Archives for Baby
Reader Liz submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My husband and I recently bought our first house, and we’re really looking forward to all the space, especially with our 20-month-old son! However, we have an issue I haven’t seen addressed here (or anywhere for that matter) — what is a good computer set-up that can also be locked away to keep little fingers away from the keyboard, mouse, and tower? We’re looking for something relatively inexpensive, but we haven’t found a good solution that would also fit in a living room, since our computer/monitor also functions as our TV/DVD player. Any suggestions?
My eight-month-old son is about a week away from taking his first, unassisted steps. The past month has been a giant lesson in baby proofing our home as he has learned to pull himself up to standing and toddle along next to any surface that will support him. I wholly understand your dilemma.
We found that making items “invisible” is the best thing to do with the things that can’t be set on high shelves. If my son doesn’t see the breakable and expensive electronics, he has no interest in messing with them.
For cords and cables, we used Kwik Clips to secure them to baseboards, support beams, the desktop, and along the back of furniture. Not only are the cables secured, but they become “invisible” because they’re no longer obviously there. We also put down area rugs to hide our surround sound speaker wires and then ran the wires up through the speaker stands. For your computer table, a large mouse pad might work in a similar fashion.
For your electronics, you can hide these items by installing cupboard doors or screens to an existing desk or media center, or purchase a new storage system that already has doors. If the doors open, simply use childproof latches to keep them closed. If you’re buying something new, I recommend checking out the desks and media centers at Ikea. They’re inexpensive and you can easily unload them on Craigslist if you ever want to upgrade. At least in our area, there is a huge community of people always looking for Ikea pieces. Armoires are also great for hiding desks and equipment — check out Mark Coggins’ office that we featured as a Workspace of the Week. Using a closet might also work, and you can simply shut the closet door when your son is in the adjoining room.
If you want to make your own screens to use with your existing furniture, I recommend purchasing art canvas frames or large picture frames and then stretching a material similar to panty hose across them (check your hardware and fabric stores, there are a few different fabric styles available). This way, your child can’t see the electronics, but your IR remote can still communicate with the hidden devices. Once your child loses interest in pushing buttons, you can permanently remove the screens.
I’m sure that there are other solutions out there that our readers have used, so be sure to check the comments for more baby-proofing solutions. Thank you, Liz, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.
Dwell magazine featured a “Kids’ Room Renovation” project recently on their site that shows how a small room can be transformed into two unconventional, yet spacious, bedrooms:
Rather than simply building a partition down the middle of the 140-square-foot bedroom, which would have created two constrained rooms, the architects decided to build up and within. “The idea of putting the bed on a higher level came up quite quickly in order to win space,” explains Santiard. “At the same time we decide to incorporate many ways to use the bed/partition (storage, office, climb, hide with interior windows, doors, etc).”
The bed seems to soar above the playing space, held up by bookshelf columns and a carefully angled staircase.
The result is a massive piece of what is essentially furniture, crafted out of several large sections of painted MDF and secured to the ceiling to keep it from toppling. Six-year old Eva plays and sleeps in the upper level, while small cubbies hold her toys, books, and dolls. There’s also a built-in desk for schoolwork and drawing. Jean, now almost two years old, mainly scampers around on the bottom level, where easy access to his bed and toys defines his area.
Building up provides for each child to have a designated area, without having to feel cramped and claustrophobic. The built-in storage and bookshelves also keep the rooms clutter-free and organized. I think it’s a very creative solution for a small space.
(Image from the Dwell article. View the complete slideshow.)
In our seventh installment of Unclutterer’s 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide we’re discussing gifts for children.
I’m coming to find that creating a Guide for kids is more difficult than expected. The things we want for our son now are very different than the things he’ll want when he can pen his own letter to Santa Claus. My husband and I want practical things for him that will help us cover the expenses of raising a child — diapers, a new crib, and baby gates. By the time he’s in elementary school, however, I’m sure that he’ll want toys, gadgets, and even more toys! I can’t even fathom what will be on his list when he’s in high school.
