Thursday, July 26, 2012

30 UHeart Organizing: DIY Car Kit

Today I am excited to give a warm welcome to Ashley from 7th House on the Left.  She is popping over today to share her incredible auto organizing ideas! 

Summer travel season is in full swing, and chances are a lot of us are spending more time in our cars traveling longer distances than usual. Just like our homes, it’s nice to keep the car organized during these long travels. It makes things easier and more convenient for you and everyone else during your road trip. Greg and I have always made sure to keep jumper cables and a small tool kit in the trunk, but things would slide around and end up looking messy and unorganized. While we tackled that issue last week, I thought it would be a good idea to include a few new items. Thus, the Car Kit was born! 

In reality, we could probably fill an entire trunk full of “things we might need” or “things that would be nice to have on hand”, but we didn’t want to bog down the trunk with a bunch of stuff that just wasn’t practical. So we simplified our list of “maybe items” to the bare essentials. Okay, let’s just say you’ll be able to notice the difference between Greg’s definition of a “bare essential” and my definition of a “bare essential”, ha!

We started out with a good-sized wicker basket I picked up from World Market. We wanted something large enough to hold the essentials, but small enough so it wouldn’t take up too much valuable space in the trunk. Because I’m a firm believer that everything is better with a label, I hot-glued a silver metal bookplate to the front.

In order to keep things organized, we corralled the smaller items in two plastic shoe boxes {5 for $5 at Target!}. The first box, which I call “The Greg Box”, is stocked with roadside essentials such as a tire repair kit, a tire gage, emergency flashlight, duct tape, a roadside strobe, a few glow sticks {that I’m totally going to be tempted to use just for fun!}, Krazy glue, a poncho and a small bundle of rope. Our car has a tool kit in the wall of the trunk, so we were okay in the tool department.

The second box, or what I call “The Ashley Box”, is just for road trips and probably won’t stay in the car year-round {plus, some items in this box can’t be stored in extreme hot or cold temperatures}. I included tissues, hand sanitizer, a tiny can of Lysol {which, by the way, is so cute!}, a travel sewing kit, a mini lint roller, a handheld fan, a few pony tail holders, his and her toothbrush and toothpaste, his and her travel deodorant, mouthwash, sun block, travel size Advil and Dramamine, a packet of Tide detergent and a stain removal pen. Oh, and a deck of cards! One of my and Greg’s favorite memories is when we were driving through Charlottesville last fall and happened to come across a beautiful picnic area near Monticello. We decided to stop and smell the roses… and play a game of cards at one of the picnic tables. It’s the little things that make great memories. Back to the Car Kit!

On the outside of each lid, I attached an inventory list using a laminating sheet {if you don’t have a laminating sheet, clear packing tape works really well too!}. That way, we’ll know exactly what’s missing and be able to replace things as needed.

The remaining room in the basket was perfect for a tire inflator/jump starter, a warm blanket, a first aid kit, and three bottles of water. The water is in case we need it for the radiator {water kept in the car is not good for drinking!}. Since the water is just for the radiator, I simply took empty bottles and refilled them with tap water.

Now that the trunk was organized and geared up with the necessities, I thought the glove compartment could use a little TLC. I bought this small expanding file from Target for about $6. It comes complete with a handy pad of paper {good for jotting down notes or exchanging insurance info in case you’re involved in a fender bender} and five file sections. Due to my labeling obsession, once again I added a small metal bookplate to the front of the notebook. Greg mentioned we could just write on the front of the notebook, but you and I both know that wouldn’t have been as cute!

I divided the necessities into five categories: 
  • Registration: If you get pulled over, the police will likely ask for proof that you own the car you’re driving. Unfortunately, I know this. No more fumbling through the glove box wondering where that little piece of paper is. Let’s just hope I don’t have to pull it out again anytime soon!
  • Insurance: These days, most states require you to have car insurance. In Virginia, you have to show your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance when the police officer pulls you over.
  • Cheat Sheet: In this section, I put a quick guide for things like tire pressure, oil amount, oil and coolant types, gas tank capacity and the type of gas we use in the car. I also put together a key for all of those weird symbols on the dash. This will come in handy so you won’t have to search the bulky manual for the information- though we still keep the car manual under the seat just in case. Some of this information may seem really unnecessary, however, if someone is borrowing our car, they’ll appreciate it.
  • Maintenance: This section has a list of things that need to be checked or replaced on our car every so often and when they need replacing {Air filter: 15k miles, Coolant: 60k miles, etc}.
  • Emergency Contacts: In case of an emergency, it’s a good idea to have a list of your emergency contacts and all of their contact information {phone numbers, addresses, etc}.

