Are you one of the teachers that walk into their classroom each morning and immediately feels dread over the clutter littering the classroom? You aren’t alone! Lots of teachers struggle with getting rid of the classroom clutter. But, there’s a super simple and practical secret I’m going to let you in on! Because once you can get your classroom organized, it is really simple to stay organized.
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I took the question to my Instagram and asked teachers what the biggest sources of classroom clutter were in their classroom. Here’s what they had to say:
- Storage rooms or closets
- Small group teaching area/utable
- Papers that pile up all over the place
- The area around the teacher desk
Do any of those areas sound familiar?
Clutter does more than just take up space in your classroom. It causes stress and frustration. It costs you time and money. Plus, it can add stress to your students.
In this post I’m explaining 8 simple ways you can clear the classroom clutter.
But here’s the super simple secret to keeping a classroom organized. >>> It all comes down to routines built into your daily schedule. Routines for both your students and yourself.
8 Ways to Clear the Classroom Clutter
If your classroom is being overrun by papers, materials, resources, and stuff all over the place, then try implementing just one or two of these solutions into your daily routines.
In the free 5-day Classroom Organization Challenge, I walk you through how to organize five different areas of your classroom. You can learn more about the challenge here.
While you are organizing areas or attempting to clear the clutter, keep in mind that it might be necessary to get rid of some of the items causing clutter in your classroom.
Be sure to have a spot in your classroom to put items that need to be donated or recycled.
Then, use these steps to process through the items you need to get rid of.
1. Clear of Flat Surfaces
When we see a flat surface, we are tempted to put things on the flat surface.
Instead, try to keep flat surfaces cleared off as much as possible.
When I helped Casey in her cluttered classroom makeover, she was unable to meet with students at her small group table because that area was constantly covered with materials from the day.
So the first order of business was getting this area cleared off and finding homes for all of those things.
As another example, my friend Shelly teaches in a classroom that has a wall full of shelving. On each of the far ends of the wall are floor to ceiling cabinets. Then, between the tall cabinets are lower cabinets with a cabinet top.
When I helped Shelly in her classroom, she had boxes and bins stored on this countertop that stretched the length of the wall.
That is a lot of space being taken up by physical (and visual) clutter.
Instead, try taking those things off of flat surfaces and putting them inside cabinets, shelves, or in a storage closet.
Removing the visual clutter will help your classroom feel more open and clutter free.
2. Establish an End of Day Routine
Every day before I left my classroom (and before I turn off the lights in my home office), I clear my desk.
Throughout the day things pile up on your desk. To combat that, take the last 5 minutes before you walk out the door to put everything back in it’s home and push in your desk chair.
When you walk into your classroom the next morning you will be greeted with a cleared off and organized desk!
3. Homes for Homeless Things
Speaking of homes…everything needs a home! Homes can be found inside:
- plastic tubs
Utilize boxes and bins to create homes inside your cabinets.
You’ll also want to use boxes and bins to store things that are on display in your classroom. For example, library books, station materials, math manipulatives.
4. Set a Timer
The easiest way to clear some classroom clutter is to set a timer for 15 minutes and just walk around and pick everything up.
You could put it away as you go, but you might get distracted (only speaking from experience here…)
5. Put it all in One Spot and go Through it
Create an “inbox” system for yourself.
Option 1: Set a timer for 10 minutes and pick everything up. Put it on a clear space in your classroom (can even be the carpet if that’s the only clear space).
Then, set another timer for 10 minutes and put those items away. Don’t get distracted with organizing a cabinet while you are in the middle of putting things away. Just put the item in it’s home and then move on to the next item.
Option 2: Find a spot in your classroom that can serve as your “inbox” throughout the day.
I prefer to put things way throughout the day. But maybe that doesn’t work for you.
Instead, get a medium-sized tub and put it in a discreet area of the classroom. When you are done with a lesson or with materials, put the items in the box.
At the end of the day, set your time for 10 minutes and put all of those items away.
6. Create a Paper Routine
The biggest struggle teachers face when it comes to keeping the classroom clutter-free is all the piles of paper that wind up all over your classroom.
You need a routine for each type of paper that comes into your classroom.
- student papers
- papers from the office
- papers to be graded
- those “I thought you might need this” papers
- papers to be returned
You can also enroll in the Classroom Paper Organization course and I will guide you through cleaning out your papers and creating routines for each of those papers mentioned above.
7. Do a Classroom Organization Challenge
Another fun way to clear the classroom clutter is to go area by area with my 5-day Classroom Organization Challenge.
The challenge is designed to help you get five key areas in your classroom organized. Each day you get an email focusing on one area of the classroom. The email consists of a few simple steps to start getting that area organized.
You can learn more and join the challenge here. The five areas we cover are:
- Teacher Desk
- Classroom Papers
- Student Materials
- Small-Group Teaching Area
8. Empty the Walls
When a new year starts, teachers rush to get their classrooms decorated and feeling homey.
Often times that means cluttering up the walls with charts and unecessary items.
Then, as the year progresses we add more charts, student work, and the walls become even more cluttered.
Less is more when it comes to decorating your classroom and putting items on the walls.
Use these steps for organizing anchor charts in your classroom to clear some of that wall clutter.
Plus, I love this idea of photographing student work as a way to display it without taking up as much space.
Most Frequent Problem Areas
The most common areas teachers struggle with keeping organized the most common because they are challenging and overwhelming to organize.
Luckily, I have some resources for each of those areas!
- Classroom Cabinets >>> 5 Steps to Organize Cabinets
- Storage rooms or closets >>> Closets are just like cabinets, use these tips
- Small group teaching area/utable >>> A Guide to Small Group Teaching Organization
- Shelves >>> All of these classroom cabinet resources will help you out!
- Papers that pile up all over the place >>> Classroom Paper Organization Course
- The area around the teacher desks >>> 6 Step Guide to Organize Your Teacher Desk
Classroom Paper Organization Course
Organizing classroom papers is the number one thing I get asked about. There are SO many papers and SO little time to deal with them.
That’s why I created the Classroom Paper Organization Course. In this thirty minute training, I teach you how to:
- get your papers organized
- establish systems for your papers moving forward
- manage papers for multiple classrooms
- organize digital files and filing cabinets
- how to collect and organize student data
When it comes to clearing the classroom clutter, it simply comes down to building routines to your daily systems. Just choosing one or two of these ideas will help you get rid of some of that clutter so you can focus on keeping your classroom organized.
- Clear off flat surfaces
- Establish and end of day routine
- Find homes for homeless things
- Set a timer and pick up everything you can
- Put everything in one spot to put away later
- Create a paper routine
- Join the free 5-day Classroom Organization Challenge
Here is a quick recap of all the links shared in this post:
- 5 Ways to Stay Organized as a Teacher
- Small-Group Teaching Organization
- All the Classroom Cabinet Organization resources are here
- 5 Day Classroom Organization Challenge
- 4 Ways to Conquer the Classroom Paper mess
- Enroll in the Classroom Paper Organization Course
- Download the 6 Step Guide to Organizing the Teacher Desk
Until next time,