All this talk of decluttering, tidying up, downsizing, living with less, minimalism -- whatever you call it, we're in an era of scaling back and reevaluating our belongings. But what about when you have kids? More specifically, how do you thin out your closets/attic/under bed when you're pregnant or planning on being pregnant with a second (third, fourth...) child?
Most of us subscribe to the hand-me-down philosophy of reusing clothes and items from one child to the next. So, do you just keep everything? All 32 pairs of baby socks? The bouncy seat your first baby hated? What about the car seat? I'm going to help you answer those questions and more with this list of baby gear sorting suggestions of what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away, recycle, or upcycle.
Prepping for Your Next Baby: Sort and Declutter Your Baby Stuff
Maternity clothes - KEEP most
Just like you would do with your regular clothes, sort through your maternity stash. Considering your budget and means, you may not be able to get rid of items simply because they don't "spark joy," but at the very least, donate items you know you will not wear; mend or clean items you love that are ripped or stained; and for items that can't be donated or repaired, upcycle into kitchen/garage rags or recycle with a program like the fabrics and clothing box from Terracycle.
Books - KEEP some
Pregnancy books, birth books, parenting books, relationship books, baby books, kids' books. So. Many. Books. It's so easy to get attached to a collection of books. Often, the collection as a whole represents more than the feeling a particular book brings. When it comes to your reference books (pregnancy, parenting, etc.), keep those you think you will go back to for information or advice. I have lots of pregnancy books, but truly, there's only about two I referenced again and again.
As for baby and kids' books, keep those that are sentimental or at least enjoyable/valuable and in decent shape. If any book is falling apart, missing pages, or chewed on, get rid of it. You may be able to recycle the book with your regular recycling bin. Call your recycling provider to find out for sure. If you have books in good condition that you don't want to keep, donate them to a local thrift store, library, coffee shop, or doctor's office.
Baby/kid clothes - SORT
In an ideal world, when your older child(ren) outgrew their clothes, you diligently boxed them away, labeled and sorted so that only the items in good condition were kept. Ahem. Reality check? Clothes tossed haphazardly at the top of your child's closet, in stacks falling over, good clothes, bad clothes, and everything in between. So give yourself some time and space and start sorting. Keep the items that are in good shape or those that you can clean or repair (and you actually will clean or repair). If you have 25 of the same size and item, like baby pants size 3-6 months, keep less than 10 of your favorites. Donate the rest (as long as they're in wearable/good shape). Clothing not repairable or wearable can be upcycled or recycled.
Car seat - CHECK
Car seats are vital to your child's safety, which is why it's vital to check the safety of your car seat before you reuse it. There are a few key things to check on a car seat before it's deemed safe. If a car seat has NOT been in a crash, is NOT expired, is NOT missing parts, has NOT been recalled, and the straps have NOT been cleaned with harsh chemicals like bleach, then it is safe to reuse, as long as the seat meets your child's height and weight needs. Learn more about reusing car seats.
Carriers - CHECK, KEEP some
If you ended up with a box-full of baby carriers, slings, and wraps, then it's a good idea to go through them and first, check for safety. Look for worn spots, rips, broken pieces/buckles. If they can safely be repaired, do so. If not, recycle or upcycle as necessary. Then, decide which carriers you want to keep for your next baby. Keeping between 1-3 carriers is reasonable, as certain carriers can be used more easily in different situations, and also, the carriers that worked best for your last baby may not for this baby. It's good to have a couple of options.
Cribs and bassinets - CHECK, KEEP
Baby beds aren't cheap! In most cases, it's a good idea to keep and reuse baby beds. Of course, the most important first step is to check your item for safety -- look for damage, structural wear/weakness, and search for any recalls. You can enter your item into this recall finder at Parents.com or in the CPSC database.
Furniture - KEEP most
Unless the furniture is being used by an older child, it's almost always a sound idea to keep it and reuse it! If there are pieces that are broken or not very functional, consider repair and donation if it's in your budget to buy different items.
Pacifiers and nipples - TOSS/RECYCLE
Pacifiers and bottle nipples are mostly made of silicone or rubber, both of which break down after time, use, and exposure to heat. It's best to toss these out and buy new for your next baby. Unfortunately, at the time of this post, I could not find a service that would recycle silicone at the consumer level.
Bottles - KEEP
Bottles can be safely reused after sterilizing. Of course, if you own 55 bottles, you might just want to consider paring down your collection. Do keep a variety of bottle types, however, as different babies seem to have their own preferences.
Breast pump - CHECK
Depending on the kind of breast pump you own, you can either safely reuse it with new tubing or not safely reuse it. Learn more with this quick explanation on Pumpables.
Blankets, burp rags, bibs - KEEP some
These items tend to get the messiest -- and stay that way. If you have loads, keep the ones that are in the best shape, and assign the rest to rags. For blankets, aim to keep at least five. For burp cloths, keep at least 10. And bibs, keep a variety in different sizes (drool bibs vs. food bibs).
Stroller - KEEP
Few people get rid of their strollers, and for good reason -- they're expensive and useful! Of course, it's important to check the function and safety of your stroller to make sure it's in good working order. You should also make sure it hasn't been recalled.
Diaper bags - KEEP maybe
Did you like your diaper bag? Is it still in good shape? Then keep it! Even if your diaper bag is dirty or the strap is broken, it can often be cleaned (with a little elbow grease) and repaired. If you're handy, you can easily repair a rip. If a piece is missing, look up the company and see if you can reorder. Or, take it to a purse/shoe/belt repair shop near you. If you plan on getting a new bag, clean up your old one and donate it to a shelter that serves parents and children.
Cloth diapers - KEEP most
One of the best advantages to cloth diapers is the ability to reuse them for future children! In most cases, cloth diapers can either cleaned, repaired, and reused.
Towels and wash cloths - KEEP some
I don't know about you, but I ended up with a boatload of baby towels and wash cloths. And they hardly ever got dirty or worn to the point of not being usable. So, go ahead and keep these items, but consider keeping only what you need, which is around 5 or less towels and wash cloths.
Creams, lotions, ointments, soaps - TOSS mostly
Most of these items have an expiration date. If you're having children close together, there's a chance your item will still be usable, but more often than not, it's expired. Throw it out, recycle or reuse the container, and buy new.
Medicine - TOSS
Most medicine expires within a year. Check the expiration, throw it out if it's beyond, or if the expiration date is not visible.
Baby swing, bouncer, high chair, jumper - CHECK
You never know what a baby will take to. In my experience, most babies have their "favorite" item. If you have multiple options for seating/entertainment, keep them. Of course, check for safety and recalls. Make sure straps are intact and the items are free from cracks and broken or loose pieces.
Toys - CHECK, SORT
Babies need very few toys. Parents often end up with way more than anyone needs or wants. Go through your old toys and keep a small sampling of the ones that are in the best shape and were "favorites." Look for any loose or broken parts, and recycle or throw away any toys that cannot be safely used by your child or donated to another child.