A Decluttering Guide to the Second Home You Didn’t Know You Had

old fashioned blue bug car parked on beach by rocks

Pop quiz: Americans spend on average 290 hours a year doing which task:

  1. Housecleaning
  2. Driving
  3. Dressing for work
  4. Cooking meals

If you guessed No. 2, congratulations! You’ve won a new car! OK, not really…but let’s just hope you’re not reading this while driving. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans spent 17,600 minutes behind the wheel in 2016, while driving for more than 10,900 miles on average. Whether you accept it or not, that makes your car a four-wheeled second home!

Do you keep that second home as clean and tidy as your true home? No? Neither did we — until we learned some great tips on how to keep your car looking and smelling great while also providing as healthy and natural an environment for you and your kids as possible. That’s right, you can “go green” while riding down the road. So buckle up, you’re in for a car decluttering and cleaning adventure!

Start by taking a DIY approach to your car’s appearance. By skipping the long lines and big costs at the local carwash, you’ll also be avoiding the harsh chemicals some full-service places use. Instead, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and get out in the sun for some vitamin D…but be sure to grab a bucket before you do.

By filling it with water and then turning the hose off while you’re scrubbing, you’ll be saving gallons. Add some plant-based dish soap to the bucket, instead of the cleaners found in the car aisle at the big-box store…those cleaners could be full of chemicals that can harm the environment when they are washed down the driveway and into the storm drains. You can add a couple of tablespoons of the soap with about a half cup of nature’s top cleaner — vinegar — to a gallon of water and you’ll get a streak-free clean, because vinegar neutralizes the alkaline minerals found in hard water, so it prevents water spots.

For the hardest of spots on your vehicle’s exteriors (left behind by, let’s say, a bird perhaps?), coat them with vegetable oil, let it soak in, then wipe away the grime.

front left of car being cleaned with towel on rims

If your car’s interior is as cluttered as most, take a moment and place three boxes or bins outside of it. Use one to store the stuff going back into the car, another for items going back into the house, and then a third for the things you no longer need. Chances are, those items can be put to good use by donating them to the Vietnam Veterans of America. Pickup Please is standing by to help you do just that (you’ll find out more about them at the end of this blog).

Okay, so now it’s time to dive in. Start by opening all the doors, to allow as much sunlight in and to start the freshening process. Toss out the fast food wrappers, the empty water bottles (don’t forget to recycle them!) and the rest of the garbage. Now it’s time to sort through the umbrellas, shoes, hats, baby bottles, kids toys, sports gear and the like, and put them in their appropriate boxes. 

Don’t put the items you want to keep in your car back just yet. There’s still more Earth-friendly work to do!

  • Inspect the seats’ upholstery. If you have leather or vinyl upholstery, any stains that you find can most likely be removed by applying a little toothpaste to them, but only after you first test a tiny spot to make sure the material’s dye doesn’t fade. Once you’re sure it’s safe, just dab a bit on the stain, work it in with your fingers, let it dry for a moment then wipe off with a soft cloth;
before and after car seats dirty to clean

  • To clean the rest of the upholstery, make a 50/50 mix of vinegar and linseed oil and apply it with a soft cloth onto your leather or vinyl. Not only will it wipe off the dirt and gunk, you’ll also leave the material shiny and protected;
  • Should your vehicle have fabric upholstery, you’re in luck — there are natural ways you can clean stains from fabric, too. Our favorite is a mix of one-part vinegar to one-part water. Just blot the mix onto the stain and let it soak for a few minutes, then wipe it clean by blotting it with a water-soaked cloth;
  • Now turn your attention to the carpets. Before you vacuum, sprinkle some baking soda over the floor mats and let it help deodorize your car just like it does for your fridge! You can even add some dried flowers or herbs to the mix to create a sweeter smell. Leave it on for about an hour or so before you vacuum it out;
  • Found a stain or two on that carpet? Cover them with cornstarch and after about a half hour, gently brush the stain and starch before vacuuming it all up;
  • Now it’s time to add the shine to your windows. Again, skip the harsh chemicals found in the over-the-counter glass cleaners and instead, combine ¼ cup alcohol, ½ cup vinegar, and 1 cup water to make a great, streak-free cleaning solution. Remember to be kind to Mother Nature by using cotton rags instead of paper towels; we find that old, washable all-cotton baby diapers are great, as are “bar-keeper’s towels” you can get from the cleaning aisle at the grocery store;
hand with wipes cleaning car window

  • After cleaning the windows, use a separate cloth to dust the dashboard, wiping away any residue left over from your window spray. Small paint brushes also come in handy when dusting the air vents and other nooks and crannies;
  • Finish by vacuuming up the cornstarch and baking soda, then give everything another pass with your soft cloth, before placing the must-haves back inside the car.
man and woman in car driving through green countryside with cowboy hats

Now that you have a fresh and shiny second home, you’re all set for a relaxing commute or sightseeing trip to the country. One place you won’t need to go to is the donation center to drop off your unwanted items. Instead, just click the link below and schedule a free donation pickup today!

Pickup Please has professionally trained drivers that will come to your house and haul away the unwanted things you stored in the back of your car — including kids toys, jackets and sweaters, shoes, jewelry, and the sports gear that’s been rattling around for months. Plus, you’ll be helping America’s veterans, which will give you an even better feeling that having a clean, decluttered car!