Mom Car

Two weeks ago during Mikey’s spring break we pulled into the Stater Bros. parking lot to buy…I can’t remember. I can’t remember because as I gathered up my purse and phone Mikey called out, “Mom, look! There’s Father Paul!” And my head shot up, surprised, because seeing your priest in a supermarket parking lot is something that doesn’t compute. I know priests do things like eat and sleep and use the bathroom. They even have cars, which they use to drive. All of this I know logically, but somehow seeing Father Paul dart in between cars in an old Letterman jacket and sneakers was on par with bumping into a centaur in the produce department.

So Mikey called Father Paul over, and it pleased me to see how happy he was to see Mikey. I watched him for a second squeeze between two cars when it hit me. My car was a disaster. A total Mom Car.

No. Nonononononono!

“Okay, Mikey! Out of the car! Let’s go! Hurry up. Hurryuphurryuphurryup.” I tried to sound sing-songy and chirpy, casual even, but the overall effect was shrill. The  mountain of toys, clothing, and baseball gear did nothing to speed up Mikey’s exit, so to my great dismay Father Paul approached our car and–in slow motion, surely it was in slow motion–opened Mikey’s door to help him out.

Out came Mikey, stumbling over a Hot Wheels, followed by a trail of detritus rivaled only by the trash vortex of the North Pacific.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. My car is as dirty as my soul.

It’s a slippery slope, these mom cars. You toss snacks into the back seat for them to eat between school and baseball practice. I let them bring a toy (I said just one!) when I rush them out of the house to run errands. They bring home paperwork and leave it on the seat next to their jacket on top of their glasses. They get thirsty and hungry and cold and hot and bored. And I, I just get apathetic. Sometimes forgetful. Who knows. All I know is that the back seat and trunk of my car had three jackets, four hats, three sweaters, two blankets, four baseball bats, two baseball bags, five baseball gloves, two books, twenty hot wheels, some Star Wars heads and action figures, two chairs, a watch, a missile, and a sword.

Oh, and some coloring pages and potting soil. A first aid kit. I used to have jumper cables, but who knows where those went. They’re probably in the same spot I left my dignity.

In the front seat, which I admit doesn’t always look like this, were 12 or so books to return to the library, receipts, and a magic 8 ball. That magic 8 ball saw a lot of use the last couple of weeks.

The next day I went to WalMart for car organizing supply “things,” because if there is ever a place one should go to for a boost in self esteem, it’s WalMart. You can’t walk out of there without feeling at least a little smug. A little dirty, too, but everyone knows sanctimony becomes before squalor in the dictionary.

I bought a version of these back seat pockets and this trunk box. Then I spent an hour cleaning out the truck. After that, I took the truck to the car wash for an express detail. I didn’t have that special polish to clean the plastic panels that are fading from the sun, nor did I have the high powered vacuum to suck up all the dust and dirt from baseball season. (I tried using my household vacuum with little success.) Also, most important of all, I completely lacked the motivation or desire to clamber around my truck like a tree monkey with a soapy sponge.

After paying someone to do all the hard work, I set about organizing the truck.

I have been meaning to buy backseat organizers for 8 years now. Finally did it. Yay me? Given the 2,920-day delay, I really wanted to love them, but I don’t. They’re okay, I guess. I would have liked something a little less janky, but these are the only pockets my WalMart carried, and I’m still mad at Target. I’m not much of an online shopper.

The trunk organizer is a different story. That one is well constructed and quite handy.

Two weeks later, and the car is still as clean as the day I had it detailed. I’m shocked! Not bad for an 8 year old truck with 84,000 miles. I thought for sure the boys would bring back in the vortex, but so far they seem as eager as I am to keep the truck clean. Of course, Mom Stink Eye might be motivating them a wee bit more than the glory of an uncluttered floor, but I can’t be bothered by such trivial details.

This post was part of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that details the steps I am taking to create an intentional home. You can see more of my goals and completed projects here. To learn more about this project, start here.

Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:

              1. Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
              2. Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
              3. No links to giveaways, please.
              4. Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job. I know I will.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    Fabulous. Detailing the car should be on the Spring Cleaning list –right up there with drycleaning the winter coats and duvet. (All of hich I have yet to do.) Well done!

