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‘I just had a baby and I’m a mess!’
Raise your hand if you can relate to this title. I bet most of you reading right now can - or at some point - have been able to. Being a mother is the most amazing experience I have had to date, and bringing a little person that you created into the word is nothing other than extraordinary. But once the ‘newborn high’ has worn off and you are back at home with your little one, things begin to seem very different. All of a sudden, there is a tiny baby who needs you for their every move of every day (and night…) and your once beautiful home may not be looking so beautiful. Some days you may not get a shower and other days getting dressed may seem like the biggest challenge in the world! But let me tell you a little secret… you will survive. And it will get easier. How do I know this? I have recently lived out this scenario myself with my baby boy who is now 3 and a half months old. I have had to learn to do things I have been doing for years differently to cater for his needs as well as my own.
Being organized doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For me I find that I need organization and order in my surroundings to be able to function at my best, and functioning at your best is very important when you have children. Over the last 3 months I have developed some strategies to ensure a smooth flow of our days and to help keep any stressful situations that could arise to a minimum.
- Create a Capsule Wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is basically a mini wardrobe that consists of items of clothing that all work together, are versatile and that you simply LOVE to wear. Now I am not saying to run straight into your closet and get rid of everything – that is a little bit extreme! But slowly start to go through the contents of your wardrobe and sell or donate pieces that you haven’t worn in a while. That item with the tags still attached that you purchased during a Black Friday sale because it was the ‘bargain of the century’? Let me tell you now – if you haven’t worn it yet, you are not going to! When you purchase a new piece of clothing, do so smartly. Think about how many outfits you could create with it, or even if you may already have something similar. I have been following this approach for a while and it makes getting dressed in the mornings a lot easier!
- Get up and get dressed! There is a reason why most people call staying in their PJs a ‘lazy day’ – because it is just plain lazy! Of course there will be days where you need to stay in bed and sleep when baby sleeps and don’t feel bad about that, but just make it the ‘normal’ to get dressed each morning. You will be surprised how much more you accomplish and how much better you feel about yourself from doing this one, easy task.
- Don’t overeducate yourself. This can be very hard to do these days, now that we can Google anything and everything at any moment of the day. I feel like parenting is a game of trusting your instincts and listening to the professionals. You know all of those online forums filled with ‘information’ on parenting? Don’t even bother going there. Read a few books, but not all of them. The clearer your mind is, the more you will be able to focus on what your baby is actually telling you!
- Pack the night before an outing. This is something I have done since we got home from the hospital, and I must say it makes our mornings so easy! Make sure your diaper bag is fully stocked (I leave a pad of post-its in my bag to note down what I need to restock) and also organized (I love my ToteSavvy Diaper Bag Insert!) before you go to bed and leave it by the door or in your car if you have a lock-up garage. That way the only things you need to worry about getting ready in the morning are you and bub! I also have a basket where I keep ‘traveling items’ that we use both at home and whilst out (Pacifier, comforters, Sophie the Giraffe etc) in a central location so I can just reach in and grab what we need as we leave!
- Divide baby’s clothes by size and if possible, hang everything! I don’t use fancy dividers with sizes written on them – I simply have a different colored hanger to mark where his current size stops and the next one starts. I find this works better than specific size dividers because I have found sizing to be quite inconsistent across different brands. If you have the capability, also try to hang as much as you can in a closet. It makes it so much easier to find outfits and see what items you are lacking in.
- Keep a routine journal and develop your own pattern. I did this for the first month or so of my son’s life and found it really helped me to figure out his needs and natural routine. I wrote down in a notebook every time he ate, slept (and how long for) and needed a diaper change. At first it felt like a chore, but once I started to see patterns emerging it was reward for effort!
It is easy to pick up a sleep training book that has been recommended to you by a friend/relative/professional and have high hopes for your little one falling into a routine straight away. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most babies, and then you are left wondering why your little one won’t comply! This in turn creates stress within yourself, which will transfer to your babe. All babies are different and special, and should be treated accordingly. If you find your little one is having trouble sleeping after the 6-9 month mark, that is when I would suggest getting in touch with a professional.
- Tidy up before you go to bed. Now I know this is likely the last thing you feel like doing at the moment when sleep is so precious, but I guarantee even a quick tidy of your main living area before you retire for the day will make such a difference to how you feel when you wakeup! I generally try to clear the kitchen benches and sink, as well as pick up pillows and throws that have been moved about on the couch. If the kitchen table has a lot of items (does anyone else’s kitchen table become the central location to dump anything and everything??) I at least try to put away some of it and organize the rest into neat piles to sort at a later time.
- You don’t need ‘all the things’. Most of us spend a great deal of our pregnancy researching the best of the best baby items and collecting a whole lot of ‘stuff’ for our precious unborn babe. Before you know it, your once beautiful home looks more like a play center than a home of adults! In my opinion, the ‘non-negotiable’ items are a convertible swing (or something similar that has a soothing motion), a play mat for tummy and play time, a great stroller (one thing that is worth investing in – you use it everyday for years!), basic nursery items, a baby carrier such as the ErgoBaby and capsule that attaches to your stroller. Of course there are a lot of little items that are designed to make parenting ‘easier’ and marketed at new parents who want to give their little one the best start to life, but most are unnecessary (Diaper Genie, anyone??). Items such as play centers and walkers can be purchased at a later point if you think your baby would enjoy using items like that – and by that time (around six months), other items around your house like the swing and play mat will be able to be put away as your babe will be ready to move on from those. So that equals less clutter around your home and therefore a clearer mind!
- Keep a small laundry basket for your baby’s items. This may sound strange, but it will help to keep the laundry from piling up! If you have a big laundry basket, human nature will most likely let that basket get near to full before the contents get removed for washing. If the basket is smaller you may be washing more frequently, but it will be a much more manageable quantity. This will also ensure you get enough wear out of all of the outfits you have for your little one. Babies grow so quickly and if an outfit is down the bottom of a washing basket for two weeks, it is almost likely that it wont fit the next time it is clean. You may also find you go out and purchase more outfits than you really need due to items being in the washing basket.
To finish off, I have one bonus tip that I consider to be the overarching element to successful and happy parenting. This is not so much an organizing tip and some may find it slightly controversial, but to me, it is essential. It is OK to put yourself first. Now I’m not talking 100% of the time, but as you feel it is needed. If you never put yourself first, you will find yourself becoming resentful of certain situations. Your baby needs you to be happy. Without that, how can they be happy? Take the time once a day to do something for yourself, that you enjoy. And once a week/fortnight/month – whatever works for your family – take some time off and spoil yourself away from the baby. Personally I enjoy a Mani/Pedi, so this is my choice of ‘Me time’. For others it may be exercise, trip to the movies, shopping – the sky is the limits!
I hope I have helped in someway to make the transition into motherhood seem a little less daunting! Just remember when all fails (and believe me, sometimes it will!) to just stop, look at your precious baby and know that at the end of the day, they are all that really matters.