The Backseat Clean-up

All of the driving to activities during the holiday season left its mark on my car. While my kids were tossing cereal at each other in the backseat as I drove down Central Expressway, I knew it was time to clean out the car. Again.

The good news is that now our family owns only one car! Since we no longer have a commute, we sold the other car, and it makes our life so much simpler. Only one car to insure, maintain, and of course, to clean. I could not be more thrilled! I have been waiting for this for so long.

With just one car to spiff up, it’s also time to restock. Instead of remembering to take a diaper bag with me when we go places, I leave a bag in the trunk all the time in case we need it. Here is what I keep in it:

  • diapers and wipes
  • pajamas for the kids
  • extra shirt for me
  • Band-aids, neosporin, and medicine
  • Water bottles and snacks
  • blanket
  • waterproof bag for wet stuff

In the front console of the car are more conveniences:

  • change for parking
  • pens
  • hand sanitizer
  • napkins

The floor mats are shaken out, the crumbs are wiped away, and in a reckless move, I even took off the child car seat covers so they could be washed. (It was completely ambitious, because who really knows how to put them back on? It’s much harder than it should be.)

What do you keep in your car to add a little organization and preparation?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I’d add a roll of paper towels – I’ve used mine several times in the last year or so… and they’ve cleaned up messes I would rather toss than launder!

  2. cloth shopping bags and a wool blanket – we use the blanket for parks/picnics in summer but in winter I like having it in case of emergencies.

  3. I have wet wipes, and a couple grocery bags that i use for trash in the back pocket of the passenger seat. It makes cleaning out the car eaiser to do if I already have something to put the trash in, if I don’t I’m tempted to put it off until later… later is usually when you can no longer get in the back seat for all the stuff :S
    Becky´s last post…Blogging about Blogs

  4. Great suggestions (comments too)! This was the boost I needed to get my car back in order and prepped for the new year.

    Penelope´s last post…Well Hi There!

  5. LOVE, love, love the idea of having a diaper bag packed and ready in the trunk of the car! That would make getting out the door so much easier for me in the mornings! Why didn’t I think of that before?!

    Only one small problem I foresee – here in Indiana, the water bottles would be frozen during the winter and scorching hot in the summer. :)
    Emily @ Live Renewed´s last post…Setting Green Goals – My “Changes to Make” List

    • Haha! I live in Western PA and also would have a problem with the water bottles. I’ve “accidentally forgot” water bottles in the car a couple weeks ago and they were frozen solid. My first thought was that I could use them as a deadly weapon if needed!

      • Not only the water bottles – I also live in Indiana and try to keep extra diapers and wipes in the car. But one day last winter, I went to grab a wipe, only to find they were frozen solid!

  6. living in Delhi, India … we have “puke bags” (a/k/a/ small plastic recycled bags) for when the kids have had enough of the crazy traffic, a roll of paper towels, mints, bottles of water, small cans of peanuts and some long-life flashlights.

    Great post!
    naomi´s last post…IS THE YAMUNA A RIVER OF DEATH

    • I’m in Australia, and we have puke bags too. My youngest dd often gets car sick, so we have big snap-lock bags (to seal in the smell), a bottle of water and wet wipes. It’s a good idea to keep some snacks and water in the car. Our local freeway famously had a 6 hour delay last year. Imagine being caught in that without food or water?!
      Dawn Lewis´s last post…New Cousin provides dilema!

  7. I keep two blankets tucked in the back of our van. They are handy for picnics, tired children, children who have gotten wet, unexpectedly, and have not real clothes to wear home-we have bundled them in a blanket.

    A few yeas ago, I put together a bag that I have stashed in the back of the van. We already had an emergency kit with jumper cables and things, so I did an emergency bag for kids. That bag contains a first aid kit, plastic garbage bags, cough syrup, pain reliever, a thermometer, a small container of laundry detergent, granola bars, a card game and an assortment of other things. Basically as we have taken road trips and needed certain items I have added them to the bag.

    We took a road trip awhile back and ended up with a sick kid. We then had to buy the thermometer and laundry detergent. Now I just keep them in that bag so we have them on hand “just in case.”
    heather´s last post…The Secret To Happier Hair Brushing

  8. We have a road kit, born of my fear of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with 3 kids, no help for miles and no cell service. And of course there would be 6 foot snow drifts, in South Texas.

