Those little rompers and stuffed toys are adorable -- but not when they overtake your home. Follow our room-by-room plan to keep the clutter in check.
Whether you're hustling Baby out the door for day care or a stroller walk, a smart system for storing outerwear and travel gear will help you make a break for it. Where you stash these pieces will depend on the layout of your place, so we offer three options:
Keep it in the closet. Establish a section of the closet for your cutie so his tiny toppers don't get lost between your wool coats. Snake his hat up the sleeve (like you used to do in nursery school). It's one less thing to keep track of. Hang his bunting and carrier on hangers too. Dedicate the top shelf for bulky items such as diaper bags and the travel high chair. What to do about the stroller? Buy a hook that lets you hang your babe's carriage over the door, so it doesn't monopolize your living space.
Send it to the mudroom. An area just for coats and boots? Lucky! Put the buntings, snowsuit, baby carrier, rain boots, strollers, and other bulky things in a designated spot in the room, suggests Stacey Crew, a professional organizer in Charleston, South Carolina, a mother of two, and author of The Organized Mom. Reserve a couple of shelves exclusively for your wee one's stuff.
Tuck it away in the trunk. Keep travel items such as your portable crib or stroller in the car so packing up for a night at Grandma's won't send you into a tailspin. What if the family wheels won't accommodate these unwieldy pieces? Mount a four- to five-shelf storage rack in the garage, near the car. Then you can grab and go before hitting the road.
You're about to be bowled over...by bowls, bottles, breast pump parts, sippy cups, and the cutest spoons and forks in creation. To prepare your kitchen for the onslaught:
Designate space for wee dishware. Baby items will get lost among grown-up tableware; they need their own place to live. "Dedicate one cabinet and one drawer to your child's stuff," says professional organizer and mother of two Grace Brooke, of Santa Rosa, California. Once she hits 9 to 12 months, relocate plastic cups, bowls, and utensils to a lower cabinet or drawer so your little one can help herself come mealtime.
Shelve formula and baby food. If you don't, your countertop will be overrun by jars and cans. Clear out a shelf in your cabinet, and designate a Lazy Susan specifically for baby food, Brooke recommends. The approach isn't only aesthetically pleasing; you'll also prevent jars of mush from breaking or languishing in the back of the pantry.
Rack 'em. Rather than letting Baby's bottles take over your dish rack (they have a way of multiplying), air them out in their own special spot. When your sweetie is ready for a feeding, pluck what you need!
The Nursery and Toys and Books
Think MIA socks were a problem before you had a baby? Try keeping tabs on booties the size of business cards. An infant comes with an overwhelming new wardrobe, but these clever strategies can help you keep his adorable duds corralled:
Wrangle footwear. Unlike your leather boots, Baby's kicks fit snugly into tight spaces. Why not line them up on a shelf where they can double as d?cor or pair them in the compartments of an over-the-door organizer? It can serve as a happy home for all those bodysuits and socks too.
Sort accessories. What's sadder than a miniature mitten that's lost its mate? Use a tool that divides your drawers into oodles of sections to make sure socks, headbands, hats, and other itty-bitties stay put.
Decide whether to hang or fold. If it can wrinkle, better to hang it up. "Go vertical with dresses, three-piece outfits, and collared shirts," recommends Brooke. Baby clothes are short -- if you're tight on closet space, you can mount a tension rod, and voil?: You've doubled your hanging area! No closet? An armoire can solve your problem. "Fold and sort bodysuits, pajamas, and other knit items in labeled baskets, on shelves, or in dresser drawers," Brooke says. To outfit your sweet pea in a flash, store folded outfits together, suggests Jaime Thompson, of Stuart, Florida, and mom of Aubrie, 2. "I started a drawer of matching sets, so in the morning, I don't have to dig around for tops that match bottoms."
Group garb by size. Even before baby makes her debut, you'll have heaps of clothing on your hands -- and odds are, sizes will be all over the map. To keep track, "hang and fold anything ranging from infant-size to 0-3 months," Brooke says. Store the rest of her togs in space-saver vacuum sacks or laundry bags, sorted and labeled by size. Stay one step ahead of a pileup by relocating duds as soon as your kid outgrows them, says Anne Chertoff, of New York City, and the mother of Rebecca Belle, 2, and Jack, 1. Label an empty box with your baby's size, and leave it in the closet so you can toss in clothes as they get too tight. If you plan on expanding your family, whisk the box up to the attic when it's filled; you can keep it on standby for the next baby. Sure the shop is closed? Identify a pregnant pal to be the recipient of your tot's too-small clothes as she grows, and pass them off every few months. No buddy to accept your bounty? Give it away on Freecycle.org. You'll feel like Mrs. Claus!
TOYS AND BOOKS
Once Baby becomes mobile, he can blanket every inch of your floor with books and toys in a moment. Avoid an eyesore (and a twisted ankle) by keeping playtime bedlam at bay.
Store kids' stuff in adult furniture. Skip toy boxes, which Brooke calls "big black holes where things get lost." If your nursery is tiny (and your playroom is nonexistent), prevent the living room from looking like Plasticville by investing in a stately piece of furniture with lots of drawers. Thompson uses an entertainment center. "This way, I can organize the toys and still have the space look like a functional, adult room." Alternatively, an affordable cube organizer, laid horizontally so it isn't a falling hazard, works. As your stuff grows, you can spring for a second cube and put them side by side. Hide toys in cloth bins, and switch to clear media boxes as your child gets bigger and his toys get smaller. Bins and baskets are better for storing all his great reads too, she says -- bookcases have a way of becoming disheveled.
Rotate toys. Have two containers, Crew says. Put one out and leave the other in storage. "Switch them once a month to keep things fresh." The "new" selections will suddenly seem more interesting to your tot, Crew says. More smiles, less clutter -- cool!
Know when to let go. Don't let books and toys sit ignored. "Be brutally honest with yourself," Chertoff says. "If your kid is no longer playing with a toy or reading a book, ditch it or donate it." You can recycle toys and fund future purchases through StorkBrokers.com (Like a Craigslist for kids' loot, it matches you with nearby buyers and sellers.)
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.
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