Don’t become overwhelmed with a cluttered classroom. Believe it or not, all teachers CAN be organized! This post shares three easy steps you can take to tame a cluttered classroom and keep it organized.
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This week I am excited to introduce you to Tanya Marshall from The Butterfly Teacher. I came across her website when doing some research for my own blog. Tanya and I both love to talk about organization and systems.
Tanya G. Marshall taught for 12 years, with the majority of that time spent in 4th-Grade. She loves teaching, reading, and all things related to organizing!
If you want more tips on saving time, getting organized, and transforming learning, visit Tanya over at www.thebutterflyteacher.com
I am excited to share with you the three steps Tanya has for how to tame a cluttered classroom.
3 Steps to Tame a Cluttered Classroom
These are the kind of questions that plague so many teachers striving to get more organized in their classrooms:
- What is the best way for me to store these?
- Should I keep this, or should I throw it away?
- Will I need this for my classroom next year?
Especially since so many of us are transitioning from distance learning to being back in the classroom with students full-time.
Whether you teach online or in-person, the Spring season provides a great opportunity to tap into your inner Marie Kondo and start decluttering!
This post shares three steps to help you conquer the decluttering process. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Purge Unnecessary Items from Your Classroom
The first step in taming classroom clutter have is to get rid of things from your space that aren’t essential.
If you’re on the fence about what to keep and what to toss, try the R.O.L.L method created by Melanie Unger.
In her book—Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom—she describes this acronym that helps with classroom decluttering.
- R–Repeat “Do I really need more than one of these?”
- O–Outdated “Is this an item I use regularly?”
- L–Level “Do these materials match the grade level I’m currently teaching?”
- L–LOVE It “How much do I truly appreciate this item?” (Basically, the teacher version of Marie Kondo’s “Does it spark joy?”)
This simple ROLL method can help you kickstart purging items quickly.
If you’re still stuck, consider some of the items mentioned in the free decluttering checklist from this post: 35 Things to Throw Away from Your Classroom Today.
Step 2: Transition Classroom Supplies that You’ve Kept at Home
Teachers who were suddenly forced to work from home may have amassed quite a collection of classroom supplies in our at-home classrooms.
Many of us have storage units, closets, and other spaces outside of the classroom full of teacher supplies.
Follow these tips to transition the right learning supplies back into the classroom without creating new clutter.
- Only take items back that you know will be useful in the classroom. (Refer back to the R.O.L.L process.) Get rid of everything else.
- Consider whether an item you’re keeping can be easily sanitized or not. If it cannot, now is the time to donate, sell, or trash it. (Here’s looking at you reading buddy teddy bears!)
- Get an accountability partner or family member at home to help you set realistic boundaries on how much to keep.
- Have a SMALL designated area to store lesson planning materials at home. If you get a huge storage space, you will fill it up with stuff that you don’t need! A smaller space forces you to be intentional about what you keep.
- Do not bring ANY new papers or other classroom materials home during your home decluttering process.
As you go through this process, also think about whether an item pairs well with digital learning or not.
Some of the classroom décor items and other cute materials may not work be realistic anymore due to COVID.
With the uncertainly of COVID still lingering, teachers need learning materials that can be used with devices without a hassle.
Or you need things in your classroom that will be very easy to clean in order to keep everyone safe.
Step 3: Create Systems in Your Classroom to Keep Clutter Away
Now that you’ve worked so hard to get rid of items you don’t need and you’ve transitioned your supplies from home to school, you need a better way to store things.
This is where organization systems become king!
The type of systems you set up depend on two big things:
- What is the layout of your classroom and storage space?
- How will you need to use the items in that space?
An example of one system that I used in my classroom is the 10-drawer rolling cart where I keep my literacy center supplies.
I knew that I didn’t have enough cubbies or closet space to hoard lots of materials for my literacy centers.
And I knew that I wanted my 4th graders to be independent in getting and putting away their own supplies.
So, I set up a system where all my monthly center materials could easily fit in this cart on wheels.
I made drawer labels for each month of the year and only put items in the drawers that fit these criteria:
- …could be easily sprayed or wiped with Lysol wipes without damage
- …would work well with most of the activities chosen during that month
- …that worked with printable or digital literacy centers
Taking a few moments to survey your classroom and teaching routines will help you set up better systems that keep you and your students organized.
That’s it, teacher friend! Purge. Transition. Systemize. Following these three steps will help you tame the clutter in your classroom this year.
More Tips for Staying Organized as a Teacher
Once you declutter and set up your systems, you will want to keep things tidy moving forward.
Remember, disorganization costs precious time and money for teachers.
Here are some random things you can do to stay organized as a teacher:
- Scan paper items to create digital files and PDF’s that can be saved to external hard drives. You can use your phone to scan with free scanner apps for smartphones.
- Take pictures of student gifts, artwork, crafts, and letters and upload the pics to a digital photo album. These allow you to enjoy the memories without the clutter!
- Follow the 1-inch rule with paper piles–if the stack of papers is higher than 1-inch, then it’s time to purge! This includes papers in file folders too.
- Use clear storage hanging bags for your bulletin board supplies to save floor space. Plastic bins and tubs tend to take up so much space.
- Create color-coded folders in your Google Drive to organize all the digital classroom activities you’ve accumulated.
If you have a teacher assistant or classroom volunteer, these are easy tasks that he or she can do to help you tame any new classroom clutter.
A cluttered classroom can lead to stress not only for yourself but for your students. Take time to declutter your classroom and increase the creativity in your students.
Remember to follow Tanya’s three simple steps for taming a cluttered classroom:
- Purge Unnecessary Items from Your Classroom
- Transition Classroom Supplies that You’ve Kept at Home
- Create Systems in Your Classroom to Keep Clutter Away
Here is a quick recap of all the links shared in this post:
- Step by Step Guide to Declutter a Classroom
- A Cluttered Classroom Makeover
- 5 Ways to Stay Organized as a Teacher
Until next time,