Keeping the Van Clean: 4 Moms

I’m not sure how it happens, but it seems that 10 seconds after cleaning out the van it is once again full of junk. Depending on your family and personality there are several ways to tame (or not) the car clutter.

Ignore it

moms of many manage

If you are a mom with several young children and are struggling simply to keep up with your home and feed your family, then perhaps you should put car clean up as the last priority.

This was my basic plan of action when all of our children were young. We had 4 children when our oldest was still 3 and anytime we came home from anywhere, I had several trips to and from the car carrying children, not to mention groceries or whatever else needed to be brought in.

My ignoring strategy was:

  • bring in as much as possible with each child
  • don’t put any non-essentials in the car (the children did not bring toys, books, etc. into the van)
  • keep a trash container in the van and empty occasionally
  • ignore the rest

Tackle it weekly

Pick one day of the week to spend a few minutes cleaning out the van. You could do it by yourself or enlist the children to help. We find that if we’re faithful to do it each week it goes very quickly and we add vacuuming, cleaning the windows and the dashboard as needed.

Instill good habits

Of course the best way to ensure that your vehicle never gets into a terrible state is to teach your children that they are responsible to bring anything out of the van that they took into the van (and to do the same yourself). It should work………………….. in theory.

Assign a child

This has been our BEST solution. When Matthew was 10 or 11 he diligently saved up his money to purchase a guinea pig, with a cage, and other paraphernalia. He then approached us and said, “I have enough money to buy everything I need for a guinea pig, but I’m afraid that I may run out of money to buy his food and hay.”

At that point, Mark offered a trade, Matthew would keep our van cleaned out, vacuuming and cleaning the outside as needed and we would be responsible for all other guinea pig expenses.

It worked well. Our vehicles had never been so clean and tidy and Matthew had the guinea pig that he’d been wanting for over a year.

You could also assign cleaning out the car as a regular chore for one of your children. πŸ™‚

How do you keep your cars clean?


You may also be interested in:

  • Car preparedness
  • Chore list – Oldest child 12 (2009)
  • Chore list – Oldest child 13 (2010)
  • Daily Schedule (2010) – includes a schedule from when our oldest was 3
  • Colby Tales – nothing to do with the post, just a collection of funny things about Colby and links to posts when I had time to post funny things about our large family life.

Visit the other moms of many to see what they have to say:

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11 Responses to Keeping the Van Clean: 4 Moms
  1. harmonyl
    October 25, 2012 | 8:56 am

    “If you are a mom with several young children and are struggling simply to keep up with your home and feed your family, then perhaps you should put car clean up as the last priority.”

    Can I just say that I love you for saying this? πŸ™‚ Our cars definitely need to be cleaned out soon so we can fit another car seat into them, but for the last few months car cleaning has been *very* low on the priority list because other, more important things were a struggle. And now I feel less guilty about it. πŸ™‚


  2. Cindy
    October 25, 2012 | 9:21 am

    I make sure nobody leaves the car without something to put or throw away. (Except the really small kids, of course.) This takes care of the various papers, kleenexes, and wrappers that accumulate. Every now and then my hubby will vacuum out the van for me. Other than that, I pretty much ignore it. Especially the outside. I have, in 18 years of car ownership, never washed a car. If I have a clean van, I didn’t do it. Somebody else did that. (See? Sometimes Obama is right. I really DIDN’T do that!)


  3. Katrina
    October 25, 2012 | 9:27 am

    I’m definitely in the stage of young kids and barely struggling to keep my house clean as I am 9 months for #5 and my others are 2, 4, 6, 8. My 8 year old has been really stepping up in responsibilities with laundry and other helps so I hate to stick cleaning out the car on him. My husband cleaned it out yesterday so we could get the infant car seat base installed. We’re rarely in the car as a family (we only have one and my husband is a bi-vocational church planter so is always going from one place to another) but if we do a 5 minute clean every time we come home then maybe we can keep it up. Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. Natalie
    October 25, 2012 | 11:24 am

    My strategy is definitely the “ignore” option. My husband does a big “clean” after our summer cabin vacation. I think that about covers the cleaning for the year. We don’t have room for anyone outside our family to ride with us in our van (we are actually short one seat as of 8 months ago and have to take two cars everywhere now), so I figure as long as nobody else has to look at it, we’re good to go. ; )


  5. Leslie B
    October 25, 2012 | 2:53 pm

    I have the littles situation going on here too!! And for the most part I do ignore it as mentioned above BUT I have also found a good way to get some unplanned cleaning in, too! ANY time we arrive somewhere early or have to wait for any amount of time in the car, I take advantage of having them all strapped in πŸ™‚ It’s super simple to pull up next to a trash can and empty out the trash at least. I also keep a small box in the van for all of the books and small toys that are van designated and it only takes a couple of minutes to gather them into it. As for everything else, getting it all in one place is a start! SO, make a small pile behind one of the front seats, or we like the space in front of the infant seat, and work on getting that cleaned up as you can πŸ˜€


  6. ayearinskirts
    October 25, 2012 | 3:29 pm

    My car saver is the big paper grocery bag that sits right between the driver and passenger seat. It really helps to keep trash at bay. I also try my best to take EVERYTHING out of the car right away. In many ways, the car is the 4th bedroom and needs to be treated as another room in the house.


  7. Jen
    October 25, 2012 | 10:20 pm

    One strategy that worked for me when I was the one doing most of the driving and gas pumping was to keep plastic bags in the trunk, and grab two whenever I was waiting for the gas pump to do its’ thing. One bag was for stuff that needed to go back into the house, and one was trash. I did a quick scurry around the car, then the bag for the house went into the trunk. The bag of trash went into the nearest can at the pump. When I got home, it was easy to bring the bag of stuff back in at some point, and put the stuff away. I also did this sometimes when we were waiting on my husband’s train. My car was never spotless, but it got picked up fairly often.


  8. tamela
    October 25, 2012 | 10:23 pm

    We do well at keeping the trash items out of the car after errands day… Recently I had my husband remove the seats from the van. I cleaned the floor windows and walls. The carpet looked so nice, I then got an idea to take a sheet and place on the floor cut slits in the places so that the seats would fasten back in their places, then I covered the seats with sheets as well, now when the sheets are dirty in the washer they go. It saves on me having to get the shop vac out too often…


  9. Julie
    October 28, 2012 | 11:13 pm

    We just cleaned out the van last weekend, preparing the arrival of baby #3. Of course, we vacuumed and everything and the next day it was yet again full of leaves!

    We have a small white crate that has some markers, coloring books, car games and non messy snacks in it. I think it has helped keep the clutter in one place. I also keep a bag hooked to the back of the driver’s seat for trash.

    My next plan is to score some free carpet squares from a carpet store to use for mats in the back so the slush and snow of a Chicago winter don’t completely ruin the carpet.

    I am motivated now, before the baby and winter hits, since I know once it get cold and snowy, nothing will be done again until spring.


  10. Jenn
    October 29, 2012 | 9:55 pm

    Oh my! I love, love LOVE you ignore it section! With 5 kids 6yrs and under this is exactly how we function… while trying to instill the “good habits” of course. I think I mostly like knowing that at least one other mom has not allowed non-essential items into the van. I don’t feel like such a mean mom anymore πŸ˜‰ Thanks!


  11. Rebecca
    February 20, 2014 | 9:11 am

    Love this! When I have two kids in a squabble I give them each a bag and send them out to the van. One picks up trash, the other picks up non-trash. The van is clean, the squabble is resolved and on we go. Sometimes it still gets messy though, because my kids don’t fight often enough, ha ha.


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