How to Organize Your Minivan


Husband wooed me this weekend by cleaning out the minivan. I’m still not sure what possessed him to vacuum every nook and cranny with such vigor but it may have had something to do with the lingering odor accompanying us to the beach and a BBQ the day before.

Of course, I lived comfortably with the lingering odor all week long, mildly commenting that “there must be something in the car” as kids made their daily climb into car seats. When I declared Sunday morning that perhaps I should clean out the car that afternoon, Husband jumped in and organized the whole process with structured efficiency.

First he laid the beach quilt from the trunk neatly on the driveway. Then he proceeded to put everything he discovered on the quilt for me to sort through: Garbage, Into the House, Back in the Minivan.

The pile grew. Board books, audio CDs, music CDs, noisy Madagascar character from McDonalds, pampers, receipts, winter hats and mittens, maps, green grocery bags, Zingo chip, coats for all seasons, crying baby doll, three inch pirate, quarters, fake quarters, corner of sticky bun – ah ha! The stinking culprit, probably. I won’t bother you with the rest. Because there was more. Much, much more.

While Husband was alternately vacuuming and removing debris for the quilt, I wiped down the layer of dust, splattered milk, and dried drips of mysterious food or beverage from all the surfaces.

Then, I took one look at the growing pile, snuck into the garage, grabbed my gardening tools and started weeding. Periodically, I’d wander over and grab a few things to put in the garbage or house. But tackling the whole pile of widely assorted items was far too daunting a task. So, I pulled weeds which were, while slightly resistant, all of the same tedious kind.

Eventually, Husband left me a spotless car I didn’t recognize and I had no excuses left to avoid sorting through the pile. With merciless attention, I whittled it down to the bare essentials that would reenter my mobile family room. But this time, I decided to organize:

  • I put two medium sized green grocery bags in the driver door pocket so I will be less likely to forget them when running small errands. The rest of the bags went in the trunk.

  • I put two pampers, the fold up changing pad and wipes in the passenger door pocket so I’d always have some for emergencies

  • I put hand lotion, a pen and small pad of paper in the center compartment on the dashboard.

  • I put the maps and audio book bags from the library in the big secret compartment on the floor behind the front seats. I don’t know if the Sienna or other minivans have this secret holding spot but it’s taken me two years to use one of the Odyssey’s best features. I confess I feared that out of sight would mean out of mind and I would probably discover a stale bag of pretzels and the missing soccer ball upon turning the minivan in on its lease in 2010. But now I figure the maps will be handy and I won’t go searching for the audio book bags all over the house two weeks past their due date.

  • I put selected books for the kids in the pockets behind the front seats.

  • In the trunk went a beach towel, the beach quilt (blessedly empty!), jumper cables and a large umbrella. I debated adding the beach buckets in case we stopped at a playground with a sandbox, but stayed on my minimalist side.

Of particular note, I added no granola bars, pretzel sticks or other snacks to the side door pockets to have handy in case of hungry child emergencies. I even went so far as to announce to Husband that night that we would no longer eat in the minivan. His raised eyebrows brought me back to reality.

Perhaps we’ll stay away from fresh fruit and baked goods, but then again my minivan serves as both family room, traveling kitchen, playroom, and changing station. The opportunity for stray odors is simply too, well, ripe.

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  1. I put a hand sanitizer pump in the cup holder.

  2. This is too funny….yet unfortunately So true! We also have an oddysey and with 3 littles our van looks i’m sure the same way most of the time. My husband and I came up with a couple of things that the new oddysey could improve(I know…could it? ) with. 1. A portable changing table that somehow folds out of the side of the van (in trunk part) nice, huh?
    2. an accesable storage place for DVD’s! We are overloaded with them!

    Happy Trails! =)

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