How to organize your diaper bag

Diapers, wipes, a change pad, extra clothes, a backup pacifier...there's a lot to cram into a diaper bag. Here's how to pack wisely without overdoing it.

You don’t really comprehend how much you have to lug around once you have a kid, so it’s essential to make the most of your diaper bag space—and cut down on all those extras you really don’t need for the sake of your shoulders. Professional organizer Wendy Hollick raised three children, ran her own daycare and is now a grandma, so she’s familiar with the black hole of lost items and missing necessities that a diaper bag can become. The owner of Neat Spaces Professional Organizing Service in Burlington, Ont., Hollick provides these helpful tips on effective diaper bag use.

Diaper bag basics “It always starts with a good bag,” she says. “That means something with external pouches, and lots of internal pouches and pockets.” While some parents may gravitate towards a messenger or purse-style bag, Hollick recommends a backpack style, which frees up your hands for handling kids and pets, steering the stroller and getting your kid into and out of the car seat. And if you choose a style both parents like, it can transfer easily between them. In many cases, diaper bags are treated like a purse, and it can be annoying to switch items from one bag to another—for this reason it’s best to only keep one diaper bag going at a time.

Organize the inside Hollick recommends dividing the inside of the bag using your own system of reusable plastic bags, labelled with a black marker to help keep things in order. Outside pockets that close securely are best used for a wallet, keys and phone. Be careful when it comes to packing too much—this weighs you down and is a waste of space. “The more stuff you have, the harder it is to keep it under control,” she says. Use travel-sized containers for products (like diapers, diaper cream and wipes, hand sanitizer and sunscreen) that live in the bag and are never removed.

What you need What you need and how much you can carry really depends on what you’re doing. Spending most of your time in the car? You don’t need to worry so much about lugging too much. But if you’re walking around with baby in a carrier or getting on and off public transit with a stroller, you’ll want pack with weight in mind.

As a rule, stock your diaper bag with extra cash, a change of clothing, bags (plastic and resealable) to collect garbage and soiled clothes, an extra bib and soother, bottle, blanket, a few small toys and age-appropriate non-perishable food items (what Hollick calls your “rescue food”). This list will change as your kid grows—you might want to include bandages, a sippy cup and some extra clothes once your kid is potty training. Keep most external pockets empty so you can use them to quickly stash anything while you’re on the go—it’s easier to reorganize once you’re home. Finally, says Hollick, go through the bag at least once a week to clean out the crumbs and give it a good wipe before replenishing what’s running out or missing.

This article was originally published on Dec 23, 2016

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