Tips for the Campaign Car

Keep that car clean!

As someone who has been on a lot of campaigns, there is one thing I can tell you about all of them. No activist is immune from a messy, chaotic campaign car.

Over the weeks and months leading to an election, campaign cars often fill up with newspapers, old walk lists, literature, food wrappers, empty cups, jackets, socks, shoes, hats, campaign t-shirts and so much more. Someday soon, you’ll run out of room as you’re trying to create more space or, more importantly, trying to find something you actually need.

While I can’t claim to have often followed the advice that follows, here are a few tips to help keep your life (and your vehicle) a little more organized.

First, schedule 45 minutes each week to clean the inside of your car. The best time is often early Sunday mornings before it gets too hot. The quiet time gives you a chance to think (and work) without distractions. Bring a trash bag, a cardboard box, and a bucket of soapy water. Start by clearing out everything and sorting it into piles. Throw the trash in the bag and the paperwork into the box. Everything else is set aside for later.

Next, wipe down everything. Give that car a freshness makeover and be sure to hit the windows and mirrors. If you can, run a vacuum to pick up the pizza and donut crumbs from last spring.

Once the car is clean, stock it for the week ahead. I’ve always found that small plastic bins make it easy to contain items and allow for quick and easy removal later. Stock the bins with bottled water, snacks like granola or energy bars, small cloth towels (perfect for cleaning up after canvassing or carrying when in the rain), plastic ponchos, duct tape (for everything you can imagine–from emergency band-aids to clipboard repair), extra socks, jumper cables, tons of pens, extra clipboards for when you leave home without your favorite, a container of spare change (quarters and a few paper dollars), a $10 gas card (for that one time you leave your purse or wallet at home and need to drive across the county at 10pm at night), a small flashlight and batteries, highlighters, Sharpies, and of course, a wall outlet phone charger.

This is not a comprehensive list, but with these items at your fingertips, you can probably survive a few months stranded on an island. The key is to do your best to be organized and prepared. Campaigning takes a lot of time and leaves precious little for sound planning. By setting aside a few minutes a week to reboot your car, you’ll avoid time killing mistakes later. And as we all know, in the heat of a campaign, every minute counts.

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