As soon as we found out we were expecting, I was obviously overcome with excitement and joy. All kinds of thoughts began to flood my mind. I was eager to know the sex right away and decide on a name and I began to think about who he or she would look more alike. All of those fun sort of fatherly thoughts!
Quickly, after my mind and heart settled a bit, I took a look around our home and thought to myself, “how are we going to be able to do this in our 1950’s 900 sq ft, two bedroom (one is our office) home?” At the time, we had already been living here for five years, so things naturally accumulated and being that it’s a small space with garbage for storage, we had already felt maxed out even before finding out we were expecting. And if I’m being totally honest, we just weren’t in the position to buy a bigger place and we loved the location and still do. It’s walking distance to downtown and it’s rather quiet for a downtown neighborhood and I’m not sure we are ready to let go of that yet. So, we had to make due with what we have right now and understand that we’ll obviously need to make comprises where need be in the future.
I knew we had to pair down and rid of ourselves of as much as possible to make room for our little guy and all the things that come with a baby. The first thing I did before touching anything was grabbing a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It was a saving grace. It found me at the right exact time, as if it fell from heaven itself. Pro-tip: I also purchased the audiobook via iTunes so that I could listen and follow along in the book while working at my computer or driving. I finished the book in a few days, which I hadn’t done since procrastinating a reading assignment in high school. Kondo has also recently released a illustrated companion book, which I’d also highly recommend.
The result of the book led to a lot of helpful insight. Here are some quick tips plus a few things I found helpful for prepping a small space for a baby:
- Declutter your entire home. Set aside some time to knock it all out within a few days. Don’t try to declutter room by room, but by categories instead. Think clothes, paper, cleaning supplies, etc. This makes the process much easier and much more effective. (Note: we took a total of 14 bags of clothing and shoes out of our house, leaving us with a ton of room and emptying an entire dresser, which is now used to store baby supplies and clothing and also doubles as a changing table)
- Opt for clever and adaptable furniture. Since we knew our son would be rooming with us for awhile, we knew we’d have to be smart about our purchases. So, we opted for a smart, small and expandable crib. The Stokke Sleepi system was the best option for us and we love it. We also spent a lot of time researching other products that were innovative, space saving and pleasant on the eye. Products that are easily stored like the Puj Tub, Stokke Scoot stroller and this Phil & Teds hook-on highchair. In our living room, we opted for a glider that played the part of living room furniture nicely, since we don’t have room in our bedroom for it (and obviously don’t have a proper nursery). The Gus Modern Sparrow Glider is one we wouldn’t think twice about keeping in our a living space after we are done using it for baby related reasons. And yes, the glider was a splurge, but we knew Jessica, my wife, would be spending a lot of time in it, feeding our son. And if you want to get on your wife’s good side, go ahead and splurge on a great glider.
- Think before you buy. Before pulling the trigger on anything, we asked ourselves questions like: Can I borrow this from someone or share it with someone? Can/where will I store this item? Do I already have something that is like this item? Will I actually have time to use it and keep up with it? And most importantly, why in the world do I need this item?
- Learn how to fold your clothing properly. Yes, there is a better way to fold your clothing and it saves a lot more space than hanging clothes, freeing up closet space for storage you’ll most likely need.
- Get rid of paper clutter. Simple as that. Just get rid of it! What sort of papers do you need to hold on to that you cannot access online these days? It takes up valuable space, is easily disorganized and causes stress due to it’s visual clutter, at least for me anyway. On the other hand, my wife does’t mind the paper and actually organizes it very well and enjoys a very well organized filing cabinet, so just find your compromise with her before tossing it all. I did learn that the hard way, fyi.
- Paint before the baby arrives. Buy the soon-to-be mum a spa day and have a couple friends come over and help to get the job done quicker. Even though its safe for mom, the paint odor still made Jess nauseous while pregnant. And think not just about painting your walls, but go as far as kitchen cabinets, etc. We wanted our house to feel fresh and airy before our son arrived, so we painted everything white. It makes our space feel bigger and cleaner. We opted for the BEHR Premium Pure White Interior Flat because it’s self priming, easy to clean and touch up, mildew resistant, has a lifetime guarantee and most importantly, is low oder and zero VOC.
- Get in the habit of rewarding yourself (and your family) with experiences instead of things. Whether it’s because you cut back on your spending, finished up a big project or just because you feel like you need to reward yourself and/or your family simply because, opt to do so with experiences that create joy and memories versus tangible items that will inevitably only work against your decluttering efforts. Early on in Jessica’s pregnancy, we chose to take a trip (i.e “baby moon”) out to Portland, OR instead of buying a new, larger sofa right away, since we’d rather wait until we got into a new, larger space that could better accommodate the sofa we really wanted. Ultimately, we felt like it was the wiser choice as it gave us a great experience and created unforgettable memories instead of taking up more space in our tiny living room.
- Smarter storage. Absolutely only if you have already decluttered, paired down and really only have things left that you actually use, need, truly love and/or can be easily stored, take a trip to somewhere like The Container Store to buy yourself some smarter, better looking storage/organizers for what’s left that needs to be handled. I say absolutely only because that stuff is expensive and a huge mistake a lot of folks make is spending too much money on storage and organizers they don’t actually need or even know how to properly put to use. So, you have to rid yourself of the stuff that doesn’t deserve to go into your new, nice storage containers beforehand. Think about the places you can store your items and consider where you’ll store your new child’s needs such as diapers, wipes, bathing supplies, etc. Get clever and find or build new means of storage.
- Stop worrying and start thinking more positive thoughts. Worrying and dwelling on the past and things that are out of control is never good. For me, I almost began to worry about the fact that we didn’t have the picture perfect home to bring our son in to, but then I snapped out of that and realized that I needed to focus on what I could control instead of what I couldn’t and make do with what I have. Of course, it’s okay to keep your general concerns (i.e. will I have enough for retirement, am I living a healthy enough lifestyle, etc), that come with life, but don’t let those outweigh the happy and memorable moments in life. Keep your mind and heart open and hopeful and work on making situations better when they do go wrong or don’t work out the way you imagined. This will ensure you’ll be more level headed and be able to figure out how to make things work.