Well, that about wraps up out DIY Car Kit project! If you’re planning on making a kit of your own, be sure to tailor your Car Kit to your family, the area you live in and the roads you travel. For instance, if you have kids, you might want to include a few car games. If you live in an area that has long, hard winters, drop in an ice scraper, a small bag of sand and maybe even some tire chains. The key is having your needs and wants organized and easily accessible. After all, organization makes the world go ‘round, right? At least a lot smoother anyway ;)

So, how about you… Do you have a Car Kit in your trunk? What’s your definition of a “bare essential”?

"I'm Ashley from 7th House on the Left - a blog where my husband, Greg, and I talk about renovating, decorating and living in our first house here in Hanover, Virginia. I’ve been an interior design enthusiast and a long-time fan of all things organizing. Yep, I was the kid with the perfectly arranged Disney stuffed animals, alphabetized coloring books and the categorized and color-coded sticker book. When I'm not busy writing or doing projects around the house, I love classic TV shows (particularly I Love Lucy) and curling up with Greg, Bentley (our 9-pound Pomeranian), a blanket and a good black and white classic movie – I’m a complete sucker for Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant films. I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the IHeart Organizing team and excited to get to work!"


  1. This is great, we do something similar for both of our cars. I never thought to make a "cheat sheet", I'll definitely add that to my to-do list. We also have a weekender bag in each car with anything we might need for spontaneous fun. Things like a towel, spare bathing suits, jackets, blanket, etc. For sudden road trips, great beach days, impromptu picnics, etc. It's come in very handy!

  2. In Wisconsin, and other areas with seasonal weather swings, I would have one of the "shoe boxes" with warm weather supplies (bug spray, sunscreen, poncho, etc.) and one with cold weather supplies (ice scraper, hand warmers, etc.) You could then simply switch the boxes out with the change of seasons. Plus the supplies would store nicely in the garage and you won't have to look for everything each time the weather changes.

    Also, I use one of those collapsible crates to store my car kit in. Then if we are short on space (such as when we go camping), I can fit the items into smaller areas and flatten the crate. Bonus: The crate can store our firewood we buy at the campground!

    1. I also live in Wisconsin, in Milwaukee county. Spear gloves, scarves & hats have been a life saver, but in the past I've gone to grab a spear pair & they'd be wet. Kids knocked them into the floor, spill things, ect. I don't want to have them in the trunk, because it's really not convenient.
      I recently bought a food sealing storage system, that sucks the air out of the bag. I pack a scarf, hat, & gloves in a gallon bag, & I have 2 adults (myself & my adult daughter) & a kid pack just in case one of my nephews are with me. I label them & add it to my winter pack.
      When it's time to set up the car, them they're in there ready to go. It keeps them clean & dry, & I can store it in the back seat pocket for close & easy access. Then I don't have to make another pack unless any has been opened & used.

  3. Love it! And just an FYI on those Tide ToGo pens...I had one that I kept at work for emergencies. I pulled it out a couple of weeks ago and used it. Then noticed that I smelled rotten garbage. You know, garbage that has been around forEVER, like a dump. It was that stinking pen! It never occurred to me that they would go bad...but apparently they don't have a shelf life of years on them! LOL! So fair warning, give your pen a test run on some paper towel before you end up going around the rest of the day smelling like rotten garbage!

  4. Great idea! We also have a "car kit" plus another small canvas basket (for road trips only) that we fill with supplies for our daughter. It's odd how often a diaper change has to happen in the car, or a restaurant doesn't have an appropriate cup for our toddler. I love your glove box organizer too. Consider it added to my to-do list!

  5. This post is immediately getting sent to my husband. This has been his mission for about a month. Thanks for all the tips.

  6. Great tips. The only thing I would change is swapping out the Lysol for a bottle with water and essential oils that kill germs. Lysol is TERRIBLY toxic, so toxic the EPA lists it's ingredients as pollutants and many pediatricians warn against it's use. And, you certainly don't want to spray it in a confined space like a car.

  7. Fabulous ideas!!! thanks for sharing :)

  8. Great ideas!! I will need this for our trip to Texas this Christmas break!

  9. What a smart post!!! I have been thinking about doing something similar for our car, because there is always something we forget (like sweaters or a change of clothing for the kids)


  10. I love this!! I will do this! Thanks!!


  11. Something else you might want to add, a roll of toilet paper. You never know when you are going to need it. :)

  12. Great Ideas! I gave one of these to a graduate this year that didn't know where she was going to school yet, but just got a new car. :) Thanks for the tips!

  13. In the photo of Greg's box there is a silver tool on top. That tool is for when you need to escape from the inside of your car. It cuts the seat belt and breaks the window. You will want that tool inside your car and not in the trunk. In that type of emergency, that tool will not help you if it is in the trunk and you will want to be able to access it very quickly.