    I don’t see Mr. Linky.

  2. says

    “Not much of an online shopper”? That does not compute. Amazon Prime changed my life. That said, did you think about trying a Container Store or an auto parts store? Janky backseat organizers or no, the truck looks great!

  3. says

    Hooray, Mr Linky arrived! I really look forward to these posts and seeing what everyone is doing in our little William Morris club. Thanks for hosting.

    I’m so glad you are OK, medically speaking.

  4. says

    You’re slaying me entwine!

    Also, thanks for reminding me that I need to vacuum the glass out of my car. I never seem to remember in the morning–only when I’m ready to put groceries in the trunk. I’m sure people wonder, when I open the trunk, swear, and shut the trunk.

  5. Sarah says

    I recently cleaned out my car, too. It still needs to be vacuumed, but we have a shop vac and four kids, so it will get done. You might want to check Babies R Us for the back seat organizers. I haven’t been in there in ages, but I recall they had lots of things like that. Thanks for all of the motivation.

    • says

      So far these are okay. Not great, but okay. Since I can’t return them, I’ll have to deal with them until I can find something I really like. Part of the problem is the way my seats are constructed.

  6. says

    My car is awful. We bought it two years ago and we haven’t washed it once, inside or outside, since we bought it. Ugh. There. Now my secret is out. We keep on saying that we will wash it THIS WEEKEND but it never happens. I think we need to suck it up and pay for detailing… and then keep it clean or at least clean-ish. Your van looks great!

    • says

      Detailing it is the way to go, definitely. I don’t know what magic potion they have at the car wash, but they bring the color back in my plastic panels and none of the stuff I use can do that.

  7. says

    My guy and I were just talking about this. They design a gazzilon cup holders for cars, but I have never seen a good trash bag integrated! Even a levered hook to hang your plastic shopping bag that always becomes the trash. Our organizers were always plastic shelf bins that fit between the car seats or old book bags. My arms were just long enough to reach around and get the empty wrappers before they fluttered to the floor : )

    • says

      For all the advancements in cars, they sure do lack practicality. Maybe it’s like what someone says below–the people designing the cars aren’t the people driving the cars.

  8. says

    I love this post. It makes me want to go out right now and take pictures of my filthy car. But then I remember that I cleaned it out just last week and since only a week has gone by, it’s not nearly hideous enough to waste time taking and posting pictures. I could seriously compete, though. Just give me another week or two and a few more trips to Sonic.

    Your truck looks great, by the way. It feels so good when it’s all clean and shiny. I just can’t ever manage to keep mine that way very long. I guess having a big car makes it easier to ignore that “hole” in the back where my kids live. 😉

  9. says

    My minivan always looks like the before picture, even ten seconds after cleaning it. Even with all that stuff, your car seems to be missing the fine layer of goldfish crackers, french fries, fruit snacks and general ickyness that covers the bottom of my car. I still have pine needles in my car from transporting the Christmas tree. My father calls my car the Roving Landfill.

  10. says

    I really like this idea. We are in the process of moving, and I am purging like crazy. It feels awesome. I recently had to buy a newer car since I was in an accident, and just having a new car has encouraged me to get it cleaned. Which by the way reminds me it is time to get it detailed.

  11. says

    That looks great! I’m such a slouch about buying organizing supplies. I actually have a few for the car, but they don’t get a lot of use. What we really need is a trash container at every seat. Our van isn’t toooo bad at the moment (certainly not the worst it’s been), but it needs a good scrubbing inside and out so we can attempt to sell it. I dread seeing what bits are lurking under the booster seats in the third row.

  12. Ellen S says

    The truck looks great (ahem, thanks for driving a Ford – I recognize it – *wink*). This was a great motivator, I try and pick up a few extraneous objects everyday, but somehow it still ends up looking like a junk heap. 10 billion cup holders, but no good places for purses or trash…gee, I wonder what percentage of interior engineering is men?

    • says

      I try to pick up stuff, too. I finally admitted that it will always look cluttered unless I have a place to keep all the items that I know, no matter what I say, will end up back in the car.

