Colleen at 365 Less Things had a post about baby-related clutter, and it spurred me to write a post I've been thinking about for a while.
During (and even before) my pregnancy, I was very concerned about kid-related clutter. It sounds unimportant, but your surroundings can influence so much - your mood, stress, creativity - and for me, an uncluttered space makes me calmer and more productive. But I kept hearing "you HAVE to have this" from other parents and parents-to-be and of course the ridiculously long new baby and registry lists. I swore I wouldn't get sucked in.
I took steps to combat the clutter ahead of time. First, I made lists of what seemed to be the essentials. Then instead of going out and buying that stuff myself and then having to deal with duplicates and non-essentials as gifts, I tried to use gifts to cover the essentials. I made a very practical registry. I used gift certificates and cards for big purchases, like a crib and crib mattress. And I was adamant (just ask my poor mom) that we keep the number of things down (e.g., he didn't need 3 coats or 20 pairs of newborn size socks). A lot of bigger items that were "must haves" I waited until we actually needed them.
One of my favorite bloggers, Oh Joy, had a little girl just after I had my little guy, and she put together a baby essentials post. A beautiful post with beautiful things, but I was overwhelmed reading it. This is not a criticism of her or her post, because she has amazing taste and sense of style, and she is in a creative/design field and just has a different outlook on this stuff than I do. But wow, was that list long. I didn't have half of that stuff for my kid, and it was all so expensive! I mean, I didn't even have a stroller or a big diaper bag (just repurposed an old messenger bag) or a changing table.
The best thing about keeping baby stuff to a minimum was that when we recently moved, a downsize from 2400 square feet to just under 1000 square feet, his stuff wasn't a concern at all. Just set up his crib and dresser and a bookshelf in his room, hung clothes in his closet, put toys in baskets and books on the shelf. Another basket of toys in the living room, baby tub in the bathroom, and swing in the office, and we were good to go.
To keep new acquisitions under control, I wait to buy clothes and toys (and ask the grandparents to hold off on gifts) until it becomes an issue - he is getting bored with his old toys or I notice his pajamas are getting a little snug. Big items I mostly waited to see if I needed them (stroller - no, backpack and swing - yes). Books are an exception - they're easy to store and while I don't go crazy with them, I don't really consider them clutter. But I still have a manageable number of them.
Now his stuff is neatly contained but accessible, and I'm a happy mama, not stressed out by the piles of stuff or living room takeover that I see so often. It still irks me when people say things like, just you wait, when he's older you won't be able to manage the stuff! But they said that about the first six months too. People will be naysayers, and I see no reason why if you stay on top of it and make it a priority, you can't avoid baby clutter taking over your life. As for later, I guess I'll find out if I'm wrong.