    Ours is a backpack w/wipes, hand sanitizer, changes of undies, basic first aid kit, that sort of thing. We also keep bottled water, granola bars, a cargo blanket, jumper cables, fix a flat, etc., stashed under and behind seats. And kleenex, always kleenex.
    the cottage child´s last post…My favorite things this Christmas

  9. My kids are older (6 & 9) but I still carry a lot of the same things. Add to your list – a hand towel for wiping up rain or spills, a roll of paper towels, box of kleenex, crayons & coloring books, bottle of water, children’s tylenol and benadryl, adult tylenol and benadryl, a blanket and small pillow (for naps on the road trips)
    I keep most of it in the back (we have an SUV) in an organizer-thingy, but the pills I keep in the front console where I have control over dispensing them.

  10. I love the idea of just keeping the car stocked instead of carrying a GIANT bag everywhere. I’m going to have to try this. We have 3 girls with another on the way so this would streamline what I carry hugely.

    One thing I did that made a huge impact in our vehicle was add a trashcan and also a tote with handles for the oldest to carry to throw everything in that needs to come in the house when we unload the car.

    • I love that idea about having a tote bag in the car to throw everything in that needs to be brought in. Once it’s emptied, how do you make sure it gets back into the car? Kelly
      Kelly´s last post…January 16th

  11. Our family has had one car for a few years now, we are a family of five. We like that we save money with one car, but we love that we have to spend more time commuting together. We are forced to synchronize schedules with hubby.

    I love the idea of keeping a ‘diaper’ bag in the car!
    Karisa Rivera´s last post…Los Diferentes Tipos de Pensamiento

  12. Okay, I have one that is a little embarrassing, but I’ll share it anyway. I keep deoderant in my console. There have been times I have left the house and forgotten deoderant. I don’t know why, but it’s happened. I’ve been SO glad I had some in the car. The hard part is putting it on discreetly (if you don’t have tinted windows). :)
    Michelle Traudt´s last post…The 100 Thing Challenge

    • I do exactly the same thing!! Oh, and in the spirit of embarrassment, I also keep, um, feminine products,because I’ve been known to dash out without stocking my purse.

      • I keep feminine products too, including a pack of spare undies. I just bought a box of that stuff and stuck it in the corner of the trunk. I haven’t had to use it yet, but the peace of mind is helpful. I switch purses a lot and sometimes don’t think of it.

  13. Jennifer B says:

    I have only one kid, and she’s older. I keep snacks, water, a clipboard and pencils and a small reading light – often my daughter can make use of her time sitting in the car while we run errands or are driving to her activities do get some of her homework done. The reading light is essential this time of year as it gets dark at 4:30 here in the northwest.

    Other essentials – napkins/wipes. A trashbag (I keep a roll of trash bags in the car just to make sure we have a place to toss trash, a blanket for chilly mornings or wet children after swim practice.

    I don’t keep medicines in the car as the temperature variations can affect them – but I do keep them in my purse instead :).

    • Clipboard is an EXCELLENT idea!

    • A pharmacist friend of mine confirmed that – heat will do nasty things to medicines (and here in south Texas, heat is a constant issue). I keep little bottles of toddler Tylenol and Motrin in a ziploc baggies in my purse. I rarely leave the purse in the car so this way the medicine is still with me and still safe. Amazing the number of times I’ve needed to use it, too!

  14. My car is SO in need of a clean out but with two 15 month old babies running around I can’t get out there to do it!

    I keep extra sunglasses in the glove compartment because there is nothing worse than driving into the sunset around here with out sunglasses. It’s blinding!

    I also keep blankets, pen and notebook for when “inspiration” hits (yeah, even when I’m driving…), wet ones (they are also good for cleaning the dashboard of dust), first aid kit, maps and tissues.

    I recently found out that I don’t have jumper cables back there-I thought they were under the trunk with the extra tire. Of course, I found this out when I needed them-my battery died in Walmart parking lot and I had not only left my cell hone at home but I had the car seats so my husband couldn’t come get me because he had the girls! Then the pay phone was out of order and I had to use a phone behind the customer service desk with an employee glaring at me. Thankfully Mom and Dad were at the mall and came to rescue me! Make sure you have jumper cables!!!! Even if you don’t know how to use them, there will likely be someone around who does. Thanks Dad!

  15. add to your list- a book for each kid, a bag of trail mix and a pack of wet wipes

    Our weather changes here so much so I have a sweater for everybody living in the van

    By the way- I love vans- no swinging passenger doors for my kids to smash other cars :)
    priest’s wife´s last post…this moment- no words- just memories

  16. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Wow! Your little Lane is growing up so fast. Still a cutie.

