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Must-have items for the car trunk

Categories: Decluttering


Our house may not always be in order, but one thing I pride myself on is the state of my car. I spend a lot of time in there, and I work very hard to keep the clutter down despite having 3 kids.

One way I keep things in order in the car is to require the kids to get their things out of the car when they arrive home. It’s a struggle sometimes, but I’m trying to teach them the value of putting things away promptly so you know where they are. Doing so also reduces the chances of backpacks being driven away on an errand or to a sibling’s sports practice when it’s time to do homework.

Another thing that helps me keep order in the car is to go through it quickly while I’m at the gas pump. I throw away any trash that may have accumulates and gather any stray items into a grocery bag, or at least a pile to be returned to their proper place.

However, my need for order in the car sometimes conflicts with my need to be prepared for whatever comes my way.

When the kids were small, I carried everything in the world in the car: you name it, I was prepared for it. We could swim, go skiing, make crafts and eat for a week, all from the trunk.

Over the years, I’ve learned to pare down, and now I like to think of my car trunk as prepared, yet efficient. I still spend a great deal of time in there, and sometimes the kids’ sports events take us far from home, so I still like to be prepared, especially when I’m going to be outside.

Some of my must-have items I keep in the trunk:

Folding chairs - they’re not just for sports, I’ve used these in several situations and I’m always glad when I have them. They usually fit way back in the trunk, and aren’t really in the way often.

Nylon-backed picnic blanket - this type of blanket has been handy for just hanging out, it’s been a spontaneous table cloth and it can even keep you warm when it gets cold unexpectedly.

Duffel bag - I keep automotive supplies in here such as jumper cables, rags, extra oil, funnel, tools, a flashlight, gloves, rain poncho, fix-a-flat etc. in it. It’s nice to have it all together, and it’s easily relocated if needed.

I also keep paper instructions in there about how to jump a car because I can never remember, but I don’t like to let people see them because I’m a grown-up and I’m supposed to know these things.

Tote bag: this has the reusable grocery bags, a couple of blankets, a towel, an extra jacket, a travel pillow, a multi-plug, a couple of small umbrellas and a few other items.

This was born of the fact that I’m often waiting for kids at various places and I hate it when I’m unprepared, especially during transitional weather. I also hate loose items in the car.

One thing I’m planning to add is a pair of shoes or boots. I know that’s standard for some of you in the north, but I never thought a lot about it until I was snowed in at work last winter here in the sunny south and I was faced with walking home in my party shoes in the snow.

I’m curious, what kinds of things do yo keep in your car trunk (besides “the bodies”, smartypants)? Do you have things you never leave home without, or am I the only one over-thinking this?

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6 comments so far...

  • I always have a roll of paper towels in the trunk, a big padded moving blanket (folded flat and laid on the floor of the trunk), an auto emergency kit, and a grocery bag stuffed full of grocery bags, for the grocery trips where I inevitably forget to bring the bags.

    I keep a small plastic box stuffed with diapers and wipes, and extra (junky) clothes for each kid. (Usually, the extra clothes are something that is super ugly, that I wouldn’t want to keep in the regular rotation.) Extra clothes have come in handy when kids have thrown up on themselves, fallen into stinky ponds, etc.

    For the winter, I don’t leave home without boots, gloves, and hats for myself and each kid with me. This is my husband’s thing! I was resistant, but he finally convinced me. I keep them all in a big tote bag, and just keep the tote bag in the car. I live in suburbia, not the wilds of the north, but I would still hate to slide off the road in the winter and have to wait around for AAA with no hat for my baby (as my husband so rightly points out), you know?

    Helloheather  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 8:08 am

  • I too seem to ‘live’ in my car, en route to various activities, school, etc. I struggle to keep it tidy but I do try. One of the best things I found was a collapsible organiser for the boot (trunk?!), which folds out to create three large compartments, one with a zip to keep loose small things in. It has greatly reduced the ‘clutter’ in the car, most of the stuff below goes in there.

    Currently in my car I have: 2x fleece sweaters (one for each child), 1 large (6ft!) golfing umbrella, 1 fleece blanket, 1 fleece hat (for me), 1 foldable chair, 2 paperback books (for me), assorted mini-encyclopedias (for the kids), 1 bottle undrinkable water (for the radiator), 2x water bottles (drinkable), 2x packs crisps (chips) (for emergency snacks), 2 boxes of tissues, 1 tube sunscreen, 1 tube handcream, 1 box of elastoplasts (bandaids), 1 pack chewing gum, 1 pack toffees (for my low bloodsugar), infant paracetamol, adult paracetamol, 1 pack Flower Remedy calming lozenges, paper, mints, pens, swimming badges (to be sewn). The bottom of my boot (trunk?!) pulls out and is a decent (meter-square) folding table, too - bonus.

    Jen  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 9:37 am

  • You’re way more prepared than i am. So far the only things that have made it into my NEW trunk are my folding chairs and reusable shopping bags. I do, however, keep a small makeup bag with feminine products in the cubby inside the car. I can’t tell you how often THAT has come in handy. I usually also have a box of tissues, but that hasn’t made it into the new car yet.

    Headless Mom  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 10:36 am

  • I keep the reusable bags & a towel in my car at all times. . But mostly it depends on the season. Living in the midwest I add winter items in about Novemeber. (Carhart bibs, gloves, hat, scarf, and blanket) Boots are taken in nightly in case of snow at night. I actually don’t even have jumper cables in my car anymore. I did until I bought a SUV. They just don’t have the room to store much out of site.

    I emtpy my trash out at every gas fill up which is weekly. My son has a small backpack that travels with him but we don’t leave it in the car overnight. I do have one set of clothes for my son also in the car.

    Angel  |  August 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am

  • All the auto supplies (quart of oil, trans fluid, windshield fluid), the nylon backed blanket. I have a trunk organizer too that I keep that stuff in that handily velcros to the carpet interior so as not to slide around.

    I don’t really live in my car so I tend to remember the other stuff when leaving (except those darn grocery bags).

    Mich  |  August 24th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

  • I have a pack of apple juice boxes (they’ve saved me from many a tantrum, forgotten fast-food drink purchase, and my own blood sugar after a fasting blood test) a roll of paper towels, some windex, a dustcloth in the glove box.. also keep some prefolded cloth diapers in there, and i always have my big soccer bag which has a towel and some granola bars. I also keep a folding camp chair for myself.. everyone else is okay sitting on a blanket on the ground. I do have a wagon, so I try to keep stuff stowed in side compartments or held down with a carabiner hook… in a collision this stuff would be flying all over the car and that can be dangerous.

    jen  |  September 13th, 2011 at 9:26 am