So, instead of breaking it down by age, I’m just going to give an over-arching theme and one or two examples that might work with the category. Parents with jr. high and high school children should feel more than welcome to add ideas to the comments section as I feel that I’m not doing this age group much justice in my themes.
- Experiences. We’ve written about these types of gifts in the past, but they’re certainly worth mentioning again. Zoo memberships, movie passes, event tickets, etc., are great gifts for the giver and receiver to both enjoy. If Aunt Jane buys a pool pass for little Billy, then the two of them can swim together on summer afternoons — or go to the zoo together or see movies or whatever the experience.
- Gifts with storage solutions. I’ve become a big fan of gifts that come with storage or gifts that are storage. Toy bins with a new toy, video game storage console with a new game, a puzzle rack with a new puzzle, or a block set with a block box, like the one below, are examples that would work for younger kids.
- Vacations. Technically, this is a subset of Experiences, but I thought it warranted its own line item. Growing up, I took a vacation each summer with my grandmother. I’ll never forget riding the train with her across the country or going on road trips to crazy roadside attractions. My cousins also have fond memories of flying to see her and spending two weeks playing on the farm without their parents. Showing children the world can be a rewarding experience for everyone.
- What the child wants. Sneaking a peak at a child’s letter to Santa Claus before it is sent in the mail can be a good way to learn what a child plans to play with in the next few months. It’s not clutter if the object is used and loved.
- Hints from mom and dad. If parents have created wishlists for their children (especially new parents with young children), it’s extremely kind to buy from that list. Great thought and care usually go into creating these lists, and buying from them can help the parents to provide for their child. It’s not very creative, but it is incredibly generous. If mom and dad are running on such little sleep that they can’t find the energy to create a list, pick up the phone and ask.
Please add your ideas to the comments. Also, don’t forget to check out our Unclutterer’s 2009 Holiday Gift Giving Guide Index Page for a listing of all the articles as we publish them.
A few times after speaking and writing about having an uncluttered home, people have said to me:
You obviously don’t have kids.
I know that these are lighthearted statements meant to let off a little steam about one’s personal experience, but they always rub me the wrong way.
Simply stated: Having children and being uncluttered are not mutually exclusive endeavors. You can have both. Problems occur when people (of any age) have more stuff than they can store and routines do not exist to take care of the things they own.
If a child has so many toys that they are strewn in every room of the house, it’s time to get rid of a large selection of the toys. If the child doesn’t have a toy chest, cabinet, or closet to properly store his toys, then he needs one. Lay out all of your child’s toys on the living room floor for him to review. Next, have him pick which toys will be kept and which ones will be donated to charity (or recycled or thrown away, if necessary). Have your child go with you to make the charitable donation so that he can see the children who are benefitting from his generosity. Then, after returning home, organize the remaining toys in a designated storage area.
A reader on the site recently left a comment that I agree with wholeheartedly:
If a child is old enough to get out a toy to play, she is old enough to put it away.
Yes, it takes diligence to monitor a child’s behavior to know when to encourage her to put away her things after play time, but it’s not impossible. If you’re unable to keep on top of toys being put away at the end of every play time, then have a routine in place where the child walks through the entire house and puts away all errant toys 15 minutes before starting her bedtime routine. Teaching children these life skills at an early age will help them to always live an uncluttered life. Yes, there will be times when your encouragement will be met with resistance, but such are the ways of parenthood.
My daughter is going to be three years old in less than a month. The amount of clothing and other baby products that we have gone through in those 36 months is pretty extensive. We have donated a lot of items to local charities, consignment shops, and friends, but it seems like we still find ourselves behind the curve in the accumulation battle.
Reader Tina wrote us to recommend a website that focuses on swapping baby goods. From the Swap Baby Goods site:
SwapBabyGoods.com is the first web site of its kind, providing a friendly place for parents to swap, buy or sell baby items that are no longer needed. Our philosophy is very simple - Why buy when you can swap? Our product focus is baby items; for this reason, our users can enjoy the website, knowing that they are part of a community. Our primary goal is to provide a platform that brings together willing sellers, buyers and swappers in an online marketplace, benefiting everyone involved.
