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 uncluttering 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 several close friends who are pregnant and all of them have asked me versions of this question continuously over the course of the past few 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 and gift registry. 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. Be an informed consumer and create a list of essential products that fit your needs and create a gift registry. 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. Explain to your family and friends that these are the items you need, and people will gravitate toward them.
- 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/gender reveal party or only agree to one with a theme. You don’t have to have a party. 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 party 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.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.