Tried and true vehicle organizing tips, tricks, & products that work.
We know the internet is plumb full of vehicle organizing options; bins, nets, pockets, you name it. However, the key to having things tidy and where you can find them is observing your habits and rhythms and letting them guide you. It doesn't pay to have a fantastic new trunk organizer if you don't like to use it, right?
If you know me, you know I love a road trip, and you also know that I love being behind the wheel. There's nothing wrong with not driving, except I'm an antsy passenger and get bored quickly. Reading feels rude; same with being on my phone unless we need to Google something. Google is just the best. I remember my first experience with the world wide web and how exciting it was to plop in a question and get an answer. Aaaaaahhhh, happy sigh.
Anyhow, I mention the road trip thing because one of my organizing services is removing (at least one) load of donations, recyclables, and trash daily.
Clients are delighted when they don't have to deal with the stuff they are ready to release. Helping them get to this point is hugely satisfying and a fulfilling emotional payoff at the end of the day. A full van is a happy van.
So what this means is that my sole vehicle, a gorgeous mini-van, is set up to be multifunctional, quickly transforming from a personal traveling van to a business van.
When I'm on the road for fun, I must ensure I'm ready for my clients quickly and efficiently.
Isn't she a beauty?
Prepping the van for a client is more than ensuring it's unloaded and cleaned up. Things are set up so business and personal receipts and notes, for example, stay separate.
I'm usually working solo, so keeping items handy is also essential.
Let's see if my tips, tricks, and products work for you.
The Paper Shuffle
After multiple attempts at keeping paperwork organized, this simple and cheap monthly bill organizer keeps things tidy. It's slim and fits on top of the armrest console, right next to my arm, and it is easy to grab. Leaving it open to the current month makes it even more convenient.
I write a small note on each receipt indicating the project/client/purpose; it then gets placed in that month's pocket.
This is not used for actual bookkeeping; it keeps receipts and notes from going all over the place.
A Great Bin
One of the newest additions to keeping the van orderly is a container usually used in the home. Unfortunately, there's a big space on the van floor between the driver and passenger that had turned into a dumping ground. It was driving me crazy, so this is my solution:
ClearSpace Plastic Pantry Organization and Storage Bins with Dividers – Perfect Kitchen Organization or Kitchen Storage – Fridge Organizer, Refrigerator Organizer Bins, Cabinet Organizers
Each section holds things upright and ready for me to grab. Bags of gum and mints
in the front, notepads, pens next, sunglasses, toothpicks, etc.
It's been pretty great; there's still enough room next to it for a canister of compostable hand wipes and my umbrella.
A few of my organizing business items you may want to consider having onboard:
This folding dolly/cart has been a back saver for sure! Especially handy when moving my oldest daughter and out of dorms and apartments.
It's kept folded flat in the cargo area out of the way
The 3rd row of seats is usually kept folded with a moving blanket covering
the entire cargo space. It's been great for keeping small items from falling in the
cracks and tracks and keeping things clean. It doubles as a cushion for
fragile items like t.v.'s, and when it's ready for a cleaning, I pull it out and shake it off...easy peasy!
Two folding 4-foot tables. These make organizing a space a breeze. When we are
ready to organize, let's say, a kitchen, we pull everything out, sort, edit, and manage as we put items back. Counter space runs out quickly; these tables are perfect for more surface area yet small enough for tighter spaces.
A small tool bag loaded with the basics fits easily in a side compartment in the rear because you never know.
Hammer-with a short handle, nothing too serious
Tape measure-a good one that doesn't bend a lot
Screwdriver-I like the multi-tip ones for general-purpose tasks
Essential screws and nails for hanging up pictures, art, or whatever
Small level-gotta, make sure things are straight!
Vice grip-needle nose is my fav.
Pliers-a pair that fit my hands well
Painters tape-awesome for putting up wall art, shelves, and pictures.
Duct tape (of course)
Pencils-good for making discrete lines and markings
Two flashlights and spare batteries
Permanent marker-you never know when you'll need one.
An emergency bag sits down in the armrest console.
Triple antibiotic ointment
Matches in a waterproof container
Note pad and marker in a plastic baggie
This particular armrest console is quite deep, which is nice because it's close. However, if you need anything, it's dig-through-until-you-find-what-you-need time. I didn't find an organizer for this particular area that suits my needs, so it's perfect for rarely used items.
I purchased a tray organizer specific to my van; it sits in the top of the armrest console, holding smaller items like napkins, extra pens/pencils/markers, tire gauge, etc.
The van's massive user guides have been relegated to a space in the rear, out of the way, yet still available if needed. This has freed up a lot of space in the relatively small glove box that now contains napkins, straws, sauce packets, etc., for the navigator to hand out.
Well, if you've gotten this far, you realize this might be more like a bunch of lists than a blog... But, I can't help; I love a good list...and here comes another.
There's stuff I have in the van just because I drive a lot, like the emergency kit, and there's a gallon of drinking water onboard as well.
The following few items are for comfort and ease.
Keepin' it clean
A small garbage can sits directly behind the front row in the middle of the floor. After trying multiple garbage bags and systems, even those hooks that hang off the back of the headrest, this works the best for me so far. It's short and square to reduce sliding around. I've considered using velcro to secure it to the floor to help with what movement does occur.
Yup, that's right, crud mats. Between having a detached garage in Wis. weather and my habit of being tough on vehicles, I knew that the van's standard floor mats would need an upgrade. I chose Weathertec because of the great reviews; they have held up to the hype.
WeatherTech Custom Fit Liner Floor Mats for 2021 Toyota Sienna, Front Driver Passenger Side, Black Liners
Need Some Shade?
A large windshield makes for a lot of sun that bakes the heck out of the van. I've used the removable accordion folding shades and the pop-in collapsible ovals, which are a pain.
I now use a retractable shade that suction's to the windshield securing the base on one end, with another suction cup on the opposite end for the expandable shade to hook onto:
Retractable Windshield Sun Shade for Car, Large Sun Visor Protector Blocks 99% UV Rays to Keep Your Vehicle Cool, Auto Sunshade Fits Front Window of Various Models with Suction Cups 2021 New
As wonderful as my van is, the driver's seat is not super comfortable, which I found out pretty quickly...ouch.
Less than a week after purchasing my brand-new van, my youngest daughter and I drove it from Wis. to Fla. for a three-week vacation. Oof, did my rear ever feel that road trip? I even purchased a cushion, delivered to our destination, to try and help a girl out. It was ok, not great, but better than nothing!
Since that trip, I've used a flat fabric cushion that does the trick. Not super thick, just enough.
Keepin' It Secure
With all of the hauling I do, it's good to have several sizes of bungee cords tucked away in the back. Bungee cords are like duct tape; it's always good to have some around.
In the end, when organizing your vehicle, or any area of your world, it's essential to start the process by taking a moment to consider what makes sense in your life; pay attention to how you do things, your habits, and patterns. Then find the products and tools that work as an extension of who you are.