  17. vermontmommy says:

    Reusable bags for the market.
    Small bag with toys for the park (chalk matchbox cars, shovel and pail)
    Jumper cables
    Change of clothes for our 3 year old (the 8 and 10 year old tend not to need a change of clothes)

    Consoles in front:
    small first aid kit
    hand sanitizer
    lip gloss
    car phone charger
    granola bars
    I also have a clip board between on front seat the the console.

    I do a clean up of the car whenever I fill it up with gas. I grab any wrappers, papers or tissues and toss them away.

  18. I do the same – although I keep my stuff in a clear plastic tote, and it changes seasonally. This time of year, there’s the packable rain gear, an extra warm hat and it summer it switches out to an extra pair of sandals and sunscreen. I keep TONS of snacks back there, because my son can be picky. Plus I don’t like having to restock often. I keep individual baggies/jars of dried fruits, nuts, bars of all types, sometimes applesauce cups. Also, I keep all my cloth grocery bags, and some extra silverware and dishes for when I want to pick something up at the deli for lunch on the go. I’m “eco” like that… I also often have our large labrador with us, especially on outings, so I’ve got a dog bowl, extra food and water and treats for him too! Sounds like a lot, but it all fits in a little tote!
    Ami´s last post…Challenge for 2011- Want to blog more often

  19. I keep a few granola bars and my chapstick in the console of my truck.

  20. I do not have kids, but I pack for trips and carry a huge purse around with me that would make you think I am a mom.

    I can’t beleive no one has mentioned this yet. But always have some extra money/change in the car. You never know when you will have to jump on a toll road to get around traffic or park somewhere with a meter. In addition I always have an emergency first-aid kit, extra shoes, sweater, blanket, and canvas grocery bags.

    When I lived in the north I always put extra winter boots, hats, and gloves (waterproof) in the trunk in case I got stuck somewhere and had to walk to get help. You would think in the winter you would be wearing all of that stuff already but sometimes if you are just doing a drop off and pick up you will probably just leave the house in your PJs and flip flops.

    My dad always kept a pair of nail clippers (my sister and I hated splinters and had to have them removed right away.)

    Words of caution, never keep batteries in the car where they can get hot (especially if you live in the south) the heat will cause the metal/plastic cases to expand and/or melt and leak acid everywhere.

  21. I have one car – a big Subaru Station Wagon – with a lot of trunk space, so I always have enough room to keep a supply of stuff including:
    1) Kids’ Bag with pullups (for my youngest who is still potty training), baby wipes, change of clothes for everyone, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, plastic grocery bags for trash/dirty pullups/dirty clothes, etc.
    2) Umbrella stroller – for the youngest who seems to not have the endurance of his older sister or mom.
    3) Umbrella – it rains a lot in the San Fran Bay Area
    4) First Aid Kit – this lives in the “spare tire” area so it doesn’t mysteriously disappear during the year.
    5) Car Emergency Kit – with flares, jumper cables and such.
    6) basket full of cloth and plastic bags for grocery shopping.

    In the backseat, there are always:
    1) two booster seats
    2) a soft basket filled with “car safe” toys and books
    3) two kids’ toy laptops (best car toys EVER!)
    4) two blankets to cover the kids on those “colder” days.

    With this system, we can go on outings or visits and I just have to make sure I pack my enough snacks and drinks for however long we’re going to be. (I don’t keep food in the bag – this bag rarely see the light of day and I don’t want to attract any little “friends” to come nest in my car…nor do I want to have to eat food that’s been sitting in my car for who knows how long, getting hot and cold over and over. It just doesn’t seem safe.)

    Most days, I’ll tuck a pullup and a clean pair of pants for my son in my purse but I’m always assured that there is a change of clothes or extra pullups in the car. If we’re going to be away from the car for long periods of time, the snacks are tucked into the kids bag and the whole bag (a backpack) comes with us. Used clothes are bagged and tossed onto the front passenger floor to be a visual reminder to me to take it inside once we get home and to restock the bag.

  22. Oh yeah – I almost forgot!! And I always keep the kids’ sunglasses and my sunglasses in the center console – that way they NEVER get lost. And there’s always a collection of paper napkins in the glove compartment for those “emergency cleanups” or runny nose moments. Those napkins saved my life last week when I had a nasty cold and forgot to bring Kleenex with me. ;-)

  23. I’m a handy girl, so I always have jumper cables and a small tool box. My mom has also got “emergency preparedness” drilled into my brain so I have a change of shoes, change of grungy clothes, food, water, first aid kit, duct tape, towels, flashlight, knife and a few other things all in a duffel bag in the back.

