Minimalism, baby

I’ve been wanting to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for some time now. The author argues that we should be asking ourselves a very specific question as we consider what items we should keep in our home:

Does it spark joy?

I have to admit — in our tiny apartment, so many things do not spark joy for me. I have work to do. A lot of work! But let’s start with something manageable, yes? As we are preparing to welcome our first baby into this crazy world, I find myself contending with all the stuff.

There seem to be two camps — the “newborns don’t need much more than a place to sleep, some diapers, and a few changes of clothes”, and what I’ll call the Baby Industrial Complex. The latter tries to lure you into buying all the stuff with horror stories of babes calmed only by this special product (costing just one arm and one leg, and taking up a sizable fraction of the nursery floor space). I think the truth is somewhere in between. Newborns do actually need some stuff.

It’s in my nature to minimize what we get. I don’t want all the stuff. And yet… our list is growing and looking more like what I once thought to be so ridiculous. Watching it grow makes me decidedly unhappy. I find myself considering things that I don’t want, simply because others insist so strongly that they are life savers:

  • A mechanical swing (“It was the only thing that calmed our crying baby.”)
  • A stroller frame, or wheels for your car seat (“Taking the baby out of the car seat and into a carrier is sure to wake him up.”)
  • A breastfeeding pillow (“The baby will latch and feed better, and your nipples won’t be so sore.”)
  • Sophie la Giraffe (“Babies adore Sophie.”)
  • A video monitor (“You will have so much more peace of mind being able to see in the crib without walking in and risking waking the baby.”)
  • An activity gym (“Bright colors and different textures are important for developmental growth.”)
  • A baby towel (“Babies can get cold very easily, and the hood helps them stay warm.”)
  • A diaper bag (“They’re designed to easily organize baby’s necessities like diapers, wipes, changing pads — and who wants to be digging around with one hand trying to find something when baby needs you?”)
  • A pack-n-play (“You will need this when you go to Grandma’s house.”)
  • A stroller (“You could use a carrier, but your back might ache on longer walks, and your baby might not like being in a carrier.”)

Sure, we could do without all of these things, and I yearn to simplify, but is this the right time? Or is this the time to make things as easy as possible on ourselves, given how many challenges already await us in the coming months?

What do you think — should we get all the stuff? Even if it does not spark joy? How do you handle this balancing act? Happiness via minimalism, or happiness via convenience?

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5 thoughts on “Minimalism, baby

  1. What I did when I was pregnant was to google a list of absolutely essential items a newborn baby needs. I bought everything on that list and … wasted a ton of money and accumulated junk in the process.

    Perhaps only a meager handful are truly essential items as nature already equipped us with the basics and you won’t know what most of those are until the baby is there already. If I could do it again I would definitely wait it out and buy only what I needed at the time – and you won’t need it all at the same time. Happiness via minimalism in my case 🙂

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    1. This is so helpful, Paardje! Our situation is made a little tricky because we have family offering us a ton of hand-me-downs, which is great in theory but… they have so much stuff! If we turn something down now, then we’ll have to buy it later… so it’s hard to know what to keep “just in case”! Your experience is really helpful to hear about though. Thanks for sharing!

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      1. Oh that is true. On the other hand you are very blessed to have all those people fussing over you 🙂 In that case, I’d say bask in it and allow them to share in your joy. Keep the reservation for when it’s you who’s getting carried away at the babies’ section 😉 (God knows I was!)

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  2. I hear you on the two camps and the struggle to keep the “necessities” to a minimum! It’s HARD! If it’s helpful, I can tell you we’ve had three boys and it seems that with each one the list of necessities got smaller… With number three for the first year my list looks something like this – Diapers and wipes, a few clothes, a pack-and-play (we take a lot of trips so it’s been super helpful), a few blankets, crib, a couple of toys, a bottle, a breast pump, a pack of three bibs for later in the first year, convertible car seat, sun hat. We have a few other things for baby, of course, but those items are really all that have seen much use. Oh! And an old fan we had laying around in a closet. Awesome for white noise when he’s having a tough time sleeping as it helps him drift off into la-la land.

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