Declutter the Car

Car clutter is common for people on the go. Crumbs, food wrappers, soda cans, empty water bottles, loose change, baby supplies, pet supplies…we’ve all been there. It accumulates on the floor, in the seat cracks, inside the glove box, side doors, trunk, in the truck bed for those with pick-ups.  

I recently helped a friend clean and organize her car. She was ready to run from the next zombie apocalypse; we uncovered 30 pair of shoes to last the next few decades. We pulled out tons of jackets, scarves, gloves, old food wrappers and drink bottles. If you want to give a gift to a good friend, be on their team and help her declutter the car. Many hands make light work, and you can listen to the radio and tell light-hearted jokes about what you find along the way. When done, you have space to take that Thelma and Louise road trip you’ve always wanted.

It’s time to downsize and minimize.

Step One – Declutter the car and trunk

Don’t take the clutter with you.
  • Grab a few bags for trash, recycling, and items going back into the house
  • Sort, purge, put things back where they belong – clothes to the hamper, shoes to the closet, dishes into the sink.

Step Two – Clean

  • Take the car to a self-serve, automatic, or full-service car wash. Now that surfaces can be seen, it’s time to get the car clean. This is a good time to clean the car thoroughly, including the engine/under hood (self-serve car washes are great for this), wipe down and vacuum the carpet and seats, inside glove compartment, console, side door pockets, trunk, all the nooks and crannies. I personally take my truck to a self-serve car wash twice a year to inexpensively clean the engine and take it to a full-service car wash every other week to let the professionals take care of the rest.

Step Three  Organize

  • Organize car compartments. Use a small pocket organizer to store vital papers: registration, insurance card, car maintenance records. Replenish car chargers, napkins, pen, notepad, meter change in a small zip purse, and a few Chico Bag reusable bags…my favorite! You can find them at grocery checkout stands.
  • Use pockets behind driver and passenger seats as smart storage. Stash small trash bags (use a quart size ziplock bag to keep them together and ready),  a mini-size squirt bottle of vinegar and water (great for cleaning interior AND windows), a clean rag, paper towels or disposable cleaning wipes.
  • Maximize backseat & trunk storage. There are many varieties of organizers for the car and trunk. Here are ideas from
  • Invest in a cell phone holder. There are varieties that attach to car vents, dashboards, and cup holders. Beware of those that attach to window glass, they may block full view of the road.
  • Check the spare tire for working condition. Have this taken care of next time the car goes in for servicing, especially if you don’t take the car in for regular tire rotation.
  • Invest in safe tie-downs. Whether you have a truck or occasionally carry large purchases on the hood of the car, it’s a good idea to have on hand secure tie-downs that you practice how to use in advance. Ratchet straps work well, and are small versions of what you see big rigs use to tie down their loads. If you have an open truck bed, local law requires you cover your load with a secure tarp or safety net. I use the Gladiator Cargo Net, which folds and returns nicely to the zip case it comes with. This keeps everyone safe on the road.
  • Get an emergency car kit together. Here are safety tips & a checklist from


Isabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email for more information. Gift certificates are available.