If necessity is the mother of invention, motherhood is the inventor of organization. Anyone who’s become a parent knows that if you thought keeping your house and life pulled together before kids was tough, lookout Baby! Here comes chaos.
Although nothing can prepare you for the upheaval, Ría Safford’s new book, “The Organized Home for New Parents: Create Routine-Ready Spaces for Your Baby’s First Years,” out this month from Blue Star Press, gives new parents a running start.
The Dallas mother of three left a corporate job when her first child was born and started her organizing company that year. “This did not come easy,” she said. “I’m a naturally messy person, but I couldn’t keep flying by the seat of my pants.”
Her experiences inspired this new, richly photographed book for parents with kids between newborn and two.
“Everything else about babies is really out of our control, but this book is about what you can control,” she said. “It’s (a) girlfriend guide. I took my mistakes and moments and wrote about them. If I’d had this book when I started having kids, my husband and I would have had a lot fewer arguments.”
Among the suggestions Safford offers to soften the baby blow:
Get ahead of the stuff: “Most expectant parents don’t realize their home’s inventory is going to triple,” Safford said. “These small humans come with so many things: bouncy chairs, sensory toys, cribs, car seats, strollers, diaper bags, clothes and incoming gifts.” Have a plan for where it all will go.
Don’t make the nursery a storage area: The nursery should have only what you need for the baby’s current stage. Separate infant wear from clothes the child will grow into. Put the larger items, washed and ready to wear, in bins labeled by age (12-18 months, 2T) in another room, the garage or on a high shelf in the nursery.
Master the change: The goal when setting up a changing table is to make those 2 a.m. diaper changes as easy as possible. Organize this hard-working surface so you can reach everything you need in the dark when you’re half asleep. Keep the top stocked only with essentials: diapers, wipes, a toy to amuse baby while you’re changing, a diaper disposal in easy reach. In the drawers below, store clean onesies, pajamas, swaddling blankets and crib sheets for those major blowouts.
Manage the inventory: Label drawers and shelves (0–3-month onesies, swaddle blankets, zip-up sleepers), so everyone who cares for the baby can easily find items and put them away. Keep a “too-small” bin in the baby’s closet. As clothes stop fitting, drop those still in good condition in the bin. When you reach the top, that’s your cue to store the items (if you plan on another child), give them to a friend or donate them.
Have a catchall basket: Outside the nursery, baby stuff has a way of taking over. The family living area may start the day in order, but by 4 p.m., it’s a hurricane of blankets, rattles, baby books, toys, teeny socks, teething rings, mini shoes and Goldfish crackers. To reclaim the space (and your sanity), keep a big basket in the main living area and drop all the randoms items in it to put away later (in their labeled places).
Rotate toys as they age out: Just as with outgrown clothes, when kids outgrow certain toys, store them for the next baby or give them away. Otherwise, trust me, they will take over your house. If the child is just bored with certain toys, but not ready to say good-bye, rotate them.
Entertainment centers: Anyone who has had a baby knows, accomplishing anything beyond baby care is a feat. The solution is having an area in every room to safely entertain the baby while you cook, get dressed, or do laundry. A low cupboard in the kitchen with toys, for instance, or a bin of toys under the bathroom sink can buy precious minutes.
Help tots pitch in: Around 16 to 18 months, babies start to understand the concept of cleaning up, Safford said. (They do? Some never learn, I’m convinced.) Help them help by making clean up fun and easy. Play favorite songs. Instead of words on those bin labels, use pictures of toy cars, dolls and other toys.
Purge often: Continually move things out and in as your child grows, which happens fast. Don’t be that 60-year-old grandmother who still has her child’s first burp cloth and who hung onto the crib, car seat and highchair. They wouldn’t meet today’s safety standards anyway.
Marni Jameson has written seven books, including the forthcoming “Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow,” due out Jan. 2. Reach her at marnijameson.com.