11 Home Organization Tips for New ParentsSondra Lender
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You thought the information, stuff, and time in your life was overwhelming before giving birth. With a baby, you double the data, triple the things, and half the hours.
Getting organized doesnt have to wait until Junior goes to college in 18 years. You can start now with small steps that will get you far in reducing the physical and mental clutter. You want to focus your energy on your new baby, not on a to-do list that might never get done. Proactively setting up and sticking with organizational systems will help put you and your family at ease.
Here are 11 tips to get you started ...
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1. C IS FOR MORE THAN COOKIE
Remember the three Cs of organizing: compartments, containers, and consistency.
Each item should have its own compartment, whether it is a closet, a drawer, or on the table. It needs to have a home so that when it is not in use, it has a place to rest.
Containers are key to organization. You can categorize (a fourth C!) each item in its own bin, basket, or drawer so that it will be easy to both put away and find again later.
Consistency makes all the difference in keeping order. Be sure to use the compartments and containers on a regular basis so that you dont run into chaos. If you can, set a regular time in the day when you return items to their homes.
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2. KEEP THE PARAPHERNALIA FROM TAKING OVER
Strollers, bouncy seats, highchairs ... it feels as if aliens are coming out of the exersaucer and taking over.
The trick is to find a sensible home for each item (hint: the middle of the hallway is not sensible).
Treat baby equipment as you would a grown-up piece of furniture. Youre not going to leave your La-Z-Boy in the middle of the kitchen, so dont do that with the babys goods either. The clunky stuff may relocate throughout the day, but it needs a comfortable place to live, like any extra-terrestrial would.
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3. (DONT) BE (TOO) PREPARED
Do you feel like a boy scout every time you leave the home — packing everything you may need in case of emergency, minus the canned foods?
Pare down your gear to the essentials, keeping everything in one location for easy access. You can keep separate small baskets with paraphernalia you need for each type of outing. Consider keeping checklists by the door as well.
You know youll always need diapers and a supply of Cheerios but youll probably be okay without that Swiss army knife for a walk in the park. Be prepared but don't go overboard.
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4. SHEDDING THE STUFF
Your baby grows out of his clothing faster than you grew out of your favorite jeans in your first trimester. What to do with the outgrown goodies is a messy mystery for all new parents. You may be saving them for baby #2 or a friends child-to-be.
Make a decision early on what you will do with these things. Options include:
- Store them in bins in an extra closet or storage space (if the space exists).
- Donate them to a local organization that takes baby clothes or try freecycle.com to give them away.
- Give them to a pregnant friend or relative.
Whatever you choose, just do it now, before you have different sizes piling up. Make room for the next phase. Unlike your old jeans, that onesie is never going to fit baby again.
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5. MANAGE YOUR LIBRARY
Until Good Night Moon and Cat in the Hat come in Kindle editions, your baby gets it old school, pages and all.
The book collection seems small and harmless at first until it expands like a blob in your home.
Try different ways of storing them:
- A low bookshelf is good for when your child is old enough to select her own book. Pottery Barn Kids has some great options.
- Cute baskets (check the Container Store for ideas) by the bed, crib, or couch, where the books are most frequently read, are an easy way to keep books visible without having to reshelf them frequently.
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6. RE-GIFT, DE-GIFT
Why do people love you so much? Blankies, bibs, frilly, silly, pretty, ugly you name it, you got it. It is all wonderfully generous and useful, but now you have to figure out where to put everything, and you have to write thank-you notes.
If you are not going to keep a gift, deal with it immediately. That means it goes on the re-gift shelf, in the giveaway basket, or in the donation bin. If you are keeping it, unwrap it and move it into its new home as soon as possible to avoid a pile-up.
Determine a policy up-front for thank-you notes. You can commit to writing a note on the day the gift arrives (get it out of the way) or take it all in one chunk (e.g., every Sunday during naptime). You and your partner can alternate.
If you arent Miss Manners, send fill-in-the-blank thank-you cards (I think theyre fun) or go against every Martha Stewart instinct you have and send email thank yous instead.
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7. BE REALISTIC ABOUT SAVING MEMORIES
Memorabilia is one of the top clutter culprits across the board baby or not. As if boxes of high-school love letters and camp trophies arent enough, mounds of baby keepsakes will now fill the home. Stop the madness before it starts.
Set up a system RIGHT NOW. For example, assign one box per year (See Jane Work has cute office supplies) for trinkets or papers that you must keep. Or buy an album that is easy to use and fill it on a weekly basis.
Be realistic about scrapbooking and art projects. Otherwise the piles to decoupage will inflict guilt you dont need. How much can you and/or your partner handle? Determine rules for what you'll save and then stick to them.
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8. KEEP THE PAPERWORK IN ITS PLACE
You might as well have brought a filing cabinet home with you from the hospital along with your baby. The papers are endless: insurance, medical records, maternity leave the list goes on.
Set up a system as soon as possible. Some options include:
- Scan your paperwork into a system like Neat Desk. Its a simple way to stay paper-free for all of your personal files.
- Set up files. Use an established system like Freedom Filer or just create your own.
- Create a binder with sections for each category: health, work, etc. All you need are a notebook and a 3-hole-punch (or plastic-sleeve inserts).
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9. GET LOGGING OUT OF THE WAY
Sleep, poop, eat. Sleep, poop, eat. Dont you wish you had an intern just to keep track of it all?
Logging is very manageable once procedures are established. Some options include:
- Check out some of the incredible apps available to track your babys every move, like Baby Geek or Total Baby.
- Go old school and use a notebook or binder. Create a separate section for each activity you are logging. If you are anal (or a Professional Organizer) print out charts with labeled columns where you can enter your data. If you are using a manual system, be sure to leave it in the same place all the time so that everyone can easily access it.
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10. SHAKE FREE OF EMAIL OVERLOAD
You dont call, you dont write, where did you go? This could only come from a friend with no offspring. She doesnt understand that the few free moments you have are filled with catching winks or putting toys back in their homes (right?).
Set a time in your schedule when you can catch up on communication with the rest of the world, whether it's during babys naptime or when your partner can take over for an hour.
Email overload happens. Just be sure to make time for yourself, including tasks like this. Also consider an auto-reply that lets people know you are not checking email frequently but will get back to them soon.
And ask your friend to please give you a break.
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11. DONT EXPECT PERFECTION
Once you have set up your systems, then let go. You cannot remain the perfectionist you once were. If the papers dont get filed today, its okay. If you dont know where to find that adorable hat from Aunt Sally, thats fine too. Your baby wont grow up a slob, and you will not be a failed parent.
Try one new organizational habit per week. Dont be afraid to ask for help. And go easy on yourself. Keeping it together was hard enough when you were organizing for one!