Babies grow so fast and so do their needs. Before we know it, the cute little outfits, baby toys, and other baby items we once could not live without become outgrown and underused, taking up an inordinate amount of space in our homes. The baby item one family is ready to put in the attic or out in the garage sale might be just what another mom or dad is looking for. Our ultimate goal is to help parents all across the nation save money and the environment by providing them an online venue to swap baby items.
While there are many options to buy, sell, or donate items, this looks like a pretty good resource for tracking down some must-have baby products. It also looks like a place to get rid of clutter that your little one no longer wants or needs.
Do you know of other baby goods swapping websites? Let us know about those resources in the comments.
Built NY has recently unveiled a couple of useful baby products that can be helpful to new parents. Of all things that are indispensable to parents, the diaper bag is something that goes everywhere during the first year of a child’s life. The Built NY Diaper Bag looks rather reasonable in size and, like other Built NY products, is constructed of durable neoprene and water resistant nylon.
Another item that goes hand-in-hand with the diaper bag is the changing pad. The Built NY Changing Pad (pictured) has a built-in compartment for wipes and extra diapers.
If you’re welcoming a new child into your family, you may want to consider these durable products.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
My daughter will be three next month so we have no need for a baby food organizer at the moment, but I’m trying to figure out when we would have ever needed a mini Lazy Susan for 10 jars of baby food.
The number of months that we fed our daughter jarred baby food went by in a blink of an eye. I don’t recall getting lost in an avalanche of baby food jars. Baby food jars are very tiny and take up a relatively small section of cupboard space. The Baby Food Organizer is just a semi-stylish way to clutter up your counter top with 10 jars of baby food.
The “space saving design” is a little suspect in that it displays the jars in a vertical fashion rather than simply stacking them neatly in your cupboard. What is so space saving about a vertical contraption that may or may not fit in your cupboard?
Thanks to reader Ronise for bringing this unitasker to our attention.
I’m not exactly sure how I survived my early days as a baby without the ever-expanding assortment of infant safety products. After browsing through an unsolicited baby product magazine that I received in the mail, I am now aware of the slew of products that over-protective parents just can’t live without.
Here are some of the outrageous products that my parents never once considered buying for me, and that I did not consider buying for my little one’s safety:
- Snazzy Baby Knee Pads (pictured): My daughter learned to crawl on hardwood floors and she didn’t even have the luxury of knee pads. How will she ever forgive me?
- Walking Wings: According to this Pediatrician Recommended product, your baby can learn to walk without the fear of falling. I don’t know about you, but I think kids need to fall once in a while. (Also, I’d be afraid my kids arms would be ripped out of their sockets if I used this thing!)
- Mommy I’m Here Child Locator: Are you always misplacing your child? Now you can watch your stories without having to pay too much attention to your toddler. Since this teddy bear only works up to 150 feet and if your child is carrying it, this locator is pointless as a child Lo-Jack device.
- Video Monitor: This device is for the Big Brother in all of us. Why stop at simply listening to your child when you can watch their every move with this day and night video monitor? It even has night vision!
Yes, these items go overboard, but there is certainly a need for child safety in your home. Below are items that we actually use for our little explorer. They keep her safe, but they don’t make her feel like she can’t do anything on her own.
- Outlet Covers: Tiny holes in the walls are awfully inviting to little fingers.
- Door Knob Covers: Opening and closing doors is a favorite hobby of many toddlers. Door knob covers put a stop to this and make sure that little fingers aren’t caught in door jams.
- Cabinet Latches: These keep cleaning products and other dangerous household items cabinets and drawers inaccessible from your children.
- Baby Gate: If you have stairs in your home, gates help to keep your child from tumbling down.
If you are a first-time parent and are worried about the safety of your child, take a deep breathe and relax. Your child will definitely get sick and sustain a few bumps and bruises along the way — it is simply part of childhood. Do your best to protect them, but remember children also need to develop their independence.
