Whether your due date is approaching or you feel the urge to get your home in tip-top shape, use this guide to get the work done.
Big Picture To-Dos
1. Give your house a “safety exam.” Having a baby at home who can crawl into the kitchen and open cabinets full of toxic chemicals might seem like a lifetime away, but any parent will tell you it’s not. Babies become mobile practically overnight, and it’s easier to prepare now than when you’re sleep-deprived later. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cleaning products (including laundry and dishwasher pods) and medication should always be stored out of sight and out of reach in securely locked cabinets. Use magnetic locks on cabinets that are not out of reach, says Darla DeMorrow, a certified professional organizer and owner of HeartWork Organizing: “They work well on nearly every type, are easy to install, and don’t pinch your fingers.”
If you have firearms in your home, remove ammunition and lock it away in a place separate from the gun. Store those keys in a different area from where you keep your household keys. Finally, check or install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
2. Prep for visitors. It’s worth spending a bit of time now to gather what overnight guests, such as your mother or your best friend, will need when they stay, says Laura Dellutri, author of Speed Cleaning 101. This way, you won’t be racing around searching for sheets or towels the moment you’re home from the hospital. Stock up on toothpaste, toothbrushes, and toilet paper. Change the sheets, and put an extra fan in the room for white noise.
3. Target the red zones. The germiest areas aren’t light switches and doorknobs, as you might suspect, but kitchen sinks, dish rags, stove knobs, sponges, faucet handles, countertops, refrigerator handles, cutting boards, and toothbrush holders, reveals research from the National Sanitation Foundation International. To bring your baby home to spic-and-span digs, have your partner give everything a once-over while you’re recovering in the hospital. Going forward, stash sanitizing wipes near hot spots so you can wipe them down on a regular basis, suggests Jennifer Theons, who owns a Merry Maid franchise in Lakewood, New Jersey.
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1. Reimagine your space. Look at your counter with a critical eye to decide what can be stored and what can stay, advises Dellutri. For instance, the coffeemaker is a must, but how about that tortilla warmer you rarely use? Hasta luego. Make room instead for a bottle rack or baby-food maker. Clean out a drawer to corral pump parts and pacis. Eventually you’ll keep baby spoons, bowls, and sippy cups here.
2. Make room in your fridge. Your baby may be on an all-liquid diet now, but you’ll still need to allocate some real estate to breast milk and formula, plus all those delicious casseroles that friends and family will bring over when they come to meet your mini me. So when your fridge is nearly empty (ideally before you go food shopping), give it a good cleaning. Work from top to bottom, and take everything out, tossing expired or unidentifiable food, says DeMorrow. Then wipe down the shelves with a warm sponge, scrubbing especially sticky spots with diluted white vinegar. Do the same with the shelves in the door. Line any spill-prone zones with a paper towel, and change it often to keep the area clean.
3. Save time on sterilizing. As a new parent, you might suddenly feel as if you’re surrounded by pump parts, bottles, nipples, pacis, and teething toys that all need to be sterilized. The good news: “We no longer suggest you boil them,” says DeMorrow. “Studies show that hot, soapy water kills common germs.”
1. Reevaluate your hamper. Soon your miracle of life will produce mounds of laundry, so now might be the time to upgrade your hamper to a model with compartments or to buy another one just for the nursery.
2. Do the laundry ahead of time. Washing and folding those teeny sleepers is a task that moms-to-be say they don’t mind, says Dellutri. It makes the life-changing leap that’s about to happen feel very real. Remove packaging and any tags or labels that might irritate sensitive skin. Use a detergent that’s free and clear of dyes and perfumes, or one marketed especially for infants.
3. Prepare for stains. Once your newborn arrives, you might wonder why you bother to dress her, due to all the mess she so easily produces! Spit-up, formula, baby food, poop, and urine are all best treated with an enzymatic stain cleaner, which is formulated to break down stain and soil molecules. Use it on the fabric as soon as possible. If you don’t plan on doing laundry right away (or if a spot is super stubborn), spray on the stain remover, and soak the item in cool water until you can wash it in the machine.
Manage the Daily Dirt
An organized home can quickly turn into a disaster site once your baby arrives. We’ve got solutions for the problems that set you back most.
For Spills: Ditch paper towels in favor of microfiber cleaning cloths, which are reusable, incredibly absorbent, and quick-drying.
For Clutter: If you live in a multilevel house, keep a basket on your bottom stair and toss in items that need to go up when you have a moment. As much as you can, avoid toting your baby up and down stairs with other things. A 2012 study found that about 25 percent of injuries among babies younger than 1 occurred when they were being carried up or down a staircase.
For Dishes: Strap your baby into a bouncy seat nearby while you load and unload the dishwasher. Or wear him in a carrier—some infants prefer motion, so he may find it soothing.
For Your "Helper:" If you have an older child, keep a spray bottle on hand for him filled with water or a mild soap-and-water combo. He can clean next to you and feel useful instead of left out.