Some of you out there might think that this article is about the “psychological” room we make in our lives when baby comes along. This is an important aspect of parenthood. However, I believe that welcoming a baby is a lot less overwhelming if we make good use of the “physical” room in our homes. The more efficient and organized the space, the more serene the environment will be for the baby and for the whole family. For those of you who already have children, keep reading. You can still pick up some helpful space-saving tips!
STEP #1: CONQUER THE CLUTTER
Conquering the clutter (my motto!) is essential when preparing for the arrival of a newborn. It is necessary to declutter and free up space in your home in order to avoid a new accumulation of “stuff”. If this is your first baby, you’ll be surprised how much paraphernalia comes into the house, some useful, some superfluous. If you already have children, this first step of decluttering is even more important, especially if the siblings will share the same room! Be ruthless when deciding what to give away or throw away, but also be practical. Take the time to think about each item, and don’t part with items which will most likely be used later on in the newborn’s life. Welcoming a baby into your life can be a financial strain, so deciding what to bring into your home should be based on the cost, the space it takes up, and THEN how cute it is!!
STEP #2: ORGANIZE THE ROOM
When deciding how to organize the space for baby properly, we often make the mistake of buying furniture and household items which are “baby-size”. If possible, make purchases which can “grow” with baby’s growth. Here is an example of smart shopping: a crib which transforms into a youth bed, an armoire with enough hanging and drawer space for clothes size 6 years (not 6 months), multi-purpose shelves for use with anything from diaper storage to story books to model airplanes (think deep shelves)…If you will not have a separate room for baby, you will need to be more imaginative in terms of creating space: consider reorganizing your closet space to accommodate more than just a snowsuit for a 6-month old, putting up a curtain to separate the baby area from the rest of the apartment, momentarily moving furniture to make room for a high chair, etc.
There is a whole other set of “puériculture” which often transforms our homes into what feels like “Babies-R-Us”: baby swing, baby seat, baby “supersaucer”, baby walker, playpen…the list is endless! With my children, I used the baby seat to feed them as infants, then the “supersaucer” for safe fun from 4 months to 1 year. For additional items, try to avoid purchasing them new or even used. Your best bet is to borrow from friends, or from other Message members through the classified ads on the website.
The changing table is always a tough issue. If you have space in the bathroom, it is ideal to place a changing table there, with storage underneath for diapers and toiletries. Being next to a source of water makes for a more tranquil diaper-changing and bath time. Otherwise, you can buy a changing pad and place it on top of the dresser, or if you really lack space you can use the changing pad on a bed with toiletries at arm’s length (warning: this is a back breaker)! For those of us with limited space, another good idea is to create a “mobile changing station”- put a few diapers, baby wipes and baby cream in a plastic box for convenient diaper changing anywhere, anytime (this is especially useful when baby shares a room with a sibling, and the sibling is sleeping at the time of a diaper change)!
STEP #3: IMPLEMEMT SPACE-SAVING TECHNIQUES
The arrival of a new baby can turn your space upside-down: gaining control of your environment down to the smallest detail will make your sleepless nights and busy days more manageable! Here are a few of the many space-saving techniques:
Packages of disposable diapers take up an enormous amount of space. Find a “home” for these bulky items under a bed, under a crib, or on top of a dresser. DO NOT buy too many packages at one time. Often, your baby will grow into the next size before you use up all of the previous diapers. This is also applicable for storage of formula for bottle-fed babies: don’t buy too much in advance in case the pediatrician changes the baby’s formula.
You should have a small amount of necessities at arm’s length next to the baby’s changing pad, but stock the rest someplace else (under changing table, dresser, or sink). A great use of space is a transparent shoe organizer (La Redoute sells them in their catalogue or on their website). You can hang it over the back of the bathroom door or baby’s bedroom door, out of children's reach. It is wonderful for small items such as Q-tips, thermometers, small packs of tissues, etc., and you can see at a quick glance when you are running low on something. There are also organizers which attach to the side of the crib – much like those hung over the back of the seat of a car- to store small items (can be purchased at www.beautifulbabyrooms.com. By the way, the decorative toiletries baskets placed on top of the dresser are quite impractical – they take up a lot of space. A better option is to place all necessary baby items on a plastic tray on top of the dresser. The items will be more visible and the inevitable spills will be much easier to clean up!
Another important purchase for the baby’s room is a waste basket. I don’t like the special sanitized diaper removal systems. It takes up a lot of space and smells strange! However, you can purchase the bag refills to roll up dirty diapers, and then dispose of them in a regular waste basket with a lid. Don’t forget to choose a waste basket with a foot pedal for hands-free opening, as your arms will often be occupied by baby for the first few months! If you have very little space, you can also have one main waste basket in the kitchen for diaper disposal, saving space and time by emptying one wastebasket once daily. One final thought about waste baskets: my mom taught me to put several plastic bags at the bottom of the waste basket before lining it. This avoids having to search for a new bag every time you remove the old one.
Last but not least, bath toys and baby bath accessories have a tendency to clutter up our already-too-small bathrooms. Purchase some heavy-duty suction hooks to hang these items. You should also store bath toys in a mesh lingerie bag, hung by those heavy-duty suction hooks onto the shower tiles (smooth ones, not matte or mosaic). The decorative mesh bath toy holders with built-in suction hooks sold here in France NEVER stick well, especially when filled to the brim!
Remember, these helpful hints, applied on a regular basis, will help you to maintain clutter-free and peaceful surroundings for the whole family. Making room for baby in your heart as well as in your home can be a pleasant learning experience for all involved!