Now that my baby baby is almost two (how did this happen…my baby!) I think it’s high time we talk about nursery organization and storage ideas for a small nursery. You know…before I blink and she goes off to college.
Back in 2017, when we first set up the nursery for
Thing 1 I mean baby number one, it was not the time, as a new parent, to impart my small nursery organization ideas upon you. Like every new mom, I found myself flying by the seat of my pants. But I’ve been around the block now, survived the baby stage times two, and have leveraged every inch of our tiny, under 80-square-foot nursery to work for us over the last six years. It was for sure a lesson in operational efficiency.
Our Small Nursery Space
I feel like our small nursery is minuscule. Like another class of tiny nurseries. I see other “small nurseries” on Pinterest and I’m like, “That’s a football field sister!” The square footage of our nursery clocks in at only 7 by 9 square feet. With such a small room, we don’t have a lot of space to waste and we try to make every inch count.
The nursery is also attached to our master bedroom. I think the original intention of this space was to work as a closet for the primary bedroom. Hence why we often refer to the room as a nursery closet. While the nursery is small, it’s SO handy being right off our room.
We also don’t have the luxury of having a closet in this room so we get really creative with storing and organizing baby things (now toddler things!) in this room.
Three Small Space Tips Before Organizing
I know, I know, let’s just organize already! I’m with you and am 100% a jump-right-in and organize-all-the-things type of person. But it gets me in trouble sometimes. The pre-organizing stage or the things to think about while organizing part is also important. It’s the time to pare down, decide what really needs to stay, and come up with a game plan.
Small spaces, including a baby’s nursery, can benefit greatly from intentionality. Below are three of my favorite tips for organizing a small nursery BEFORE actually doing the physical work of organizing and styling a nursery.
Babies Don’t Need A Lot Of Stuff
My number one tip for small nursery storage ideas…don’t have a lot of stuff to store. I know…MIND BLOWN!
Babies don’t really need a lot of stuff, especially a new baby. I know those fancy baby outfits are cute and you have grand intentions of dressing up that little nugget, but a new baby does nothing but eat and sleep around the clock and will LIVE in sleepers. So limit the number of baby things in a small nursery. Channel your inner minimalist and keep it to the essentials.
Function Over Form
It’s also a great idea to create a functional nursery first, then layer in the pretty. I’m all for the spaces in our home to be functional AND aesthetically pleasing. But with limited space, function comes first.
I may have raged against the diaper pail in the nursery as I thought they were ugly. But after some research found the Ubi Diaper Pail (link to Target) to be just the right style for a needed item.
So make that small storage box on the shelf a beautiful faux leather one. It’s a great juxtaposition to the snot sucker and diaper rash cream that it holds.
A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place
I know it’s cliche and I almost, almost hate saying it, but when you start organizing the nursery have a place for everything. Ruthlessly organize that space and know where every last item is. It makes those midnight crib sheet changes so much easier.
When I first started out setting up and organizing the nursery for our second baby, I took everything out of the room and “quieted the room” as one of my favorite bloggers, Myquillyn Smith aka The Nester, says. I put things back one at a time in order of importance and made sure every essential item had a home. Pacifiers in a bowl on the shelf, a book basket by the glider (because books are essential in this house), diapers in the top drawer, etc.
So let’s dive into some small nursery organization ideas and take you for a little organizational tour of Bea’s nursery, who is currently one going on two.
Where To Store Baby Clothes
Now for the good stuff. Let’s discuss where and how to store baby clothes in a small nursery. Baby clothes have the potential to take over a room. With both of our children, we were inundated with hand-me-down clothes. While I truly appreciated all the quality baby clothes, we didn’t need 37 dresses for a 3-month-old.
Start by organizing what you have in piles by garment type, pare down to what you need (obviously keeping your favorites), and donate or pass on any extras. As for what to keep, to each their own and there are plenty of “what exactly DOES baby need” guides out there. The Ultimate Baby Registry Guide from Karrie Locher, a mama times four and a postpartum nurse is by far my favorite.
For me, during the baby years, it looked like 15-20 sleepers, a dozen onesies, a dozen pants, as many baby socks fit in the sock divider because they mysteriously disappear in the laundry, a couple of dresses or fun outfits, a couple of sweaters, and a bathing suit or two.
Now in the toddler stage, it looks like 15-20 pairs of pants and shorts (we go through 5 pairs a day these days…toddlers are messy), 15-20 shirts (same constant outfit changes), 10 pajamas, five sweaters or sweatshirts, five dresses, three bathing suits, and as many socks that fit in the sock divider.
