5 reasons a clutter-friendly car and a dad are a perfect fit


photo credit: First Order Stormtroopers via photopin (license)

When I clean out my car, I do it right.

And there’s always a backlash.

“I’m starving. Where are the snacks, daddy?”

“I’m cold! Where are your sweatshirts, daddy?”

“I need a science experiment. Where’s last week’s Gatorade bottles, daddy?”

I let them down by tidying up.

Hardly any uneaten food. Hardly any.

I’ve never had my car quarantined. No Haz-Mat unit has been dispatched to handle it. We keep uneaten food to a minimum. We occasionally bring in an armload of wash.

As I type this post, my car is “clean,” insomuch as I washed it on Monday, inside and out, and, besides a little road grime (well, a lot – they’ve stripped the nearest main road to repave it, so we’re riding on the concrete ripples and kicking up asphalt dust until further notice), a pair of (clean!) soccer socks and perhaps an empty can of Mello Yello Zero (good stuff!) or two, it’s still “clean.”

So, no embarrassing moments in the car pick-up line when Mrs. Thomas opens the door and sees sunflower seeds plastered to the windows smells last week’s shin guards baking in the sun or watches small reptiles and tiny pie tins avalanche out of the Pontiac.

Instead, it’s a tidy, orderly automobile, not on the order befitting an obsessive-compulsive, or even Jerry Seinfeld, but certainly worthy of lines and quips from those we know, who might ask, “who stole your car and returned it clean?”

Or, “whose car is this?”

Or, “where is Elise’s/Marie’s/Grace’s real daddy?”


I feel taller and more handsome in a clean car, and probably the lack of weight from recyclable bottles, sweaty practice vests and the aforementioned sunflower seeds being removed improves gas mileage and curbs wear and tear on my transmission.

All beneficial results for society, and mankind, right?

But here’s the inside story of why a touch of hoarding mentality can really come in handy when it comes to a car.

1. There’s a hunger-staving snack, often within arms reach.

Kids are hungry. Constantly. Kids of a dad who is always hungry are statistically predisposed to higher degrees of constant hunger. Snack availability is not only a matter of convenience but of responsibility.

The same way white families keep a blanket, canned goods and a good flashlight in their trunks, in case of emergency. (Don’t you?)

A small box of animal crackers or bag of seeds or any such starchy/protein- or carb-packed staple isn’t just a bonus, it’s a key to survival.

2. Sunflower-seed spitting improves mouth-eye coordination.

There’s protein in those little seeds (and a goodly amount of sodium, and more fat than I imagined, it turns out, as I label-read last time I thought of buying a new bag. I put it back. But for purposes of this blog post, we’re going to pretend I’m still in the “Let It Seed” phase of my existence).

And going through the effort of procuring this little seed from this tiny shell is a lesson in perseverance if anything. (We all agree we hate when you accidentally spit the seed and eat the shell).

Not sure where they learned this, but the kids try to fire the seeds at cars in the next lane. They’re getting better at it, but no one’s as good at it as dad. I mean, whoever they learned it from. It’s an acquired skill.

3. Slopped on your shirt? Getting chilly? Forgot your pants? Reach around – there’s something for everyone.

My kids are cute in my shirts.

Cuter than me, in fact.

When they look for my clothes, it’s not to supplement their own wardrobe, it’s to sop something up they’ve spilled before we get to a red light, and I can turn around and see the damage.

There’s a convenience of having hope to find a matching black soccer sock in a moment’s notice that you just can’t foster when your car is as tidy as Mitt Romney’s tax forms.

4. Entertainment is an arm-length away. Usually.

Man, traffic jams. You have three kids in the car, that can be murderous to a parent.

But not this parent. Rather than having to regale the offspring with games of “I Spy” and leading sing-a-longs, I can suggest they root around for a coloring book or Happy Meal toy or dry-erase board to occupy their attention.

It’s often a game in itself to see what kid comes up with what when they jab their grubby hands into the pile. Only a couple have come back up with splinters or insect stings.

5. It simply adds character.

It’s art. Art that changes with the day. One day, there’s a pop-tart wrapper and grocery bags, maybe some crayons. The next, the wrapper might be gone, but there’s a stuffed dog. Next week?

The dog’s still there, and there’s another wrapper, but now, there’s a Zhu-Zhu pet coloring kit out in the back seat.

Usually, the piles don’t reach window-level, and I rarely have anything in there that could cause much bodily harm should we become involved in an auto accident.

If I can keep up with a weekly clean-out, it’ll just inspire my kids to do more. You know, start with a clean canvas, and create again.

Really, who am I to stand in the way of that?

Pass the animal crackers up here, will you?

car quote


  1. Renee says:

    Haha… keeping a “unorganized” vehicle is good parenting! As you said, you never want for anthing and theres something for everyone! Made me chuckle! 🙂

    1. That’s what I’m saying. I was never a boy scout, but I think I’m always prepared. More than I have to be, usually.

  2. And here I was thinking I should clean my car…but it’s just a little dust and a few pebbles, a stick or two and my Bob-the-Builder emergency blanket. I don’t carry an emergency kit (though I should b/c I travel a lot, long distance, in snowstorms). I do have a few emergency crossword and Sudoku puzzles that I cut out of the Saturday newspaper for the times I’m waiting for school to get out, waiting for karate to end, waiting for…well you get the point. Thanks for the great laugh!

