How to declutter your car

Tip: Empty your car out as soon as you get home from long road trips before it starts to fester!
Nedahl Stelio
Family reviewer
CarsGuide

15 Dec 2017 • 8 min read

Some days you look into your car and, well, try and turn a blind eye. There are water bottles scattered across the floor. Petrol and parking receipts stuffed into the glovebox. Spare jumpers, kids toys, an old nappy (unused, thankfully) and sports equipment in the boot that hasn't seen the light of day since your son stopped playing soccer/cricket/rugby last season.

But you manage to turn that blind eye because you're in such a rush! Always late! Life is hectic! You don't have time to clean out the car because you're so busy.

But the clutter can get to you. According to Marie Kondo, who famously wrote the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, "Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder." So if you're chaotic in your car, you're going to generally be chaotic in other areas.

The only way to keep the car clear of clutter is to regularly declutter.

Kondo's advice which went viral globally when the book was released a few years ago, was all about the home, with gems like "From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That's why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.";  and "The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one's hand and ask: "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge."

The same advice can be geared towards your car. Because you know your car is an extension of your home, it's just a mobile one. We spoke to Australia's own decluttering expert, Kristina Duke, professional organiser at www.declutteringdiva.com.au for some help on how to keep a clear, clutter-free, non-smelly and most importantly, enjoyable car to drive around in.

1. Throw it out

Her first step is to clear out the rubbish. As in, actual rubbish. We know it's in there.  "Grab a grocery bag and get the wrappers, empty bottles, broken crayons, half opened mail and all the rest out. Don't forget to check under the seats, in the seat cracks and the doors," says Duke.

It also helps to vacuum in and around child car seats, even if that means taking them out. Small children tend to drop crumbs everywhere and you'll find banana peels and mandarin skin in the most unfortunate spots.

"I realised at one point that there was mould growing on the back floor of my car," says Karina, 33, a mum of two. "I think my son had dropped so many crumbs onto the floor, and then must have poured water on it. A few days of rain then sunshine and  … the carpet got furry. It was gross."

Before you start growing mould, clean up the car.

2. Break it up

"I like to attack it in sections," says Duke, "Let's start with the glove box. Empty it out. Now let's access what is actually needed for the car - car manual, torch, notepad and pen (always handy for writing your list of to do's while waiting to collect kids from sport or noting details of an accident). You don't need expired shop-a-dockets, the contents of your makeup bag or anything else unhelpful." The less you have, the easier it will be for you to find the things you actually need.

The longer you wait, the longer you're more likely to leave it.

Repeat this stage for various sections of your car - doors, seat pockets, the boot, centre console etc.

"I had about two year's worth of parking receipts in my centre console," says Sally, a mum of three. "It got to the point where I just wouldn't open the storage, or I'd open it and close it really quickly when I saw what was in there! When I finally emptied it out it was like a weight lifting off my shoulders. "The boot also had bits of leftover camping equipment from a trip months prior. It was such a joy to take it all out and actually reclaim boot space back!"

3. Keep it clean

The only way to keep the car clear of clutter is to regularly declutter. "It's called maintenance," says Duke. "Keep it clean by setting a regular time to clean out the clutter. For my family it's Sunday afternoon. We use the car for the week and then take the stuff out and start the week afresh. Soccer boots, books, hats, game consoles get returned to its home in the house."

For the everyday, encourage your children to take things with them once you're back at home, from the journey.

When you do go away in the car for things like camping trips or long road trips, the best thing to do is to clear out the car as soon as you get home. As in, immediately. No matter how tired you are. The only excuse is if it's the middle of the night, in that case it can wait until morning. But remember, the longer you wait, the longer you're more likely to leave it. Tackling the car straight away means you're less likely to have clutter.

4. Encourage daily cleanliness

For the everyday, encourage your children to take things with them once you're back at home, from the journey. Water bottles, toys and spare jumpers should be taken out of the car straight away. Receipts should be filed, makeup taken out of the car (the sun isn't good for it anyway, same for plastic water bottles) and any food rubbish immediately discarded.

"I don't recommend anything in particular to buy to keep your car clear as our needs are all different," says Duke. "Often just having things contained can be enough to have your car near and tidy - it also helps to set limits. For example, if you have a tub in the boot for sports gear it makes it easier to bring it in the house, or to the sports field. Things are less likely to go missing and you lessen the chance of potential projectiles while driving."

If you stick to these rules, you'll be living clutter-free in no time. And you might just enjoy that high that Marie Kondo is referring to when she says, "No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important."

How messy or clean is your car and how do you keep it clean? Tell us in the comments below.