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toys all over the floor

Spring Cleaning: Baby & New Mom Gear

back to work first months with baby Mar 20, 2023

Around this time of year, I (like many) get the urge to purge, clean, and generally rotate into spring/summer gear. This year, I am practically giddy with anticipation for the day I have the confidence to donate the kids' snowpants that surely won't fit next year. As a confession, I get a delighted rush from cycling stuff we don’t need anymore out; I just feel better when I have just what I need.

While minimalism is certainly not for everyone, the first year with a new baby entails SO MUCH GROWTH, and thus, frequent wardrobe changes for baby (and mom).

In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, here are our tips for what to do with the stuff that is no longer serving you, in 3 sections below: 

  1. General Strategies for Clearing Out items
  2. Baby Gear 
  3. (Birth) Mama Gear 

Note: For families with babies under 18-24 months, every few weeks might be Spring Cleaning time. Actual season of the year is irrelevant. Now that our kids are 4 & 7, we are able to switch out our stuff a couple times/year.

Warning: There are lots of tips and ideas here. Some people like to do a major cleaning/purging event, and other people prefer doing a little at a time (a drawer of clothes, a toy, removing a bassinet) as needed. Use what resonates with you, in whatever way works for you.  

Additional Note: If you are expecting, now is a good time to find a friend, relative, or neighbor with babies/toddlers and ask if you can help them out by taking their outgrown gear! 

1. General Strategies:

  • Find Your Buddy. This is ideally someone (a friend, relative, neighbor, colleague, or connection you make in line for coffee) who is about 6-18 months behind you on the kid train. For many items, your "easy button" for cleaning out can be to pass it on to your buddy.
  • Other avenues for gifting:
    •  Make a donation through an organization like Goodwill and St Vincent de Paul. Ask for a receipt for if you intend to submit for a tax write-off.  
    • Find out if you have a local organization that sources maternity and baby gear to familes in need, for example: your local Women's and Children's shelter, the local foster care office, or a group like Babies & Beyond in the Madison area.  
    • Check with a local childcare center; they often have too much of some stuff and not enough of something else! 
    • Offer up items through social media parent or community groups, posting on the Nextdoor app or other local online venues like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.  
  • Recoup some of your investment by selling your items through online venues like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or in person at stores like Once Upon a Child. Consignment events like those organized by Just Between Friends offer an event opportunity to consign your own items and buy the next size up at a discount. 
    • Side note: I like that Just Between Friends checks items against the CPSC Recall list. 

2. Baby Gear Specifics

Baby stuff - there can be a lot of it, and it can quickly become overwhelming. And keeping outgrown items in the mix can be super frustrating; I know I'm not alone in attempts to put a tiny outfit on a tiny human and realize mid-face that it's too tiny.  

How to Manage THE CLOTHES: 

If you are blessed to have a source of hand-me-downs or gifts of “Still Too Big” items, I recommend sorting it into bags or boxes by size so that you can easily grab the next size up when the time comes. As the clothes become Too Small, I recommend an immediate triage: 

1. Toss it or turn it into something else - for items that are worn hard or pretty gross, break out your scissors. Stained or split clothing can become rags or art smocks; pants can become shorts.   

2. Bag/Box items that are still in good shape. I have personally found a technique called "throw clothes in a closet" to be an effective temporary triage; this involves tossing items into a box in my kiddo’s closet until it's full, and then either a) move it to storage (if you think you might have another baby in your future) with a label (0-3 mon, etc); or b) pass it on/donate it

  • Note: The “throw clothes in a pile in the closet” technique is not new; and I doubt I can claim it as unique intellectual property. It is, I think, preferred over my childhood technique of “throw clothes on the floor”.
  • Emotions running high? Some outfits are tough to put in that giveaway box. I do have a “keepsake” box for each kid with a couple of their early outfits (mixed with artwork, baby footprints, ultrasound pics, etc).  
  • Interested in outsourcing? Consider a rental subscription for baby clothing. Upchoose and Rent a Romper offer services to send you baby clothes as you need them, and take them back when you're done.  

Extra Diapers:

Do you have 5-30 diapers that no longer fit? Beyond the "donation to friend" option, you can also support your local Diaper Bank to help #EndDiaperNeed and leave #NoChildWetBehind. My local Diaper Bank requests donations be in sealed, waterproof containers (like a ziploc). 

Bottles:

Some bottles are recyclable. If not, crafty parents suggest creative upcycles: turn them into art supply or paintbrush containers, or let your kids use them for pretend play.

Toys:

I find this category tends to hang around for a long time; "outgrowing" a toy seems to have a different rubric attached compared to outgrowing clothes. Or perhaps, my kids are more attached to toys that I think they've outgrown than they are to clothes that no longer fit.

Beyond the "General Strategies" listed above, we found some success in the "under 2 years old" phase with an every few month "trade in" routine - especially for larger, (louder) toys, we would keep them for a few months and then make a field trip to Once Upon A Child. Any money we got, we cycled into a new toy that our kid got to pick out (even at 12-18 months, this was an exciting event!). 