Our nursery clothing drawers feel a little overstuffed right now because it’s mid-summer. Typically I put most of the pants, sweaters, and long sleeve pajamas in a tote in the attic during the summer months to make room for shorts and short-sleeved pajamas. The weather this summer has been weird, so they’re all crammed into the drawers for another month or so.
Most Used Baby Clothes In A Nursery Dresser
A dresser is a great place to store your most used baby clothes. It’s handy, tiny clothes fit so nicely in dresser drawers, and most of what a baby needs can fit into a compact dresser. In our small nursery, we repurposed a hand-me-down chest of drawers for nursery storage. The dresser was Colby’s grandmother’s that got handed down to us. We love that piece of furniture and I’m forever grateful it found a home in the nursery.
Drawer organizers can also be helpful when organizing baby clothes. Corral those tiny baby socks and separate short-sleeve tees from long-sleeve ones with some basic drawer organizers. Our set came from Ikea ages ago, back when I was in my college dorm days, but most of your big box stores and Amazon have drawer organizing options to fit most any need. The Stuk line at Ikea is similar to what we currently use.
Under-Crib Storage Baskets
Underneath the crib tends to be wasted space. Leverage those unused inches and find a set of baskets that can be used for under-crib storage. I found a trio of baskets from Home Goods that just barely fit underneath the simple, Ikea Sniglar crib. The baskets aren’t the easiest things to get to sometimes, so I love using them for things I don’t reach for often.
Under-Crib Basket #1
One of the baskets underneath Bea’s crib is for clothing items that aren’t used nearly as often. Things like dresses, bathing suits, cute little baby swim coverups, swim diapers, and any out-of-season clothes. Of the three baskets that are under her crib, this one is the one I pull from most often so I keep it closest to the dresser.
Under-Crib Basket #2
The middle basket I use to store bedding and changing pad covers. It’s handy to have these things right underneath the crib for a quick middle-of-the-night bedding change. I also keep the portable crib sheets in here along with some snuggly muslin blankets (we LOVE our Little Unicorn quilts) for rocking time.
If you’re like me and take organizing to another level (show of hands, who’s guilty?!) I also have an organizational system within the baskets. Within each basket, the least used items go to the back and the most used come to the front. For the basket of linens, pack-and-play sheets and extra snuggle blankets go towards the back while the crib sheets and changing mat covers come to the front.
Our nursery is so small, it’s hard to get the baskets completely out without hitting the glider. Keeping infrequently used items in the back makes it easier to grab what I need from the baskets without pulling ALL of the baskets out or moving the chair.
Under-Crib Basket #3
In the third basket, the one towards the back wall of the nursery, I keep all the extra wipes. We cloth diaper so all of the diapers we have fit in the dresser, but if we needed a home for extra diapers, this would be a great place for those along with the wipes.
Hang Special Items
This is a dual decorating while storing tip, which is always handy in a super tiny space. Hang or display special clothing items. In Bea’s nursery, we have this cute little peg rail that Colby built using reclaimed materials. I picked up a couple of adorable, unicorn hangers from Anthropologie and hung a couple of the girls’ special dresses. Right now Bea’s Easter dress and upcoming second birthday dress are hanging but in the past, there’s also been first birthday dresses, a flower girl dress, and Christmas dresses. It’s fun to switch up the dresses as decor but also to keep our most loved dresses handy.
The pegs have also held things like teething necklaces, pacifier clips, and even a special necklace that I picked up for Rowan at a yard sale even though Rowan was WAY too young for it. The pegs serve as a holding place to hang anything special that doubles as decor.
Changing Pad On A Dresser
If you read anything about organizing and setting up a small nursery, I’m sure you’ve seen the use of a dresser as a changing table tip. You really, truly don’t need a traditional changing table. Instead, use a piece of furniture that pulls double duty for storage and changing diapers. Bonus…dressers are 1,000% more sturdy than most changing tables out there.
We used a vintage dresser for a changing table in our nursery. The hand-me-down dresser fits perfectly in the corner of the nursery except for a beam that runs through there. To make the dresser fit flush with the back wall, Colby built a little shelf the width of the beam but the length and height of the dresser. This expanded the usable space of the dresser top and also prevented things from falling behind it.
When you put a changing pad on a dresser, there’s often some room on the dresser top to store baby essentials. I’m talking about things like diaper rash cream, lotion, and baby wipes. Add a small basket and tuck these baby essentials on the dresser top to keep them at arm’s reach. No one loves to be mid-diaper change and not have the wipes handy.
When using a dresser for a changing station, keep diapers and even burp clothes in the top drawer. It makes for easy access to the things you need most when changing a baby. Most dressers have plenty of space to store these things in the top drawer.
