Ask Rose: Car Organization and Getting Over the Overwhelm

Ask Rose: Car Organization and Getting Over the Overwhelm

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Today I’m continuing one of my newest (and most favorite) blog installments–my reader advice column. I received two terrific questions: one about getting over the overwhelming feeling of trying to get organized and another about car organization. I really enjoyed answering these. I hope they are helpful to you!

Dear Rose, I have great intentions when it comes to “scaling back” my belongings. I put on my favorite music, get the kids out of the house, and just as I open the first junk drawer, I start to feel panicky and overwhelmed. How can I move past this feeling and stay true to my goal?

Willing but Unable in Dayton

Dear Willing,

It sounds like you are building yourself up to GET ORGANIZED in all caps, which just feels daunting. (Compare it to EXERCISE or EAT LIMA BEANS or FLOSS. I’m feeling panicky just thinking about those all caps tasks!) I always say: Make organizing a habit, not a special event. In other words, if you chip away at this in smaller chunks, as opposed to making it a big deal, you’ll be much more successful. I recommend keeping constant donation boxes in each room of your home and adding to them regularly. For example, when you’re cooking dinner and notice you have 7 wooden spoons, toss a few in the box. When you’re getting dressed and see those outdated business suits you haven’t worn in 10 years, toss them in the box. When one of your boxes gets full, empty the contents into a trash bag and put that bag immediately in your car to drop at a nearby donation center the next time you’re out. (Tip: Keep a roll of kitchen-sized trash bags in each donation box to make this easy peasy.) Decluttering should feel seamless with your daily life. You can even make this a fun family competition: give each person a box and see who can fill it up with donations the fastest. Blast that music, set a timer, and winner gets to pick tonight’s pizza toppings!

Also, I’m curious…Why do you need the kids out of the house? It sounds like you are sending away some potentially very helpful helpers. (Depending on their age. If they are members of the under-5 set, adios amigos!) But if they are of school age, consider organizing that junk drawer together as an opportunity to teach your child a very important life skill. Talk to your kids about why you want the drawer to be organized. What is hard about having a messy drawer? Or a messy room? Why is it easier to have things put away neatly? Then let them help you create that neat and organized look. Of course, praise their efforts and thank them heartily for their excellent help! Not only will you have a neat drawer, but you will have taken that child one step closer to being a responsible and independent adult. Then you can drink out of that #1 Parent mug with pride! (Unless, of course, you decluttered it… in which case, just drink out of a regular mug. You can still be #1 Parent.)

Dear Rose, Any tips for car organization?  We are talking snacks, books, potty in the back, stroller, garbage in cup holders?

My car is always a wreck

Dear Wreck,

As a mom of triplets, I can relate to the need for a well-stocked vehicle! The first step is to think about what you really need in your car at all times. If you regularly need that potty, keep it. But do you need the books and the snacks in there permanently or are these items that could be transferred in and out as needed? These are questions only you can answer, but remember: the less stuff you have in your car, the less you have to keep organized in your car.  Once you’ve determined your must-have car essentials, consider purchasing a car storage organizer like this:

This is the Diono Travel Pal Car Storage organizer from Bed Bath and Beyond. Snazzy!

Another great option is one that fits on the back of the seat in easy kid reach:

Also from our friends at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, this is the Diono Stow N’ Go Backseat Organizer. Sippy cups within easy kid reach? Yes, please!

Also, you mentioned trash. I only ever have trash bags in my car on long trips. As a general rule, my kids know to take trash out of the car with them when they get out. You could keep a wastebasket in the garage next the door just for this purpose. However, if your kids are really little or if this rule wouldn’t work for you, you could corral trash in the car using a flip top cereal dispenser. It’s slim and the top keeps trash from spilling out.

The key to making any trash system work? Enforcement. You gotta be the boss on this and make those kids take responsibility for their own trash. (By the way, that means you need to be on top of your car trash game, too. As they say, monkey see, monkey do.) You can do it!

Do you have a question you’d like answered on an upcoming “Ask Rose” post? Email me at [email protected] or message me through my Facebook page

Rose Lounsbury is one of Dayton, Ohio’s top professional organizers and a sought-after public speaker. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less LLC, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. Rose is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and has been featured on Good Day Columbus. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her online at

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