Simple Family

Returning to Simple

Early motherhood, for me, was a fog of overwhelming joy and stunning sleep deprivation.

That sleeplessness extended over half a year. For while my baby was a total joy, a ball of smiles and happiness all day, sleeping multiple hours at a time was, ummm, shall we say "not her strength."

This lack of sleep profoundly altered my life. Certainly in all of the predictable ways like drinking too much coffee, experiencing "heightened" emotional states (ask my husband about this...actually, don't), and craving every carbohydrate in the world. But being so soooo tired also dramatically reduced my willpower and focus to follow through on certain behaviors that had previously seemed effortless.

I knew in having a baby that things would change, some of my old standards would have to give... I was, however, surprised by how quickly older, more insidious habits came racing back.

I knew in having a baby that things would change, some of my old standards would have to give. The kitchen might not be totally tidy before bed each night. I would probably not do laundry until I was faced with the very last pair of underwear in my drawer. Maybe the dog wouldn't get his breakfast until mid-morning some days. 

I was, however, surprised by how quickly older, more insidious habits came racing back, e.g. online shopping.

To be clear: shopping online for the necessities of a newborn whose needs are urgent and continually evolving is something I can stand behind. If there was ever a time to stay in your jammies and let the stuff come to you, it's when you have a colicky infant in the middle of winter.

 My little ball of joy.

My little ball of joy.

But once I got back into the habit of shopping, my definition of necessity started to slide. The one type of pacifier that will let your baby sleep in several hour stretches? Necessary. But what about the couple of extra cloth diapers to help you eek another day out your laundry? Or baby wash clothes (bamboo! organic!)? Or that amazing teether that everyone swears by?

It is SO easy to shop online. Case in point: "one-click" shopping. This is why, when I became a new minimalist, I gave it up almost entirely. If you don't have your defenses up, your blinders on, and your wits about you, you too might end up ordering an infant sized black robe, large bib necklace, and "I Dissent" pin in April. You know, just in case.

 But you get how I fell for this, right? image //  via . 

But you get how I fell for this, right? image // via

The other thing I've found about being a new parent is that I am constantly humbled. My body grew an entire human and I also sometimes leave my car keys in the refrigerator. So I honor what I'm coming through, grant myself some grace, acknowledge that I was doing the best I could. 

My little sister taught me a while back that instead of saying "I don't have time" try saying "It's not a priority." Because in reality we do have time for the very most important things. If, when you say, "it's not a priority" about something that statement feels bad and untrue? Well then it's time to make some adjustments.

For me, getting back to my simpler, slower, more mindful life is a priority. Both for me and to model for my daughter.

6 Ways to Stay Simple and Sane With a Newborn

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The first thing people ask when they find out that I've just had a baby is "How is trying to be a minimalist with a newborn?" 

Some people are undoubtedly waiting for me to admit how much harder it is to be a minimalist once you have a family (which it is and it isn't), craving a little hit of schadenfreude imagining me weeping under a pile of blinking, talking plastic toys. Others are genuinely hoping for any advice or tips I might have to help them deal with their clutter. 

Since my daughter is still so very new and I am so very new at being a parent, I won't even pretend to have it figured out (the first thing I learned as a parent is just how little I know about parenting:). But I can share what is working for our family right now as we attempt to stay simple and sane with a newborn.

 

1) Don't buy ahead of time.

Don't try to buy things now that you anticipate needing later. There are two reasons for this. One, your child might surprise you with the number of preferences and variety of needs they have from the get-go. For example, your daughter might not like the orthodontic approved, top of the line, European rubber pacifier you got her no matter what you try. This also applies to swaddles, swings, diaper brands, as well as material of onesies. You don't know if he or she will run hot or cold, if they'll be a spitter or not, if they'll have a million diaper blowouts or only poop once every few days. Its helpful to observe your baby and see where she naturally leans before investing time and money acquiring new baby gear.

Second, your own preferences and needs will evolve and perhaps surprise you as well.  I, for example, didn't realize that I would only like onesies with snaps as opposed to zippers. Zippers seemed so much easier. But then Lark was born in the heart of winter and snapping onesies allowed her top half to stay dressed and swaddled during cold middle of the night changes. Happy baby, happy parent.

2) Borrow.

Here's the thing about newborns and infants: besides for pooping or spitting up, they do very little to wear out their belongings. Blankets, toys, swings, or clothing can be passed on a dozen times before they fully wear out. Lark is wearing clothes that were purchased for my oldest nephew six years ago and are still going strong five cousins later. Don't have a big family to beg from? Don't worry! Most parents I know are happy to lend out or giveaway items that their kids are finished with. Let people know that you are looking and I promise what you need will appear.

3) For bigger ticket items, try to buy it used.

There are some larger items that you can reasonably anticipate needed and that are harder to temporarily borrow friends because of size or cost like: a car seat, stroller, crib, or carrier. Most of these items are readily available secondhand if you give yourself time to lo cate them. Even here in Boise, I was able to find most large items we needed on our local craigslist, nextdoor and letgo. If you're in a major US city like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, or New York, there is a good chance you can find every single thing you need right in your neighborhood!

4) Wait a few days...

It can be hard to know with a baby if they are entering a new phase with new needs or simply had a one-off experience. For example, if your baby had a terrible night of sleep and then slept like an angel in her daycare's rock'n'play, you will probably want to run out and buy one right now! But instead of immediately assuming that you need an object, give yourself and your kiddo a day or three to see if it was a one-time event, a super brief phase, or a longer lasting need.

5) ...But when you really, really need it, get it any way you can.

There is an urgency to having a new baby. They wake up SO hungry every couple of hours. They sleep in brief segments. Days turn into 8 or 10 or 15 cycles of eat, burp, change, sleep. If there is something that you realize you really need and you can't borrow or wait to find used, go get it. Be kind to yourself. Especially if it's related to a key basic need like eating or sleeping. For example, our daughter had terrible reflux early on and I learned at 6 weeks that a wedge pillow could fit under her co-sleeper and help her feel better, keep her food down, and get some sleep. I ordered that badboy on amazon about 10 seconds after a friend texted me about it. And to be completely honest, had Amazon offered a "within the hour" drone drop off in exchange for giving my social security number to Russian bots, I would have considered it. Desperate times:)

6) Pay it forward. 

When Lark was a few weeks old and I was debating ordering every type of swaddle in existence to find one that worked, a friend with a toddler brought over a couple for us to try out. She then almost off-handedly but earnestly said, "Before you buy anything, just text me. If we have it I'll bring it over." It was a small gesture but it saved me on numerous occasions. Not just from buying stuff we didn't need, but it also made me feel seen and supported and like there were people looking out for us. We in turn now have a number of friends with kiddos set to arrive at any moment with whom we've offered our grab bag of various pacifiers, an infant swing, birth-recovery icepacks and medications, and beginning-to-breastfeed herbs. But most importantly we've been sure to let them know that we're here if they need anything: swaddles, soups, or just to know someone close by has their back. Because as Zac Efron so wisely stated in High School Musical, we're all in this together.

We have a number of friends with kiddos exactly our daughters age and a few who are set to arrive at any moment. One friend said, and this was amazing, "before you buy anything, just text me and if we have it I'll bring it over." Something as small as that, and letting people know you really mean it, is amazing. We, in turn, have shared with friends our grab bag of various pacifiers, an infant swing, as well as birth-recovery and beginning-to-breastfeed herbs, medications, and various sundries.