Whether you’re heading out for a long road trip or trying to manage the chaos of school pick up, use these simple but powerful van organization ideas to find what you need when you need it. These must-have minivan organization tips will keep kids’ snacks handy, trash packed away, and mom stress-free.
Ah, the family vehicle. It’s your method of transportation, and it’s also usually a family catch-all. From snacks to sports equipment, school papers, clothing, and much more, somehow, it all lands in the family vehicle – and stays there.
Why van organization matters
It’s easy to forget about car organization. Like many families, we’re usually so busy coming and going that organizing our family vehicle is often only a passing (nagging) thought.
But a well-organized van can make life SO much easier! When you have organization systems in place, you’re easily able to plan ahead, which makes coming and going simpler and less stressful for the entire family. And it helps eliminate that age-old problem of forgetting things at home!
That’s why one of my goals this summer was to get our minivan organized. And I wanted to implement my new storage systems on a slim budget – basically, using things around the house.
How I organized our van: Our minivan organization system
Before I could get our minivan organized, I had to clean it first. Ugh, I didn’t relish the thought of dragging out the giant wet-dry vac or dealing with all the filth the van has accumulated over the winter.
But we had a beautiful afternoon recently, and it motivated me to finally tackle the project I had been putting off. Of course, the kids helped. And got in the way…
It took me a solid two hours to fully vacuum and clean out the van. It was that dirty. And it’s still not as clean as I’d like it to be since four kids with muddy boots in New Hampshire (where mud season can last almost as long as winter itself) track in a whole lotta dirt.
To get it as clean as I’d like it, we would need to buy new floor mats and pay for professional inside detailing…but that’s a project for another day.
For this project, there were three specific areas I focused on for organizing our minivan:
- Car-sickness supplies
- The back cargo area
Minivan organization: A solution for trash
In the cabin of our van, trash was the biggest issue. It was practically overflowing with litter. Granola bar wrappers. Zip bags (from sandwiches.) Napkins. Old water bottles. So many papers.
I’m sure we’re not the only ones who deal with this problem. And finding a solution for trash is an important part of car organization. If you don’t have a place to put it, you’re going to have a mess no matter what you do.
In the past, we used a cardboard box as a makeshift trash can. It kinda worked.
But one major downside was that it took up valuable floor space. And since it was in the middle row, it didn’t help with trash in the backseat.
Usually, it all was left on the floor until I declared “time to clean the car” every few months, and the kids grudgingly picked up. So, honestly, that system really didn’t work.
A budget-friendly van organization idea
This was the number one issue I wanted to solve. And I found the perfect budget-friendly solution on Pinterest.
Say hello to my new friend: Command hooks. They’re ideal for holding a plastic grocery bag for easy trash disposal.
I put one small Command hook on each row. The first went in the back seat row.
It’s off to the side so it won’t get in the way, yet it’s still accessible enough for the kids to toss stuff into easily. I may add a second hook on the other side later, but for now, I think one will suffice.
NOTE: I’ve had readers ask if I have had to replace the Command hook adhesive yet. So far, I’ve only had to replace the tape once – when Nathan thought it would be neat to see what happened when he pulled the bottom of the tape. Sigh.
Next, I attached a second Command hook in the middle row of the van.
This is Joshua and Luke’s row. They’re still a little young to reach over and put trash in the bag while buckled in. But once we stop, they can each pick up their own sandwich bag and throw it away.
I was going to add a third hook in the front when I realized our Toyota Sienna is already equipped with a small built-in hook. I’ve never used it before, but now it finally has a mission.
It’s a little lower than I’d prefer, so I may still add a Command hook above it later. But for now, I’m giving it a trial run.
A great advantage to this trash solution in the van is that it’s easy for the kids to help empty or replace the bags.
Trash? Problem solved!
Van organization idea for snacks
I used to pack new snacks each time we left the house. But it was one more thing to remember, and I knew it would just be simpler to have the stuff already in the car.
So I made a snack bin for our minivan.
I used an empty wipes container. Wipes containers make great storage bins and are so handy for so many things!
It’s small and fits under the middle console, which keeps it hidden from small children wanting to help themselves.
Now, I don’t have to remember to pack snacks because they’re already in the car! I do need to restock it once in a while, but I can easily do that during nap time or when the kids are occupied for a few minutes.
A bin for car-sickness supplies
Unfortunately, Joshua gets carsick. Usually, it’s only on long car trips or in stop-and-go traffic, but I can’t always predict it. Driving in horrible Boston traffic and having Joshua get sick not too long ago reminded me that I kept forgetting to stock the car with towels and a puke bucket.
Enter the Car-Sick Bin.
Our car-sick bin holds a plastic bag, a small towel, baby wipes, and some plastic cups (which work great as portable, disposable, affordable “puke-buckets.”)
I know, I know – gross. But hey, it’s a fact of life.
It all fits nicely in a small bin under the center console, where I can quickly grab supplies whenever we need them.
The next time we have an incident, this mom is prepared!
Minivan storage solution ideas for the back cargo area
One of my favorite features of the minivan is the van storage area in the very back. The downside of that storage space is that it easily gets out of hand with junk.
I cleared everything out and only put back the essentials. For our family, this includes:
- Extra wipes
- A few spare diapers for Luke (since I rarely use a diaper bag anymore)
- A spare just-in-case-life-is-unpredictable-with-kids towel
I also included a couple of insulated frozen foods reusable bags and a few water bottles. We rarely buy bottled water, but I do keep some in the back of the van for the occasional day trip out. Plus, you never know when an activity may run long or the day may be hotter than you expected.
Bottled water in the van has come in handy more times than I can count, so I always keep a few there. Just in case.
The rest of the back is empty, leaving plenty of room for whatever summer fun may bring us. Now I don’t have to move things around to fit in the beach chairs and blow-up floaties!
Car organization success!
Van organization FAQs
I’ve seen several questions from readers about organizing their own family vehicles, so I’m answering some of them below in case you have them too!
Won’t plastic trash bags blow around in the car?
We did run into that! Empty plastic bags tend to fly around if the van windows are open while we’re driving (but probably isn’t a problem if you never open the windows).
To avoid that, we now simply put the plastic bags in nearby cup holders or cubbies when they’re empty. Then we pull them back out and hang them up when we have trash.
Are plastic trash bags noisy as they move around?
With four kids in the van, there’s so much noise that I don’t even notice any noise from the plastic bags! However, if you have that problem, you could purchase a reusable foldable trash bin accessory that hangs from the headrest. It’s more expensive but will accomplish the same task without the noise.
Does the plastic bag up front get in the way?
For the most part, we haven’t had any problems with the bag getting in the way. There was one time when a sports bag jostled it, but we started putting sports bags in the back cargo area.
If that location is a problem for you, you could try putting plastic bags in the compartment at the bottom of the front doors. I do that when we go on longer trips and have more stuff in the van. It works great and offers a trash solution that’s completely out of the way.
Do these tips work for other types of family vehicles?
Yes! We have a minivan, but these same tips can be adapted to work for cars, trucks, or even a work van if you use it to transport your kiddos from time to time. You may need to use slightly different storage systems, depending on your exact van layout, but the basic ideas will work well.
And that, my friends, is how I organized our minivan. I hope these tips help you transform your messy family vehicle into an organized transportation tool!
More organization inspiration
If you’re searching for more helpful mom hacks, check out these ideas!