Keeping the Car Organized

A classic Tip of the Week from August 22, 2004

Cars can often become one of the last frontiers as far as organizing goes, especially for those of us who use them often, have families, or simply have a lot of stuff we keep with us when we're on the road. 

The glove compartment is a great place to start, as it tends to be a catch-all for any bits of paper or random items that might enter the car. Try this trick (from Martha Stewart Living): use a check organizer or other small accordion file to store registration and insurance info, auto club information and numbers, the car's owner's manual, maps, and directions. You may also want to file the records pertaining to the car's latest check-ups and oil changes. 

In addition to an accordion file, I recommend keeping in the glove compartment a tire pressure gauge, a pen or two, a few moist towelettes, and an unmeltable energy bar or granola bar; a Ziploc bag will keep these things together and prevent them from migrating throughout the glove compartment. 

There are a wide range of products designed to help you maintain organization in the rest of your car, from dividers that attach to seat backs to those that strap to sun visors to flexible seat-top bins. You can find many of these products at your local hardware or department store, or try an online store like Stacks and Stacks. 

Finally, keep your trunk in order with a trunk organizer. Again, there are many to choose from, so you can select one that's small enough to fit in your trunk and large enough to hold what you need. The one I use tucks easily into a corner, features a strip of velcro on one side (to help it stick to the trunk liner) and a strip of reflective tape on the other (so it can be used to help others see me if I break down at night), and came packed with car-care basics, including flares, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, and a well-stocked first aid kit. 

Spend some time this week cleaning out your car and getting it organized; in less than an hour, you can make sure your chariot has everything you need to get where you're going. 

Traveling with Toiletries

A classic Tip of the Week from June 27, 2004

Full-size toiletries and personal care products tend to be bulky, take up a lot of space, and are potentially messy to travel with. Besides, unless you're planning to be away for several weeks at a stretch, you probably don't need the entire box or bottle. 

Many toiletries come in trial or travel-size versions that pack easily, provide just enough product for a trip of a week or so, and can be left behind when you're done with them. Another option is to make your own travel-size products by emptying small amounts of your everyday toiletries into reusable plastic bottles. (Nalgene, the company known for its durable water bottles, makes a series of high-quality and reasonably priced toiletry bottles.) 

A final option, if you're staying in a hotel, is to call ahead and ask what products they supply. Many hotels—even those on the budget end of the spectrum—provide shampoo, lotion, and soap automatically, and will also hand out products like toothpaste, razors, and deodorant if you ask. 

Whatever option you choose, make it a goal to come back with less than what you bring, whether that means reusable bottles emptied of their contents or, better yet, nothing at all. All of those mini hotel soaps and bottles of shampoo may be tempting, but unless they're truly special or luxurious, they're probably not worth the clutter they'll cause in your bathroom at home. 

{Update! For travel-size everything, including toiletries, personal care products, and baby care products, check out Minimus.biz.} 

Keeping Tabs on Hotel Room Keys

A classic Tip of the Week from June 6, 2004

To avoid finding yourself frantically searching for your hotel room key as you're ready to head out for the day—or, worse yet, locked out of your room altogether—get in the habit of choosing one spot in the room to store your key. If you return the key to that spot every time you come back to the room, you won't need to waste time hunting it down when you're ready to leave again. 

{And here's a current-day addition to this classic tip: beware storing your room key too close to your cell phone. Phones often do a great job of messing with the magnetized strip on electronic keys. Cue the sad trombone.}