  13. says

    I thought it would take about 10 minutes to clean out the car this week. Try two hours…and I still haven’t vacuumed. How is it possible we drive around in tubs of trash without even seeing it? I cannot even count how many Cheetos I had to pry out of cracks, or empty Starbucks cups there were, not to mention the year’s supply of napkins. {just in case you need one!} The best part was finally removing the last bits of twine that had been flapping about on our roof rack since we brought home our Christmas tree. Amazingly embarrassing. I loved your post, and I agree, Wal-Mart definitely elicits a response…I think a regular trip there is good for perspective, if nothing else.

  14. says

    Oh man, been there done that. Not with a priest, but the messy mom car thing. There are still days and weeks where it gets out of control, but my trick/routine now is I have a special basket designated for car clean up. Every couple of days I take my purple basket and I clean up all the clothes, shoes and odds and ends. it’s a total psychological thing because a trash bag/shopping bag would work just as well, but there’s something about having a special car cleaning basket that somehow makes the process seem more mountable. Another tip I am happy to share, is I have a tiny little trash can that is specifically made for cars, that is always in my car. It has a velcro and weighted bottom so that it stays in place on the floor between the two kids so that whenever they have trash from snack wrappers and such, they now know to put it in the trash. My parents have had a trash can in their car for years, they just use a plastic lined old little cardboard box they have around the house, so the kids are used to seeing it in their cars. Well one day the kids got tired of hearing me always yelling at them about throwing their trash everywhere, so they said “Mom, why don’t you get a trash can like grandma and grandpa?” And so Art got me one for Christmas. I KID YOU NOT! Most women probably would have been pissed, but I was in heaven! I love it and it has really helped out. I’ll send you the link to it. :) I’m kinda crazy about my car, it’s a nice car, we paid good money for it, I refuse to be told you can’t have a clean, nice car with kids. It’s my mission to prove those naysayers wrong.

    • says

      Growing up, my mom’s car was immaculate. IMMACULATE. So I know it can be done. Of course, we weren’t allowed to eat in the car and we knew better than to leave a scrap of paper behind. Mom was hardcore when it came to taking care of her stuff.

  15. says

    I knew this entry would be funny when I saw the title: Mom Car. Hilarious. It’s amazing how a clean car makes us all walk a little taller. (Leaving now to remove the collection of water bottles from my floorboards.)

    Do you have matching Mom Jeans? gah! :)

  16. says

    Clean car spring madness! It looks awesome. Love the thoughts/reaction to seeing your Priest in such an unholy of place :) I remember standing behind my boss in Walmart, and not recognizing him, because what the hell would an orthopaedic surgeon be doing in Walmart buying kitty litter.
    Years ago, practically decades ago when I got my first car, that little baby was clean 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I grew-up riding in incredibly clean cars, as my father would make us take off our dirty soccer uniforms and cleats before being allowed in the car – we weren’t allowed to eat or drink in the car either. It was always clean, obscenely clean. Somewhere in the back of my mind I want to do this, but have zero follow through.
    Several weeks ago, when there was a day of sunshine, I desperately swept it out with a dust pan and broom…it sort of worked. At least the outside was clean. It is still better than it was, but it could use some serious detailing.

    • says

      Your dad sounds like my mom. And before I had kids, my car was clean. I never ate in it, tossed trash about, etc. It’s The Littles. They ruin everything. 😉 😉 (Of course I’m kidding.)

      p.s. This: what the hell would an orthopaedic surgeon be doing in Walmart buying kitty litter. made me laugh.

  17. says

    The state of my car brings me constant shame–glad I’m not the only one who gets embarrassed by the clutter. Your post brings me hope! I asked Babies R Us a few weeks ago if they had a back-of-seat organizer like yours, and they just looked at me. I’m on a mission, now. Thanks.

    • says

      Yeah, I don’t think they are as popular as I thought they were. I assumed I was the last person on the planet to have them. On etsy you can find a kabillion of them, but they are in baby prints.

  18. says

    Wow. Those before shots…… I thought now how did Jules get photos of my van?!? I have got to do this job this week because next week I move Daughter #2 out of the dorm.
    It never occurred to me to ask myself if I would be comfortable letting my pastor look inside my van. The answer….no way!

