When it comes to living a minimal lifestyle, Christine Diaz of Studio Diaz is my muse; she does it SO well. And now, watching her journey into motherhood (as she and her husband welcomed their sweet Luca!), I’m even more impressed by her ability to stick to the essentials with ease. That skill intrinsically runs in her veins—before founding Studio Diaz, Christine worked as an editor, content creator, and brand voice strategist for prominent home and lifestyle brands including KonMari, Parachute, Hutch, and Style Me Pretty Living. Her ability to translate the visual identity of a brand into verbal architecture inspires her design philosophy—unearthing and giving voice to the unique story of each home and the family that lives within it. If there’s anyone you’ll want to heed advice from on the minimal lifestyle topic, she’s it. Take a peek below for her tips, layered with the most beautiful session captured by Magdalena Studios.
From Christine Diaz of Studio Diaz… There are a few things you should know about me. First, I’m colorphobic. That means that 99.99% of baby items make me want to scream and run for the hills. Second, my husband and I spent the greater part of the last five years living a fairly nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place every three or so months with only as many belongings as fit into our car and often spending months abroad with just our Away carry-ons. Third, I recently worked as the Editorial Director for tidying guru and all-around responsible consumerism advocate, Marie Kondo, before moving to a one-bedroom apartment in NYC, so I’m obviously influenced by her philosophy and method. Finally, I’m a design lover, with professional experience in the fashion, wedding, and home interior spaces.
With all of this in mind, you can understand my hesitations when I started to tackle the “nursery” after finding out I was pregnant (yay!). There’s so. much. baby. stuff. Do I really need a recliner, bouncy seat, swing, activity center, and whatever the heck the mamaRoo is? Wait, the bassinet only lasts for five months, and then he needs to move up to a crib, but to travel I need a pack and play? Is a bottle warmer, drying rack, sterilizer, air-tight formula container, bottle brush, nipple brush, and two dozen bottles of different brands, sizes, and nipple flows all actually necessary? The list went on and on. How much does one tiny tot really need!?
The answer: Not much.
Not only were we not interested in accumulating tons of stuff, but we also literally did not have space for it. New York City doesn’t provide much square footage, and we are sharing a one-bedroom with our little man. We knew we needed to take an essentialist approach to prepare our home for baby boy without sacrificing function or design. After tons of research and now living with a babe for four months, here are the rules I live by when pursuing a minimalist lifestyle with a baby.
Shop the Minimalist Baby Look
Tip One: Neutrals = Life
Yes, science offers a reason for why all the baby gear of our youth looks like the Crayola factory exploded – your baby’s vision is still developing in those first months, so she has an easier time seeing saturated, high contrast colors. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing a book or other item to stimulate your baby. But the furniture and other larger pieces of baby gear don’t need to be bright! With a little extra searching, you can find almost anything you need for baby in a classic hue. This strategy kept me sane in a tiny space. I wanted my apartment to be comfortable for my baby boy and to meet his needs, but I also wanted it to continue to feel like me and to not be an eyesore – for me, that meant light, bright, and airy. By selecting a glider for me and a rocker for baby in a creamy hue, toys in natural materials like wood or knits, repurposing existing storage solutions, and choosing clean lines for his (rented!) bassinet, we were able to find that balance.
As a bonus, neutral linens and clothing are easier to pass along as hand me downs or keep for future littles. All aboard the neutral train!
Tip Two: Fewer, Better
I live by the motto (borrowed from women’s clothing and accessories brand, Cuyana) “fewer, better.” What does this mean when it comes to living a minimalist life with a newborn? Because I chose to bring fewer items into my home than most of my peers when entering into this season of life, I was willing to invest in them. This made me take the time to do my research. How long will this last me? Does it serve multiple purposes? Is it an essential or a nice-to-have? Do I trust the brand and the materials? Will it fit into my existing home, the life I envision for me and my growing family, and my values?
I curated my pieces from small businesses, artisans, or brands with ethical practices whenever possible and shopped second hand for items that had a shorter shelf life. I also heavily focused on choosing healthy, natural, and safe materials for my babe like glass bottles, Oeko-Tex certified fabrics, fragrance-free toiletries, and bamboo diapers.
Tip Three: Double Duty or Overtime
When you become a parent, you realize all the cliché sayings are true: Time flies, and they do grow up too fast. These are important to keep top of mind not only so you remember to live in the present and savor all those snuggles, but also so you purchase the right baby gear and furniture. Many items are designed for one, extremely specific developmental stage and then virtually become useless after 3-6 months. Instead, try to come up with a creative workaround for whatever task the items you’re considering performs. Or choose an option that serves double duty and extends its life.
Let’s consider a changing table as an example. Yes, you’ll be changing your babe’s diapers for over a year, but once she gets mobile, chances are you’ll want to keep her on the ground rather than high up on that beautiful changing table you purchased. Then potty training happens, and just like that, you’re the proud owner of an obsolete piece of furniture. For a no-cost option, use an old hand towel. Wanting something a little sleeker and easy to take on the go? Consider purchasing a Gathre changing mat. If it’s more comfortable for you to stand upright (me and my c-section totally get this!), purchase a nice, wipeable pad that you can strap onto the top of an existing sturdy dresser. I opted for a basket and repurposed a bassinet mattress inside on top of my bedroom dresser, and I plan to use the basket as an attractive, spark-joy storage option in the future. In short, focus on the pieces that you will need for a long time or that are multifunctional. There’s likely a simple solution for everything else.
Tip Four: When In Doubt, Leave It Out
We live in the age of Amazon Prime two-day shipping. So if you’re not sure if you need something, don’t buy it. Wait. If you find yourself thinking about it or needing it once your baby arrives and you settle into life with a little, you can order it then with two clicks. I’ve found that more often than not if you don’t start with it, you learn how to live without it (and so does your baby).
Tip Four: Sparks Joy
No Marie Kondo-inspired article would be complete without this final tip: Ask yourself if it sparks joy. It’s more than okay to want something that isn’t just functional but is also beautiful to look at. It’s also okay to buy something for your life as a parent that isn’t on someone else’s must-have list. Knowing what is going to be useful and inspiring for you and your family is a deeply personal process, which is why I can’t tell you that you don’t need a wipe warmer, or you do need exactly seven burp cloths, or that this is THE glider that will bring you joy whenever it’s time to feed your baby or rock him to sleep. Ultimately, your list of baby essentials starts and ends with you – your lifestyle, your values, your needs, your taste. So tap into your sense of self – and your sense of joy!
Congratulations, new mama or papa, this is one beautiful journey. Let your baby belongings enhance your experience; don’t let them bog you down.