by Kelvin Belfon
I enjoy driving a clean car.
But my expectations have drastically changed since the addition of our four children.
Over the last 2 years, my children have decisively marked their territory in the backseat of our car with toys, leftover food, snacks crumbs, dishes, clothing, books, crayons, paper, rocks, stickers, unfinished experiments, and all such things required in their world.
I know that for them, everything is in its necessary place, but from my perspective, it just looks like a dump, like the aftermath of a hurricane. Going back there to access the damages from week to week can be pretty disturbing for someone like me.
Our cars were a never-ending nightmare to keep clean. After spending a good chunk of time cleaning, vacuuming and wiping down the seats, my heart would sink in disappointment and frustration when after just 3 days the warzone would return with a vengeance.
I’ve had far less problem tidying up and de-cluttering our home; but our cars…! They just seem to be my kryptonite.
I’ve been tempted quite a bit to raise the proverbial white flag and surrender in defeat. I had the right excuses too: I’m a busy parent of 4 small children. It’s winter, extra muck is to be expected. Carwashes can add up to an extra, avoidable budget expense! Everyone will understand. Some won’t even care or notice, right?
But recently I decided to regain control and conquer this Achilles heel. First, I gave the car a thorough cleaning with both my 4 and 7-years helping out. Then we had a short family meeting. Yes, I included our 12-month-old twins in there too, but they gave no input!
It’s been almost 2 months. The exterior of our vehicle is in need of a wash but the interior remains significantly improved. The frustration is now at a minimum. And I’m less freaked out.
10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children
1. Avoid food in the car. As parents, we are always rushing from one event to the other. So snacking in the car is a normal routine. But if you can, don’t make it the norm. Reserve food in the car for emergencies only. Resist the habit and you’ll win every time.
2. Provide a home for the trash. This was the game changer. I’m not sure why it took me so long to adapt. Each child has a plastic grocery bags to dump trash in. Professional trash bags for cars are also available if you want a fancier look.
3. Empty the trash when you refuel. This is a handy tip used by lots of parents. But even better, every time we get home, we do inventory and the kids pick up their space before leaving the car. This will help avoid bad odors and garbage building up.
4. Keep toys to a minimum. Toys will clutter your car in a heartbeat. This will happen if your kids treat your vehicle like their entertainment hub. Encourage conversation and sightseeing as alternate activities. This will also help improve their attention span. Another big reason to limit or even eliminate toys is because they can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a sudden stop or accident.
5. Follow the clean car golden rule. What goes in, must go out! That is, if your children bring something in the car like a toy, coat or book…at the end of the day, they must put it back where it belongs.
6. Use a seat organizer. Seat organizers are great for helping keep things in their rightful place. Some may also protect your leather seats from showing prints as well. But avoid the tendency to store all the possible non-essentials you can find in your seat organizer, or you’ll be defeating the purpose and committing the same crime you wish to reform your kids from.
7. Wipe-up during downtime. You are sitting in the school line waiting for your kids or at the park watching them play…quickly use a wet wipe to dust off the dashboard or clean up a spill. Regular cleaning intervals will reduce the need for a major car wash project.
8. Enlist your children. Put your little ones to work. It will help reinforce the idea that they need to own the damage they do to their space. Moreover, use the occasion as another opportunity to connect with your child.
9. Use an air freshener! This will keep funky sports equipment odors at bay. Use the ones that eliminate bad odor and not just compound bad odors with perfumes.
10. Schedule monthly cleaning. Your vehicle can still accumulate trash or crumbs despite all the aforementioned. So once or twice a month, take some time to give your vehicle a proper clean. The good news is, it won’t be a war zone at this point.
It’s unrealistic to have a spotless car at all time when you have children. Be reasonable, messes and spills will happen. In our home, we also adjust during certain seasons, like snowy winters. But still, you don’t have to succumb to the helpless parent syndrome like I did. You can take proactive steps!
We are always teaching and modeling behavior as parents. What we allow in moderation, our children will do in excess. Be consistent, intentional and in the process you’ll be helping your child for years to come.
What other tips do you use to keep your car clean?