Wall Shelves Above Changing Station
I’m a huge advocate for adding open shelves to any small space. Use that empty vertical space for storage! Not only does it create extra storage space where you need it most, but open shelves are so fun to style and can easily morph along with your needs.
We have a set of open shelves right above the changing station and dresser. I keep smaller, essential baby items in a set of storage boxes on the shelves. These are items like basic first aid, snot suckers, thermometer, and baby Tylenol. Baby first aid items are things I don’t want to be searching the house for if a middle-of-the-night need comes up. They store easily in the boxes and stay tucked away until needed.
The Bottom Shelf
The bottom shelf is also a cute place to store a bowl of bows or hair clips. I found a vintage milk glass bowl at a thrift store that’s been my go-to place for all the baby hair accessories. Now if only my babies grew hair just a little bit faster! Although they have a striking Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby look to them.
I also like leaving some empty space on this bottom shelf. It’s a great spot to tuck temporary things that you don’t want your child reaching for. Like that poopy cloth diaper, I need to take to the bathroom to spray. Or Bea’s shoes during naptime.
The Top Shelf
On the top shelf, I have a collection of swaddle blankets rolled up. Ours are the muslin swaddles from Little Unicorn. While Bea hasn’t been swaddled since her first month, I can’t let them go just yet. They’re an adorable accessory but also handy when we want a super light blanket for snuggle time.
Another tip for organizing a small nursery, find a cute, slightly larger basket you can tuck on a shelf to store extra baby or toddler shoes. Bea has about five pairs of shoes. Sneakers, glittery sandals, dress shoes, rubber boots, and Crocks (ones that look like a crocodile which she affectionately calls her “crock Crocks.”) Right now, she wears precisely one pair of those shoes, you guessed it, the “crock Crocks.” All the other shoes, minus the rubber boots we keep in the downstairs coat closet, live in the basket on the top shelf of her nursery awaiting those rare occasions she wears a different pair of shoes.
Keep Toys In Living Spaces
One thing you won’t find in this small nursery is toys. We use the nursery strictly as a place for sleeping, snuggling, nursing during the baby days, changing, and reading books before nap and bed. All of the kids’ toys can be found in our living spaces. Although, Rowan gets to keep a large basket of special toys in her room.
Toys don’t need to be in a nursery. Save the space for other things. Our nursery isn’t even big enough to play in so storing toys doesn’t make much sense. We do keep a small basket of books beside the glider. We switch these books out periodically with ones from the kids’ bookcase in the living room.
Repurpose A Piece of Furniture
I know I already touched on this, but you don’t need dedicated nursery furniture. The one exception is the crib. Try to find pieces that pull double duty, like using a dresser instead of a changing table. Or a compact armchair instead of a glider or rocker.
We did splurge on a glider for this nursery. The jury is out on whether or not it was a good idea. I do love rocking. We chose the West Elm Graham glider because of its taller back. Since both Colby and I are tall and we wanted a cozy chair that we could fall asleep rocking the babes on those nights it’s needed. But I’m not sure the furniture piece’s quality was worth the price (which was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper in 2016 when we ordered it than it is today). If I had a do-over, I probably would have bought a cozy armchair that fit our space, one we could curl up in, along with a taller ottoman.
Use A Soft Sided Laundry Basket
Okay, I know this tip sounds a little bizarre, but using a soft-sided laundry basket with handles in a small nursery is SO handy.
I used to have a wicker basket in the little corner between the door to the hallway and the door to our bedroom. It always seemed to stick out and be in our way, no matter the direction we were walking.
I switched to a soft-sided hamper and immediately found a few benefits. One, it is squishable so I can squish it and shape it into the little corner we have allotted for it. Two, it is lightweight and has handles so I can easily carry it down the stairs to the laundry room one-handed. Or who am I kidding, toss it down the stairs so I can carry the baby. And three, it no longer hurts my leg when I crash into it.
Other Storage Ideas For a Small Nursery
I’ll leave you with a few more tips and ideas for storage ideas in a small nursery.
- If there’s a small closet, use closet organizers to utilize as much space as possible.
- Hang things on closet doors.
- Use door organizers.
- Set up a rolling cart for nursing (bonus…you can move it around to where you need it and it can also be used as a side table).
- Keep the next-size clothes out of the nursery. Store them in another closet or in storage bins in the attic.
- Use scaled-down pieces like a mini crib, small dresser, or compact diaper pail.
- Create built-in storage systems.
Okay, now it’s your turn. I’m looking towards you fellow mamas! What are your favorite tips and tricks for storing and organizing a small nursery? Let’s fill up the comments with lots of tips.
Also, who else has a nursery under 80 square feet?! Nurseries don’t have to be big to be beautiful!