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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Family life has a way of lowering the standards of cleanliness to which you’ve adhered since your younger, wilder days. Although they’re adorable enough to make up for it, kids are prone to making devastating messes, especially in enclosed spaces like their bedrooms, bathrooms and the family car. There may not be too much that you can do to permanently change the character of the first two places, but your car is a different story entirely. Follow these simple tips to clean your vehicle while keeping it as kid-friendly as possible.

1. Keep It Cooler

You may gripe about your kids’ constant demands for juice, milk or their favorite snacks, but you’re secretly more than happy to indulge their every desire. To this end, be sure to keep a well-stocked cooler in your back seat or trunk, even for short errand runs around town. A well-placed juice box or healthy treat can go a long way toward satisfying your kids’ demands, or at least momentarily interrupting the vocalization thereof. After all, even the most demanding children know that it’s not polite to talk with a full mouth!

2. Centralize Your Waste

If you have kids, your personal vehicle is like a mobile kitchen table, a place in which furtive educational activities and voracious eating occur in equal measure. Treat it accordingly: Hang a trash bag from the passenger seat back or place a small receptacle on the backseat floor if there’s room. Your car won’t become spotless overnight, but a visible place for trash will eventually eliminate the unsightly deposits of paper and foodstuffs on your floors and under your seats.

3. Mobile Clean-up Equipment

Putting a trash bin in your car may actually encourage your children to eat more on the road, so be prepared with a stash of napkins and straws in the glove box or seat back pocket. Napkins help clean up messes, both on your kids’ faces and on the floor, while straws help prevent them by adding an extra layer of protection to your kids’ drinking cups.

4. Box It Up

If your kids are anything like the rest of today’s over-scheduled youth population, they’re accessorized to the teeth. Whether it’s extra pairs of gym shoes, shirts, a spare tennis racket or a clean set of shin guards, your car is probably stocked with clothing and equipment in case there’s a holdup on the way to soccer practice or dance class. Manage this necessary clutter and leave your floors debris-free with a well-organized large box or series of boxes.

5. Tidy Up

All the precautions in the world won’t keep your car spotless if your kids have any say in the matter. Schedule regular interior cleanings to keep your vehicle presentable, syncing them up with your regularly-scheduled car washes if possible. Be ruthless about throwing out or removing from the vehicle anything that can be construed as trash, even disused coloring books, crayons, and other item that your kids might reuse. They’ll ask for them again.

Keeping your family car clean is a tough job even if you have just one child, and the mess multiplies with each smiling addition to the clan. Set ground rules for cleanliness, enforce them firmly, and follow these five tips to get your vehicle looking presentable again.

Donna Gilbert lives and writes in London. She writes for www.carinsurance.org.uk where you can find more information on car insurance, trips, and tips for saving money when you drive.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who long for clean cars.