It’s hard to think of a bigger blessing than adding a baby to your family. However, a top question for new mamas is how to control baby clutter. For such tiny people, they come with A LOT of stuff!
If you’re living in an apartment or a small home, it can be especially hard to not feel completely overwhelmed. I know I definitely did when we brought home our first child, so when we added number two, I started working more intentionally on ways to create space and minimize the baby stuff. Here’s a quick rundown on how to control baby clutter in four top trouble areas.
Trouble Area #1: Baby Furniture and Baby Gear
This is one of the most annoying areas because the items can be so large! Baby swings, playmats, bouncers, walkers, and the list goes on. These things can quickly swallow up your living room, your bedroom, and your sanity if you’re not careful.
To the pregnant or new mama who may be reading this, let me encourage you: you don’t need it all. You just don’t. The stores and the suggested registry lists and other moms and your own mom may tell you you have to get this or that, but the truth is, you only need what you’ll use.
Sounds obvious, but the temptation is to go register for everything or go buy everything and then keep it on hand in case you end up using it. The fight to control baby clutter will definitely be tougher if you do this, guaranteed.
Solution: Get and Keep What You’ll Use
The truth is with the first kid, you don’t know what you’ll use. Of course, there’s basic stuff like diapers, but for baby furniture and gear, it’s hard to know what will work for your baby until you’re actually living day-to-day mom life.
Hold off on registering for or buying all the baby gear. If you’re really set on getting something, pick it up used (there’s great baby consignment stores out there), or borrow it from a friend to try it out and see if you even like it. If it doesn’t work for you, get it out of the house and create some space for yourself.
Just because everyone else is saying it’s a “must-have” doesn’t mean it will be for you. In my situation, other moms raved about baby swings, but we tried one with our first child and the poor kid hated it! We have a little bouncer we’ve used with both our kids and they’ve both loved it.
To control baby clutter, go with what works for you and part with what doesn’t.
Trouble Area #2: Baby Clothes
Baby clothes may very well be the most popular baby gift. Then, the grandparents keep buying them outfits, you get hand-me-downs from a friend, and before you know it, you’ve got mountainous piles of onesies and sleepers and random hats and mismatched baby socks to deal with. You could spend hours just washing, drying, folding, and organizing baby clothes.
I’ve definitely been there, and while I still don’t have it totally dialed in, I’ve come a long way from the early days with our first child when I was completely overwhelmed with the baby clothes situation.
In the midst of my overwhelm, I found a video on YouTube from Do It On a Dime about organizing a nursery closet, and it set me on a new path. To control baby clutter in the form of clothes, I still use some of the principles she mentions in this video (particularly the no-fold system and the basket for outgrown clothes).
Solution: Set Up a System
The best solution for how to control baby clutter in the form of baby clothes is to set up a system for yourself. Over time, I’ve developed one that works for me. If some of these tips work for you, that’s great, but you need to settle on something that’s easy for you and that you’ll be able to sustain long-term.
I have a large tub under one kiddo’s crib where we toss all clothes that no longer fit the kids. Once the tub is getting full, I grab a few vacuum storage bags from Dollar Tree, fill them with these clothes, then label the outside of the bag with the size (I obviously put my toddler’s clothes and my baby’s clothes into separate bags). We have a small attic above our garage where I store these bags, but you could easily put them into a closet (they shrink down great).
Trouble Area #3: Baby Toys and Books
This area can get a little crazy when you’re trying to control baby clutter! If you’ve tripped over baby toys in the middle of the night when getting up for a crying baby, you know what I’m talking about (not speaking from personal experience or anything).
Toys and books build up fast and can take up a ton of space if you’re not careful. It can be easy to get into the habit of just trying to organize the chaos, rather than actually stopping to think if we need to have all that chaos around in the first place. However, these things can sometimes be hard to get rid of, especially if they have some sort of “educational” purpose or it seems like a toy your baby will eventually enjoy. Maybe.
Solution: Less is More
A 2018 study from the journal of Infant Behavior and Development concluded an environment with fewer toys actually leads to a higher quality of play. There’s nothing wrong with limiting the number of toys in your home. In fact, you may be helping your child’s development by narrowing their toy options.
Give away or donate toys without guilt, knowing you are giving your baby a gift when you give them a peaceful play environment, one that isn’t crowded with piles of gadgety toys supposedly guaranteed to develop them into a brain surgeon someday. Besides, don’t they always end up migrating over to the pots and pans cupboard to play anyway?
Trouble Area #4: Sentimental Items
Oh man, this is a tough one. Sentimental items are the hardest for me because, well, they’re sentimental. When you receive sentimental things from family or you begin saving things as your baby grows, it can quickly grow to an overwhelming amount of items that begin to weigh on you. You don’t want to keep fill-in-the-blank, but you feel like you should, or that you’ll regret it if you get rid of it, or that someone will be hurt or disappointed if they find out you parted with it. What to do?!
Solution: Look to the Future
First, let me say this: there is nothing wrong with keeping sentimental items (check out this great video from the Minimal Mom on creating baby memory boxes). The problem comes in when you feel like those items own you and they’re a burden rather than a blessing. If you want to keep something, by all means do, but if you’re keeping it out of guilt that you should or fear that you’ll regret getting rid of it, it may be time to part with it.
The easiest way for me to think about sentimental items is to look to the future. If I save all my kids’ baby stuff, will they be happy about it twenty years’ down the line when I bring it out of storage and give it to them? Or will they feel like I’m simply burdening them with stuff?
For our family, I’ve found that, like the toy category above, less is more when it comes to keeping sentimental items. If I keep a few very special things, it means so much more than keeping fifty-seven different things. Basically, if everything is special, nothing is special, right? So I carefully curate the momentos we keep because I want to fully enjoy those few special things.
It’s tough to know how to control baby clutter. These little bundles of joy come with so much, and it can be hard to know how much you need to have around you when you’re planning for your first kiddo or getting settled in as a new mom.
However, let me assure you as a mom who’s in the trenches with two kiddos on a daily basis, the things you do together are way more important than the stuff you have. It sounds so trite and cliche to say, but it’s become cliche because it’s true. Your children someday will remember the relationship with you, not the toys you gave them or the fancy baby swing you put them in at three months old. So, give yourself permission to ditch the baby clutter and pursue making memories together above all.