Keep Your Car (and Kids) Clean, Clutter Free With These Hacks

CARS.COM — My home life should be a cautionary tale for new parents. My husband and I have two sons, ages 15 and 11, and somehow they are on four sports teams and one sports camp this spring. Just this weekend, I had the grim realization that I was going to be spending a lot of time behind the steering wheel trying to get one kid or the other to his game, practice or camp.

We swore we'd never be those parents who were zipping their kids around trying to accommodate all their commitments, but here we are, on the precipice of doing just that. It looks like my new title will be chauffeur.

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That also means that our weekends and some weeknights will be spent battling traffic to watch some questionable soccer or baseball. I plan on reminding my kids of these sacrifices when my husband and I are older and grayer, but first I've got to survive all these activities.

With the arrival of spring sports, my poor car gets pressed into becoming not only a taxi service, but a kitchen on wheels as we gobble snacks or fast food between games and a rolling locker room where the kids trade one filthy uniform for another. It can get messy — and downright gross.

Here are some of organizational hacks I'll be putting into practice this spring in an attempt to keep the car, my kids and all our lives a little more on track (and hopefully less sticky).

Combat Cupholder Grossness

Nasty. There's no other word to describe what's going on in the bottom of the backseat's cupholders. It may take a power washer to get just the cupholders clean. After the boys and I put in some elbow grease to clean science experiments, I need a better way to keep the grime away. Going forward, I'm putting silicon cups — the liners used for cupcakes — into their cupholders in an attempt to keep things a little cleaner back there. I like that I can remove the muffin cups and throw them in the dishwasher. Actually, the kids can do that.

Rolling Through the Trash?

A lack of communication between my husband and me led each of us to separately order 1,000 rolls of dog-poo bags. I'm rolling in them for the foreseeable future. What I've figured out is: It's easy to stash a roll or two into your car's door pockets. And when there's a spare moment, you can rip off a bag and have the kids pick up their trash with minimal nagging on your part and effort on theirs.

Wipe Away the Grime

When my boys were young, we had containers of baby wipes strategically placed all over our house, in the car and in a variety of bags. Now that the boys are older, we don't need the wipes as much, but I still like to have a container of them in the car — preferably the kind that comes in a plastic container because they have a chance of fitting in a cupholder. They're great for getting a layer or two of dirt off their hands before eating the post-game snacks or for wiping up the mystery schmutz.

Zip-Close Bags for Carsickness

My youngest still gets car sick. It sucks. We have a variety of tricks to help him keep car sickness away, but we try to keep a stash of gallon-size zip-close bags on hand in case things go south. When the boys were young, we'd throw a change of clothes and extra diapers into a zippered storage bag for the inevitable diaper blowouts whenever we were on the go. Thankfully, we're well past diapers, but the resealable bags have remained in our organizational repertoire.

Corralling All the Crap

In theory, a trunk organizer is a great way to keep all of the items rolling around your car's cargo area together, but in practice, I find that I either don't put items into the organizer or I have so much stuff to haul around that the organizer is the first thing to go. I like to use a tote bag to keep my reusable shopping bags, emergency bottle of sunscreen and other items from rolling around the trunk. The bag's slim profile means I can tuck it between buckets of baseballs and sports bags.

With kids as old as mine, I know it's on all of us to keep the car well-organized. Frankly, it's tough sometimes just to get the boys to throw out their garbage when we pull into our parking spot, but we'll keep at it using the above hacks to make things a little easier.

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