How I Organize Our Van

posted by Andrea | 01/16/2017
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I’ve officially been driving a minivan for a full year now — and yes, I still love it! We purchased our Chrysler Town & Country last January, and have been enjoying ALLLLLLL the extra space ever since.

We haven’t had a chance to take it on a long road trip yet, but we plan to take a couple road trips this summer, so we’ll have more of an idea of how convenient it is after those trips.

That said, even just for tooling around town on a weekly basis, the extra trunk space and huge amount of interior space has been so fabulous.

Since we’ve had a full year to use our van and assess our storage needs, I thought it might be a good time to share a bit more about how I’ve organized the interior of the van.

DASHBOARD STORAGE:

We have 2 storage compartments within our front dashboard.

I use the top dashboard storage cubbie for any grocery and restaurant coupons. The bottom compartment is for our vehicle information documents — license, proof of insurance, manuals, etc.

CENTER CONSOLE STORAGE:

Our center console also has 2 smaller compartments which work well to hold essentials I use on a very regular basis.

I keep candy, gum, lip balm, a pen, paper, lotion, tissues, and blank bank statements in the very top compartment. I use a couple washed out baby food containers as tiny organizers for this compartment.

The whole top section of the center console slides back, leaving a large bottom compartment that seems to be the perfect size for a few “baby and kid essentials”.

I keep a spare diaper for each of the boys, a travel size pack of wet wipes, a travel size changing pad, hand sanitizer, our travel size Boba Air baby carrier, some small bathroom-size cups that I use to hand out snacks, and a bunch of napkins.

BEHIND THE SEAT STORAGE:

I keep a selection of DVDs stored behind the driver’s seat and an umbrella, flashlight, and a few extra trash bags stored behind the passenger seat.

I also almost always have a trash bag hanging from the appropriate hooks behind the passenger seat. The in-car trash bag has been a life-saver on SO many occasions!

Nora and Simon have completely taken over the back row — and although they are usually quite cooperative (especially when they get to watch a movie), I’ve found it necessary to keep a handful of kid activities in an area they can reach on their own AND easily put it all away again.

I found this super cheap “behind-the-seat organizer” for $3 or $4 on Hollar.com and put it on the back of James’ seat since Nora has more range of motion in a booster seat than Simon does in his 5-point harness.

This organizer is actually marketed as a cooler, but I like that (unlike many car organizers) this one has just one large open pocket that’s easy for kids to dump their picture books, coloring books, notepads, etc.

They use the side and front pockets for crayons, pens, tissues, or anything else they want to shove in there! I don’t really care as long as it’s not on the floor or shoved in between their carseast!

UNDER SEAT STORAGE:

Since we have stow ‘n go seating, we have a large storage cavity under James’ bucket seat (the other storage cavity stores the other bucket seat right now.)

We keep jumper cables, a clip-on high chair, a small tarp, and a large waterproof blanket under James’ seat.

I forgot to take a recent picture of how our seats are arranged, but we still have it set up like the picture below. We’ve just upgraded the carseat situation as the kids have gotten older 🙂

Keeping the one passenger seat “stowed” has allowed SOOOOO much space to move around inside the car, get kids clipped in, and even change a diaper on occasion! I would HIGHLY recommend stow ‘n go seating if you have the option!

TRUNK STORAGE:

I almost always keep our amazing Joovy Ultralight Caboose Stroller in the truck as it is quite compact and offers so many different seating combinations depending on what kids I have along with me.

I also hung a cheep over-the-door shoe organizer from two of the back seat headrests (with zip ties). I use this storage for SO MUCH STUFF.

I keep extra mittens and hats in there for the kids, various sizes of bungee cords, sanitizing wipes, first aid supplies, reusable shopping bags, and even a small extension cord since our van has traditional electrical plugs we can use for any number of appliances or gadgets.

I have plenty of empty compartments in the shoe organizer right now, but there are times when it’s completely full.

DAILY MAINTENANCE:

As with all areas of organization, GETTING the van organized is one thing… however KEEPING it organized can be the real challenge!

Although we rarely go on long road trips, it’s amazing how “trashed” the van can get even with a few shorter trips when everyone has a snack, draws a few pictures, eats a sucker, uses a couple napkins, etc. etc.

We have a pretty good routine right now: When we pull in the garage, Nora unbuckles herself and then unclips Simon from his seat. The two of them dump all their books and coloring things back into the cooler/organizer and toss any trash in the trash bag before they get out the car (they can open the door themselves with the auto door open button).

Meanwhile, I collect any trash in the front of the car or around James’ seat and get James out. Then the 3 kids walk into the mudroom while I grab any packages or bags that need to go inside.

In just a minute or two, the van is cleaned up and ready for our next outing — not too bad!

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I’m positive I will continue to change and tweak our van organization as our storage needs change — however, I’d love to know…

Do you have any fabulous car/van organizing tips or tools?

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15 comments

  1. Diane

    01/21/2017

    LOVE IT!!!

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  2. Tonya

    01/19/2017

    We purchased a 2014 Town and Country last April. I was not thrilled to be buying a minivan. We only have one child (6) but I cannot tell you how much I love it now!! We have done road trips to TN and planning FL in March.

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  3. Julia

    01/16/2017

    What a timely post! I have been thinking about arranging the seats in our van exactly as you do, but have wondered how it would work. With the stroller in the trunk there’s not as much room for groceries. Do you put groceries on the floor? And thanks for the encouragement to clean as we go…our van tends to get trashed.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is by-far the best way for us to have the seats because there is just SO much extra room inside the main part of the van. And yes, I do often just put the groceries on the floor in the main part of the van 🙂

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  4. Kelly

    01/16/2017

    I like your tip about having a plastic trash bag ready to go, as sometimes we have lots of trash (though I am crushed that in California we just did away with free grocery sacks!) I think I will try that out.

