Well, I meant to write this post 2 months ago when R was 9 months old, but time went by and I didn't. Every 3 months or so there seems to be a big change in her developmental and environmental needs, and along with it comes a slew of recommended toys and material goods. Mostly nonsense, and thus the reason I’m writing this post.
Babies don’t need a lot of stuff. They need space to crawl and sprawl and explore. They need to know their parents are close by. They need cuddles and snuggles and kisses. And they need their basic needs met. Everything else are the cherries on the cake.
But before I get into the details, I should clear up a few things, like what exactly is minimalism? I always wince a little when I write about it because to some I'm not minimalist enough, and to others, I seem extreme. It's kind of like talking about the weather- it depends on the person you ask. Some might say it's hot, others might say it's warm, and if you ask a Snow Bird from Florida they'll say it's chilly.
My view of minimalism takes 2 things into account: do I love it, and do I need or use it? When I'm deciding what I keep around for R I take it a little further and ask myself these 4 questions:
Who is doing the thinking - this object or R?
How did the cave women get along before this was ever invented?
Is this redundant?
Does this fill a legitimate need, or do I just want to buy it because it's cute or cool or trendy?
These questions help me narrow things down a lot and have kept me many times from purchasing those adorable stuffed animals with impossibly large eyes.
I suppose this is the part where I should talk about why this is my approach with R. Why not stock a nursery to the ceiling with brightly colored toys and small squares of blankets and plastic things that blink and shout? Why shouldn't I give her everything I can possibly provide? Why does she only have 3 stuffed animals for goodness sake?
And here's my answer: I think a lifestyle that goes deeper and not wider is the best, most fulfilling, and the one with the biggest returns on investment. I can clearly see this is true for R. Babies are easily overwhelmed and do better with a pared-down environment, and she is no exception to this. She already has a short attention span, and when there is too much to see she jumps from one thing to the next even more. Less is definitely best.
So let’s get into the details, shall we?
To start, here’s what we don’t have:
Crib/ Bassinet (we co-sleep)
Strollers (we carry in arms or in our carriers)
Playpen (we’ve baby-proofed, so she roams free)
No bottles (I breastfeed)
No walkers or bouncers (she’s free range)
Here’s what we do have:
A few stuffed animals.
Small baskets to store the little things.
Wooden thread spools, sea shells, rocks, and polished stones.
Mini bread tins.
An old wooden roller.
Small wooden dowels, bowling pins, and oddly-shaped objects.
An assortment of different kinds of spoons and scoops and whisks.
A play silk scarf.
Board books and bedtime books.
A collection of brightly colored blocks in all shapes and sizes.
Jars filled with colorful beads.
A vintage Cupie doll.
Measuring cups, a stainless steel strainer, and 2 vintage double-handled cups she’s learning to drink out of.
A Kleen Kantene sippy cup that she’s not yet strong enough to hold up.
A banana-shaped teether, 2 mesh feeders, and a silicone mold for baby food.
A small basket of rubber bath toys.
All the extras beyond playthings:
Plastic dish tub (the most amazing hack for a safe and fun baby bathtub)
Oogiebear (booger remover)
Hooded bath towel
A few handmade baby blankets from R’s gran and aunt
An Ergo carrier
1 Baby gate
And that’s it. Well, not really. I have a small-ish sized Rubbermaid container that I keep clothes in for R-one that she can’t fit into just yet. I love to have at least the coming season’s worth of clothes prepared, along with a pair of rain boots, thick moccasins, and winter outer-wear that are quite a bit larger than she is right now. While I’m a devoted minimalist, I do a small bit of preparation in case of emergencies.
I also love the theory of loose parts, so am always looking through the shelves of thrift stores for random and odd things to collect for when R is a wee bit bigger. I keep a smaller container inside of the Rubbermaid that houses all the bits and pieces I bring home.
Right now, R’s crawling around like a maniac, and spends most of her time enamoured with tee shirts, paper, sunglasses, hats, pots and pans, and my dear book collection. Its funny what babies find fascinating, and yet another reminder that what they don’t need (or want) is a bunch of loud plastic toys cluttering up the place.
So this is what minimalism with a baby looks like in my house. But here’s the real point I want to make: that everyday I make a conscious and firm decision to say no to a lot of things. Not out of some sense of frugality or because I’m trying to be austere, but because I’m saying yes to a deeper and more fulfilling life for me and my family. I’m saying no to extra and unnecessary stuff so that I can say yes to beautiful and fun and useful things that I want. I’m saying yes to allowing R the space and time to explore her environment without overwhelm and distractions. And I’m saying yes to going deeper and not wider.
And as always, let’s continue the conversation in the comments below. What’s your view on minimalism with a baby?