    1. See, how you described your car in its current state is in line with what I’d consider “clean” for my car. I do now have an emergency blanket, but I refer to it as just a “blanket,” so I don’t seem *too* prepared and lose cool points. Sudoku is a brilliant addition. Wait, I’ve never done Sudoku. Isn’t that with numbers? Maybe I was thinking it was a kind of Asian snack. Nevermind on that. But a few word searches in the car sure wouldn’t hurt anyone. I have room.

      Glad to provide the laugh! For my next act, I’ll invite you to identify the food particles in the back seat.

  3. Leslie says:

    I had to buy a bigger car because every time I opened the back end sh*t was always falling out. It was so embarrassing. It may have been cheaper to just keep a cleaner car but that is just a goal that is clearly beyond my reach.

    1. One might argue that a properly-dropped lit match would also have been a cost-effective solution – and perhaps more lucrative, depending on your auto coverage.

      Look on the bright side: Every time sh*t falls out the back of your auto, that’s less sh*t you’ll have to clean out of your auto.

  4. Gosh your car sounds like mine before I even had kids. I can’t imagine all the great stuff that will be in it when the kids are old enough to “enjoy” it! I am sure your car is a treasure trove for your kids! And hey, you can always tell people you have your tornado/hurricane/tsunami/ godzilla emergency package in your car. That was always my story!

    1. Oh, I did this pre-kid, too, but it’s so much easier to blame the kids now that they exist. How long can a person live on blueberry Pop-tarts if they’re stuck in a car when a tsunami hits, or Godzilla attacks? I hope to never find out, but if the circumstances dictate, I feel good about our chances.

      You’re so going to love it when your kids get bigger and start toting stuff in.

  5. Funny. My OCD doesn’t let me have a dirty car, but I know I’m weird;) Curious about what you think about the calorie crack down at schools in the news lately? Kids are always hungry for sure. They can eat quite a few calories.

    1. Thanks. An OCD in my car would go mad. I do believe they’re depriving the kids of enough calories in school these days. Maybe they figure because they’re shortening recess and gym class, the fewer calories balance out. I’m afraid my girls are going to tell their friends that dad’s car is always a calorie carrier, and I’ll develop a following.

  6. Pamela says:

    Love this post!! My car is ready for us to go on vacation, not quite but there is emergency clothes, pullups, water, napkins, paper cups, books and I think my sneakers are in there because i cant seem to find them in the house LOL. Everytime I clean the car out it just gets more junky. As long as when I open the side doors nothing falls out I got that under control, because everything in the trunk part!

    1. Thanks! Your sneakers might well be in my trunk. I can’t positively disqualify that possibility. I believe when we of the cluttery car decides to clean house, we disrupt the balance of the universe, and it comes back to our autos tenfold. Remember, anything that falls out when you open the door contributes to the lessening amount you have to clean out eventually!

  7. Sounds like you have a lot of fun on your car rides! It’s tough to keep a car clean and tidy with kids, especially when said car is almost always in use, going somewhere! We keep a garbage can in our car, and before we get out, we have a big trash round up. We do the same for toys, sweaters, etc. (Not all in the trash bag though, lol!)

    1. It’s always an adventure. I believe the kids are wholly uncomfortable getting into a clean car, much the same way nature makes a clean dog roll in the dirt. We carry a garbage can, too – it has four doors and a V6 engine, in fact. I have compiled all the coloring books, markers and toy rings in one easily-dumped bag back there. It carries about the same clout as the Queen of England or whoever happens to be coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

  8. What a great attitude toward the car. You are one funny dad! 🙂

    1. Live and let live, right? Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Rosey says:

    Your post is a hoot!

    I detail mine regularly until Winter rolls around and then it’s “Oh my gosh, there is no WAY I am going out there to clean the car today!” I do keep wetwipes around though, for the occasional dashboard swipe so it doesn’t get dusty in there (I know it probably dries out the material, never mind).

    Incidentally I do keep a flashlight and blanket in the car (and a well-stocked emergency kit), lol, but not can goods, at least not yet… 😉

    1. My life is a hoot, so it stands to reason …

      I believe your inability to clean out the car in winter months will someday benefit you (if it hasn’t already), in that you’ll have an accumulation of supplies and staples building from now until spring. The wetwipes also come in handy if one of your kids forgets to shower or brush their teeth, and you don’t realize until you’re in line to drop them off at school.

      You’re a couple of cans of spam and spaghettios away from a true Cleaver family emergency kit, it seems – I say go for it!

  10. Betty Taylor says:

    I enjoyed your post! My son played travel baseball so my car was fully stocked for all kinds of weather. You have to keep some things in your car and when you clean them out that’s when you really need them.

    Thanks for sharing with Blog Hop Blitz! I pinned this!

    1. Thanks Betty! During the season, especially, I have far more provisions. It never fails that you need what you’ve just cleaned out, right?

      Thank you so much for pinning this! Can’t wait to check out your work, too.

  11. Tiffany says:

    It’s a bit embarrassing when the carpool guy opens the door and all kinds of stuff comes pouring out of the backseat! You’re right, I do feel differently when I am riding in my clean car. Thanks for sharing this at the Blog Hop Bltiz!

    1. A messy car just means you’re … well-prepared, that’s all. It feels good to drive a clear car, it’s true, but I also feel kind of naked doing it.

      Glad to be part of the blitz – see you again next weekend?

      1. Yep, early linkup is at 6pm on Saturday. Bring some football knowledge!

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