A couple months ago, our family was down one car for a few days and I had to “borrow” “my son’s car.” (I use both terms loosely, because, hello—whose name do you think is on the title to that car? Hint: not my son’s.) After my son “graciously” handed over the keys, I opened the driver’s door, ready to hop in and head off to a meeting. Fortunately, I was running early that day, because before I could even step into the car, I had to clear a path.
The kid’s car was a pigsty. It smelled like a cross between B.O. and old ketchup, there was some sticky substance smeared on the steering wheel, and the front and back seats were piled high with everything you could imagine: water bottles, fast food bags, clothing, basketballs, golf shoes… I knew I couldn’t stand to drive around in that filth all day, so I grabbed a trash can and a shovel and proceeded to scoop out all of the junk, just to make the vehicle safe to sit and breathe in once again.
As appalled as I was at the condition of the kid’s car, I realized I really had to take some of the blame. When it came to keeping a car clean and clutter-free, I had been a horrible role model throughout most of my sons’ childhood.
I’m not alone. I’m actually surprised that my friends who have the neatest houses are often the same friends who have to apologize for the state of their car if I happen to ride somewhere with them.
It’s understandable when the kids are really little. When you have to unbuckle a toddler from a booster seat while trying to juggle a diaper bag, a purse, and bags of groceries, you simply don’t have enough hands to grab the other things that may be cluttering up your car—things like receipts and napkins and a travel mug in the cup holder.
But kids grow up, and eventually you reach a point where there really is no excuse for continuing to drive a landfill-on-wheels. It’s just that old habits are hard to break.
Well, believe it or not, I think the holiday season is the perfect time to break some bad habits and take control over your messy car. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clean car before you head over the river and through the woods to see Grandmother for the holidays? Shouldn’t you be able to offer your friends a ride to the holiday party without fear of someone sitting on top of potato chip crumbs, or worse, in their red velvet dress?
The bad news: Immaculate Clean will not clean your car for you. The good news: if you hire them to clean your house, you’ll have some extra time to focus on your vehicle.
I suggest blocking off about 15 minutes this weekend to clean out your car from front to back. Toss out all the trash, bring inside all the stuff that doesn’t really belong in a car, run a hand vac over the seats and the floor mats, and then take some Windex and some Armor All to the interior surfaces.
Once your car is smelling and looking good, here are three easy tips you can use to keep it that way:
- Keep a little trash bag or plastic grocery bag in or on the center console— a place to toss your tissues, receipts, straw wrappers, etc.
- Make a pact with yourself to empty everything out your car every time you arrive home.
Pro tip: Never, ever leave your purse and/or key in the car, even when it’s inside your own driveway or garage. (Remember when I said I had to “borrow” “my son’s car” because we were down a vehicle? That was because *someone* in my family left the key fob in a car—and it was stolen in broad day light.)
- Schedule one day every month to vacuum out and wipe down the interior of your car (more frequently would be even better, but I’m realistic: if you’re reading these tips, you probably are not a clean freak.)
It might be too late for me to be a role model for my kids, but nonetheless, I’ve been making the effort to keep my car clean and clutter-free. It sure makes driving a lot more enjoyable—and probably safer, too!