Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tips for keeping the family car clean

At this very moment I am sitting in one of those car detailing places. It’s odd because it is pouring outside, the kind of gray, endlessly rainy days that we’ve had here for the past month. Not surprisingly, there is no line. I even got a discount on the service. My reason for being here? I’m headed out tomorrow for my first chaperoning-at-a-field-trip experience at my son’s Kindergarten. And I’m terrified, so I’m going to be as prepared as possible.

Another messy car culprit - the morning sugar-and-cream coffee!

Another messy car culprit - the morning sugar-and-cream coffee!

First, we mothers are to meet at the front of the school at 8:20 a.m., where we will caravan together behind the school busses transporting our kids to the pumpkin patch 45 minutes away. We’re not allowed on the bus, nor are we parents allowed to transport kids to the school function. Both make sense to me.

My first bout of intimidation comes in that I’m sure we parents will double or triple up for the drive up. No sense in each of us taking separate cars. So I’m having the car cleaned just in case someone I barely – if at all – know happens to get in my car.

I used to keep my car clean. Granted, I rarely got the oil changed or took the car in for regular maintenance. This was in the days before Rick, when I was single and money was better spent on clothes than car repairs. But the inside of my car was clean. No trash piled up on the floor, no food crammed in the built-in cigarette/trash thingies, no wads of gum rubbed into the floor mats. My car was clean enough to eat in, though I rarely did.

And then came Truman, my darling almost-6-year-old. Now my car is a trashcan on wheels. Today I handled all that crap – which was pretty repulsive in some parts – and tossed it in the real trashcan. What was left over was billions of bitsy bits of trash parts too small for my fingers to effective snatch, bottle tops, and juice pouch straws literally stuck to the seat. (The trade off here is that my car is regularly maintained now with new tires every whatever miles and fresh oil too often than I think it needs.) Regardless of its pristine maintenance record, I knew I had to pony up the cash and see a professional about the mess inside my car.

I have an obsessively clean and organized friend whom I don’t fault for that. She has two kids – one older and one younger than mine. And yet, her car is never a mess. I asked her for some tips on how she does it, and she offered me some pointers, which I’ll share below. But just as sure as it’s raining outside, I know in my heart of hearts I will now follow them. But maybe you will, so here they are:

- Put a trash bag or a console-sized trashcan in your car and actually use it for trash. Then remember to empty it often.

- Every time you get out of the car – at home, walking into a store, stopping to get gas – remove the trash and throw it away in the closest receptacle.

- Once a week or so, remove toys and books from the car and return them to the house. You know as well as I that kids are only interested in toys when they first appear in the car, rather than those that have sat in there for months on end.

- Invest in some of those car organizer things. You know, those over-the-seat things with pockets and pouches where, ideally, your kid can store books and toys and coloring supplies. The problem is getting your child to return the toy to the pouch after he’s finished playing with it. Other storage jewels include those that can fit under the seat, or on the floorboard under little ones’ feet, or in the trunk but hold valuables like wet wipes and maps and band-aids.

- Have an emergency clean-up kit. This can fit into one of those organizing containers you invested in, above. Stock it with wet wipes, a bottle of water, soap, all-purpose cleaner … stuff like that. Then remember you have it when big messes occur, hence cleaning them up before they become sticky, gooey, gross gobs of goo.

Photo, JWJourney

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