avoid disposable bags. Those are also good when you realize that you have a bunch of things in the car that you need to carry in to your house, or a party, and your hands are outnumbered. Bag the stuff, and it's easier to carry. One more use for those cloth bags is a lap mat if you or (more safely) your passenger is eating something that's a little messy.

Other various things: headlamp, spare batteries, flashlight (with one battery reversed so they don't run down by accident), small toolkit including Swiss army knife, metal tablespoon.
posted by NumberSix at 8:45 AM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, and in the trunk/hatch area I keep 2 spare windshield wipers, passenger-length & driver-length. If either wiper gets damaged or too worn, you want to be able to see out the front in a storm, and you don't want a metal piece scraping across your windshield. If you want to be more space efficient, you can just carry a passenger-length wiper, since that can work for either side (while the longer driver-length one can't swap in to the passenger side).
posted by NumberSix at 8:49 AM on June 2, 2019

I have one of those compartmental trunk organizers in the back of my Ford Escape. I find it handy for keeping windshield washer fluid, a roll of paper towels, and spray cleaner in part of it, leaving a big spot for the soft sided cooler I keep back there for bringing frozen/cold groceries home.

Oh, and I have a lint roller, too, because I have cats and will not pass an opportunity to pet a dog.
posted by annieb at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2019

I have one of those trunk organizers that is designed to hold your grocery bags up. Very helpful. It also keeps my reuseable grocery bags contained when they're not in use.
posted by radioamy at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2019

flashlight (with one battery reversed so they don't run down by accident) This is a fantastic habit that I need to adopt. Batteries will discharge a bit when left in place, then they leak and damage the flashlight or whatever.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2019

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