I am so excited to have Colleen, blogger at Slow Simple Life, as a guest today. She is doing something many would find unimaginable. She is having a baby AND moving into a tiny house, pretty much at the same time. Colleen is going to share how she downsized in preparation for this change.
Making Room for Baby: How to Downsize While Expecting
At the end of this year, I’ll be attempting to combine two seemingly incompatible things: a new baby and living in a tiny house.
The baby is due at the beginning of November; the tiny house is due a month later, and joining me and the baby will be my 10-year-old daughter, our black lab and our cat. My partner, who lives in another town with his son, will join us when he can. It’s going to be a very full tiny house.
Having these two major life changes come together at the same time has brought up an interesting situation: how do you downsize when you’re going to have a new baby? Babies come with all kinds of specialized equipment, don’t they?
The answers to those two questions are 1. very deliberately, and 2. Yes. Yes they do.
It’s been especially interesting as three different sets of friends want to throw us baby showers, giving us stuff as we try to pare down our belongings from a 975-square-foot condo to a 270-square-foot tiny house. It has helped to remember that people want to give gifts that you’ll use. This can work to your advantage, because with a new baby you are inevitably going to need some stuff, even if you’re trying to jettison 80 percent of your belongings, or just clear a little bit of clutter.
What I have learned is that these two life events can in fact be compatible; it just takes good communication, being deliberate and perseverance.
Start with good communication.
Good communication is the foundation of so much in our lives, and downsizing is no exception. Talking to your fiends and family, letting them know what you’re doing and why, helps your cause. For us, this has been crucial.
It’s no secret that we’re moving into a tiny house: I talk about it whenever I can, and people are naturally curious. When those who are unfamiliar with tiny homes ask how big ours will be, their eyes grow wide when I tell them. Understanding that my entire house will be the size of their kitchen helps them grasp the kind of room we’ll have to keep all our regular stuff plus baby things. And, being our loved ones, they usually want to respect our space and lifestyle.
So if you’re looking to downsize and you’re expecting, don’t hesitate to let people know what you’re doing. Tell them early and often. Everyone can relate to the need to make room for the baby.
This communication has laid the groundwork for our downsizing. Friends and family want to be supportive, and they’ve had enough time to really get what we’re doing, so they’re willing to work within our parameters.
Be deliberate about your registry.
Those parameters are set through … the baby registry! Whoever invented gift registries was a genius and a great friend of downsizers everywhere. That may seem counter-intuitive, but babies can come with lots and lots of stuff. Lots. But a registry is great because people will use it to get you things you really want and need. If you’re thoughtful about registering and include only what you know you’ll use, you can avoid most of the extraneous things that just become clutter.
Registering for gifts, however, can be tough. This is where you have to decide if you really need something, and baby stuff is all just so cute. If you’re a first-time parent, getting bombarded with ads and well-meaning loved ones telling you what you must have if you hope to be a good parent, it can be nearly impossible to determine what you must have. Just remember: diapers, clothes and food, and you’ll be fine. You can also include a range of items at different prices so people can buy things individually, or go in together on big-ticket items.
Try to be deliberate about registering for the sake of your space and of sparing your future self from tripping over stuff you never use. Register for the basics — the aforementioned diapers, clothes, food (think breast pump, bottles, etc.) — and add on from there. We did this, and found that our list wasn’t that extensive. We also found that lots of baby stuff is geared toward small apartments now, which means our tiny home won’t be overwhelmed by giant baby things.
You also don’t have to be totally utilitarian about the list either; it can include a few items just for fun. I asked for a super-soft tummy time mat in the shape of an elephant. It’s not a necessity, but it’s cute, soft and cuddly. I have already found it on my daughter’s bed, so I have a feeling it’ll get a lot of use, and not all from the baby.
Of course, you’ll get a few things you didn’t expect or register for, but that’s where perseverance comes in.
Keep on downsizing.
While most people understand downsizing and want to respect your space and give useful gifts, there are still those who think what they want to get you is best or who will try to pawn off their kids’ old stuff on you.
You are the one who has to live in your space, so you get to say what comes into it. Hand-me-downs that are in poor condition are easy to refuse. Try “I’m sorry, we just don’t have the room’,” or “Thanks, but we’ve already got one (or several).”
But what about gifts? First, be polite: Thank the giver for their generosity and accept the gift. Later, you can snap a photo of the baby using it and send it on to the giver. You can also exchange it for something you need or pass it on to someone who could use it.
Because the thing is, you’re not going to keep most of this stuff anyway, and everyone knows it. So if there’s something you or the baby doesn’t like or use, why hang onto it? Persevere in your decluttering. Continue to get rid of extraneous stuff periodically and donate what you don’t need — there are plenty of mothers who could use it! We like to keep a “donation box” by the door where we put things destined for a new home. Once the box fills up, we ship it out. With a baby growing out of things by the minute and a tiny space to keep everything, I have a feeling our donation box will get heavy use.
Downsizing with a baby on the way is possible, and you don’t have to be moving into a tiny house to do it.
Colleen Valles is a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. She’s on a journey to do just that, and blogs about simplifying, tiny house living, doing what you love and living a creative life over at SlowSimpleLife.com.