I’ve written about keeping children’s toy clutter under control in the past and I also recommended some toy alternatives here and there. Simple Mom has a great post on a similar theme, but specifically classic toys. It’s an article that should be read by anyone planning to give a gift to a child.
My daughter has received some rather gimmicky toys over her first couple years and we have been pretty good at predicting which toys will be the duds. The classics are always reliable and have proven their entertainment value by their staying power. That’s why we purchased our daughter some basic wooden blocks this past Christmas. They are simple, versatile, and provide imaginative play for our daughter. Blocks are among the classic toys mentioned by Simple Mom along with art supplies, dress-up clothes, books, and dolls (among others):
Our general guidelines for toys are that they’re made of quality materials, they appeal to a whole range of kids, and they’re open-ended to make room for all sorts of creative play.
I also encourage you to browse around Simple Mom’s site. It is a great read for those of us who are dealing with being a uncluttered parent.
During the holiday season, you may get a few new gifts. Now is the time to take stock of what you received and what those new gifts can replace — one new gift in, one old item out. And, depending on how much use you got out of the old items, they should be donated or thrown away.
If you receive new slippers (very exciting I know) you should get rid of your old ones. In all likelihood, your received the new slippers for a reason.
One important area where we make a concerted effort to keep in check is our daughter’s toy collection. When she receives an above-average size gift, like an chalkboard/easel, we will remove a similarly sized older toy. For example, we would remove something like a kitchen play set. Toys are a constant struggle to keep in check. It is also a good idea to have your child take part in choosing what is to be donated and help them understand a toy they no longer play with is going to a less fortunate child.
I was a bit weary of giving my daughter her bath when she was just a little one, but I eventually got used to bath time. We had your run-of-the-mill plastic baby bathtub at the time, and we also had a dedicated bathroom for giving our daughter her baths. We lived in a larger house then, and the baby bathtub wasn’t much of a nuisance since she had a dedicated bathroom.
Since we no longer need the baby tub, we don’t have a storage issue now that we are in a smaller home. However, I am intrigued by the Puj Tub as a solution to small-space baby bathing. It fits any standard sink, and lays or hangs flat for easy storage when not in use. There is no need to worry about where to store the large unforgiving plastic baby tub with the Puj Tub. The sink is a perfect place to bathe an infant and this product really makes the task that much easier.
In a past post I wrote that a changing table is not a must have and that parents can make due by using the top of a dresser instead.
If you find yourself with a changing table and don’t know what to do with it once it outlives its usefulness in your child’s room, you may be able to repurpose it into something more useful. Over at Ohdeedoh, they highlight a rather nice media center that was made out of a child’s changing table. The changing table pictured originally cost $1650, so I completely understand why its owners would want to find multiple uses for the piece of furniture.
Do any of our readers have examples of repurposed changing tables? Use the comments section to share your ideas.
Yesterday, I gave some advice for ways new parents can avoid becoming overwhelmed by baby-related clutter. Today, I want to discuss what I see to be the essential items that are always useful to new parents. Think of this as the bare-bones guide to stocking a nursery.
(Note: I don’t have any clothing, bibs, or blankets on this list because these are the items people will most likely give to you as gifts. If you’ve decided to go without a baby shower, then you’ll want to add a few of these to your acquisition list.)
- Portable crib with bassinet attachment. I recommend using a Pack’N Play with a portable bassinet attachment instead of a traditional crib. You can take this with you when you visit the grandparents, you can wheel it next to your bed when the child is sick so that you can keep a watchful eye, and you can do a hundred other things with it that you can’t do with a permanently located crib. Oh, and you’ll likely want two pair of corresponding sheets.
- Convertible car seat. Buy new, and get a “permanent” convertible seat that can be both back and forward facing as your child grows. I do not recommend buying a separate infant car seat because then you have to purchase a second car seat when the child gets too big for the infant seat. Also, I don’t like the models that snap in and out for dual use between the car and a stroller. Their unused parts are bothersome to store, they are more expensive over the long term, and I’ve found the safety ratings are usually higher on the permanent models. I know some people swear by the snap-in-and-out models, though, so use what is best for you.
