Gift bags, cheap decor, and other baby needs

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As I said in my last post, the material side of oncoming parenthood has been a challenge for me. What does one really need in order to properly care for a baby? And how much of it needs to be purchased brand-new?

Where possible, we’ve found ways to avoid the big-box route. We bought a secondhand bookshelf for baby books, and a secondhand dresser that will double as a changing table. Instead of decorating with conventional baby stuff, I spent $1 on a used coffee table book, cut out pages with images I think a baby might like, and hung them on the wall.

And we’re very lucky that much of the clothes and gear—stroller, carseat, bouncy chair—has been handed down to us by family and friends. I scored a co-sleeper on freecycle, and when our baby’s ready for a crib he or she will sleep in the same one my husband used as a child. My cousin sent boxes of onesies and blankets, and our friends sent dozens of cloth diapers.

Which is greener–the hand-me-down jammies on the left, or the new organic-cotton onesie on the right? I don’t know, but they both make me giggle.

Still, a certain amount of consumption has seemed to unstoppably follow the announcement that we’re expecting. I was wary when my mom wanted to throw me a baby shower, knowing that some of the gifts would likely go unused, and that all the gifts would be surrounded by layers of tissue and glossy gift bags. Loading the registry with stuff made of organic cotton and wool was the best solution I could come up with, though this meant sending guests to shop online rather than in their local stores. (Alas, nobody went for my “used baby monitor” suggestion.)

I myself have ended up in places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond a bit more frequently in recent months, as though strip-mall shopping were another symptom of pregnancy. But I’ve also gotten more familiar with local places like Sugar Snap Consignment and the Blue Ridge Eco Shop. And I’ve learned that Charlottesville’s full of eco-minded parents—a community that will no doubt be a huge resource for me as the questions inevitably arise.

Parents, how do you keep your kid-related shopping to a minimum? 

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