1. Before the baby comes stick to the necessities. For the ultimate minimalist that would look something like diapers, 2-3 outfits, a couple blankets and a baby wrap or stroller. If you birth in an American hospital you are required to have a proper car seat before you are discharged, so there's that. Things you may think are necessities - a crib, mobile, books, toys, baby bath tub, tiny UGGs, to name a few - may not actually be things that you put to great use.
And if you find that they are...
2. Acquire things as the need arises. Before you are actually living your life with your child it's hard to pinpoint which crazy gadget is going to add to your life and which one is going to take from it. When my first was born we lived in a 400-sq-ft, one-bedroom apartment and had no room or need for a crib. So, we didn't have one. Six months later when we were getting ready for a three-week vacation we knew that with our set-up a pack-n-play would be a huge help as our rental had a pool that we'd be lounging by a lot. It was a time to acquire.
A great way to do this is...
3. Buy things second-hand (or get it for free). Seriously. EVERYTHING. I'll start with clothes. Kids grow so fast from birth to three years that often things are only worn a handful of times. I occasionally found myself changing my kids just to make sure they wore every outfit. Wraps and carriers have entire sites dedicated to selling and trading. People can't seem to get rid of their kid gear fast enough it seems, so keep an eye open. Thrift stores, Craigslist, yard sales (both real and virtual) and your friends are all burgeoning with clothes that you can score for free or very cheap. Beware, hopping aboard the hand-me-down train can still lead to excess, says She-Who-Speaks-From-Experience (ahem). But, if you're like me, you'll find that when you get something for free or cheap it's easier to pass it on than if you've put some serious cash into it. One item that I am hesitant to get second-hand, unless it's from an extremely trusted resource, is a car seat. Car seats should be trashed if they've ever been in an accident. They also have expiration dates (typically 5-6 years, though some are longer) so take that into consideration.
Here's a story about my favorite free kids score. When my first son was one and a half he was starting to show interest in using the toilet. One morning I popped him in the car to go to our fabulous local kids' consignment store Hand Me Downs (don't worry, no actual kids are consigned here). On the way to the store, there was a potty by the side of the road. Did you hear me? A POTTY BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. I'm sure you're thinking, 'oh, that's gross, who would stop and pick that up to take home for first-born?' ME, ladies and gentlemen, that's who.
Stay tuned for Part II where I'll talk about avoiding the clutter with slightly older kids.