Otherwise known as DIY Car Organizer, version 2.
I made version 1 of this car organizer, which you can find over at Remodelaholic. We have been using it for about half a year now, and it’s an absolute life saver. But of course, version 2 is a chance to make some changes, right? Our second vehicle is a small car, with much less space in the backseat. Where the first organizer is an impressive 20″ wide – which works in the large cab of our truck – this compact design weighs in at 11 1/2″ wide. Fit that in your Prius!*
*I don’t actually know if it will fit in a Prius.
So you compact car owners rejoice – because this lacks nothing that the original version has.
Final note before breaking this down – You should fidget with the measurements to make sure it works for you. Our small car is a Honda Civic, and our car seats are Dionos, which have a really slimline design.
Side note: If you are on the hunt for a car seat I highly recommend Diono. We LOVE ours and they are terrifically safe. #notsponsored
Okay, let’s do this.
Material and Tools
*This post contains affiliate links so I can afford to buy more throw pillows for every season and pay for my kids’ sports crap. My full disclosure statement is here.
The materials list links to items I used. Feel free to use it as a jumping off point.
(2) – 6″ x 15″ (sides)
3 1/4″ x 11 1/2″ (front)
6″ x 11 1/2″ (back)
10 1/2″ x 15″ (base)
12 1/2″ x 15″ (middle divider)
(2) – 3″ x 15″ (long inner divider)
(6) – 3″ x 3 1/4″ (short inner dividers)
(4) – 1 1/2″ x 3″ (shorter inner dividers)
For the drawer:
2 – 2 1/4″ x 9 1/2″ (drawer front and back)
2 – 2 1/4″ x 14″ (sides)
1 – 2 3/4″ x 11 1/2″ (face)
1 – 9 1/2″ x 15″ (base)
How to build a compact car organizer
Cut the pieces for the sides and back of the main box. Don’t attach them yet.
Draw a line one inch from the bottom of the sides and screw drawer slides to sides lining up the bottom with the line. You will want to use these ball bearing slides as they provide the stability regular euro slides don’t. They also serve the function of a shelf for the base of the main box. In the original version I used spacers to set the “floor” at the right height. This is far easier. Kind of brilliant, actually.*
*If I do say so myself.
Now you can attach the back. Glue, pre-drill, then screw.
Set the base/floor. Use glue. A clamp or two is useful to snug this in good and tight. See how nicely it sits on the drawer slides? Genius, right?!
Build the drawer. Glue and screw the back and front to the sides. You’ll want to make sure the front screws are countersunk a bit so the face fits snuggly.
Attach the base 1/4″ piece using brad nails.
Line up and attach the slide to the drawer, then fit the drawer. You’ll attach the face the drawer in a moment.
Attach the top portion of the box face with glue and brad nails. Liberally glue the drawer front so you can attach the face. I somehow missed grabbing a photo, but you’ll want to line up the face precisely where you want it – I used a couple gift cards to set the spacing – then clamp it in place while the glue dries for a few hours or overnight.
Cut the holes for the strap. I used a 1 5/8″ forstner bit. The strap allows you to safely attach the organizer box to the car’s latch system in the event of sudden breaking or an accident.
…Then I discovered that part of the belt wouldn’t go through. The rectangular strap adjustment part is too wide, and it cannot sit within the box or it will be in the way of the drawer. I simply widened the hole on one side with a jigsaw until it fit through.
Be sure to check for square as this will affect setting all of the compartments on both sides. I leveled it with a torpedo level, and used my mini square by Woodpeckers to check the base as well as all of the compartments. (Man, I love that little tool!)
Set the compartments with wood glue. Space these however you like. For our first trip I tried leaving them tension set only so we could decide how we really like them, and that was not a 100% success. Kids are brutal. So I would recommend gluing them in place. As with the first, larger organizer, the front of this has a 3×3″ (inner dimensions) section for my kids’ water bottles.
The cut list accounts for one long divider piece per side that I spaced 1 1/2″ from the middle divider. This spot is great for coloring books, sketch books, reading books, etc.
The second compartment back, behind the drink holders would make a terrific area for fast food type items for those on the go days. If you are one of those parents who allows their kids to consume fast food, of course.*
*Ask me how I know.
I love how seamless that drawer is on this version of the car organizer.
The snack drawer is a lot smaller in this compact version of the organizer, but it’s also taller, so we found that it didn’t really lose anything in the space category. Winning!
I heard some snarkity-snark after publishing the plans for the original post along the lines of “Well, my kid could reach those snacks. Ya, they can kind of reach this one. But the larger organizer, not so much. Also, that pesky five point safety harness tends to hold them back, you know?
I have also heard adults say they would like a refrigerated version for their Diet Coke in the front seat. Me, too, friends. Me, too.
I left this version of the organizer unstained and unpainted. That may not be smart in the long run because kids are miniature hurricanes of destruction, but I’m digging it for now. Also, I literally made this thing a day before we left on a trip, so there’s that. I just ordered this silicone mat to cut up and glue in the bottom of both the large and small organizers, which will hopefully help with some kid mess. Ask me about that later.
Again, be sure to check measurements to ensure this will fit in your car.
One final note: I took all of the photos for this sitting in our driveway before actually leaving for our trip. (Fun fact: The car is so small I literally shoved the front seats all the way up and crammed myself practically into the windshield to get some shots of the organizer.) So please don’t be concerned that any of these were taken in motion. I get far too car sick for that.
Well, that’s it, plus a little superfluous information. This little organizer really makes travel much better for us. Be sure to check out the original, full size DIY car organizer post if you have a larger vehicle. Good luck, safe travels, and happy building!