    What can I say? Girl Scouts are always prepared…
    Kait Palmer´s last post…For Auld Lang Syne- My Dear

  24. In back: jumper cables, jack, extra blanket in case Eleanor has a clothing disaster and needs warmth.

    In glove box: chapstick, hand sanitizer, paper napkins, spare diapers and wipes.

    Next to her carseat: spare Glow Worm to keep the “I hate riding in the car in the dark” crying to a minimum. :)

  25. We have a CRV snd the middle seat can easily come down, so my daughter can reach in the back. I keep a blanket there for her. (our boys are grown adults and our daughter is now 11…so I’m past the diapers, extra clothes, etc) However, often times while my hubby and I are driving around we like to roll the windows down and feel the fresh air. She gets cold in the back…so, the blanket comes in handy.

    Also, we keep a quarter in the glove compartment to get our grocery cart at Aldi’s….and our reusable grocery bags are in the back.

    Of course, I also have all the car emergency stuff, too. :)
    tammy´s last post…Goose- goose- duck

  26. I don’t have kids, but to keep us prepped and organized in the car, I use a “Snack Basket”. That’s what I like to call it. Just a basket full of snacks (granola bars, dark chocolate, fruit), sanitizer and napkins. I periodically restock it. For long road trips, I’ll throw in a bottle of water, insulated mug (for take out coffees), magazines and books.

    And there’s always cloth bags in the trunk for groceries.

  27. We have an absolutely “no eating in the car rule”… if we are driving so far that we need to eat something then we probably need to stretch our legs and have a run around for a bit as well. With eight kids I can tell you it keeps the car so much cleaner and honestly our longest drive is half an hour away. If we go out it is just after breakfast or lunch… or we are headed to friends for lunch or dinner – no need to snack. It keeps the car a lot cleaner!!!
    We also keep a couple of tools in a box in the car – jumper leads, a tow rope, and a can of tyre refill… just a couple of things that we have found useful in the past!!!

  28. In our car, we keep
    1) a small bag of toys in the car for the 1 year old
    2) extra napkins from restaurant/coffee stops in the glove box
    3) my stash of gift cards to restaurants or shopping stops (this way we always have them, even when we make unplanned stops)
    4) scotch tape–has come in handy many times when I’ve stopped for a present on the way to a birthday party or baby shower, plus can be used to temporarily fix anything!
    Lindsey´s last post…Changes ahead- and then not any more

  29. PB and TP. Without fail.

  30. Before I married I didn’t realize my active husband had this family rule…
    We always have bathing suits in the back of our car. You never know when there will be a waterfall, hot tub, fountain, swimming pool or lake that you might want to jump in. One of the best new rules I added upon getting married.
    Kristy´s last post…rockin out

  31. Stephanie says:

    I laughed at your comment about being overly ambitious and taking off the car seat covers, because they are so impossible to put back on!! I had to remove one (due to a throw-up incident) and it took me forever to get it back on and I didn’t get it quite right! Love the tips on what’s in your diaper bag. :)

  32. Just don’t put the car seat covers in the dryer. I found out that one the hard way.
    Holly´s last post…Hot Rolls pizza- cinnamon- or otherwise

  33. My trunk and glove compartment look very similiar. I also have a small, life-saving box in the backseat where I keep my quiet toys. Right now it contains a drawing pad and package of Elmer’s paint pots, a rollable car mat with three matchbox cars, a felt farm mat with a few animals, an i-spy bag and a couple favorite books. now if we hit traffic in our commute, decide to eat out, or need to make an unexpected stop while with our 3 boys, we are prepared. I’ve been thankful for this kit far more times than I have the jumper cables or extra undies!

  34. Extra top for you?! Genius!

    Must haves in our car:
    – coins
    – tissues
    – stash of plastic bags for trash
    – umbrellas
    – first aid kit kept(even tho we usually only use the bandaids and occassional pamol)
    – emergency bag (When I made 72 hr kits for the family, I just made one up for the car. It has long lasting food, torch, emergency blankets etc)
    – jumper leads
    – warm tops
    – when my kids were toilet training, I had extra underwear and a zip lock bag to place the dirty ones in.
    Meeks @ Juggling Motherhood´s last post…2011- Being a better friend toyou!

