Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Is Your Car a Shame?



True story: Once I was carpooling with 2 friends. At that time, the girls were still using car seats, so I pulled a booster out. Among other crunchy, yucky little bits under the seat were two desiccated chicken nuggets. How embarrassing!

While I was driving the van, it always looked “Mom-ed.” In this case, “Mom” is another word for “trashy.” No one ever took into the house everything that they carried into the car, and over time, there were more and more pens, scraps of paper, crumbs (no more nuggets!), a single shoe, forgotten art projects, etc. It was dirty – “Mom’s taxi” dirty. In fact, my favorite YouTube video of all time celebrates (?) the “Mom van” in a video that you can watch and laugh at here.

Some people’s cars are much more of a disaster than my bit of “momming.” Not long ago, I encountered two women driving the most trashed out car I’d ever seen. It made me sick and sad to see how foul it was, especially when I realized that they had a couple of small dirty dogs in the vehicle with them and that they were likely living in it as well. Ironically what were they doing? Jockeying to be first in line at 99 cent day at the thrift store.

I found this website of junk-filled cars. While these vehicles are extreme, how many of you have a car that you’re not too proud, that you’re not keeping clean? A car is a major expense: the purchase, the fuel, and the maintenance. Shouldn’t it receive the same attention as your house, your closet, and your office?

Here’s how I suggest you proceed. First, get your trash can, your recycling bin, and another bag. One at a time, grab everything off the floor, from the trunk, and from within the seat pockets and sort – trash, recycling, goes back into the house (that’s what the extra bag is for), stays in the car. Clean out every little thing. Put away what you’ve accumulated, possibly leaving the “stays in the car” stuff out because next you’re going to vacuum, and not having those items in the way will allow you to vacuum more thoroughly. Finally, wash the car, inside and out. Ah, doesn’t that look and feel better?

Now, just like every other area of your decluttered home, you have to maintain it. Frankly, this is easier than maintaining the house because once you leave the car, it’s unlikely that you’re going to pass back by it and leave a book or shoes like you might in the living room.

In fact, a clean car can save you thousands of dollars. About five years ago, Dan was sick of his car and started talking about buying a new one. I knew that wouldn’t be a good way to spend our money, and I knew that this car still have thousands of good driving miles left. I took it to the body shop to have a few little dents and dings repaired and a piece repainted so that the outside looked new, and then I took it to a car wash place and got the super-detail package (everything cleaned, buffed, waxed, shampooed, etc.). True, it cost me about $500, but that’s only one or maybe one and a half car payments worth of investment, and we used that car for 170,000 miles.

What state is your car in?

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Cindy, this is such a good post. I don’t have a messy car but I certainly have been in some and they weren’t the cars of Mom’s. I can’t understand why people want their cars to be like that but then I’m not a mom and I have only me and Mom in the car most of the time. I do have a friend though who has 5 kids and they have a big SUV. They have set up rules for the car. No eating in the car except for small snacks unless they are on a trip. Only closed containers with straws for liquids. Each child has a designated spot where they sit. On the back of the seat in front of each child is a bag where that child is allowed to keep a few items for entertainment. When exiting the car the children are supposed to put everything away in their bag or take it with them. They also have several small trash bags in the car and once a week one of the older children has the chore of emptying the trash and using the small vacuum. In the back “storage” area there is a container where they put all the sports equipment, etc. The car looks very good for a car that hauls 5 kids all over the place to numerous sports and school events as well as church.

    • Deb J – I am impressed. I always had good intentions but my kids (and usually a few other neighbourhood kids too) had different ideas. Adrian always wanted to enforce a no eating or drinking rule in the car but as he wasnt the person doing the carpool and wasnt the person dealing with hungry thirsty kids after ballet or soccer or whatever, he got over ruled.
      I will add, however, that kids can be very chatty on the ride home when they’ve been re-fuelled, and that’s priceless!

      • I had three kids under 4, three dogs and made regular 400 mile trips to the far north of Scotland. We had similar rules for our car. If we didn’t I would have been driving a wheelie bin. Now the girls are older they like the car to be neat and tidy and it’s a lot easier. In fact I think the biggest problem is my husband!

      • Moni, my friend had snacks for the kids but they were always things that didn’t easily leave messes. It they were very hungry she would take them into the fast food place to eat. But she tried to not do that much. She is a real organizer and usually had the snacks to do long enough to get them home.