- Stroller. I recommend buying the safest you can find that will grow with your child. I do not recommend getting a frame that snaps in an infant carrier for its seat for the reasons I mentioned in the car-seat entry. If you plan on taking paved trail walks with your child, strongly consider getting a sturdy exercise stroller with good maneuverability. Some of my friends are foregoing the stroller and only using a sling/backpack carrier, but by the time their kids are two years old, I think they’ll want the stroller.
- High chair or booster seat (based on preference). We’ve recently discussed this topic in detail on Unclutterer. The comments to the linked post are very informative.
- Food service items. These may include a breast pump and assemblies (if applicable), bottles, and formula (if applicable). Make sure that the bottles have age- and purpose-specific nipples so that they serve your child’s growing needs. Also, you will probably want a baby bottle parts cage for the top rack of your dishwasher (you can buy one or make one out of two clean plastic berry baskets and twist ties). This will keep your bottle nipples and sealant rings from flying about the top shelf of your dishwasher. If you don’t own a dishwasher, then boil all parts of the bottle. Also, if you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll probably want a bottle cleaning brush.
- Diapers and wipes. Whether you choose to use disposable or cloth, you need them before the baby arrives. Even if you go the disposable route, you will also want cloth diapers and wipes on hand for burping rags and spills. If you use cloth diapers and wipes, you will probably want a diaper pail (like the Diaper Champ that uses regular trash bags) or a trash can with a lid.
- Home safety items. These may include baby gate, window stops, drawer locks, knob covers, electrical outlet covers, fire ladder (if not on the ground floor) and baby monitor.
- Hygiene items. Baby nail clippers and/or emery boards, baby-safe body wash and shampoo, Vaseline, and a nasal aspirator.
- Health items. Baby digital thermometer, a baby pain reliever/fever reducer, infant sunscreen, gripe water (if your baby has colic), pure lanolin (for mommy, if breastfeeding), and a diaper rash cream.
- Child carrier. You might consider a front/backpack or sling, especially if you’ll often be in spaces where a stroller is cumbersome. The packs that range from infant to toddler will give you the most bang for your buck.
- Comfortable chair. You probably already have one, but if you don’t, you’ll want someplace comfortable where you can sit for more than half an hour.
- Electric fan. The New York Times recently reported that a fan in an infants’ room reduces the risk of SIDS by 72 percent. If you don’t already have a fan, it might be worth it to get one.
- Diaper service. New parents have enough to do, and outsourcing the washing of stinky diapers to a service sounds like a sane idea to me. I’ve often considered this as a gift I can give to new parents.
My friend Krystal also recommends checking out the Baby and Kids pages on Craigslist to find out what you won’t need. The items most available are often the clutter-prone items.
Consumer Reports recommends buying car seats, cribs, baby gates, strollers, and breast pumps new since you don’t know the history of used items. The rest of the items on this list, excluding the consumable hygiene and health items, are great to find on the cheap over Craigslist or Freecycle.
Finally, by no means is this list the law. Think of it as a reference and as nothing more. Once you have your baby home, you may discover that he or she loves the neighbor’s bouncy seat and so you’ll want to bring one into your home, too. For some people, this will be all they have, and for others it will be a starting point.
Reader Zoe recently sent us the following question:
I’m expecting my first baby in December and I’m already worried about the impending cloud of clutter. My husband is unfortunately not devoted to de-cluttering like I am, so I suspect there will be struggles even between the two of us, not to mention the grandparents! I would love to see a post from you guys about how to deal with/prevent baby clutter before the baby even arrives. Has anyone created a list of baby clutter rules, for instance?
I currently have seven close friends who are pregnant and all of them have asked me versions of this question continuously over the course of the past eight months. So, to put it mildly, I have given this question a great deal of thought.
First things first, if you’re blessed to have generous friends and family, you need to accept that people will want to give you things. If you beg and plead with people not to give you things, they will either ignore you or get mad at you. It’s best just to come to terms with the fact that there will be stuff — and that it will probably be lots and lots of stuff.