  35. My life has simplified A LOT in this area now that the kids are older. In the past, when we lived far away from EVERYthing we were involved in, I kept a bag of essentials in the back (snacks included). That’s not a problem anymore. Now, I just keep a package of wet wipes, a plastic baggie full of condiments and napkins, and an umbrella.
    Megan @ Faith Like Mustard´s last post…Word O’ The Year

  36. I just cleaned up my car a few weeks ago and while going through my must have items, I found a ton of Heinz Ketchup packets. I had forgotten that my now 9 yr old son went through a Heinz phase when he was a toddler. He had to have Heinz ketchup with everything (his taste has now matured to A1). After a miserable tantrum when the golden arches forgot to give us ketchup, which we didn’t realize until several miles down the highway, I loaded up on packets at our next visit and shoved in my glove box. They’ve been buried down under all the other items- kleenex, hand sanitizer, etc. I guess our emergency kits are always evolving!
    Rochelle´s last post…Extreme Couponing

  37. Excellent tips here! I have pretty much everything mentioned above. I’ve found doing a fortnightly or weekly (if I get the time) cleanup/sort through helps me get rid of stuff that’s empty/dirty/stale.
    Prerna´s last post…Organized Home- Organized You- A Brand New Series from The Mom Writes

  38. Several years ago I started keeping a cooler (one large enough for a gallon of milk and a few other things, but not so large that it takes up the whole trunk), and it makes life so much easier, especially if you’ve got other errands or stops between the store and home.

  39. We don’t have kids yet so our road trips are a bit easier. There always seems to be a need for hand sanitizer, napkins, and reusable grocery bags though. I also have an extra pair of sunglasses (sensitive eyes), an extra pair of shoes (for when the pair I have on have GOT to GO), hankies, a screwdriver, nitrile gloves (handy on occassion), an atlas, and a winter emergency bag if I get stranded. All the fluids and tire changing stuff are in the trunk as well.
    Frances´s last post…Resolutions With Links To Start Now!

  40. With 2 jr high kids and 2 little ones, i practically live in my car. I usually pack a diaper bag and stash in under the seat when a baby is born, then a year or so later have a half-a-dozen newborn diapers and a full grown kid. haha the things i use the most are a phone book and a notepad. When we are really running a lot I try to stash a box of granola bars or some peanuts in so by the time we get home from school at least a few hungry meltdowns can been avoided! :o)

  41. Jennifer B says:

    For all of you with little ones that are toilet training (or just past the toilet training stage), consider keeping a small potty in the trunk of the car. The stage when this comes in REALLY handy isn’t very long for each kid, but when I first saw my friend do this with her son I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

    • We’re planning on doing this, too! I heard about it someplace else and thought it was genius. I think that potty trips while in town are my biggest fear about not using diapers anymore.

  42. in addtion to many of the things above we have a folding potty that takes plastic bags

  43. We also took the potty with us when my kids were small. Especially on days we were going to a lot of yard sales. Maybe your post will finally motivate me to sweep out the bag of goldfish crackers that were dumped and then ground into the carpet. It’s so cold, I keep procrastinating. I remember a few years ago, a man in a neighboring state survived a wreck and being trapped in his vehicle for six days by eating/drinking what was in his car.

  44. For years I was the minivan mom! I tried to be organized, but wasn’t great at it! Then I downgraded to a sedan, and it was a company car that I worked out of all the time, so it was REALLY stocked, and a mess, LOL! Now I am not working anymore, no kids to drive around, so I usually just drive my hubby’s truck, in which there is no room to make a mess or store much of anything!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Who controls your to-do list

  45. Make sure things don’t freeze in the trunk if it gets cold enough. While riding in my brother’s minivan with him, his wife & their 4 kids, I was sitting next to the 3 yr old, who handed me his piece of chocolate he was done with. I asked if they had any wipes in the car. They did, they were in the diaper bag at the 3 yr old’s feet. I opened the bag to find a frozen BRICK of wipes. (They live in WI!) Needless to say, a kleenex was used for most of the job, but hands needed to be washed when we got back to their house!
    Susan´s last post…Paris – my new love

  46. Great idea – we don’t have kids at home anymore, so we keep a “seize the moment” bag in the car, mostly for summer, so it’s stocked with our picnic backpack that has plates/glasses and silverware. A couple of folding chairs, a blanket, sunscreen and binoculars means we never miss an opportunity for an impromptu picnic.
    deb´s last post…Bits and Birds

  47. I keep a bottle of water…I am always scared someone might choke- Call me crazy!

    Sandy Toe
    Sandy Toe´s last post…Dessert Every Night

  48. My “diaper bag” (which is a retired tote bag) basics in the trunk (though I’m single without children at the moment):

    Extra t-shirt, hoodie, jeans, undies, socks, sneakers, baby wipes, deodorant, small body spray, weighted picnic/beach blanket that can double as a towel, sunscreen/bug spray (seasonal), gallon of water, and of course the car emergency kit (jumper cables, flares, etc.).

