Babies bring a lot of joy, laughter and love into a home — and they also bring a lot of stuff! Well, to be fair, they don’t bring all the stuff – it’s their parents, grandparents, and friends. As organizing experts and moms to three kids each, we’re intimately familiar with the heaping bundles of things that come along with those cute little nuggets of joy. Upon becoming parents, we both felt a deeper-than-ever need for organization in our homes to counterbalance the sudden increase of clutter and chaos.
So here’s the deal: there are only two ways for extraneous items to enter your home: either you bring them in, or someone else does. And you can control it! Here are some tips for how to stop “stuff creep,” even as your family grows — and what to do when it happens anyway, despite your best efforts.
- Buy fewer, better. Don’t be dazzled by all of the fancy and unnecessary items out there. Just because a products exists — or just because it worked perfectly for your co-worker’s baby — doesn’t mean that you need it or that your baby will love it. Wipes warmer, we’re talking about you! Before kids, we used to do laundry once every week or two, but now we do a load or two of laundry and run our dishwashers every day. When new parents hear things like this, it’s understandable that they’d think they need more of everything (more clothes! More bottles!) so they’ll always have enough. But having excess stuff can create a sea of disorganized items overflowing from drawers, cabinets and closets. Instead, invest in just enough of everything and choose higher quality products that will withstand the test of time (and the washing machine and dishwasher).
- Create a wishlist. Most people don’t really want to gift you a case of diapers (which is what babies actually need) as much as they’d like to buy you an adorable pair of UGG boots for your infant (which is exactly what babies don’t need – and will outgrow before they ever wear). But there’s a happy medium. When it comes to holidays and birthdays and your extended family asks what to buy, steer them towards gift items that a) you won’t mind having a lot of and b) people also enjoy purchasing – like books, high-quality developmental toys, and practical baby clothing or blankets.
- When in doubt, wait. We are both people who like to be incredibly prepared (is this any surprise?) so of course we wanted to have everything ready in advance of our babies’ arrivals. But what we learned is that our lives with babies end up looking very different from what we imagine. Take stroller selection, for example. In the early days, you really only need one: a basic frame that will fit with your infant car seat. Over time, if you find that your family is very active, you can then invest in a sportier stroller model that will allow you to take your baby on hikes or to the beach. With our babies, strollers ended up taking a backseat to a baby carriers, which take up far less space in your home or garage.
Now, to keep all of this “stuff” organized once it enters your home…
- One in, one out. Whenever a new item enters your home, think hard before you give it a place of honor. We abide by a strict “one in, one out” policy in our homes. So when you’re gifted another plush dog, consider whether your household needs such an enormous collection of stuffed animals or whether you can return, donate or pass this gift along. If you do love/want/need said stuffie, decide which similar item can be swapped out. Items that are duplicates can almost always be passed along or donated without being missed at all — and the good thing about young babies is that they’ll never even know which items didn’t make the cut!
- Create simple systems. One of the easiest, most efficient ways to keep your baby’s belongings streamlined is to place a basket or bin right inside her closet. Babies grow So. Fast. So, the moment you realize that an item is too small, toss it in. This will ensure that there’s always space for new items to come in (because they will just keep coming!) and also help you to maintain a tidy and minimal wardrobe for your kid. It’s SO much more fun to spend your time cuddling than searching for what you need or reorganizing your baby’s closet with each growth spurt.
- Maintain. Staying organized is all about maintaining systems, and maintenance does require some time (we know — who has time when you’re a parent?!). So, if your babies insist upon being carried or worn like ours did, take advantage of the time you’re spending “rocking them to sleep” by simultaneously tidying up the house. Since you have to be in a constant state of motion anyway, multitask. Instead of simply bouncing your knees up and down or rocking your hips from side to side, see if your baby will enjoy the sensation of you walking around the house, placing items where they belong. It’s worth a shot. And when baby finally crashes, you might too.
Wishing you lots of restful moments ahead,
Joni + Kitt