(Guest post today by Olive’s youngest daughter, Bethany Welborn)
When the magical moment happens and that little blue line appears on the pregnancy test, or the long-waited-for referral phone call finally comes, new parents are often inundated with thoughts, worries, feelings, and wonderings. A few common themes to those musings are these: how on earth do we prepare to add a new little human to our family? Is our home big enough? What do we need? Where do we even begin?
When we learned that we were expecting our first, a couple of my main concerns were what exactly to get, and where we’d put it all. We lived in a tiny upstairs apartment at the time, and moving wasn’t an option. We simply had to make do with the space we had. That reality actually helped me in the long run, because it forced me to prioritize between what were true necessities for the baby, and what were frou-frou extras. When our eldest daughter was born, we definitely made our fair share of “emergency” runs to the 24-hour Walgreens down the street for gas drops and pacifiers, but all in all we found that as far as the “big stuff” was concerned, we had exactly what we needed – and even some space to spare. Here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way that will hopefully bring peace and clarity to the process of preparing for a new little one.
- Research and make a list BEFORE you register
Family and friends are usually more than happy to help you with some of the big-ticket items that you’ll need for your baby, such as the car seat, stroller, or crib. Registries are a great way to help everyone know what you need – but sometimes the process of registering can be so overwhelming. The adorable baby section aisles, filled with literally ANYTHING you could ever want for your precious peanut, can pressure you into thinking that you need all of it when in reality, you actually need very little. Don’t wait until you’re in the store to make those decisions. Invite a practical, wise mom that you respect over for coffee, and ask her what bare-bones necessities she recommends. Make a list of what she suggests. Talk with your spouse about what items are special and meaningful to each of you. Consider registering online, where you’ll be further removed from the emotional bombardment of all-things-baby. If you need to register in person, bring another mom, couple, or family member along with you to the store to help provide some focus, perspective, and accountability. For us, we focused on what we considered to be necessities: a safe and sturdy car seat; a stroller that we could easily fold up and transport; an organic crib mattress; and a comfortable rocking chair.
- Only focus on the first 6 months
Some folks may debate me on this, but I found this to be so helpful. When you’re choosing items that you’ll need for baby, just think about what you will need to get you through the first 6 months. This is truly the season of surviving-and-getting-to-know-this-little-person. Once baby starts sitting up, crawling, eating, cruising, talking…you’re in a whole different ballgame of what you need and what your daily routine requires. I couldn’t process all that at 9 weeks pregnant. I had to make myself focus on what I would need from newborn to 6 months: bottles, burp cloths, clothes, baby wrap, etc. Your brain is already filled with plenty of things to mull over and figure out; focus on the immediate future. Tomorrow (or 6 months from now) will worry about its own troubles (Matt. 6:34, my loose translation).
- Get creative with the space you have
Like I already mentioned, with both of my babies we have had to think outside of the box when it comes to space and how to make the most of it. My mom (Olive of Organized by Olive 🙂 ) helped me see overlooked spaces with fresh eyes; turns out that an awkward nook in our living room was the perfect place for a toy shelf, and that with the right containers, I could store all of my daughter’s outgrown clothes right under her crib. Check out some innovative storage ideas that are currently popular with the tiny house craze; you might be able to implement some of them in your home or nursery! We’ve used the top of a huge solid wood dresser with 6 deep drawers as a changing table for both of our kids, and it has been fantastic – much more practical and useful than an “actual” changing table.
- Don’t shy away from used, thrift, or just plain cheap
So I told you the few things that we bought new; but we still had plenty of “necessities” left that we couldn’t afford to buy outright. The easiest item for us to find was clothes. I think that everyone has a friend or acquaintance who has some baby clothes to hand down! At least we did. Watch out for garage sales or consignment sales in your area that are selling baby clothes; it’s likely that you’ll find barely-worn (and cute!) clothing for less than a dollar each. Young babies grow so fast and spit up so much; save your money to spend on things that will last! Also don’t be shy to ask around and see what your friends might be willing to swap, sell, or give away. In our community, we have so many babies of varying ages that it often makes more sense for us to take turns with an item (such as a walker, bouncer, or Bumbo) and then pass it along when we’re done, instead of all of us paying for something we’ll only use for a short time. Baby items also hold sentimental value, so an older mom would likely be more willing to pass along her cherished items to you instead of dumping them at her nearest Goodwill. Also keep in mind that things like diaper pails, decor, baskets, storage tubs, and even baby monitors can usually be found in sections OTHER than the baby section – and for a much more reasonable price.
- Set limits, choose the best, and share (or toss) the rest
So once the baby is here and you have everything you need – how on earth do you organize and maintain it all? Keep the end goal in mind: a home that easily serves the needs of your family, and generously blesses the lives of others. When it comes to clothes that the kids grow out of, we always make three piles: one pile of our absolute favorite outfits that we want to save, another pile of still-in-great-shape clothes that we can pass along to friends who have smaller kiddos, and a third “throwaway” pile of clothes that are torn or stained. The same goes for toys. We want our children to develop their imaginations, and that means less toys than the average household. We have two 3×3 cubicle shelves that are perfect for storing our toddler’s books, puzzles, toys, and blocks. We also have one small basket for the baby’s toys, and a storage bench for a train set. Whenever any of these three areas start to overflow, we know it’s time to sort and give away. We keep the toys that are truly loved; the rest are set aside to share with another family, or the local women’s and children’s shelter. We toss toys that have missing pieces or cannot be fixed. When we’ve been blessed so richly with the things we need for our little ones, it brings us joy to share those blessings with others who could use them, instead of storing them in our dark and dusty attic.
Welcoming a new child into a family is always cause for celebration! Don’t let clutter or all the newest baby gadgets distract you from the beauty and joy of a precious little one.
To all you veteran mamas out there – what have been some of your favorite items of “baby gear”? How do you keep your kiddos’ things organized? I’d love to read about them in the comments below!