One of the things I traditionally do at the start of a new year is clean out the inside of my car. It's just as glamorous as it sounds, particularly because I gave birth to a couple of trash factories a few years back. Sometimes the things I find on this annual excursion are best left undisclosed.
After I take everything out (and vacuum, and bust out the Windex, Armor All, and sometimes even the Febreeze), I have to figure out what gets put back in. In doing so I have to deal with two warring factions in my brain; on the one hand, I actually despise clutter in the car, and like to travel as light as possible. On the other hand, nothing irritates me more than not having something there when I want/need it. Fortunately, the car I currently drive has a trunk approximately the size of Delaware, so generally I can work it out.
So I started thinking about it, and I realized that there are plenty of items I simply won't leave home without, and it goes well beyond the standard "emergency items" we're all cautioned to have on board. I'm not an expert (nor do I play one on television), but the following is my list of 10 things every woman should have in her car:
10) Standard emergency kit items. This includes things like a flashlight, tire gauge, etc. Check out this great little video from Lauren Fix's Howdini on what to have stocked in your kit:
The only change/addition I'd offer is that -- particularly if you have a small car -- it may not be practical to carry actual blankets. Consider picking up a few emergency mylar blankets to keep in your glove box for emergencies, instead. They're cheap and tiny.
Also, even though crank-handle flashlights tend to have a weaker beam than conventional ones, you never find yourself cursing dead batteries. The flashlight I keep in my car is always a wind-up one.
9) Personal paper products. I keep tissues in the car at all times, and I'm always glad I do. Those people you drive past who are not-so-surreptitiously picking away while tooling down the freeway? They forgot their tissues.
If you have the room, throw a roll of paper towels into the trunk, too. You never know. I also like baby wipes as a multi-purpose "clean up everything" option even when you no longer have babies, but I've learned the hard way that here in the South they dry out in hot cars, so I've sort of given up on that one.
There's no delicate way to put this, so I'll just say it: Ladies, if you're still menstruating -- have supplies in your car. I know you keep them in your purse. I also know that sometimes the purse stash runs out and you forget to restock and you're in the car on your way to Somewhere Important Where There Are Only Men and you find yourself thinking of all the things you would cheerfully trade in at that moment for a tampon sans embarrassment. Keep 'em in the glove box.
8) Umbrella. This is another one of those "But I have one in the house/in my purse/at my office" sorts of things where there's always a reason not to bother. Umbrellas are cheap and small, and no matter how many you own, you will one day find yourself in the car in a torrential downpour, with all your other umbrellas MIA.
7) Cell phone charger. I should probably make this one plural; while a cord that fits into your cigarette lighter is a no-brainer, the cost for those portable battery-run chargers and even pocket solar chargers has really come down in recent years. If your cell phone is a lifeline (and really, whose isn't?) making sure you have a way to charge it on the go is just common sense.
6) Reusable shopping bags. At the moment my husband and I have three cars in the driveway, and that's a long and convoluted story I'm not going to share right now, but Way Back When we had one car and one set of reusable grocery bags. The bags lived in the car. Then we got a second car, and the bags lived in the house -- virtually guaranteeing that whenever one of us decided to stop to pick up "just a few things" we didn't have the bags with us. After this happened a few (dozen) times, we bought a second set for the second car.
When the third vehicle came along we figured it was driven infrequently enough that we could just pull one of the other sets when needed. That ended exactly the way you suppose, with one too many times that someone found themselves bagless. I don't know about where you live, but where I am, the grocery store sells those bags for a buck apiece; having a set in the car is cheap and you'll always be glad to have them.
5) Dog treats and a spare leash. If you're not an animal lover I suppose you could skip this one... but, um, ever read Cujo? The chances of having to distract an angry dog are probably slim, but having Milkbones handy is never a bad idea. (Bonus: If you have a dog, yourself, you'll probably be glad to have a treat handy at some point when your pooch is in tow.)
As for the spare leash, well, it's possible I'm paranoid. But again, it's not like it takes up a lot of room....
4) Snacks with a good long shelf life. Most emergency kits suggest MREs or protein bars, but I consider those true emergency food. What about "short on time and the kids are clamoring for a snack" food? One of my friend keeps packets of peanut butter in the car for her boys; they suck it directly out of the pouches for a protein hit when they're hungry. Although I generally eschew "individual serving" foods for at home, little packs of cookies, dried fruits and crackers seem to stay fresh longer and save me from a relentless chorus of "Mom, we're starving!"
3) Money. There is no feeling of helplessness quite like being late to an appointment and realizing you have no change for the meter. Or maybe that's just me. I also almost never have cash on me (long live plastic!), so in addition to the pile of meter-change I keep in my car, I have a couple of well-hidden twenties for those dire occasions when I must make a purchase in a venue that only takes cash.
2) Good Book. I keep a book in the car as a matter of course. Sometimes I get stuck somewhere for a while, and really, having to just sit around and read is... kind of relaxing.
1) GPS Unit. I don't leave home without my GPS. Maybe you have a good sense of direction, but I do not. I can get lost in my own town. I can get lost coming home from the supermarket. Basically, I can get lost any time I don't have my GPS, which is why I make sure I always have it. And that includes the power cord, because having a dead GPS in the car is infinitely sadder than having no GPS at all.
Other bloggers pondering indispensable car supplies:
24/7 MOMS share 7 favorite things to keep in the car.
Organizing Junkie has a list of over 30 car must-haves.
Vanilla Joy's emergency car kit includes allergy medication, which reminds me that I probably need to restock my purse.
And finally, if you think this is all a little too girly, take a jaunt over to The Art of Manliness to find out what 13 things a man should keep in his car.
Do you have something stocked in your car that no one else has mentioned? Tell me what I'm missing!
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