My mom keeps telling me every time she comes over for a visit, “Wow, the littlest humans sure have the biggest things!” Bassinet, crib, play yard, stroller (we have a regular one and a fancy-shmancy running stroller), bouncer, swing, play gym, high chair…did I mention my son is only a few months old?
Living in the Northern Virginia area, many families live in homes much smaller than they’d prefer, because space certainly comes at a premium. Most of my friends live in apartments or townhomes, and the few that own single family homes, like my family does, live pretty far out from D.C. in order to afford it.
Our 1960s cape cod is only 1,100 square feet, but it has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a finished basement, so we make it work and have a little room to grow. Yet it still felt that, as we were preparing for our son to enter the world, we were quickly running out of space to put everything. Here are a few tips for managing small spaces and small humans with lots of gear.
1. Carefully Consider What Crosses Your Threshold
o If it doesn’t come into your home, you don’t need a place to store it.
(i.e. Do we really need two different strollers?)
o How long will you use the item for? Can you borrow from a friend?
o If it’s an item you know you’ll want to use for the future, can you easily
collapse/ fold it and store it compactly?
2. “Grow With Me” Items may have more longevity
o An adjustable high chair that can be used for many years
o Open-ended play materials: Legos, wooden blocks, Tangrams, play-dough,
basic arts and crafts materials that can be used in increasingly complex ways as your child grows
3. Multifunctional Items
o A dresser (that your child can use for
decades) with a changing mat on top instead of a separate changing table
and a dresser
o Extra seating that doubles as storage
for blankets, board games, toys, etc. (i.e. coffee table with storage stools)
o Storage bench – some have racks for shoes, others have bins for winter gear or other items you access frequently near the entryway
o A crib that converts to a bed
4. Use Vertical Space
o Use walls and doors for
o Double the hanging space in the closet with extra rods
o Display books on wall-mounted
5. Use Outdoor Space
o Do you have a shed, garage, or
covered parking area?
o Consider a utility bench for outdoor equipment (many come with locks)
6. Rotate Toys and Books
o Children often become overwhelmed
if they have too many choices
regarding what to play with/ read.
o The younger the child, the fewer
choices they need. Babies need only a small handful of options at a given time, then you can rotate through what toys and books are available every few weeks.
o Keep unused items in clear labeled
bins that are out of sight, but easy to
o Drop hints to family and friends who
may want to give your child lots of “stuff" for holidays and birthdays.
o Show them how they can contribute to your child’s college fund or offer some
suggestions of an experience gift you know your child will love (i.e. bowling,
mini golf, a family bike ride or hike, paddle boating, a visit to the local zoo,
going to see a movie).