    In the cabin, I keep a moisturizer that’s also a hand sanitizer, rolled up shopping bags for trash (kept in the side door pocket), mini-umbrella, extra pair of contact lenses, and a flashlight. Oh, I almost forgot: change for tolls–an absolute necessity in NJ.

  49. Here in the Arizona Deset area, we keep the cars stocked for disaster… a few bottles of water, a flashlight with the batteries turned backwards to prevent discharge, old eyeglasses/saline/set of disposable contacts (I am legally blind without correction and have had a contact pop out on the freeway… always always have an old pair of glasses in that glovebox!), a pull up or 2 and a pair of shorts for the oungest, Fem Hy pads which when folded in those little plastic packages can be used as almost sterile “field dressings” in the case of cuts and such, Benedryl single dose spoons for allergic reactions, small package from the travel bins of mini garbage bags (to carry wet clothes or as an airsickness bag), sunblock!!!! it might be less effective having sat in the car for a while but if we have to walk b/c of a breakdown or accident, better to have any sunblock!… During summer, we carry for fun last years swimsuits in case someone invites us to swim u expectedly. I carry the usual pills and lipstick and such in my purse since those go bad quick when the car gets to 120 regularly in summer. We typicLly don’t carry food for the same reason … melts. As do crayons :). So I try to prevent those from leaving the restuarant. I noticed recently that I also don’t carry an umbrella…. but that would be useful in the sun too.

  50. Snacks! I have an umbrella, but rarely use it, even though it rains in New Orleans nearly every day in the summer. And I like to have a collapsible chair or two in my trunk, along with many things others have said. Good for watching kids’ sports or emergency playground visits. Drives my husband crazy, though, and he takes them out whenever he has to put ANYTHING else in. He also took out my jumper cables, much to our dismay last road trip. So I just put those back in this very morning. Shouldn’t need them for 3 years, but you never know!
    Catherine´s last post…Pay attention and enjoy it!

  51. I keep a potty chair in the back right now, just in case we are out exploring in the forest or driving out in the scablands and the 3 year old has to go. I learned from the time my oldest was 4 and had to pee on the side of the road. He was horrified to pull his pants down, and a little scared, as he had never gone outside before. It took about 45 minutes of trauma before he could go!
    Visty´s last post…new skirt

  52. I keep a pretty fabric container on the front seat, in it I have wet wipes, small plastic trash bags, eye glass cleaner, sun glasses, cell phone charger, hands free speaker for cell phone, Kleenex, umbrella, and most important of all a small Bible. When I am waiting for the grandkids to get out of school or events I can always read.
    Ginger´s last post…Happy New Year

  53. Joan Katafias says:

    I have a basket in between my seats that holds sunglasses, hand sanitizer, pen, tire guage, kleenex, hand cream $ chapstick.
    In the back I have an umbrella, reusable grocery bags and a blanket.
    Since I am from NW Ohio, in the winter I buy $1 sample size carpets. In the front seat, I put one rug on the driver’s side and passenger’s side. They absorb the dirt, water, salt & snow.
    Then in the spring I just throw them away. I just sold a car that
    was 10 years old and the front seat carpeting was perfect.

  54. Here in Michigan it could snow anytime and we get LOTS of it.

    My SUV is stocked year-round with an extra pair of gloves, mittens, old boots and snow scraper. In the summer, I make sure to have an extra pair of shoes in case the strap on my flip flops break.

    The “usual” is in there too: wet wipes, paper towels, kleenex, pen, paper pad, water, gum, eyeglasses/case, sunglasses/case, plastic bags, lipstick, umbrella, knee highs, rubber bands and coupons.

    Before I retired, 4 years ago, one of my rules was to always keep $20 in my car in case of emergencies. It was well hidden. No one knew it was there. Not even hubby. Imagine my surprise to find it AFTER I retired. Had forgotten all about it.
    don_mae´s last post…Things To Toss By The End of 2011

  55. I love this post! We keep a very small bin with a lid that contains some small toys and books with accompanying CD. In the trunk we carry a picnic blanket and a kite. I always have handwipes and extra napkins in the glove compartment.

