Packing a diaper bag: The essentials

Purses and totes are fabulous accessories, but wearing too many at once can hurt your shoulders, cramp your style and make it hard to hold onto your child. Here are a few packing tips to help make your on-the-go life easier—and prettier.

packing a diaper bag

Photo: iStockphoto

Mom of baby

The ideal bag
A sophisticated diaper bag that doubles as your purse. “You want one with separate pouches, so items are easy to grab and there’s room for different categories of things,” says Tina Blazer, owner and director of Spot On Organizing in Toronto. Additional features to look for: built-in bottle holders, changing pad and fabric that’s easy to clean.

Essentials for baby
You’ll likely need a couple of diapers, a soother, teething ring, bib, facecloth, a favourite toy, one or two bottles or jars of food, and wipes, such as Life Brand Ultra Soft Cloths (12-pack). A change of clothes is a good idea too. “Go for slim items — think fleece rather than woolly,” says Edmonton-based Kristie Demke, president of Professional Organizers in Canada.

Must-haves for mom
Pack a tiny lip gloss, such as Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer, a hair clip, a comb and something to combat shine, such as The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Facial Blotting Tissue. Don’t forget your cellphone, keys, wallet, hand sanitizer and bottle of water.

Mom of preschooler

The ideal bag
Ready to ditch the diaper bag? Choose a roomy, multi-functional tote (one you can also use as your gym bag, for example) with different compartments.

Essentials for child
Stash a healthy snack and bottle of water, a change of underwear and shirt, Band-Aids, antibacterial cream and a package of tissues. Don’t forget a fun activity. “It could be as simple as a pouch with some paper and crayons,” says Blazer.

Must-haves for mom
Keep toting what you did when your youngster was a baby.

Mom of School-ager

The ideal bag
Since most of your child’s belongings are in his backpack, pick a purse just for you.

Essentials for child
“You’ll probably still need to have some Band-Aids, tissues, wipes and a bottle of water with you,” says Demke.

Must-haves for mom
More space means you can add some compact beauty aids. A hand cream (such as Glysomed), a nail file, and face powder for touchups (such as Marcelle Minerals Powder Make-up) are nice additions. You might want to bring your iPod, a magazine and a fold-up shopping bag too.

Four ways to purge your purse

1. Say goodbye bulk
“You’re looking to reduce anything that has weight,” says Blazer. Choose paperbacks instead of hardcover books, and put your appointments and grocery list into your cellphone, rather than packing your agenda.

2. Ditch duplicates
You don’t need four of the same item, such as lipsticks or toys, so just take one, says Demke.

3. Think double duty
Try to bring things that can serve more than one purpose. Take snacks and a bottle of water that you and your child can share. And pack a cellphone that snaps quality pictures, so you don’t have to tote a camera.

4. Clear out regularly
Once a week, purge your bag of unneeded items, such as receipts and excess coins. And if you find stuff you haven’t touched in a while, take it out. “If you’re not using it every week, it doesn’t deserve a place in your bag,” Demke says.

Tip
“To keep smaller items (makeup, baby’s soother, teething ring, etc.) separate and contained in your bag, use resealable bags or clear, zippered pencil cases,” says Blazer.

Originally published in December 2010.