This doesn’t mean that you need to throw in the towel and sit idly by while your home fills with baby clutter. You can be proactive and keep clutter out of your home with just a few actions on your part.
- Create a wish list. There are practical things that you will need when the baby comes: diapers, a car seat, a stroller and crib, for example. Research through Consumer Reports the safest products, learn about product features through reviews on websites with active communities, and go to baby stores to find what you like about what you see. Be an informed consumer and create a list of essential products that fit your needs. When your family or friends ask you what you need, show them your list. Let them know about the research you’ve done and why you have picked the specific products on your list. If you don’t find registries offensive (I don’t), then put these items on a registry — but ONLY put these essential items and nothing else. It’s best to have your list prepared before you go to the baby store so that you aren’t tempted to add extraneous items. Explain to your family and friends that these are the items you need, and people will gravitate toward them. (Tomorrow I’ll write a post about what I believe are these essential items.)
- Buy as you need, not in anticipation. Beyond the bare bones items, avoid buying (or acquiring through Freecycle or Craigslist) anything until you need it. People with children will give you a constant stream of advice that begins with the phrase, “You just HAVE to have …” Until your child arrives and you grow to understand his or her preferences, you won’t have any idea if your child really has to have specific things. Your neighbor’s child may have loved the vibrating child carrier, but yours might hate it. Their must-have items may very well be clutter in your home. Also, don’t buy any clothes or toys ahead of time, you’ll very likely receive lots of these as gifts.
- Don’t agree to a shower or only agree to a shower with a theme. You don’t have to have a baby shower. If you don’t want one, then don’t have one. If you’re okay with the idea of having one or have a super-excited family member chomping at the bit to throw you one, then ask for the shower to have a theme. Guests can bring their favorite childhood books or everyone can bring a pack of diapers. If you’re adopting, have a shower where you ask guests to bring gifts for the orphanage or foster care services, and give the presents to children who haven’t yet found homes. I’ve also heard of pamper the parents parties being a huge hit for keeping baby clutter at bay.
- Return unwanted items for wanted items. Products you don’t want that were purchased in stores can be returned. There is no law saying that you have to keep something you don’t want. Build up a store credit to help you purchase the items you really need.
- Donate unwanted items to charity or sell on Craigslist or eBay. If you receive four blankets, give two away to someone who needs/wants them.
- Don’t open items until you need them. It will be a lot easier to return items in their original packaging if you haven’t opened, assembled, and then dismantled the boxes.
- Immediately store items for when your child is older. You’ll inevitably receive items that you want to keep but that your child can’t play with or wear until he or she is older. Have inboxes ready to go in your nursery for these pieces. A plastic box labeled “clothes” and another labeled “toys” will provide you with space to immediately store these items out of the way.
Stay tuned for tomorrow when I’ll present my bare bones item list.
In the spirit of the baby toy alternative articles we’ve written in the past, Simple Mom has a great list of cheap and free toys for your toddler. It’s easy to forget about the simple and classic toys for our children. Toys with a lot of bells and whistles seem to replace the simpler toys because they are perceived to be better somehow. This list is a nice reminder that a child’s imagination can create entertaining fun with just about any object. From the list:
1. Egg cartons. They make great caterpillars, they’re good storage containers for little treasures found on walks, and they can even become airline seats for little animal toys.
5. Dried beans or rice. It’s fun to pour into bowls and cups of different sizes, and it’s a good sensory exercise. Sand works well, too.
7. Washed out empty food containers. My daughter loves to play kitchen, and she’s stocked with some of our empty syrup, ketchup, and dressing bottles. No need to buy a child-size version of the same plastic thing.
We do have the miniature versions of food products. The variety pack of just about every Kraft food imaginable was a gift and those tiny replicas turn up just about everywhere around the house. The regular size hand-me-downs would be easier to clean up and keep in order.
We also use egg cartons as a way to keep the finger paints in a confined space while our daughter creates her next masterpiece. The paint inevitably ends up all over the place, but the egg carton is a great way to bring a bit of organization to the painting chaos.