Expert mom advice: Organizing tips and tricks

Click here to view the full magazine article

Though small and cuddly, babies bring a host of issues that are ever changing. And it does get overwhelming. As a mom of sixteen children, five of which are my own and eleven which are my husband's, our house gets overwhelmingly cluttered with not only toys and clothing, but also lunch boxes, backpacks, soccer shoes and a host of other childhood objects. I know how difficult it can be. In fact, it drove me to find a solution. I've found the easiest way to maintain some control is through what I call the grouping technique.

Let's imagine you are running off to the doctor's office with the diaper bag, and arrive only to find out you are out of diapers or wipes. I'm sure it's happened to all of us, and we realize the distractions of the baby or a phone call can short-circuit our memory for even the most simple tasks. It took several kids for me to figure out that grouping items is the easiest way to be prepared for almost anything. My favorite grouping technique is to use basic zip-up plastic bags. I've found the most useful type is usually the freezer weight. Each morning, I gather my travel items and make sure they are all loaded with the proper items in case I need to go out. Then I am ready to go if I get a sudden phone call, or I am faced with an emergency.

the diaper bag

Try taking a gallon-sized zip-up bag and filling it with a few disposable diapers, a small wipes container and add in one or two grocery bags for diaper disposal. Then, label the bag changing supplies. You could also add a small pad or cloth to put the baby on when you are stranded in a bathroom with no changing table. You can make up multiple changing bags if you have several children in diapers. At one time, I had four in some type of disposable diaper and having a bag ready for each of them made life so much simpler.

Once you've put the changing supplies in your diaper bag, you're ready to add another bag-This one will be for feeding supplies. If you are nursing, put in a few nursing pads, a thin cloth to drape over your shoulder when nursing or any other item you find essential. If you have a bottle-fed baby, then make a bag with one or two empty bottles, a bottle washer, and dry formula measured out and put inside the bottle. That way, you only need to add water. Keep a bottle of water in it too, if you like. If your baby eats baby food, then make up a feeding bag with food, plastic ware, a bib, disposable wipes and a change of clothing or a clean top. I like to use old t-shirts as bibs so I don't have to change outfits after a feeding. You also better throw in another grocery bag to put the dirty clothes and bibs into when feeding is done.

Your diaper bag has a small changing bag, a feeding bag, and now we're adding a bag for you. Fill a small bag with feminine products and other essential items, including flushable wipes. This let's baby be prepared, as well as you.

Next, put your most essential items in a small purse: wallet, keys, and debit card. If you have to run out of the house quickly without your baby, you grab this small purse and go. If you have to take your baby, your bag is in the diaper bag already, so you know you will not forget it.

You may also want to take a tiny home first-aid kit for boo-boos. Band-Aids, antiseptic cream, wipes, a grocery bag, and tissues are usually enough for the basic problems and it takes up very little room.

I usually added a small office bag with a checkbook, pen, stamps, an envelope, and small notepad, so I can jot down any thoughts that came to mind that I need to take care of later. I also do not go anywhere without my day planner. I make appointments from that one calendar so I never double schedule myself anymore. Put your PDA here if you use one.

Notice that everything is waterproofed. Between bottles, wet clothes and rain, it is a must!

bath and bed time

Naturally, infant bathing is a very delicate thing. Most hospitals remind parents to always keep everything in arms reach. Not only is this a convenience, but also could save your baby's life. What about toddlers and preschoolers? All those toys and an active toddler in the water could mean disaster if you have to turn your back for a minute. Try putting all the toys in a plastic bin that you set aside when others need the bath. Keep a basket with clean cloths, baby bath soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste and any other items you use to make bath time a fun event.

Grouping all your children's favorite books on a shelf or two or even a basket is also a good idea to make bed time stories easier to find. Do not feel your child has to have access to all your children's books. Most preschools pre-select books for the week or even the day. The choice is still the child's, but at least you can have some participation in that choice this way.

kitchen fun

Have you considered grouping your coloring books and crayons in a kitchen drawer or basket near the table? You are less likely to get crayon marks on the walls if they are up where only you can reach them, yet they are easy enough to grab should you feel the notion to color with your child. In addition, if the crayon markings get on the table, you will have right there another item that helps with the clean up--moist towelettes. Use another bag or basket if you have no available drawers.

For feeding, keep a box, bin or basket with all the baby's items like bibs, spoons, bowls, plates, baby wipes, and sippy cups in a convenient location. I use a large drawer in my kitchen so the kids can grab them and set the table for themselves and then they can easily take them out of the dishwasher to put them away. Should the kids wander into the kitchen to play with kitchen things, they usually go for the drawer with all their own plastic items, so no broken dishes are found on the floor. Drop a surprise, like a cookie cutter shape, in the drawer from time to time as well to keep them interested. Making something special out of ordinary moments is the stuff childhood memories are made of.

necessary quiet moments

I highly recommend as few as possible. Children take pleasure in discovery. Keeping items around that they have already discovered the use of will bore them and clutter your home. Keep items handy that cultivate a new discovery over and over again or postpone discarding items like shoe boxes, toilet paper rolls, etc. Put such items in a box or several smaller bins for your child to access at playtime. You will save a lot of money and your child will be happier not pursuing the latest gadgets. He will concentrate more on the fun of banging a plastic cooking spoon on a shoe box. Better yet, you can show him how to color the shoe box or even let him glue pasta all over it while you cook.As you can imagine, once you start, you'll find yourself gathering your child's things and grouping them to have them ready for when you need them. The secret to success is to keep them out of reach so they are still ready when you really need them!


Don't you hate it that the kids always know when they must be quiet? And that is when they really get noisy of all times! So a great solution to this is a special box for times like these. I called mine the "phone box" because my kids would always get louder when I was trying to conduct business on the phone. I took a simple basket and collected items they could play with only at those times. I threw into the basket a bunch of fun items: a deck of cards, a textured ball, a quarter-sized bouncy ball, and a small photo album. Now you can even buy art supplies that will not mark on anything other than paper. Save that art project for "quiet time."

As you can imagine, once you start, you'll find yourself gathering your child's things and grouping them to have them ready for when you need them. The secret to success is to keep them out of reach so they are still ready when you really need them!

Deborah Peers is the mother of sixteen, grandmother of three. Visit her blog at

Return to March 2008 list of articles