By Debbie Williams
Organizing your car is not just for the ultramodern high-tech gadget guru anymore. Move over, Sharper Image - the organizationally challenged are rising up, and they're on a budget.
Some of my clients literally live from their cars. That is not to say that they camp out with sleeping bag, pillow, and a lantern, but rather LIVE from their cars. Many of us spend more time in our cars than at corporate headquarters or in our home office, creating the need for product storage, a compact filing system, and organized desk space. Car organizing is not limited to those working outside the home either; many a soccer mom dreams of a leisurely commute without library books and sports gear rolling around in the back of the minivan.
Use some of the tips listed below to create a mini-filing system, store product literature and product samples, stash groceries, and organize all those items needing to be mended or returned during your daily outings.
* WHAT'S YOUR HANG UP? Store important papers in hanging files in a portable crate. These come in all sizes, open or with lids. To prevent the crate from sliding around during travel, place a fluffy towel underneath, or place it in the floorboard where it cannot tip over. It's a great way to organize the kids' permission slips, contracts for clients, or memos. (Be sure to keep business and personal records separate so there are no surprises in the boardroom.)
* READ BETWEEN THE LINES. Carry a To Be Read folder with you for review during stopped traffic or while waiting for an appointment. This is one of my favorite time-savers, and reduces stress at the same time.
* IT'S ALL IN THE SYSTEM. Create a follow-up system using a notebook with pocketed dividers, recipe box or accordion file. Number the dividers 1-30, and file documents (or note cards) behind the appropriate date of the month for future action.
* WHAT'S ON THE AGENDA? Consolidate important notes into a daily planner, spiral notebook, calendar, or small wipe-off board. If you keep a master-planning calendar at home or in your office, carry a spare in your car for taking notes. Remember to consolidate these each day to eliminate overlooked appointments and special days.
* MOBILE DESK. For bills and other correspondence, buy a notebook and fill with twelve pocketed dividers, one for each month of the year. Label each with birthdays, anniversaries, and billing due dates; then fill with correspondence. The binder can be used as a portable desk, or can be stored at your work area. Don't forget to stick your favorite writing pen in the front pocket.
* IMPROVED STORAGE SPACE. Keep a large sturdy crate or laundry basket in your car to contain product samples, grocery bags, clothes headed to the dry cleaners, library books and rented videos. Invest in two so that you can carry a full one into the house, saving wasted trips from car to kitchen or office. My all-time favorite is a collapsible plastic crate that takes up very little space when not in use.
* IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT. There are a number of visor and glove compartment organizers available to hold pens, paper, sunglasses, and loose change. Make a habit of putting your small items here after each use so you can easily find them.
* MORE LEG ROOM. Expand limited floor space by using pocketed organizers that hang on the back of the car seat to holding maps, brochures, product literature, umbrellas, business cards, kids tape players, and even snacks for those long days away from home.
* A COMPACT MODEL. Create a compact office-on-the-go by filling a zippered pencil case with office supplies for your briefcase, tote bag, or car. Store basic desk drawer items such as: letterhead and envelopes, business cards, brochures, postage stamps, calculator, pads of paper, pens, pencils, stapler and staple remover, scissors, tape dispenser, Post It Notes, rubber bands, paper clips, and change for parking or tolls.
* EMERGENCY ROAD CARE. Assemble first-aid supplies, a small fire extinguisher, a large towel or blanket, jumper cables, basic toolkit, rain poncho, and a change of clothes. If this sounds like someone's mother telling you to always be prepared, you're right! Experienced parents realize the value of a change of clothes for their kids, but seasoned travelers know how miserable it can be delivering a speech while in wet clothes from a downpour.
Last but not least, don't forget the stress ball you picked up at your last tradeshow - keep that one in your cup holder so you can grab it during heavy (or stopped) traffic.
Mini-kits come in all forms and purposes: diaper bags for baby, activity kits for older children, busy boxes for adults (which brings us back to that reading folder again, but stash some fiction and hobby magazines in there as well.) Using everyday items to organize our briefcases, cars, and offices on the go will not only improve our effectiveness on the job, but will reduce much of the stress we encounter along the way. Happy trails!
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