  56. I don’t keep too much on hand. In my trunk I have my winter emergency kit (I live in Alberta, Canada and often drive on rural roads) that contains candles, matches, a flashlight, batteries, small first aid kit, mini tool box (cheap one from Ikea), a couple fleece blankets, some granola bars and extra toques and mitts. I also keep a small shovel as I have been stuck many times (last time was in front of my sons school, I had to “shovel” my way out with my snow scraper!), and a regular car emergency kit. Up front I keep a thing of wipes (yes they freeze during the winter, but I always have some in my purse and if I need more they thaw fast on the dashboard) and a box of kleenex. The boys each have a blanket too (perfect use for baby blankets that are now too small for anything else).

    And I also agree with keeping an emergency potty on hand if you can. The phase is short, but we used the potty many times, even my five year old used it during a very long road trip this summer when he had to do more then just pee (and it was especially useful at our campsite when we didn’t want to trek to the washrooms)!

    • Oh, and in the summer I replace the winter emergency kit with a picnic blanket, a bag of beach toys and bug spray/sun screen.

  57. I’m in Sydney so not much need for blankets, but dh and I keep swimmers and beach gear in summer – that way we can pull over for a swim whenever we like!

    We also keep handcream and spare glasses in the glovebox, and some CDs, of course

  58. Front seat: flashlight, trash bags, umbrella, pen, paper, hand sanitizer, gloves and chargers for my phone, GPS and iPod/iPad

    Trunk: blanket, water, towels, Lysol wipes, trash bags, first aid kit, a few granola bars, jumper cables, bungee cords for tie downs and usually a bunch of magazines to drop off
    Kelly´s last post…525-600 minutes

  59. We keep a potty tucked under the middle seat of the van. LIFE SAVER. I don’t know how anyone could get along in life with little ones and no potty seat at the ready in the vehicle. Much more sanitary than a public bathroom, too. I also put a small square cardboard box up front lined with a plastic recycled shopping bag to use as a trash can.

  60. i keep an emergency kit in the back of my car. It actually has a spot to put a bunch of things below the carpet and on top of the spare tire. Yea for hyundais! The kit has a first aid kit, tow strap, jumper cables, flares, solar blankets, tri-fold shovel, caution triangle, tools, etc. I had a gas can, too, until I gave it to a random person who ran out of gas. I should probably get another one! In the winter, i beef up my emergency kit by adding sleeping bags, food, and a lot of water. [When it’s warmer, I just keep Clif bars in the glove compartment.] When my kids were in diapers, I always had plastic bags and diapers on hand. Now I just keep wipes and paper towels handy along with hand sanitizer, chapstick, umbrella, kleenex. I also keep one of those plastic orange safety tools in the door of my car–it has a sharp edge to cut a seat belt and a “pointy” steel hammer to break a window. I figure that if it’s in the glove compartment and i’m pinned to my seat, i won’t be able to reach it!!

    • one more thing–that last one was all about preparation. one of my sanity savers to keeping it all organized is that I empty my car out at the end of every day. garbage, toys, books, bags, etc…it ALL goes out of my car at the end of the day!
      chelsea´s last post…So You Just Raaaan

  61. I drive a Mini Clubman, so my car supplies collection is well-edited!

    Snacks that don’t expire soon or melt, an umbrella (I’m in Seattle), sunscreen (occasionally we see sun), kleenex, travel size paper towel container, trashbag and bandaids.

    Congrats on the clean car!

  62. In the ash try I keep change (rarely pennies) for meters, and such. In the little drawer above I keep Sbx card for drive thru. Cash. Usually about $100 in 5, 10’s and lots of ones for valet, drive thru, etc.,

    In the console between seats I have one pen and pencil. I keep stamps. I also have lip gloss, hand sanitizer, napkins, tissues, Ipod. Nothing more.

    In backseat I bought a collapse type bin in a shade that matches my interior. I keep wipes, and a diaper or two there. Games, toys, for my child. I go thru it every three to four months to edit out toys and add new ones that are ones that she is interested in at that time. One blanket because she likes to cover up.

    In the trunk area I have a market basket that holds disposable bibs, placemats and silverware for going out. An extra sippy cup. Diapers, wipes. A sweater, change of clothes. Then most importantly PLASTIC STORAGE BAGS for when I am going into a restaurant to hold silverware, bib, etc.,. so I can grab it fast. Then if the items are dirty they go back in.

    The market basket is great when I need something to hold things in a hurry. I have one blanket back there as well that is larger in case I buy something that is dirty (flowers, bushes, etc.,.) Or for a fast blanket at an event.

