A Minimalist Diaper Bag

Photo Mar 31

So, something I should share right off the bat here is that I hate diaper bags.

I got so excited about shopping for one when I was pregnant with Isaiah. I was horrified at how expensive the ones I liked the most were, and it was tough for me to deal with the thought of spending that much money on something that would only need to be used while I had kids in diapers. I can justify spending too much money on a bag for myself (not that that’s a regular thing around the Sutherland house), but, I’m not exactly going to “outgrow” my Kate Spade tote. On the other hand, investing in a diaper bag seems silly to me, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I ended up not going for a traditional diaper bag, but a small gym bag by Carrie Underwood. It had the pockets I wanted, the lining was easy to clean, and it was a good size. Plus, I knew that after all of the diapering days were over, I could use it as an actual gym bag.

It’s a really functional bag, and using it was fine for a while, but then it started to get on my nerves. I was working so hard to streamline every aspect of my life to simplify motherhood, and the whole “we have a separate bag just for the baby’s stuff” idea was cramping my style big time.

Eventually, we stopped using it, and I figured out how to simplify the process. And goodness, it’s amazing how such a small change can make several moments of your week so much better, resulting in much more happiness! 

So, how do you minimize something like a diaper bag? Especially with your first kid? In the mom groups I’m part of, I see this question at least once a week. And I’m usually one of the people to write in my two cents, because I totally get where these moms are coming from. They want to know what’s in other mom’s diaper bags, if they are carrying more things than other moms, if there is an easier way to do it.

Photo Mar 27

Find one bag you can use for everything.

I ended up going for a large, brown, faux-leather tote (purchase here) that’s affordable enough that I don’t mind formula spilling in it, or baby-drool all over it. It’s simple enough that it didn’t have to cost a lot to be cute, and it’s neutral enough that it can be worn with anything. It’s also big enough that I can throw in the handful of baby things I need, along with my own things, and it’s not spilling over.

I recently flew with Isaiah for the first time, and this bag was my only carry-on. It easily held both of our things without being so crowded that I couldn’t find anything.

Choose a bag that speaks to your style.

The bag I’m currently using is cheaper, for sure. But it doesn’t make me feel frumpy. I didn’t want to feel like a mom who had to have a week’s worth of equipment to take my baby out. I wanted to feel collected and put-together when I was out running errands.

Choosing a simple brown bag means that, no matter what I’m wearing, this bag works. It reflects my style, helps me feel a little more chic when I’m having to do the mundane tasks of grocery shopping or getting gas for my car. That truly has made all the difference.

Think long and hard about what you and baby need, and only pack for today.

I was crowding Isaiah’s old diaper bag with a million diapers, toys and books I was never needing to pull out, several pacifiers, a couple outfits…it would all sit in there from week to week because I never needed half of it. I just wanted to feel like I had everything I could possibly need.

I also suffered from this mentality when it came to packing for myself. I only had about 4 small things that I was consistently finding myself needing when I was out running errands. So why pack anything else? Maybe something else will pop up on occasion that I need to have, but if that happens I’ve learned to just pack for today. Packing for “just in case” leads to lots of clutter that has to be cleaned out later. 

Don’t hesitate to create some organized storage place in your car.

If you have a really little one, you may be thinking, “Ummmm. Several diapers and outfits to get me through one afternoon isn’t being overbearing…it’s my reality”. I’m with you, mama. Chris and I actually had a bag of diapers in our trunk until Isaiah was about 4 months old. We started doing that one fateful afternoon when we were setting up our classrooms for the next school year, and Isaiah had FIVE BLOWOUT DIAPERS IN A ROW. We ran out of diapers in his bag, and had to run to the store with a poop-covered infant. It was a nightmare.

We opted to just keep the bag of diapers in the car. That way I could grab a couple for my bag to get me through one errand, and not have to stress that I needed to pack half a dozen at one time. When we ran out of that bag, we never had to replace it. I stopped exclusively breastfeeding him when I went back to work, he started eating solids, and the whole blowout thing stopped for the most part. But, with baby number 2 on the way, I’m already planning on putting a small storage big in our trunk with diapers, wipes, and a few outfits in it. I don’t want to clutter my car, so I definitely plan on keeping this simple and organized in one place. But, I don’t want to have to feel like I need to pack for every possible scenario for two babies at once!

So, what’s actually in my diaper bag?

This is the comprehensive list:

-1-2 diapers (depending on how long we plan to be gone)


-a rolled-up reusable changing pad (I used to have a bigger one that folded up in a carrying case, but Isaiah outgrew it. I use some washable changing pad liners now that are even easier to cart around!)

-a toy or two (I swap these out each week to keep him entertained)

-a burp cloth

sometimes a change of clothes (Isaiah rarely needs to be changed during the day, so I really have phased this out. But, every once in a while he has a day where he’s spitting up a ton, or having an unusually high volume of dirty diapers. Again, pack based on what you need for the day…or throw a change of clothes in the glovebox of your car!)

-food/bottles (I also try to simplify this as much as possible. I’ll use spoons/bowls/plates at restaurants, so all I need to pack is a jar of food. I measure out the formula in his bottles at home, so I just need water wherever we’re at to mix it, etc. Plus, he eats solid foods almost exclusively now, which makes all of this is even easier. I can skip the jarred food and bottles, toss a banana in my bag and order a side of sliced avocado at dinner, and voila! Dinner is done!)

And that’s it! No extra fluff. Your babies are different, and in different phases kids need different things! But this is where our family is at. Again, sometimes this shifts a little based on the day. We might just need to go grocery shopping, which doesn’t involve toys or meals, so I just toss a diaper and wipes in the bag and go. On Sundays we usually go to church, then out to lunch, then run some errands to set us up for the week. Those days require a little more packing…but honestly not much more than what I’ve already listed (just more snacks).

The pouch on the inside of my bag holds my phone, keys, chapstick, sunglasses, and wallet. If I’m going out without Isaiah, it’s just a easy to leave his things out of the bag and keep my things in it. I love this system so much more!

What do you keep in your diaper bag? Or have you gone the same route as me and combined it with your purse? I’m eager to hear how other mamas are doing it!


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