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How to Better Organize your Parenting Life

6 questions to help you organize your parenting life

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1. What's your Zen approach to keeping a household with a baby organized?

A baby adds an avalanche of stuff and tasks to your life, but you’ll have a greater sense of control if you have a place for everything and everything has its place, so that you’re not constantly searching for things. You know how difficult it can be to get a baby out the door: Finally, you’re ready, but you can’t find your keys. This is stressful for you both: Your baby knows instantly if you’re upset - and you don’t need that extra stress. Lost keys are one of the biggest soap operas around - and misplaced glasses are another one. To eliminate that drama, always keep your keys and glasses in the exact same spot.

a mom trying to organize her children

Figure out where it makes sense to keep the things you need to get out of the door with the baby. Where are you most comfortable packing her up, slathering her with sunscreen (when she’s old enough), getting her shoes on, putting her in the baby carrier? Is it near the door - with a strategically placed chair? Or is it in the bedroom, where you can zip him into his snowsuit on the changing table? Create a designated place for out-the-door items, like a little basket for baby shoes, outerwear, sunscreen, the baby carrier. If there’s something else that you’re always hunting down, find a place for that, too.

The most important thing is to realize that being organized will make you calmer, more functional and more in control - and at the same time you’ll be teaching your baby a skill that he will have for the rest of his life. Just think about what you are giving your child! It will become part of their DNA from early on.

2. Can you offer some nitty-gritty advice for people who are naturally disorganized?

a mom folding clothes on a bed

Anyone can learn to be organized – but it takes practice, just like playing an instrument. The best way to be organized is to cultivate good habits. Ritualize what you do so that you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel when it comes to things that you do all the time, whether it’s changing dirty diapers or putting away the baby’s clothes or making your bed. To make something a habit, you have to do it every day for 21 days.

  • One great place to start is making your bed every day. That changes the environment of the room. Otherwise, it’s as if you’re living one continuous day instead of putting one day to rest and starting another.
  • Pay attention to your clothes and change them every day. Sounds basic, but it’s especially important with a newborn or infant, when you may not be able to take a shower every day. Don’t live in your sweats. As soon as you can, get into clothes that make you aware of your body.
  • Don’t let dishes pile up in the sink: That just creates another demoralizing, depressing situation. And when they’re dry, put them away, don’t just leave them in the dish rack.
  • Pay attention to your waste baskets. Don’t let them over flow. Every day, look at all the garbage containers in the house. Do any of them need to be emptied?

3. What Is The #1 Thing To Keep Organized?

The bedroom is a great place to start, and you can apply the steps to organizing a bedroom to any other room, or even the kitchen cabinets. There are three steps to getting organized.

  • Eliminate from your bedroom what you no longer need or want, or what doesn’t belong to you. Make three piles or bags: things to donate, things to recycle, things to return. If you find glasses, plates or coffee cups, bring them to the kitchen.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, set a timer. I call this a speed elimination. Take 10 or 20 minutes or whatever you have, and move like your hair’s on fire. Don’t start saying, “Oh, Aunt Mary gave me this, should we keep it even though we’ll never use it?” If you don’t have the energy - maybe you had a C-section -  consider asking your partner or a friend to do the legwork while you direct them. When it comes to recycling and donating, be sure to follow through and actually get the stuff out of the house. That gives you completion.
  • Completion is a wonderful habit to cultivate. So many people just leave the drawer open after they've taken out what they need. Close the drawer.

4. What are some simple nursery organizing tricks?

I like to see a bookcase in the nursery so the baby has access and is used to looking at books. Also, there are wonderful nets that you can put up above the crib. It’s sweet to position the stuffed animals and toys so they’re looking at the baby. In the beginning, you can have simple containers (like ones from the Container Store) on the floor and keep different types of toys in each one - dolls or stuffed animals in one, blocks in another, pull toys in another, and so on. Use simple clear containers so you don’t have to guess what’s inside, and the baby can see things that are alike grouped together. As the baby grows out of some toys, you can replace them, but keep your system going so the baby can see that like goes with like and that you’re organized. That way, he’ll absorb the basics of organizing by the time he can hold her first teddy bear.

a mom tidying up a nursery

Beware of excess stuff. I think it’s important to look at the room and think about your own childhood experience. Very often, we compensate with our children for things we didn’t have. If you are moved to buy the biggest stuffed animals on Planet Earth, stop and ask yourself, “Am I planning a room that is a healthy environment, physically and emotionally, or am I giving my inner child the kind of room or experience that I would have wanted? Are you overcompensating for what you didn’t have? Less is more. Even if a child has 100 stuffed animals, she’ll still only play with one or two - she can’t even see the other 98. Buying a ton of stuff is a senseless exercise in consumerism.

5. What’s the best way to pack a diaper bag lightly?

You should ask yourself two questions when packing a diaper bag or a purse. Number one: “Do I really need this?” And then look in the bag and ask, “When was the last time I needed this?” When you have to go riffling through a bag, you get upset and then the baby’s going to get upset. It’s very primal. Meagan, my co-author, says, “You leave the house and you take a dozen diapers with you and then you realize, ‘Where am I going that I’m bringing so many diapers with me?’” What’s the baby really going to do?

three piles of disposable diapers

The next step is to categorize the stuff you need by activity and pack by category. Here’s a summary (you can find more details in our book):

Container #1: ointments and aids, like nursing pads and nipple cream.

Container #2: diaper essentials - include a plastic grocery bag to wrap that poop-filled diaper or a washable bag to hold a used cloth diaper, plus a changing pad and a small container of wipes.

Container #3: baby supplies like burp cloths, a little blanket and perhaps a small, foldable sling.

Container #4: baby food and/or bottles and formula or pumped milk (La Leche League says milk will stay fresh at room temperature for four to six hours at room temperature- but bring a little cooler and an ice pack if you have any doubts).

The last container is for things like a pacifier if the baby uses one, emergency food for mom, stuff like that.

6. What’s your time frame for restoring order after the baby?

By month five or six it's probably going to be easy for most moms to fall into a full routine; however, it depends a lot on the birth experience and the individual baby's needs. No mom should feel pressure! You have to give yourself a break - especially in the early months. Organizing does take time.

woman lying on a sofa listening to music

But do keep yourself on the ball. Do the best you can to get back to normal while you’re integrating all these new activities and responsibilities into your life. It’s very important to work hard to establish a schedule and then you know when you can sleep and when you can work on projects. But the new mom needs to balance her need to rest and repair her body with her need to feather her nest. If you burn yourself out, you’re of no use to your baby. Balance.

 
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