  63. All this info is great – I love all the lists of things in your cars. :) My question is, how do you find time to clean it??? My two boys got “go-bags” for Chrismtas: canvas bags with their monogram ironed on, big enough for a cookie sheet (the perfect lap tray for our booster seats), coloring book or paper, crayons, markers, etc. and a small toy. Now, it’s their job to pack what they want – and I don’t have to worry about if the toy I chose is what they currently like. They are older, 5 and 8 now, so I don’t have to worry about clothes or diapers; but if we’re going for an all-day trip I might throw in an extra pair of pants each in case of spills. The cooler in the back is a good idea, I just don’t know where to put it… My van has seats for 7 total; we often pick up extra kids after school, so I try to keep the back seat clear & available, and that means a small area behind it to pack things. I really do need to clean the van, but it’s sooooo cold out, here in Michigan, I don’t want to be outdoors!!! Great tips, thanks for the post! :)

  64. I don’t have any little ones any more, but I still need to put some supplies in my car. My essentials in the front of the car include Wet Wipes, napkins left from restaurant meals, kleenex and feminine supplies, a crossword book and pen, some change and sometimes a $10 bill ready for snacks or a donation canister, AND as mentioned above, deoderant.

    I’m a runner so my trunk supplies all year include several bottles of water in case I didn’t bring my aluminum water bottle (if I’m already very hot from running, the water isn’t too hot to drink even in summer), an old beach towel modified to be a cover for my seat, fleece and other blankets, sunscreen and insect repellent, sometimes a set of running clothes, small towel and shoes in case the running opportunity arises, and my eco-shopping baskets. In the winter I put in my window scraper, a tote bag with gloves, hat and windpants, boots if I’m not wearing them, and more blankets.
    Cathie´s last post…Friday and the End of July

  65. I really like to keep a pair of spare sunglasses in my center console in case my others break or don’t make it with me for some reason. The ones I keep in my car are kind of stretched out and don’t stay on my head (where I normally put sunglasses) so it reminds me when I push them up there to put them back in the car instead and that way they are always there.

    I also like to keep a pair of scissors in the car. Of course you want to keep them in a safely latching console or someplace where they will not go flying across the car in case of an accident or sudden stop but I have used them so many times for wrapping a gift on the go right before a shower or party, opening something, etc.

    Kelly´s last post…January 16th

  66. I just found your blog recently, and love it. I’m going through the archives, and already planning our No Spend Month!

    I have a 13 year old, so what I keep in the car is different. He has a small basket to keep car chargers for several of his electronics. Paper towels, wipes, and a basic first aid kit are standard though. We each keep a light sweater or jacket. Here in Florida, every place is air conditioned, and sometimes that means it’s too cold indoors.

    I have the opposite problem with water that you and some of your commeenters have. It’s too hot! If I kept water bottles in the car, it would get hot enough to make tea. Hmmm…maybe I should add a few tea bags to my backseat collection. ;)

  67. Jessica says:

    I definitely need to update my “kit.” I have a three year old and especially with the summer arriving I make a few additions to the car kit. Year round I like to keep a pair of socks handy for the kiddo as there are often parks or inside play areas where is required to remove his shoes and he is NOT running around these places barefoot should he be wearing flip flops. Also, I keep a large towel handy whether it’s for a mess, to wipe up the dog from the park, or sit on at an event. Aslo, never a bad thing to have sunblock ready especially for my fair-skinned self. I keep the lotion kind in the car as the spray cans might be a problem in the heat. Also, bug spray and anti-itch lotion is a good thing too espcially if you live in the Delta as I do… I’ve also been looking for the old sting-ease capsules for run-ins with bees or wasps but haven’t found them lately. Finally, keep the neo-to-go by Neosporin in my purse at least until my child learns to look in the direction he is running. :)

  68. I keep a small folder with a pen, some blank cards, stamps, and a few security envelopes in the glove box… because who wants to wrangle a howling napless preschooler through the line at the post office for one stamp? Also scissors, nail clipper, interchangeable-tip screwdriver (invaluable for disassembling yard-sale furniture so it fits in a sedan without squashing my kid!), several Matchbox cars, plastic bags for trash/yucky kid stuff, wipes, microfiber cloth for big messes. Trunk: Jumper cables, socket wrench, extra oil and antifreeze, change of clothes for kid, rope, old blanket, several cloth shopping bags. In winter, a scraper, some short boards, and a small bag of sand or rock salt (overkill, maybe, but I HATE getting stuck in the snow).

    This reminds me I should check whether my spare tire still has air.