I propose that one of the best starts to decluttering your life is cleaning out your car.
I know, I know – the problem is in your house. The problem is you not being able to cook dinner. The problem is that your wardrobe is all over the floor. I know all of that, because I’ve been there myself. I still say start with your car – unless you’re the sort of person who doesn’t own one, then I guess this discussion is kind of moot.
But why your car?
- Your car is a complete, self-contained unit.
- Cleaning out one complete area of your life can give you a huge sense of accomplishment.
- You’d need to have a pretty messy car for it to take longer than a few hours.
- There’s a huge chance that most of the mess in your car is garbage.
- It gets you started with the process of making choices about what stuff belongs, and what doesn’t.
- You’ll need a clean car for your future decluttering projects.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Clearing Your Car – Six (Relatively) Easy Steps
- Pull your car as close to your front door as possible. If you normally park on the other side of the parking lot from your door, move your car in front of your door. If you normally park on the street because your roommate gets the driveway, wait until the roommate is at work or something and park in the driveway for a bit. This will make your process shorter and less stressful.
- Pull your “garbage service” garbage can as close to your car as possible. I’m talking about the garbage can that goes to the curb every week. If this isn’t feasible (maybe you live in an apartment building with a dumpster?), bring your biggest garbage can to your car and shuttle it back and forth to the dumpster. Oh, and if you can’t park close to your door (from step 1)? Park next to the dumpster!
- Bring everything that obviously goes inside, inside. Your car should not be a rolling extension of your house. If you have mail out in the car, bring it in. If you have purchases from the store that you haven’t brought in yet, bring them in. If its ultimate destination is inside your home, bring it in.
- Bring everything that obviously goes in the garbage, to the garbage. Soda cans, bottles, cups, plates, fast food takeout bags, receipts that you’re not saving, mail you opened in the car but don’t want, whatever it is – if it goes in the garbage, get it into the garbage.
- Put everything that obviously goes in the car, in the car. The nice thing about cars is that the appropriate contents for them are pretty well-defined. If you have insurance paperwork, vehicle registrations, car-related tools (tire gauges, jumper cables, etc.) or whatnot that aren’t in the car and you know where they are, get them out into the car. If you know you have some of these things in your home but don’t know where they are, don’t stress about it at this point.
- If the appropriate stuff in your car is kind of a mess, find a container and put the stuff in that. If you’re carrying around a couple quarts of oil, some antifreeze, jumper cables, a can of Fix-A-Flat, and a tire gauge (all worthwhile things to have if you have an older car), that’ll be a mess on the floor (or in the trunk) of your car. Celebrate your newly-tidied car by finding (or buying) an appropriately-sized plastic bin or box, and put all the stuff in that.
If you want to, you’re certainly welcome to vacuum, shampoo carpets, wash windows, clean all the plastic surfaces, and all that extra stuff – but that’s far, far less important than everything I’ve just mentioned. If you can’t do the detail stuff, do the big stuff. Leave the detail stuff for later.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
You’re done for now, but if you’re the sort of person whose car gets messy over time (I am), I’d suggest that you do some quick, preventative cleanings at certain times of the year.
If you go out of town a couple times a year, that’s a good time to re-do your car cleaning. If you don’t, I’d suggest scheduling the intervals at least twice a year, and preferably on days when there’s likely to be good weather (spring/fall where I live).
And now that we have the car taken care of, we can start using it to facilitate our declutter!