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Organized Classroom = Organized Mind

Clear Out the Clutter and Become The Most Effective Teacher You Can Be


Sometimes I wonder... how can such a small classroom hold so many papers, books, files, and piles? It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of papers, supplies, and miscellaneous junk that comes my way from the office, my student, their parents, and myself.

Sometimes, we teachers are forced, at the end of a school year, to clear out our classroom clutter when we have to move classrooms or even schools. My friend Brooke has to clear absolutely everything out of her classroom due to summer building renovations.

But even if no one is forcing you to do a major overhaul, consider what you really need and what you can dump in the trash. Lightening your load will really make a difference to your mental outlook.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you're ready to part ways with some of the junk you've accumulated in your classroom over the years:

  1. When was the last time I used this item? - If there's a sheet of dust covering the item in question, then you don't even need to answer this question - toss it! If you haven't used it in the past school year, think about the reason behind it languishing in your cupboards. Did you forget to use it? Will you ever possibly use it again? If you're feeling particularly ready to clean up big-time, throw it away. Chances are, you'll never miss it!
  2. Could someone else use these materials better than I? - If you've switched grade levels and held onto a few extra mementos, consider giving the materials to a colleague who could better use them. Is there a new teacher on your staff who would be thrilled to inherit the items and incorporate them into her small collection? At my school, we set such items out in the staff room and it's a free-for-all, up-for-grabs situation. Just like giving old clothes to Goodwill, it feels good to give to others at school, as well.
  3. Is it just a piece of junk? - No offense, but I've never seen scavengers like teachers. Classroom educators will snap up almost anything that someone is willing to discard, often "just in case" she could use it someday. Don't be a packrat. Just because something was available or it was free doesn't mean you have to store it forever. If you accumulated some random item a few years back and haven't used it, it's now time to get rid of it! You can do it, I promise!
  4. Am I emotionally attached to this item? - If something does not directly contribute to student learning, perhaps it simply holds some sort of emotional attachment for you. Let it go. If you can't let go straight away, consider taking a photo for posterity's sake and then putting it in the round filing cabinet (a.k.a. the trashcan). The peace of mind you'll feel from the extra space in your storage cabinets will be well worth the trade.
Good job! Now that you've pared down, make sure you vow never to "pare up" again. Before you bring something else into your classroom, ask yourself the above questions and opt to leave it for someone else. I must repeat, JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS FREE DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT! Now, go enjoy your leaner, meaner classroom!

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