    However, for small trash items: wrappers, tissues, etc. we have a little reusable cereal box from the dollar store, and I keep a grocery bag in there. It works really nicely because you just lift up the little flap where the cereal would get poured out. I don’t put anything perishable in it (i.e. Banana peels, etc.) so I just empty every few weeks or if it fills up.

    Do you just lay your stroller on the floor of the trunk? (The photo with the stroller looks like it’s on luggage for a trip?) I feel like we don’t use our trunk space very well because the stroller takes up all that space, and it’s hard to put anything on top of it. We end up stashing groceries all over the van interior (we have four though so can’t have the seat stored like you, I am realizing that is maybe where you out groceries).

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, the trash bags have come in handy more times than I can count. I like your trash idea too though — and I’m sure my kids would thinks it’s cool to shove the trash into that container!

    As for the stroller situation, I often either put things on top of the stroller, or put items in the passenger area (where our seat is stowed). However, if I know I will need more trunk space, I’ll take the stroller out and put it in the garage for that specific trip.

    I’ve often thought about trying to rig up some sort of platform that could be lifted up — so the stroller would be under the platform and then there would still be a flat surface for other items on top, but I’ve never put much time into coming up with something. By the time I do, we’ll probably done using a stroller anyway 🙂

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  5. Selena

    01/16/2017

    Love your system, the van looks great!
    My kids are 10, 8 and 3– I say the same thing every time they get out of our SUV: “Grab what you got, bring what you brought!” This reminds them to grab the stuffed animal or book that they brought along, and bring in their back packs and water bottles or a shopping bag or whatever. I remember you saying (maybe years ago!), that you do a mini clean-out of your vehicle every time you get out of it, and that has definitely stuck with me! Daily maintenance certainly helps!

    [Reply]

  6. Kimberley

    01/16/2017

    Thanks for all the great ideas! We have T&C as well and we have loved it since the day we bought it. It is our family vehicle that we take everywhere. A year ago, we took a long distance trip from Texas to Indiana. It performed wonderfully. Both kiddos were able to watch movies and sleep comfortably in their carseats and I was able to drive knowing that we had a safe vehicle. The stow & go feature is by far my favorite. Can’t beat the fact that you can store every seat into the bottom of the van and using it for moving things if necessary!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes! We love the stow ‘n go — I think that’s one of the main factors that won me over from wanting an SUV.

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  7. Mara Yager

    01/16/2017

    Great tips, thanks for sharing!! We got an older van this summer since we welcomed our third in November and it’s been so great. Just wish we’d have done it sooner, even with just 2 kids 🙂 Happy Monday!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha, I know. We thought we didn’t need a van with 3 kids… but once we got one, we wished we had purchased it with only 2 kids!

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  8. Angela

    01/16/2017

    We’re on our second black Town & Country! The first one had high miles so we traded it in last year for a newer one. We’ve loved them both! The “changing table” area when the seat is stowed brings back fond memories! : ) Now that our kids are bigger and we’re carpooling friends daily, we use all the seats. Some other items I keep in the “stow” compartment are an old towel (handy for drying off when caught in the rain at a soccer game or wiping feet after an impromptu stream-splashing moment), and an ice cream pail (handy for sick kids and bringing home turtles and various “nature” that we find). We have one child who is very prone to carsickness so I actually ordered a case of the blue vomit bags from amazon and I keep them tucked in various cubbies, along with Dramamine and wrist bands in the glove box. Our van unfortunately has very light gray interior and floor carpet (dumb idea), so I use a rubber-backed runner rug as a floor mat to protect from muddy feet. It also adds a cute splash of color! : ) We got an older Suburban recently as our second vehicle (we need 4WD in winter where we live), and while our big kids find the Suburban’s ride to be comfier for long distances (long legged kids are a little cramped in the van’s 3rd row), the storage of the T&C still can’t be beat!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow, I’m surprised your kids have more legroom in the Suburban. I always thought we would get a Suburban or some type of SUV with 3rd row seating… until I rode in the back seat of a Suburban most of the way to Florida a few years ago. After that trip, I told Dave we were going to be a minivan for sure as my legs were so cramped (and I have fairly short legs).
    I would like a 4WD vehicle though 🙂

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    Angela Reply:

    My big kids (12 and 14) ride in the middle row and the little ones (6 and 8) ride in the third row. My 12 year old son can’t squeeze his big feet comfortably into the third row of either vehicle. : ) The Suburban seats themselves though are definitely made more comfortably for big kids – in the low van seats it looks like their knees are up to their chins! : ) They’re just cushier and a little more luxurious (even though our Suburban is a 2005 – not new by any means).

    Another tip I forgot to share is that I like to keep a tote, milk crate or laundry basket in the back end trunk area to corral loose items. In our stroller days, that allowed me to stand a stroller up beside it. When I shop at Aldi’s, I can put my groceries in there if I run out of bags (or forget them at home) and easily carry them into the house.

    We also keep small lightweight fleece blankets in one of our van cubbies – they’re handy when we’re driving home at night so sleepy kids can snuggle up! I just love van hacks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah, I see — so the 6 and 8 year old are in the back. I guess they are probably considerably smaller than I am 🙂
    Thanks for the tip about the milk crate in the trunk — that’s a good idea. And we also let each child have a small blanket and neck pillow that we roll up and wedge next to their seat. Even in the summer, the love using their “car blankets”!

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