I have three children, ages 9, 7, and 4. We are on the go quite a bit, and each of my children brings items into the car as we’re out and about. They like to bring toys and books, which is all good and well until we have the equivalent of a toy store in the back of our vehicle!
It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a goal of mine to keep our car presentable; my standard is having it clean enough that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to offer someone a ride. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to manage the mess, even with kids!
1. Schedule car washes. Taking the car to be washed just wasn’t on my radar, but now it’s something we do at least twice a month. When we get it washed we always follow it up with cleaning out and vacuuming the interior, so this ensures that we have an opportunity for deeper cleaning every couple of weeks. If you’re adverse to spending money on a car wash, you can schedule a weekend day to do it yourself at home – or better yet, make the kids do it! It can be a fun task that they might actually enjoy.
2. Make smart car food choices. I think most parents will agree it’s pretty unrealistic to suggest a no-eating rule in the car. I have instituted this rule on occasion, and it definitely makes life harder. When we’re running late in the morning, it’s easier to let the kids eat breakfast on the drive to school. I’ve learned that we have to pick the right types of food – granola bars work well; cereal with lots of small pieces does not – and that we need to package food in the right way to help keep crumbs at bay. When the children do bring cereal, we put it in a larger baggie, filling it only about ¼ of the way. You don’t want leftovers, because those will inevitably be spilled. I prefer to give the kids drinks in cups with lids because juice boxes often get unintentionally squeezed and make a big mess.
3. Always throw trash away when you get gas. You’re standing around waiting for the gas to pump anyway – why not be productive? This will help keep trash from piling up and seeming like a daunting task to tackle.
4. Provide a basket for each child in the car. Go to the dollar store and get each of your children a small basket. Every so often have the kids bring their basket in and purge the car of various toys and items that have made their way into the vehicle over the past week.
5. Keep baby wipes on hand. These are great for cleaning spills, wiping down the hard surfaces in the car, and cleaning up the kids, too. Quick wipe-ups help prevent stains from setting in and can curtail a sticky mess before it spreads.