Larger functional items - bassinets, Snoos, swings, infant car seats, etc

These items are tricky. Many can be passed on, donated, or sold, but you should check the fine print of your preferred location's website before loading up your vehicle.

Twice a year, you can bring an old, expired or damaged car seat to Target and redeem a coupon. Materials from the old car seats are recycled by Waste Management.  This semi-annual event is happening April 16-29, 2023! As an alternate (though not recommended) option, our infant car seat inadvertently became a backyard toddler recliner for a period of time.

I'll give a nod to the crafty Pinterest parents out there for some great ideas (or at least an evening of impressed scrolling) for creative ways to upcycle some items. In a rare display of sentimental attachment, my husband was himself inspired to turn the rails of our baby sidecar crib into a laundry hanging rack. 

3. (Birth) Mama Stuff

Maternity & Nursing Clothes + Confronting your Pre-Pregnancy Closet

First, an ode to Maternity Pants: I didn't love being pregnant, but I did love you, amazingly comfortable maternity pants. You showed me that a well-sewn button can make what would otherwise be a yoga pant acceptable for client meetings. I know that I wore you for many months beyond what either of us expected, beyond what others might consider "normal", and I appreciate that your seams held together for the duration of our relationship. While all things come to an end at some point, the thought that you are still out there, finding new life as you support the growth of new life, brings me joy. 

On to practicalities. When you're ready, you can use the general strategies of gifting, donating, or selling your maternity/nursing wear. A tip to broaden your options - you don’t need to be the same size as someone to share maternity clothes. You may just end up using them in different phases of the pregnancy than each other if you are different heights or body compositions.

If you’re feeling brave with Spring Fever and have the ambition to go through your pre-pregnancy clothes, or have recently been inspired by Marie Kondo, consider an afternoon (or morning, etc) of clothes sorting. Invite a friend over for company, solidarity, accountability, and to help entertain your kid. My recommended categories:

  • Ditch - you’ve worn these out and can no longer discern which stains are food, vomit, or milk. 
  • Donate - these have served you well and can live another life on someone else’s body. Or, you never really wore it much, turns out you don’t really like it or feel good in it (never has or no longer sparks joy). Personal note: After my first baby, my hips were bigger, and the cute jeans I bought a month before getting pregnant didn’t pull up any higher than mid-thigh. For me, it seemed unlikely that my hips were magically going to narrow in anytime soon. Those went in the donation pile.  
  • Dearly Beloved (Keep for later/sentimental) - it doesn’t fit (yet) but you love it. Put it in the back of the closet or box it. 
  • Wear Now - Hooray! Front of the closet status. 

An alternate option for dealing with your pre-pregnancy clothes: Keep them in the back of the closet until you’re in the mood. If you are never in the mood, consider moving and leaving them for the next occupant. 

Most postpartum bodies go through an evolution - as hormones adjust, breastfeeding regulates or ends, exercise re-enters life, etc. For these few months or couple years, consider renting as your sizes change! Having clothes that feel good and fit well can provide a real confidence boost, and there are some fun options choose from, saving you from investing time and money on a wardrobe that you don't intend to keep for long. Here are lists from Vogue and MySubscriptionAddiction to peruse for what fits your style.

The Weird Miscellaneous Mom Gear

Hopefully you had this strange postpartum gear during the fleeting window of time when it's most useful. For anything unused and disposable, pass it on! No sense keeping Magical Underwear to yourself! For reusable items, here are a few ideas as you round out your Spring Cleaning activities:

  • Reusable nursing pads - Honestly, I’m sure I threw mine out, but I can now envision a scenario where I would use them to remove nail polish. Other ideas include using them as makeup removers or creating hemorrhoid pads (add some witch hazel). Best to not mix and match between those categories. 
  • Nipple Creams/Ointments - If unopened, then you can keep for the future, donate or pass them on to a friend. If they are opened or have an expiration date, you can either revel in the feeling of clearing space on your shelf/in your medicine cabinet or check out these suggestions from The Bump.
  • Perineal Squirt bottles/Sitz Bath
    • If you can't recycle or don't want to trash your Perineal bottle, there are a few repurposing ideas here ("kid bidet" seems appropriate, and "writing in the snow" is a funny one). 
    • Places that take used Durable Medical Equipment (DME) donations are good options for your Sitz Bath. Many of the general community donation options mentioned earlier take used DME (verify before you go).
  • Breast Therapy coldpacks - We used these for a long time as cold packs for toddler owies; they are more gentle than a hard ice pack, and that boob shape fits around knees pretty well.   
  • Breast pumps 
    • Closed System pumps can be donated or sold through many of the avenues discussed above.  
    • Spectra recommends recycling your pump at a local appliance or PC recycling center. Medela offers their own recycling program.

Happy "Spring" Cleaning! 

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