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Neatly Contained

I was changing Maddie’s diaper the other day and noticed her snappy crotch was a little harder to snap than it had been.  I couldn’t figure out why – same diapers, same clothes, same girl – until it hit me:  Maddie’s growing! 

Right at nine months now, Madeleine’s just begun comfortably wearing 3-6 month clothing.  Far from being concerned about her lack of growth, I see her diminutive size as a chance to wallow in the teeny tiny baby clothes you usually only get to use for a few weeks.  Madeleine’s been wearing some of these little overalls and onesies for several months now, and I’ve grown a bit attached to them.  I know that when the time comes to move her on to the next size up, I’ll be loath to part with much of her clothing and the memories they represent.  In addition, keeping everything’s important since we pass clothing amongst girlfriends to help keep the cost down.

So when it comes to time change out her wardrobe, how I store things becomes a bit crucial.  Fortunately, organizing is a hobby (though Brian calls it a sickness) of mine and I’ll rise to the challenge joyfully.

How you store perishables you intend to use again will mean the difference between getting multiple uses out of something and having to toss it.  Here’s a few tips from an obsessive-compulsive mommy-

First, think about why you’re storing something.  Is it for sentimental reasons?  Do you intend to use it again, or pass it on to someone else?  This will determine how you store it.  For sentimental storage, it’s about quality, not quantity.  Think about investing in acid-free paper, archival boxes, and so forth.  We put together a small box of memorabilia from baby girl’s birth that includes a copy of the paper the day she was born, her hospital bracelet, newborn hat, etc.  I’ve got it in an archival box to keep the paper from falling apart.  As your baby grows, you may want to buy a nice solid metal footlocker or cedar chest for him or her to use for really special items:  I’ve got a footlocker my mom put together with a few choice pieces of clothing from babyhood through childhood, as well as a couple baby blankets and booties and so forth.  My parents also bought me a cedar chest I kept in my room and filled with “important” memories – favorite purses, first pointe shoes, and so on.  Now that I’m grown, I use the cedar chest to store table linens.  A sturdy plastic tub works just as well, and has the added bonus of being flood-resistant, and you can add cedar plank liners or mothballs to keep your angel’s booties hole-free.  And as a final word on sentimental saving, go through the items periodically to pare down.  You may think it’s vital that you save your child’s entire 0-3 month wardrobe, but a couple years from now you’ll realize you can part with at least two spit-up – stained onesies.

For non-sentimental storage, plastic tubs are a great thing.  They’re waterproof, stackable, easy to get in and out of, easy to see in.  I love them and have several in use.  Just know that you get what you pay for – the tubs I bought at Target, while functional, are not nearly as sturdy and airtight as the ones I got at the Container Store.  When storing in tubs, try to buy clear ones you can see into so as to avoid having to dig through everything to find something, and make sure you label clearly on the outside – “Girl 0-3 months”, or “Boy 6-9 months”.  I adore label makers, and use them way too much, but cheap stick-on name-tags work just as well, and I place them on more than one side so I can see the box name from multiple angles.

If you don’t have room to store several large plastic tubs, consider vacuum bags.  Fill them with your soft goods like clothing or bed linens, vacuum the air out, and you’ve got a lot stored in a small amount of space.  Some places sell bags that don’t need a vacuum cleaner; you simply squeeze the air out.  They’re not as airtight, but cheaper to buy.  Again, make sure you label everything clearly.

For non-clothing items like bouncy seats or car seats, you can buy big tubs or simply enclose the items in a couple of heavy-duty garbage bags.  Tape the bags tightly closed and clearly label the outside.  You want to do some sort of airtight-ish storage so that mold and mildew don’t grow in non-washable spaces like the stuffing of your car seat.  If you fold up your bouncy seat or swing to go back in the original box, consider placing the cloth covers in a large Ziploc before putting it in the box, and taping all the openings of the box to seal it for the same reason.

And some general storage tips – if you’re storing in the basement, try to find a way to elevate your tubs or boxes off the damp floor.  We cruised a couple Home Depots and commercial buildings looking for some discarded wooden flats to use in our basement; they were free and elevate our junk a few inches off the ground.  Before storing, thoroughly wash all baby clothes, swing covers, etc. in baby detergent so they’ll be ready to use.  If you know you’ll probably lend out some of your clothes, put your initials in them while packing them away to avoid having to do it later, and sort out the clothes you would hate to not have returned to you.

And finally, try to lend out as much as possible!  We’ve got baby girl’s clothes spoken for by friends going a year behind us, and are planning on loaning out much of her baby gear such as the bouncy seat as she outgrows them.  This saves us having to store it as much, and gets a lot more use out of a somewhat pricey item.  Just be sure that you 1) make sure it’s clear that it’s a loan, not a gift, 2) put your name clearly and permanently somewhere, and 3) include all instruction books for them to use.  This also works in reverse – borrowing an infant car seat from my girlfriend Sandra meant we don’t have to store one now that she’s outgrown it!

I know there will be some tears and wistful sighs as I pack up Maddie’s current clothing in a few weeks.  On the up side, I can go visit them and reminisce in my basement any time I want.  And she’ll have some special items to look back on when she’s a grown woman planning for her own daughter’s arrival.


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