  19. says

    Messy cars make me a bit queasy. Like when someone has to say, “wait, let me clear all this stuff out so you can sit somewhere.” Ugh. Stomach turn.

    That said, our lives have been in such chaos lately (just announced a huge move) that I totally get it. Sometimes it feels like we’re all living in cars, just shuffling from one place to another. The mess always reappears despite our best efforts. Your trunk oganizer is a genius idea though. We keep dog crates back there full time and I end up putting groceries inside the crates… talk about embarrassing..

    • says

      Messy cars make me queasy, too, which is why it is so funny that I let mine get so bad. I always swore I wouldn’t be the mom with the messy car. For a long time I wasn’t…until they started school and organized sports. After that, everything went to pot.

  20. says

    Man, I don’t feel so bad! (Can I say that?) 😉 The only reason mine doesn’t look quite so bad is that my husband is a bit of a clean-freak and teases me when I start collecting too much junk in the car. Also, they might look a little janky, but those seat organizers are pretty awesome, and they have NEVER occurred to me, ever, after 10+ years of motherhood.

    • says

      The organizers are janky, but so far they are working. Ideally, I would like something that fits tight to the seat and has a greater variety of pockets.

  21. says

    “They’re probably in the same spot I left my dignity.” LOL! Good stuff. I think your car looked lived in and I LOVE the fact that there was a Magic 8 Ball in there. Love it!

    I understand, though, and your detailed, organized truck looks beautiful. And I’m more than just a little jealous because my beloved 2004 Honda Odyssey was totaled in a wreck on Tuesday night. (Everyone is okay.)

  22. says

    I LOVE you for posting this. My car looks almost the same. Okay – worse. You just made me feel so much better! And now I have hope that it can be cleaned and actually stay clean!

    • says

      It can totally stay clean. Two weeks and it still looks immaculate! It can be done when everything has a predetermined spot. I think that’s the key!

  23. says

    I think we all fall victim to the Mom Car. I will say that the amount of general detrius has diminished since I took a plastic cereal container, lined it with a bag, and put it in the backseat. Now the kids know to put their crap in there instead of grinding it into the carpet. I would seriously love it if I had my car detailed. So much that I might cry.

    • says

      You have to do it. I swear I needed a cigarette when my truck rolled up all sparkly and clean.

      And, yes, we all fall victim to Mom Car, unless you are Mom Crazy Clean, like my mom. I was talking to Andrea about the trash can, but since I do kiddy carpool, I don’t know where I would store it. Too many dangling feet in the backseat.

  24. says

    Your car in the first pictures is clean compared to mine. This is definitely an inspiring post though. I really ought to clean my car. You should see the looks I get when I drop boobear off in the filth wagon. And they know what I do for a living. Can you say embarrassing? Obviously not embarrassing enough since I have yet to clean it-Ha! I truly have no shame.

  25. Donna says

    I just came across your blog today and the pix of your car cracked me up! I ferry four kids and a big dog around in my (old) Explorer and usually it looks similar to yours :) Can’t wait for Mothers Day, the one day of the year when my kids and hubs totally douche my car (my mothers day present for 19 years now) and for a day or two after it looks and smells lovely!

  26. naomi says

    this post made my day. i’m not a mom, but i graduated from law school … wait for it … one year ago … and my law school books are still in my trunk … where they’ve sat since i threw them in there after each of my final exams …

  27. says

    My big nemesis is sand. I thought I would see the last of it in my car when Sam finished Kindergarten. I was wrong. Not only does Sam’s gym class regularly visit a sand infested playground, but the school re-landscaped theirs with a huge sand pit. I see sand in my future for at least another three and half years.
    Your car interior looks fantastic. Kudos to you for going to get it detailed.

  28. says

    We get our car detailed a few times a year and we don’t even have kids! We’re messy enough on our own, apparently.

    To be fair, D gets our car detailed and I just appreciate the results. He does use it to bring pieces to show clients, and I can imagine that pulling a $2500 chair out of a filthy car would leave the wrong impression.

    I love it. I don’t know what it is about my parents, but our family cars always deteriorated really quickly. As in, door handles would fall off and vermiculite would get ground into the carpet and seats would get torn. I was so thrilled when I finally got my own car and no longer had to deal with it.

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  31. says

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