baby registry for 500 sq ft

Okay, I promise I’m not turning into a mom blogger. However, I did feel the need to take a break from my politics series and write something fun, and I just so happen to have a 3-month-old. So today I bring you evidence that it is indeed possible to fit a baby and his associated stuff into 500 square feet.

This is not a comprehensive list so much as a supplement—a “things I wish I knew,” you might say. You’ll find plenty of registry guides on the internet., the site we used to create our registry, has a few dozen great sample ones. I created this particular guide as an example of what it looks like to trim down the “must-haves” to fit into a tiny apartment. If you’re looking for more specific product recommendations, or wonder why I left something off, please leave me a comment!

3 simple rules to get us started:

  1. Focus on what you will need for the first 6 months. With limited storage, you may need to wait until you have stuff to give away (e.g. newborn clothes) before buying what you need for the next stage.
  2. Ask for consignment funds or gift cards. Never buy new what you can (safely*) find used, and make sure gift givers know you’re okay with secondhand items. Some items are harder to find used for cheap, so put those at the top of your registry for friends who would rather order off Amazon.
  3. If you’re not sure whether you need something, leave it off. You can always change your mind and buy it later with those gift cards!

*Use common sense, check for product recalls, and buy carseats new unless they’re unexpired, were never in an accident, and you really trust the person.

Baby Gear

Lightweight, compact stroller – Some people say to forego the stroller and just wear your baby all the time. I am not one of those people. I found it super refreshing to be detached from little William for a change, especially in hot weather and as he got heavier. We have a Baby Jogger City Lite stroller and we like it a lot because it is a) easy to lift and maneuver, b) folds small enough to fit under our bed, and c) can be used from birth.

Things to hold and entertain baby (bouncers, carriers, play gyms, etc.) – Look for a couple items that fold flat, are compact when assembled, and can be thrown in the laundry easily. We ended up with a Baby Bjorn bouncer, a Skip Hop play gym, a K’Tan wrap, and a Lillebaby structured carrier. I can grab William in one arm and move the bouncer with the other when I want to take a shower or wash dishes. Think of it as your portable baby holder and avoid those bulky plastic ones at all costs.

Carseat – According to our local carseat consultant, the latest studies show that infant seats become unsafe in less than a year. (Long babies = much greater chance of hitting their heads on the driver or passenger head rest upon collision.) Many convertible seats work for newborns, so I suggest just skipping the infant seat altogether.

Clothing and Accessories

If you have friends, family, or co-workers with kids, you will probably end up with more used baby clothes than you know what to do with. I would leave clothes (and blankets, while we’re at it) off your registry, but do take some time to scope out the local thrift and consignment shops for future use. Take time to get to know your baby and routines before you get them a whole wardrobe. William honestly wears the same 3-4 onesies on rotation and used ones are super cheap.

Consider registering for a couple easy-to-use swaddlers and sleep sacks. We rotate between two SwaddleMe velcro swaddlers, and will soon transition to a couple larger sleep sacks.

What you’ll really need, if you plan to breastfeed, is a few good nursing tops. Clothing without 2-second access to boob will soon become dead to you. As will anything you don’t mind getting milk or pee on regularly. (Motherhood is great, really.) And when your friends inevitably buy the super cute baby clothes instead, know that many children’s thrift shops have a maternity/nursing section.

“Nursery” Furniture

We live in a one-bedroom, so William’s space is our space too!

Mini Crib – A crib that converts to a toddler bed is another good option, though a mini crib will still last long enough that you can switch straight to a twin mattress that will work for their entire childhood. We found a used Delta mini that easily folds flat for storage or transport.

A Dockatot baby lounger/sleeper is worth having if you want to co-sleep, or if you’re worried baby won’t feel cozy in their crib. You can also use it for travel and lounging around the house.

Storage Furniture – IKEA for the win! We love our Kallax shelf with storage bins that we can use for both our clothes and William’s. You can find similar shelves at Target, Kroger, etc.

