Minimizing in the home is fantastic but because we are creatures who move, your home is not the only place that can be simplified. For many, travel - whether it’s to the grocery store or on a plane - is too daunting a task to take on with kids. For so many parents, getting out of the house is a project. Parents feel like they have to prepare for every scenario when packing up the diaper bag because you want to be prepared for the worst. Babies are unpredictable and not being prepared for a blowout or equipped with an extra pacifier should your little one throw theirs somewhere unreachable can seem like a disaster.
Therefore, the diaper bag is overstuffed. Perhaps your car is, too. Getting the stroller out of the trunk and packing it full of all the things you might need is a task in itself. Then, you’ve still got to unload the kids. Many parents visualize this scenario and decide to stay home where it’s well-stocked with diapers, extra outfits, and everything else they may need.
Unfortunately for those who would rather stay home, we see you and we hear you, but getting outside with your kids is important.
Kids who spent time outside sleep better and longer.
The natural light helps regulate their circadian rhythm, so they are sleepy at night and awake during the day. Being exposed to daylight generally encourages kids and even babies to be more active, which tires them out quickly. For older kids, exercise outdoors in general releases endorphins into the bloodstream and helps produce melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. There have been multiple studies done on child and baby sleep patterns and time and time again, it’s been proven that kids and babies who spend time outside have better naps and sleep through the night. Babies who specifically spend time in natural light in the afternoons have better sleep habits at night.
Time outside has also been proven to reduce anxiety in children.
According to the Child Mind Institute, this is partly because being in nature increases children’s confidence. There are multiple ways to interact with nature and giving your child the freedom to enjoy nature how they interpret it helps them feel like that have control over their actions. There have even been scientific studies done that have shown that spending time in nature can reduce ADHD symptoms.
Now, this is all great. But that doesn’t change the fact that your diaper bag is overfilled and you don’t want to carry your small child or baby, your diaper bag, your stroller and your coffee down the stairs of your 3 story walkup. And that’s okay - we understand.
There are ways to solve this problem to get you out the door and on the go. This is the importance of minimizing in a nutshell - identifying and eliminating the excess so you can go live your life.
1) Take inventory of your diaper bag.
Look at every item in your diaper bag and ask yourself what its purpose is. Think back to the last 5 times you were out with your kids - did you need or use the item you’re assessing? A lot of times, we put things in our bags that we may think we need, and then we never take it out of the bag even if we never use it. Try to think about what those things are.
2) Get rid of what you haven’t used in your bag recently.
If it’s summer and you’ve got a winter hat in your bag, put it away for the next season. If you’ve got 10 pacifiers in your bag, you only need 2 - the one your baby will use and a backup. Save the other 8 for an emergency at home or to restock if your child loses one. Reduce the amount of wipes in your bag as well. Chances are, you won’t need an entire case of wipes for a day outing. Many diaper bags come with designated wipe pockets, so you don’t always have to commit to bringing an entire case.
3) Identify what you actually need to have a successful outing.
Is it your coffee mug? Find one that travels well, and if you’re in the market for a new a diaper bag, find one that has a pocket for drinks. Other essentials might be a few diapers, wipes, perhaps an extra outfit if you have a baby or potty training child, your wallet, and formula or breastmilk, or snacks/lunch for your older children. If you’re traveling with food, make sure the containers for snacks and meals seal well, pack well, and are safe (no plastic!). Look for utensils that travel, preferably ones that fold up nicely to exist in a small compartment in your bag, or even in your food container.
4) Do a trial run.
Minimize your diaper bag contents and go out for a short while with your kids - perhaps to the park or on a walk. Notice how much you use in your diaper bag. Adjust your contents based on your needs. You’ll soon realize that having less allows you to be out for longer.
5) Grab a notebook and write down what worked and what didn’t.
When you’re packing your bag to get outside, or get on a plane or in the car or wherever you may go, reference your notebook to remind yourself what you needed or didn’t need, so you can pack up efficiently once more.
Having less to carry around with you, lifting the actual physical burden off of yourself when you are out with your children, will allow you to move easier. You won’t get tired as quickly on walks, you won’t have to guard a diaper bag at the park that has all of your belongings in it, or perhaps you can carry it around with you since it will be much lighter. You’ll be able to find things more quickly when you need to hand someone a wipe or give someone a snack.
Not only that, but when your travel items are reduced and only consist of the essentials, a diaper bag can easily be passed between partners. If your partner is taking the kids for the day, it will be easy for them to navigate where things are in the bag should they need something, instead of rummaging around for something and feeling stressed about the mess.
Mess and stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed and weighed down by our “stuff” exists everywhere. It travels with you. By identifying where the excess is and learning how to pare it down, you’ll realize right away how much easier it is to be on the go. From there, continuing on the minimalist and simplistic path becomes easier and easier.