A Place for Everything
As a die-hard fan of organizing things, there is no space that I don’t want to see tidier, and that includes my vehicle. We spend a lot of time in our cars, trucks, and SUVs, so why not organize the space.
Just like inside our homes, having things organized can make them easier to find and save us the time and hassle of looking for what we need.
All of those reusable shopping bags, emergency road kits, first aid kits, and sippy cups aren’t doing us any good in a big pile in the trunk. Trust me when I say that a trunk organizer is just the thing to bring order to the chaos in your car—and it’s not just for trunks!
While you are getting ready to organize your trunk, this is a great time to check your vehicle’s spare tire. Make sure it’s aired up and that you have access to the proper tools if you need to change a tire.
If you’re not sure about what tools you need, check your owner’s manual. This is also a good reason to have an organizer for your cargo space. It can be easier to take items out of your trunk, truck bed, or SUV if they are all in a storage box.
There are a variety of ways to organize your vehicle’s cargo space, whether that is a trunk, a truck bed, or the back of your SUV.
Let’s start with the basics of any organizing project—what are you organizing and how much space, or cargo capacity, do you have to do it? Also consider if what you are organizing is a permanent fixture in your car, or just an occasional set of items for, say, a trip or activity.
Try to match the weight of the items you are organizing with the sturdiness of your organizer. Putting weights or heavy tools in a flimsy organizer is just asking for trouble.
If you are organizing emergency gear to carry in your vehicle like battery cables, flares, flashlights, extra water, or blankets, consider getting a kit that has all of these items and comes in its own case.
You can shop for one that has the features you want while also making sure it is sized appropriately for your vehicle’s cargo capacity.
Some organizers are intended to be for temporary items—like grocery bags. This might be a simple net that stretches across your trunk to keep shopping bags from rolling around.
You could also use simple hooks, installed with removable tape strips, as a way to place shopping bag handles on the hooks to keep the bags from moving around. (No more broken eggs!)
Stuff for Your Stuff
Nonemergency items, especially if they have a permanent home in your car, should reside in a sturdy organizer. It can be tempting to just buy a big rubber tub with a lid and put the items inside. There are two problems with this method.
First, having a lid on the tub all the time can produce a lot of heat when the sun is shining, which means all the items inside the tub will heat up too. (It might help explain where that funky smell is coming from.)
Second, these tubs are often deep and hard to see into. They hold a lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s organized.
A smaller tub made of clear plastic could work if the plastic isn’t too easy to break. For smaller items, this kind of tub does make it easy to see the items inside.
A better solution is a sturdy, rubber box that has dividers. There are a few models that even have straps at the sides of the box so it can be strapped down to keep it from sliding around in your cargo space.
Some of these organizers are made to be modular, so you can add additional boxes as needed to create the ideal trunk storage for your needs.
These are great for items like jugs of windshield fluid or antifreeze, because you don’t have to worry about whether or not the box is tall enough, since there is no lid. (Also, these fluids have a tremendously long shelf life, so you don’t need to worry about them expiring.)
You can also easily see the items in the box and know when you’re running low and need to restock. This type of material also makes it easier to clean.
On the off-chance that you do have a spill, you can just hose down your organizer and start fresh. Also, look for organizers that have handles, so you can easily lift the entire box out of your cargo space when you want to clean the car.
One word of warning, some cheaper models have a bad, rubbery smell. This might not be a problem in your trunk or truck bed, but in the cargo area of an SUV, it could be too strong to ignore.
If you need a more flexible organizer and don’t always need to use all of it, consider a collapsible cargo organizer.
These are less expensive than the sturdier boxes, and allow you to collapse the compartments that aren’t in use to save space in your trunk. If you drive a smaller car with limited trunk space, this might be the way to go.
These are often made with heavy, water-resistant fabric over a sturdy plastic or heavy cardboard frame. The most popular models have three sections, but are designed for the sides of each section to fold in, so you only have to expand the sections you need.
While they might not be as washable, the surface can usually be wiped down easily with a damp cloth.
This type of organizer is harder to strap down, so it may slide around in your cargo area. Check to see if you can find a model with feet or gripping pads on the bottom that will minimize slipping.
Don’t assume that if you weigh down your organizer with heavy items it won’t travel about the cargo area.
The Right Tool for Your Tools
Organizing tools is a special situation. Even if you are carrying tools temporarily, be sure that you have a sturdy toolbox to put them in.
If you’re transporting tools in the back of an SUV, consider strapping it down so that you don’t have to worry about hammers and screwdrivers becoming projectiles in the event of an accident.
For the Sports Fans
Finally, there are trunk organizers designed for a specific sport or activity. If golfing is your thing, there are different options for organizers that hold your tees, extra balls, shoes, spare shirts, and gloves.
Because they are designed for holding sports gear, the material they are made from is often breathable so they won’t trap odors. There are similar organizers for soccer, football, and many other sports.
All the Rest
Once you have the larger items taken care of, look at storage options for some of the other items in your vehicle. There are cargo nets that will store your purse without the need to worry about it flying off the passenger seat every time you have to stop short.
You can also get a small garbage sack that will clip onto the seatback or an armrest on the back seat (providing you don’t have to transport passengers that often). Just don’t forget to regularly empty the trash.
With warm weather on the way, you don’t want to leave fast food wrappers fermenting in your car. Remember to think about the different needs you have on the road during different seasons.
Have an ice scraper handy for winter weather, and a sunshade for the summer heat. Protecting your car’s interior from the sun can help lengthen the life of your upholstery. Having a place for a spare umbrella will come in handy for unexpected showers.
Perhaps the most seasonally specific item I keep in my car is an old pair of sneakers. They could come in handy if I ever have a breakdown while wearing heels, or I decide to stop at the U-Pick strawberry place when the fields are muddy.
What to Spend?
Expect to pay anywhere from $25 for a basic model, up to $70 for something with adjustable compartments and all the bells and whistles.
If you get lucky, you may score one as a promotional give-away. Trunk organizers have been pretty popular lately as a free giveaway.