By Contributor Lisa Corriveau
So many families are living in smaller and smaller spaces these days while at the same time babies seem to come with more and more stuff. Some days I still feel like I’m being buried in an avalanche of baby and kid gear, but I have learned a few things over the past few years of parenting. I’d like to share with you my tips on minimizing the clutter when you have one or more kids.
Buy, beg and borrow multipurpose items or products that will grow with your child. There are some great products out there like the Stokke Steps chair, or their Tripp Trapp which are adaptable for different ages. The Stokke Steps is a system that has a bouncer seat that can attach to the high chair part so baby can join you at the table long before they’re ready to eat. The high chair can be used for six-month-old babies with the tray and harness, all the way up to preschoolers who just need a higher chair. It’s quite easy to find cribs that convert to toddler beds., which will make the transition to using a ‘big kid bed’ easier too.
To save space in the bedroom, you can find low shelving units that can function as a bench for story time as well as a book or toy shelf. We never bought a change table, instead we used a low, wide dresser with a change pad on top. We kept diapers in the top drawers & wipes, etc on a shelf above.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
You can minimize the baby gear & toys all you want, but you’ve got to have some stuff, so keeping it organized is key. Boxes, bins, drawers, cabinets are great ways to hide all the toys & other gear so that it isn’t always visible. Storage ottomans & under bed storage bins or bags are great for stashing things.
There are some great products on the market that fold flat for storage, like this wooden play kitchen that can go under a bed. Rather than having a play house, you can get a collapsible play tent or a game like Crazy Forts, which disassembles into a small box.
This Too Shall Pass
Think about how long a baby might use certain items. For example, play arches have a very limited time that they’re useful. Babies lie on their backs, entertained by the dangling toys for maybe three or four months, then they’re rolling around & the arches just get in the way. If you haven’t got a lot of space, just skip this one & go for a nice blanket that you can put on the floor instead.
Baby bathtubs are another one we didn’t need. I was given a little bath rest & I placed it in the sink (we have a flat bottomed rectangular Ikea sink in our bathroom that’s about 60cm wide–perfect as a bathtub for the first 4-6 months) or in the bathtub. This little rest was much smaller & easier to stash in the bathroom than a big plastic baby tub.
If you do end up with some of these limited time items, pass them on or loan them to friends as soon as you can so they’re out of your house. We did this with our baby bassinet. As soon as my son grew out of it, we passed it on to another friend & it went the rounds from one baby to another for nearly three years until we needed it again for our daughter. We just recently said goodbye to it the last time, giving it to yet another friend having a baby soon.
If you’re having your first child, do you plan to have more? If so, you may want to buy a stroller that can eventually accommodate two children with the addition of an extra seat or ‘skateboard’ attachment. Getting one stroller that will work for both kids down the road will save you money, potentially, but also space, as you won’t end up buying a second one.
Travel Size for Everyday
Some items that are designed for travel can work great in a small space too. The Healthy Choice booster seat is a great example of this. We just strapped it to one of our dining chairs & used it instead of a separate high chair. Then if we were going to a restaurant we weren’t sure had high chairs, or travelling to Oma & Opa’s, we could bring it with us.
Love Is All You Need
Remember, if you’re feeling guilty that you are depriving your child of toys, don’t. Babies need very little stuff to develop and grow into wonderful people. Having loving caregivers who spend time playing with them is far more important than how many toys or ‘educational’ devices they have.
Lisa Corriveau lives in East Vancouver with her husband, son & daughter in a 1940s bungalow. Spokesmama chronicles their life with two little kids, living car-free, getting around on bikes, walking, transit & with the occasional car share vehicle. Lisa also blogs about green living, parenting, DIY projects & she loves to share what’s going on in her neighbourhood.