Preparing for the arrival of a baby is daunting for many reasons. Not least of all because it requires purchasing so many items you've never given a single thought.
Everyone — your neighbor, your great-aunt, your college roommate — will give you advice. It's easy to be sold on the idea that you need this, that and, oh, definitely that other thing. But as my kids have grown and while I've watched organizing clients' kids grow over the past decade, I've realized many of us wish someone had given us different advice. Here is what I've learned.
I recommend that new parents skip the changing table and opt instead for a large dresser with the changing pad placed on top. Choose a dresser that will accommodate your kids' clothes as they grow. If you get one sized for those itty-bitty onesies and tiny tops and pants, you'll have to buy another one when your kids are 4 or 5; the clothes get bigger, too. Also think about the furniture's style and whether the design will endure.
The same concept holds for bookshelves. If you start small because you have only a dozen board books, you'll find that you need to replace or supplement the bookshelf within three to five years. Instead, use the vertical space in the room and buy something taller. The higher shelves are perfect for displaying photos, special keepsakes and awards in the years ahead. And even if the bookshelf sits half-empty for a year, it will be full before you know it. Here again, go for something with a timeless design, so that if you need to use the bookshelf elsewhere, it will fit in with the rest of your home's decor.
Although I think it's wise to buy a crib that converts into a toddler bed, especially if you're tight on space, I know only a few people who have actually converted their crib to a toddler bed. They either end up passing along the crib to a second child or aren't able to make the conversion because they've misplaced the necessary components.
If your kids' rooms are on the small side or if they're sharing a room, a toddler bed can be ideal. But if you have enough space, it's more cost-effective and less trouble to go straight to a twin bed when you're moving your child out of the crib. It may mean that the mattress sits on the floor for a time during the transition or that you find it necessary to buy a bedrail. Bypassing the toddler bed will not only save you money, but you'll also have one less thing that requires effort to get rid of when you're finished with it.
When buying a twin bed, many parents contemplate whether to buy a trundle. Generally, I think trundles are a wise investment, and it's best to buy them when you're buying the bed frame in case the model is later discontinued. But your child is not going to start having sleepovers at age 2 or 3, so hold off on buying the additional twin mattress with the trundle and use it instead to store blankets, stuffed animals or clothes that your child has yet to grow into.
Another item people often regret buying is a rocker specifically marketed for nurseries. It is nice to have a chair in the baby's room, and if it rocks, that's a bonus. But the styles and fabrics of rockers sold in baby stores don't transfer easily to another room once you're finished with them. Go with something more conventional so that it can grow with the child or be used in another room eventually. Many of the popular chain stores carry rockers and gliders in a variety of colors and patterns that don't scream "baby rocker."
Other items that have been known to suck parents in are character-themed products. None of us want to believe we're sacrificing something fun or cute for our children simply because it won't match our home's aesthetic, so we cave and buy the themed rug, bookshelf, chair or lamp. But any large item that is character-themed is not going to be a great investment. If your child is obsessed with a character, movie or collection, go for themed throw pillows, blankets or wall decals.
None of these decisions will affect your child's well-being, of course, but they can affect yours. Every parent will tell you how quickly time flies when you're raising a child. It's a good thing to keep in mind as you buy furnishings for their room.