Even if you're a tidy minimalist before having kids, having a baby or two will force just about everyone to begin accumulating things. Having kids may even turn you into a full-blown hoarder. Babies grow out of clothes quickly. There are large items for different stages (like activity centers, play mats, and rockers with dangling toys). And lots of baby whispering gadgets. Especially since everything has sentimental value, it's easy for the stuff to pile up!
I have two kids and was not immune to the accumulation of stuff. I'm also extremely neat, sometimes to a fault. I was Marie Kondo-ing before she was even a thing. (I realized at a young age that I could avoid the "cleaning my room" chore if I simply kept it clean all the time.) So I'm going to share with you my method for organizing and passing on my baby things!
It can be difficult to think about passing along even the simplest of baby items. It's emotional because the physical act of letting go is a conscious acknowledgement that your baby is no longer a baby and time is fleeting. One way to create lasting memories is to have photos taken of your baby while she's using or wearing your favorite baby items, like a favorite headband.
When You're Ready to Pack things Away and Organize Baby Things
It can be very overwhelming and emotional to attempt to sort through everything as you're packing away. Know that it's okay to store things for a while with the intention that you'll want to go through everything later. Here are a couple tips to think about as you begin to store baby items to make it easier for yourself when the time comes to begin to part with things:
Be Mindful of which Clothing Items You Choose to Pack Away
Scenario no. 1: You're packing away clothes because they don't fit your sweet baby anymore. You're running out of space, but you can't bear the thought of getting rid of them. My advice: Don't pack away outfits that were only worn once or twice. Choose to store the outfits that hold significant memories. The onesie he lived in. The dress she wore to her baby dedication. Part with the well-worn, white onesie and the pants with the little poop stain, if you can. But if you're on the fence about an outfit, it's okay to keep it for now. Just try not to pack away everything.
We all have too many baby clothes. There are items that were hardly worn or hand-me-downs that don't mean as much to you. Letting a few items go now will make it easier for you to go through things down the road.
Scenario no. 2: You want to store clothes for the next potential baby. If this is you, you can still be smart about which items you choose to keep. Don't pack away extremely worn or completely soiled outfits unless they have a sentimental value. And if there was a super special outfit that baby no. 1 wore that you know you'll keep forever, set it aside in a separate keep-sake bin.
Pack Clothing Items away in Bins Organized by Size & Gender
Label separate bins according to size and gender (e.g. Girl 0-3 months, boy 3-6 months, girl 6-12 months, girl 18 months, 2T, 3T, and so on). You may choose to not separate by gender. That's okay. I didn't find out the gender with either of kids, so all of my newborn clothes were gender neutral yellows, whites, and grays. My boy and girl wore the same newborn clothes. Or maybe you're not into the gender stereotypes when it comes to clothing colors and styles. In that case, just separate baby clothes by size and you'll be glad you did later on. This makes it so much easier when it's time to pull things out again or pass along a bag of clothes to your neighbor.
Having a photo of the nursery is a great way to hold onto detailed memories without holding onto all the stuff forever.
Store All other Baby Items According to Categories
I recommend storing all baby feeding items in one bin (breast pump, nursing covers, burp clothes, bottles, blenders, etc.) Set aside a bin for smaller baby toys and teethers. Designate another larger bin for larger items (diaper bag, nursing pillow, pregnancy pillow, car seat covers, etc.). And pick a storage area (like a corner of your basement) for large items that can't be packed away (swing, high chair, pack-n-play, etc.).
Lend the Larger Items if You're Low on Space
If you live in a small space but either aren't ready to get rid of large baby items or would like to use them again when another baby arrives, I recommend lending them to a friend. Or maybe you post something on a mom's page for your church. Offer it up to a neighbor. Just be clear that you are lending the items, not giving. Other moms will totally understand this.
If a friend or family member is having a baby, ask them if they'd like to read your baby books! You could even lend them out for a time if you're not ready to get rid of them altogether. It's much less painful to hand your resources to someone you love rather than dropping them off at a thrift store where you don't know where your things will end up.
When it's Time to Part with Your Baby Things
Most moms have said or will say that by getting rid of your baby things you're admitting (mostly to yourself) that you're done. Done with baby things. No more babies. Ever. (Cue crying and subsequent lake of tears.) But I believe that while this may be a step towards letting go, it doesn't have to indicate a firm decision. It aint over till it's over. And there's room to let it mean that you've accepted you'll simply have to buy all new things should you be blessed with another baby.
The first few items I passed along were maternity clothes. At the time, we weren't sure if we'd have another baby. And I liked the thought of getting some new clothes if I found myself pregnant again down the road. I wasn't ready to say I was done, but I was ready to not let my clothes sit in a tub in my basement when someone could get some good use out of them.
When it's Hard to Let Anything Go
It's okay to pass things on slowly and in stages. Maybe you go through your baby clothes and begin to consolidate them, agreeing to keep only half the items and revisit the bins next year or the year after that. Maybe you feel okay selling your pack-n-play because you used it maybe only 10 times but not the activity center that your baby played in every day for two months. That's okay.
It also helps if you can find a friend or family member to give baby things to. It can feel a lot easier getting rid of your baby items when you know the person they're going to someone you love. I gave several of my maternity clothes and couple cute outfits to a good friend of mine when she was pregnant. Seeing her in that purple maternity dress and her baby in a 4th of July onesie helped ease the sadness I was feeling.
Speaking from personal experience, it does get easier which each item that's passed along. One of the first baby items I got rid of was an expired infant car seat. I clearly had no use for it. I didn't have the option of saving it for a future child. It was really hard to place it in a large cardboard box and drive away from the recycling center, but it helped to desensitize me to the process a bit. And not having it mean "I'm done" also helped ease the sadness.
Take Pictures of Your Baby Things before Passing them On
Find an open and decluttered space near a window (ideally south facing, not in direct sunlight) and lay your items out. Maybe place them on top of a special baby blanket. And snap away! If you don't want to (or can't) hang onto everything, having pictures of your baby things is a great way to preserve the memories. (I also recommend this for kids' artwork and school projects.) Shutterfly books are great for displaying these types of photos.
How to Pass Along Your Baby Items
Sell your items. Some secondhand stores will buy your used baby items from you. Once Upon A Child is a secondhand store that buys and sells gently used kids' clothing, shoes, toys and baby gear. It has several locations in the Minneapolis area. You can also put together a bag of a certain size (or sizes) and post an ad on Facebook. Even if it's $5-10 dollars, you can get something for it. There are also garage sale groups where you can post ads for your items.
Donate your items. There are neighborhood groups, Buy Nothing groups, and parents groups on Facebook where you can post your items. Secondhand stores and thrift stores will take baby clothes. Note that certain second hard stores won't accept certain baby items (e.g. Goodwill does not accept cribs or mattresses).
Find a friend or a family member who could use your things. Going this route can really help ease the emotional blow. You won't be quite as sad when you see that swimsuit on your bestie's baby or your nephew drowning in that infant snowsuit.
And Remember: You Don't have to Get Rid of Everything
I kept a small bin of baby toys (a rattle, blocks, etc.). I have no use for them right now, but maybe I'll have a grandkid one day. How cool would it be to pull it out then? My mom kept some of my favorite toys growing up and gave them to me when I had kids. My daughter now plays with my Pet Shops on the daily and both of my kids are enjoying my Beanie Babies.
And if it's hard, you can take as long as you want. Going through baby things and deciding what to keep can be a very emotional process. It's okay to wait, take it slow, and go at it in stages.
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