Or organize your smaller-family car. You pick. Either way, these things have really helped me:
- I put bowls (because plates and cars don’t get along) and cups and spoons in the van, to stay there. Everyone has one, their name is on it, and we keep them out there. We don’t eat in the van all that much, but when we do, messes are made. This makes messes so much less, and the Sharpie-marker labels let me know who didn’t return their bowl when I gather them back up.
- Bibs. I’ve gotten too many places and found our children, having eaten cereal bars on the way to our morning appointments, are sticky and dirty. Pocket bibs will save their clothes and quite possibly their car seat straps. Ours hang on the door’s big pull handle.
- Wipes. Because bibs won’t save the face or the hands. Unfortunately.
- Sunglasses. I finally found a home for them, and it’s working. They stay in the van, in an appropriately sized tote with clamp-style lid. I’ve been tempted to do the same with sun hats too this summer.
- Totes with lids. We have one for garbage, one for sunglasses, one for plastic ware, and one for the tire-repair kit.
- All of the above is in a box that slides under the seat. No more sliding items from one end of the vehicle to the other.
- A milk crate for the incidentals. Extra pants for Pierce, Kleenexes, the bucket of honey-wheat pretzels that stays in the car when we’re starving and not home yet, coupons for drive-through places, sunscreen and an extra sippy cup all stay in the milk crate, which also slides under the seat. (A different seat. They aren’t that big!)
- A gallon of water. If I’m really doing well, it’s freshly filled and kept in a cooler bag in the summertime. But, wet is wet, and when desperate, even hot water will quench an awful thirst.
- The potty chair. If your kids are under the age of six, particularly girls, this may just save you. A few shopping bags to line the seat and gather the unfortunate #2 to easily throw away bag and contents so the entire vehicle’s passengers don’t have to smell said potty chair contents will make you their hero.
- Hand sanitizer. Enough said.
- A garbage. See point 5 above, but it will make a big leap in keeping the whole place cleaner. I’m contemplating a garbage for each row.
- I found half-size milk crates. They slide under the edges of my bench seats in my Ford E350 quite well, and store eight water bottles without complaint. Since we all use metal water bottles, they were known to make quite the racket when we stopped or took a sharp curve. Now, they are under the seat, within reach of one of the older girls, so they can hand them out if need be without having them as flying missiles when we come to an abrupt stop.
If you want to take a seat out, take out the one directly behind the driver. While it makes it somewhat harder (but not impossible) to reach the kids in the now-first row back there, you somehow have more space for groceries than taking the back seat out, you don’t lose the row of four seats so you have more seating space, and the unloading of children is much, much faster than when all the seats are close to the front. I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve proven it time and again.
Finally, we have a rule. Empty the van of all of your belongings, and be certain your buddy did as well, or you’ve just volunteered yourself and your buddy for inside detailing of the van. Just like that, my van is cleaner – one way or the other.