Friday, September 4, 2009

5 tips for staying organized after you have a baby.

Although having a new baby can throw your life into chaos, you don't have to let that decrease your ability to keep an ordered household. Try setting small goals for yourself, and setting out generous time lines for their completion. Chances are you will have less than half the time and less than half the energy you used to have to spend on organization projects. I recommend picking one tip that looks particularly helpful, like the clothing tip, and getting started on it early. As babies grow, they sleep less and less during the day, use the day time naps wisely in your first 3 months. By the second month you should have a good system in place for keeping incoming gifts of clothing organized, and you can move on to implementing another tip that seems particularly helpful to you in your own circumstances.

1. Separate baby clothes into like sizes and store in clear bins.
After the birth of your little sugar bee, you will most likely find yourself inundated with gifts of second-hand baby clothing, as well as gorgeous new stylish outfits from friends and family. However a good 90% of these wonderful donations and presents will be too large for your baby to wear right away. Rather than just stuffing them all into drawers and boxes and bags in the closet, developing a system to easily sort and store them will relieve a constant irritation and frustration from your first year or two. I recommend getting 5 large clear bins from an office supply store and labeling them: 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, 12-18 Months, 24+ Months and Give Away or Store. When you first receive clothing, immediately put it in the baby's laundry. This is not meant as an insult to friends and family, but keeping the detergent that your baby is exposed to limited to your exact brand will help limit possible allergic reactions, and many new clothes are packaged with harsh chemicals that should be washed out before your baby wears them. As the new clothing emerges from the laundry, take your regular laundry-folding time to sort the clothes by the sizes listed on the tags (if there is no size, compare it to similarly sized clothes and write a size in the neck or lining with a permanent pen). Then, as you put the clothes away, you can place the cleaned, sorted and folded clothes in their appropriate storage bins. This also will help you keep an eye on what sizes of clothing you might need to get more of. Sizes 0 (or infant) through 3 months can be fairly easily organized in most baby nurseries, and as you move up in sizes, use your sorting time while folding laundry to remove items that are too small, and place them in the 5th bin for give-away or storage. Just try to stay on top of maintaining this system, because if it gets out of control the job becomes pretty intimidating pretty quickly.

2. Implement the "one toy at a time" rule early.
Baby toys seem to have a life of their own sometimes. I have a theory that they secretly multiply at night, but I have yet to catch them in the act. To keep your living room from becoming a mine field of ankle-twisting toe-stubbing hazards, I recommend that you, your partner, your friends and family all be held to the rule that only one baby toy can be out at any one time. No doubt they will call you crazy, and think you are taking things too seriously, but eventually they will marvel over how clean you are able to keep your living room. You will also be able to spend less on replacing broken toys and vacuum cleaner parts.

3. Use decorative dispensers that you can place things in while still in their original packaging.
There have been about a million times that I have seen beautiful nurseries set up with all kinds of pretty diaper-dispensers, wipes dispensers and fancy bottles to put baby lotion in that get completely over run with packages of diapers propped up against them and packages of wipes on top of them and bottles of baby lotions jammed in between the pretty bottles that are empty. If you have a hanging diaper holder that is the right size, you can just slip the whole package of diapers in there, and save yourself the hassle of unpacking and stacking. I would do away with the idea of decorative bottles for baby lotion all together, or use cozies instead. Also, refills of diaper wipes should be able to go into just about any container while still in their plastic over-wrap. You may be reading this thinking that you'll never be so busy that putting a bag of diapers away will seem like an enormous job, but once you have a baby you might find yourself quite surprised by how fast you move through things, and how little extra time and energy you actually have.

4. Incorporate a 10 minute tidy/top off into your evening routine.
Just after your little luv-bunch nods off for his 1-2 hour sleep in the evening, try to spend ten minutes picking up things that didn't make it to where they were supposed to go, topping off containers that are near empty and making sure that your changing table is properly stocked. Just ten minutes every evening will help keep your organization systems running and your sanity from taking a vacation. If the ten minute tidy becomes a habit, you might find that it can help you stay on top of your household order for years to come.

5. Place baby logs near where you feed your baby & attach a pen.
Keeping track of what is going on with your baby is both important and deceptively easy. All you have to do is jot down the last few things that happened with her every few hours or so. The problem comes when you are unable to find the book that you log your baby's bowel movements in or you can't find a pen to write with, or you know where they are, but you have a sleeping baby on your lap, and you don't want to move from fear that she will wake up. I recommend that you attach a pen with a short string to your baby log, and attach the baby log with a short string to the chair or couch where you normally feed your baby. This way, you'll always know where it is, and you will find yourself tied down near it often enough that keeping at least a partial record of your baby's ups, downs, ins and outs will be much easier. Wet and dirty diapers, sleep patterns, medication administration times, feeding amounts and feeding times are all important things to keep a record of. If your baby takes ill, and you have to rush to the Pediatrician, it is great to have a written record of all the things that you will be asked. It is surprising how much information we lose through each day if we don't write it down, and new parents are hardly getting refreshing sleep every night.

As with all lifestyle changes, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make organizational changes that you can maintain. Setting unrealistic goals for yourself will only lead to frustration and self-defeat. If you are an organized person, many of these suggestions may come as second nature to you, but for many parents figuring out where to start when trying to organize a growing household can be overwhelming. I hope that one or two of these suggestions helps relieve a bit of the stress that comes with the chaos of an expanding family. If you have found these tips helpful please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

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