  14. I love my car kit(s) - I have multiple kits!! The kids one is a bright yellow rubbermaid bin with Elmo on the front! I store toilet paper, pull-ups for my youngest as well as wipes, etc.

    I also have an organizer on the back of our seat which holds toys for the kids, sunscreen, sunhats, sunglasses (in wintertime it holds gloves, hats, etc.). I usually like to keep a pad of paper and pencil on hand for the kids, but they always end up back in the house! LOL!

    The emergency kit seems to get used often enough to keep that under the seat, along with a huge jumbo box of wipes.

    I also have a tool box with jumper cables, emergency fold-up cones, spotlight, etc.

    There is a few things really I should add to my boxes, thanks for the great ideas! I have always wanted to get one of those "escape" tools; I will have to try looking for one (then keep it in my glovebox).

  15. Forgot to add, I also have a small basket between the two front seats (I have a van) where I keep things like kleenex, gum, small umbrella, hand sanitizer, etc. Wish I had more nooks & crannies to store all of this stuff! LOL!

  16. This is a brilliant idea. I admit that I love your blog because organization is something I lack in my life. I've fumbled through my glove box, unsuccessfully I might add, trying to find my information. I am starting on my own carkit book tomorrow. Love it!

  17. I love the idea and recently did something similar for our car. I did want to mention though that an open basket/container like this is adorable and pretty, but only safe if put in the TRUNK of a car. For those of use with minivans or SUVs, that open basket is dangerous in a collision. All of that stuff (especially tools or other heavy duty items) end up as projectile that can hurt or even kill someone, especially children in the backseat. Most people don't think of that, but it is a reality to consider.

  18. This is a great idea- I have been thinking about doing something like this in our car & now have some great ideas to actually do it- Thanks :)

  19. That is a really nice idea. I often forget about those things to have in my car and if something happened I would be in a lot of trouble. Now I know what to take to avoid problems and travel safely.

  20. What an awesome idea. I hate when the trunk or the glove box is a mess. I think I might be making one of these very soon. Thanks for the inspiration Ashley & Jen. Have a great weekend! :)

  21. Hi! i ove the idea of this. i am a college student and am new to owning my own car so i am always trying to find ways to be prepared and informed about my own car! i will definitely add this to my to do list and have my parents help me out. this will aso help me learn more about my car which is always a plus!

  22. Awesome! Any idea why this post didn't show in my google reader feed? I would have missed it if today's post didn't provide a link!

  23. Another thing to add to your car kit is a roll of toilet paper for those emergencies where the public toilets have run out. I know when my partner and I go away, we always end up stopping somewhere that has very little to no available loo paper.

  24. Love this! I will have to add the "cheat sheet" part to the binder I keep in each vehicle. I also keep a copy of my medical insurance cards and other important medical information in my binder. That way it's always there,and there in case of emergency!

    Another good thing to add, if you have pets, is a leash (or leashes). My dogs are seldom on them, but should there be an emergency it will be important to have them. I found cheap leashes at the Dollar Tree for this, and then just take the good leashes when I know I will need a leash!

    The other thing I did was make a list (while driving one day) of things that I should have in the vehicles. The pickup needs different things then the car does also. These lists are in my binders, though, not everything from the lists has made their way to the vehicles yet! Still a work in progress there!

  25. What a great idea! Thanks for the post. Where did she get the first aid kid? I've been looking for something similar.

  26. great organizing! i have a kit in my trunk,too but not so organized. one thing i recommend is i have a small flash light/radio/phone charger.sorry if you had one already but in case of natural disaster ,its nice to have. also i use real emergency water. not sure how long bottle water last but those emergency one is in foil pouch n has a lot longer shelf life so you dont have to switch them often.
    i have two small kids so i have off course extra diapers,too. and my kit is in backpack in case i have to ditch the car n walk to evacuate.also i keep a note what we r going to do n where to meet up w my husband/family in case of emergency. im from japan, after tohoku earth quake i really packed up the car,minimum but things that come handy.better be saffe than sorry. i like all the stuff you have, i should go through mine n update!

  27. A DIY car kit like this can certainly be handy on long road trips, especially in the summer when people are out and about. I think the idea of having a log for the car is great, especially the log for maintenance. It’s a good way to keep track of when your car is scheduled for maintenance and checkup, which is essential if you want to avoid breaking down in the middle of the road while on a road trip.

    @Michelina Douglass

  28. I agree with you on all counts here especially on keeping a well equipped car care kit or a DIY kit for general maintenance and usage. Even I have a kit with me (actually two) which I always stow in the garage. One has all the cosmetic stuff like polishers, cleaners, dressers, WD40 etc, while the other has tools, spares and other things which help me out in repair and maintenance.
    truck parts

  29. So you put your life hammer in a box. That’s hilarious. Don’t put it there, but somewhere you can reach if you drove into the water of are upside down in your car.


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