Rocking Chair – I found a camping rocking chair at REI that I enjoy…but not for nursing. I honestly just sit on the couch with my feet propped on the coffee table.

Feeding (for breastfed babies)

Bottles – Breastfed babies will just use 4 oz. bottles in most cases. I’m staying home right now, so we only use one bottle for the feeding my husband does each night. The Phillips Avent bottle mimics the breast fairly well and we got one for free for registering at Amazon (pro tip: you can register at several stores privately just to get the completion discount and freebies). We also have a Mason Bottle.

Breast Pump – It is pretty hard to avoid pumping altogether, plus your insurance will likely pay for a pump. Alas, they are ugly and bulky. I’ve thought about buying a bread box or something similar to disguise ours (which currently lives on the dining table), though I’ve also been able to use it less thanks to these silicone manual “pumps” which I use to collect milk while nursing on the other side.

Breast Pillow – These things are bulky and annoying, and I always feel too hot in mine. But ours did help us in the first weeks when we had breastfeeding issues, so they are probably a necessary evil. I would get a cheap used Boppy if I could go back, so I wouldn’t feel bad barely using it.


If you use disposables, avoid the temptation to stock up. Register for a pack each of newborn and size 1 and ask for gift cards for later.

Wipes – Seventh Generation wipes work well, though cloth wipes are the BEST. I would use them even if I didn’t cloth diaper. We have 36, which is just enough for 4ish days.

Changing Table – IKEA should start paying me for how much I recommend them. We have the Sniglar table and I can’t imagine life without it. It is too small for most changing pads, so we use a folded quilt with a waterproof, travel-size changing mat on top. The IKEA Onsklig bins clip to the side to hold a few onesies, diaper cream, etc. and the lower shelf holds a diaper pail, extra clothes, and our wipe warmer (I know these are frivolous but I love mine!). We also use a cute laundry basket on the floor underneath to store cloth diapers, burp rags, and blankets.

Diaper Pail – Turns out babies living in small spaces still poop just as much. Avoid mini pails if possible, and get a large Planet Wise wet bag for overflow between laundry loads/taking the trash out.

Diaper Bag – You might be able to get away with using a large purse or small backpack with several pockets to avoid having too many bags around the house. I use my sister’s hand-me-down Skip Hop bag and really like it, though sometimes just use my purse for quick trips.

Toys and Books

Reading to your baby will make them smarter, though tiny babies probably don’t know the difference between Goodnight Moon, a New York Times article, and your favorite novel. A book of high-contrast images is worth asking for, otherwise wait until Christmas or their first birthday to build your stash of kid’s books. And don’t forget to use your public library!

Like clothes, baby toys are fun to buy and you will likely end up with plenty without asking. Most of ours are stashed away until William is old enough to appreciate them. At almost 3 months, he likes anything he can grab (blankets, tiny stuffed animals) and his bouncer’s toy bar.

Hygiene and Safety

We had no space for a bulky bath tub, so we just fill our own tub with a few inches of water. It works fine for now, since we only bathe weekly for a few minutes. If you want baths to be part of your bedtime routine, the Puj Tub is a good option, though even collapsible tubs require space to dry out.

Most bath toys can be replaced with old plastic Tupperware or cups. You should probably get a baby bath towel because they are so darn cute; a couple wash cloths are nice to have, too.

You’ll get several free samples of baby lotion and diaper cream if you take advantage of registry goodie bags. A bottle of tear-free baby shampoo/soap is worth adding to your list, though.

A Little Remedies New Parent Survival Kit and a Nose Frida nasal aspirator are both useful if you’re looking to lengthen your list.

Treats for the Parents

Because you’ll have less stuff on your registry, think about some non-traditional items or experiences you can add. Perhaps you want to start a Babymoon Fund or ask for free babysitting. Universal registries like Babylist and So Kind Registry allow these options so get creative!

For items left on your list after your shower, check out:

The VarageSale app
Buy Nothing facebook groups
Buy/Sell facebook groups
Item-specific facebook groups (e.g. cloth diaper swap)
Local thrift and consignment shops
Local co-ops and farmers markets​

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