“The word ‘clutter’ derives from the Middle English word ‘clotter,’ which means to coagulate – and that’s about as stuck as you can get.” – Karen Kingston

If you are looking for a worthwhile project for a cold, snowy, winter day, consider this: automobile glove compartments, center consoles, and door pockets. Over time, items which multiply on the passenger seat find their way into these areas. They become a holding tank for the necessary, unnecessary, and sometimes the unrecognizable.

Although, these storage areas often hold important information like maintenance and inspections records, insurance cards, touchup paint, first aid kits, and small tools – if you can find them after months of layering.

At the worst of times, certain items can become embarrassingly difficult to find, especially when a member of law enforcement asks, “License and registration please.” Your blood pressure soars! You quickly reach for the glovebox, of course forgetting to unfasten the seat belt. It locks in place around our neck, forcing embarrassing guttural sounds.

Then, the search begins. Like a cat in a litter box, you stop and say, “Just a minute, I know it’s here somewhere.” Yes, somewhere, “over the rainbow.” However, you eventually present the officer with needed documentation – leaving everything on the floor, seat, or in your passenger’s lap. All this can be avoided by following my “Winter Guide to Automobile Organization.”

Step 1: Take a large box, I use a small laundry basket, to the garage and empty everything from the glove compartment, center consoles, and door storage areas. Do not look or examine, just dump! Immediately return to the warmth of your home, cause “Baby, its cold outside.”

Step 2: Collect three boxes (buckets or some type or mid-size containers) – one for the glove compartment, center console, and door storage areas. And a trash bag. Guy rule: Find a nice quiet area where you won’t get yelled at and dump everything. Girl rule: Do what you want. Where you want.

Step 3: With boxes within arm’s reach, begin the sort. Be ruthless. Look at each item and carefully judge its worthiness and whether it belongs in the glove box, console or door areas. Toss the worthless. Sort the necessary and place in the appropriate box. Don’t dwell on, “How the hell did that get in here.” Keep in mind, you do not need three or four of anything. Place ‘looks important’ paper work under the appropriate box for later discretion.

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Once everything is sorted, look through the trash bag one more time. A treasure might have attached itself to something worthless. Once you have given everything a second look, get rid of it right away. Dwelling leads to hoarding.

Step 4: Now, look through each box carefully. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this in the car?” A small trash bag might be useful because second looks often turn up overlooked ‘useless.’ Be careful with the paperwork. Organize all the maintenance records by date. Place all your manuals together in a separate case of some sort. I have a special, easily identifiable case (or brightly labeled envelope will work) which holds only my registration, inspection receipt and insurance card. That is the last thing I put in the glove compartment. Right on top!

Step 5: Return to your car with your boxes and trash bag. Place your items in their chosen area and throw away your trash bag. Oh yes, lastly: Include a partial role of paper towels for the door storage area – you never know. Finally, get back inside quickly. It’s cold and snowy and your favorite beverage has your name on it.

Step 6: Enjoy your beverage, along with the satisfaction of knowing you did something worthwhile and you did not drive your partner crazy – and vice versa. Oh yes, clean up your work area!

Personal note: Automobiles are like garages and basements. They breed junk. It’s not our fault. Therefore, at least once every year, give each a thorough and ruthless cleaning and organizing. I will follow up with under-seat storage areas and “What’s under your seat” – when the weather warms.

An admission of guilt. It had been four years since I last looked through my glove box and console. Here’s what I found: No one needs three wine corkscrews in their car. I found two pair of binoculars. Several takeout menus from restaurants that no longer exist. Sunglasses are important, but not four pairs – one of which was missing a lens. Plus, there were a variety of crumpled napkins – used and unused. Three ice scrapers. Four golf balls (ugly golf balls).

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Something that needs careful attention: Go through your insurance, registration and inspection cards carefully. I found three insurance cards, four registrations, and six inspection forms – all outdated. Be safe and shred the old ones… after a second and third look.

More of “What the hell!” I found maintenance records for a car I no longer own. An old accordion style map from 1987. Mints wrapped up in Kleenex – I blamed mom for this one. Assorted screws and washers. Eleven pens. $1.78 in change. A handful of dry rotted rubber bands. And, a car charger for a phone I got rid of seven years ago.

In the bottom of the glove box was an old candy bar that had probably melted and froze time and time again – at least I thought it was a candy bar. There were three small tape measures in the console on top of a dried up broken candy cane, both stuck together by ‘something.’

Nonetheless, there were two items which were perfectly useless (now). But, I just needed to keep them close. Merry’s lead and tennis ball. Merry was our Labrador Retriever who passed away two years ago. She rode with me for 12 years. And mom’s small white stuffed animal she kept on her dash. Memories from the past, providing comfort for the present.

I am not proud of the way I neglected my storage areas, but this winter I made a vow to yearly sort and organize my truck. Pretty good project for a cold and snowy winter day.

After I finished my truck, I looked at Sandra and said, “Let me have your keys so I can do your car.” Her response was immediate and firm, emphasized with piercing eyes, “Do not touch my stuff! It’s just the way I want.” I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “OK.” Then I retreated to my workshop in the basement. Another wise decision – on a cold snowy winter afternoon.

And that, was a little glimpse into Michael’s world… on a cold, snowy, winter day.

Until next time,

Michael