8 Life-Changing Tips for Bringing a Baby into a Small Space
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I’ve been trying to sell my apartment and buy a bigger home with a garden for longer than I’ve been trying to get pregnant — and it doesn’t look like we’ll be out before the baby gets here in July.
With home prices increasing by 118% since 1965, while household income has increased by just 15%, we’re certainly not the only ones priced out of moving before we start our family. In fact, a recent poll of parents found that almost three-quarters (74%) wish they had more space in their home for their growing families.
Babies may be small, but they (and their furniture, diapers, bottles, pumps, and other accessories) can take up a significant amount of space.
Making room for a baby isn’t just about the physical square feet and inches you can clear.
“Sit down and think about this new phase of your life,” says Laura Cattano, an organization designer from New York, “because your lifestyle is changing at this moment.”
In a small home, this probably means getting rid of some of the things you currently own.
Take it slow
Katrina Hassan, a KonMari Consultant, started her own decluttering process when she was four months pregnant, and spent four months decluttering and organizing on the weekend. The time it takes to declutter your own home will depend on the amount of stuff you start with, the amount of space you need to clear — and your own abilities.
“If you’re somebody that’s pregnant, you also have to take care of your well-being, take care of your baby, and really go at your own pace,” she adds.
Break your things down into rooms, and then subcategories. “It’s about going through it one subcategory at a time in a way that is not overwhelming and exhausting.”
Within clothing, for example, you don’t have to get everything you own out on the bed. You can start by gathering just your underwear in one place, and going through it to decide what you need and what can go into storage or recycling. Then the next weekend, you can do your shirts, then pants, until it’s eventually all done.
Think about creative ways to keep things — without actually keeping them around
As you go through your existing items, you’ll inevitably find things that are no longer serving you and your life. But that doesn’t have to mean a trip to the dump.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of storing things,” says Cattano. “Make room by removing the stuff that you’re not going to be using for a while, but you still absolutely love and does add to your life. You can keep it but it doesn’t need to be accessible.” You might have space on the top shelf of your closet, with family and friends, or even in a temporary storage unit.
We pay for things in different ways, it’s not necessarily always about money — you might pay in time, energy, or stress. “What is it going to cost you to keep that in your apartment for the next year?” asks Cattano, “Is it going to cost you access to that closet? Is it going to cost you using your kitchen in an intuitive and easy and enjoyable way?”
If you can afford to replace it in a few years, and you’re going to donate it — to friends or family, through Craigslist or Facebook, or to a charity — that’s not wasteful.
Summon your village for advice
“Mom knows best” is a cliche for a reason. Holly Blakey, of @breathing.room.organization says, “Get insight from a friend with multiple kids and ask her what she really used — and more importantly, what she didn’t use.”
Even if your friends don’t have kids yet, “talk to someone else in your family, maybe your parents, or go on any of these online forums for new moms,” adds Cattano. These can be places like mom groups on Facebook or Reddit, or from articles written by parents like us.
When you know what you really think you’ll need, you can start to buy, or create a registry and firmly direct people towards it.
Knowing exactly what items you’ll get also prepares you to designate storage space for the things you need and want — so you don’t end up with more than you can handle.
Buy less — without having less
First-time parents often report a worry that they’re not prepared enough, or don’t know enough, and it can be tempting to try to plug those knowledge gaps with the latest gadgets and equipment.
“Babies need LOVE, not stuff,” advises Amy Bloomer, organizational psychologist and founder of @letyourspacebloom, “use that as your barometer when you are tempted to buy more stuff that you don’t need.”
Babies only really need somewhere to sleep, changing equipment (like diapers and wipes), feeding equipment (whether that involves a pump or formula and bottles, or just a place to breastfeed), and a few clothes and blankets.
Anything else is extra.
Even besides finding the space to store all those extras, having multiples of every possible item can also lead to decision paralysis, when we struggle to make a choice because there are too many options for us to choose from.
If you have a choice between putting your baby down in a bassinet, a portable moses basket, or a crib, it can be hard to decide what is best in the moment, especially in a sleep-deprived postpartum state. When you research what will be best for your family and have only that item or solution, the decision is made before it becomes an issue.
Beg and Borrow Where You Can
“Borrow items from friends and family,” Susan Santoro, of @organized31 adds, and return them when your baby outgrows them.
Blakey also suggests signing up for online mom groups where you can borrow or swap items: “This will save you money and space since you’ll be able to pass the items on when you’re not using them anymore.”
Lean on Multipurpose Items
“Try to purchase reusable or items that grow with your baby,” says Jamie Hord, Founder of Horderly, “instead of buying multiple different options as the baby grows.”
Things like a car seat and stroller combo, a high chair that converts to a seat, or a storage crib that converts into a children’s bed, mean you don’t have to replace things as frequently, and there are fewer items to store in your home.
Multipurpose can also include items that are aesthetically pleasing. Choosing the things that you like to look at can also make storage less of an issue, as you may not mind them being out on display.
Look at Your Storage Options as Puzzle Pieces
First, Cattano emphasizes that, once you’ve de-cluttered and re-organized, you might not even need to add storage solutions: “A lot of times you’re just not using the storage that you have in the best way.”
Cattano suggests you change the way you imagine your storage. Just because a closet is in the bedroom, doesn’t mean it can only hold clothes, and just because a shelf is in the kitchen, doesn’t mean it can only hold food.
“If we just move the puzzle pieces around that you have in your apartment and put them in the place they actually should be, we’re going to be fine.”
Take your TV, for example. A lot of us store the TV on an open console unit, but if you swap that out for a dresser with closed storage drawers, you can use that piece of furniture to store things like baby clothes, diapers, and formula.
And Still More Storage Hacks…
Blakey, Bloomer, and Santoro have outlined some more quick and easy storage hacks for fitting a new baby (and all those baby accessories) in a small space:
- Use over-the-door organizers and shelves to neatly hold small baby clothes and items
- Opt for a portable spatial solution like a rolling cart that can hold baby items
- Make the most of rolling storage bins under the bed
- If you need new furniture, go for a storage ottoman or bench that can hold baby items
- Choose fold-up baby gear (like strollers) that can be folded up and stored on a wall hook. You can also pull beds and couches away from the wall to leave a bit of extra space without changing the flow of a room.
- Utilize your vertical space with shelving units above doors, stacking bins, or hanging baskets.
- Put a changing pad on your dresser or desk, instead of buying a separate changing table for the baby.
It’s not always about getting rid of stuff, says Cattano: “Sometimes it’s a matter of taking it all out and putting it back in a new way.”