  2. Ah! Well our car, that I bought 10.5 years ago is at the end of it’s life and it certainly is very battered: we live in a street that until last year had cars parked on both sides of the street which left just space for a single car to squeeze through. The result was that our car, along with others gathered many dents over the years form people being careless when reverse parking, so we really didn’t want to replace our car until the local authority changed our street to parking on one side only.
    My husband also works on a farm which didn’t do the inside or outside any favours, lol. Earlier this year I started a job where I go to peoples homes and there were some very smart homes where our now shared car was a bit of an embarrassment, just through it’s battered and rusting state.
    This week we bought a new (second hand) car! We plan to keep this one regularly vacuumed and clean, it’s so lovely having smart one once more.

  3. Cindy,

    Have you been peeking in my car windows? No matter how often I clean out and vacuum the car and then promise myself it will stay that way, it’s a mess again in no time. We spend a lot of time in the car, especially on weekends. We usually have sporting events that are 1-2 hours away from our home, so the kids bring books and other items (Lego characters, dolls, you name it) to entertain themselves. We have these things, interesting rocks they’ve found (?!), snack wrappers, Gatorade bottles and more strewn through the car (crushed Kleenex boxes, anyone?). Often we get home late and nobody, including me, wants to deal with the mess, so we put it off.

    Even before I had kids and had a long work commute, I usually had CDs, magazines, soda cans, etc., on the passenger’s seat and on the floor, so it’s not all the kids’ fault. It just has gotten worse. The (old) car I’m driving was my parents’ car, and my mom gave it to me after my dad passed away. My dad always kept the car in impeccable shape, too, and I’m sure he wouldn’t understand at all why it looks the way it does, and he would be right. I had to take my car in for new brakes, tires, etc., yesterday morning, so I had to clean it out the night before so that it would be presentable.

    The video on Youtube was hilarious. Not too many months ago, I opened the rear passenger door on the side of the car where my son sits, and several golf balls fell out and rolled across the parking lot. They were wedged in between the door and bottom of the seat, and I didn’t know it. At least I can be happy that my car isn’t enough of a mess to make it onto the other Web site you posted!

  4. Cindy,
    I keep a disgustingly messy car, but it’s not nearly as bad as the ones on that website you linked to! But I will clean it out anyway.

    A dear friend of mine told me long ago that a car is like a big purse, where we carry around a lot of excess junk. She has gotten past that stage in her life, though, and I think I can too.

  5. Hi Cindy! Ouch! If I did not know we lived in different countries and different hemispheres, I would think you had a look at my car. I think I better get it cleaned up. If the shoe fits… 😀

  6. This is so funny! The state of my car was such a sore point to my husband, he was sure I could feed and clothe the kids for a couple of days off what was on the floor of the car – maybe a slight exaggeration, but a grain of truth was certainly in it. I think “mom cars” are like houses on wheels. I can remember at one point some years back we had a pretty elaborate car pool going at one point, which was more like a bus service doing the circuit of after school activities in our area. I think there were even some pick ups which required another drop off along the ‘route’ – how these kids made it to their activities with the right gear was a miracle, and invariably a pile of gear, clothes, drink bottles, bags, etc invariably ended up strewn around the floor of the car. At least it was contained and we all knew where to find their missing stuff. Ah the good old days! All those kids are teenagers now, most have licences and my car looks pretty tidy these days although could be described as “well used”. Im hoping to buy something small next year maybe, I have one more teenager to teach to drive and I can get something neat.

    • Moni, that’s hilarious! Kids must attract clutter (and food) wherever they’re gathered. Do you think kids who are driving now don’t want a car like mom’s that always was a mess (even though they and their friends may have been the primary cause of the mess) so they’re keeping their cars clean? That would be teenage rebellion at its best!

      I know someone with four kids who has a swimming pool, and she has a drawer dedicated to items that kids who come over to swim have left at her house. She hopes they remember they’re missing something and search the drawer.

  7. Love this post! I do not enjoy a cluttered or messy car, it makes me a little claustrophobic, not to mention if something is left for any period of time, it could start to smell. I keep my car free of clutter the majority of the time and although it is easier because my children are older, I make them take trash with them when they exit the vehicle. I try to do a more thorough job when we are getting ready to go on a trip. We end up with more things in the car when we are on a trip, so getting rid of items that are just trash helps make room for the important trip stuff, like a pillow and blanket, any devices and snacks.