A cluttered classroom can be overwhelming! Picture this: You just got hired! Yay! The number one question a teacher would ask next: Can I see my classroom? Someone walks you down the hall, unlocks the door, flips on the lights and WHOA……there’s a lot of stuff. Some people would call it treasures and other people might call it clutter. You know what they say – one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. So, what do you do? Here are 5 steps to help you declutter.
Please know that I can’t take the credit for these steps. This is from Dana K. White at A Slob Comes Clean. She has 1,000’s of tips on YouTube and her podcast. But I want to share them with you because whether it’s a cluttered house, closet or classroom these are the same 5 steps. Okay let’s begin…
All you need is a trash bag, donateable donate box and your feet.
Step 1: Look For Trash
There is always trash in EVERY classroom if you look hard enough. But for a cluttered classroom you might find a garbage bag or two (or five). If you really want to see progress, Dana K. White suggests you start with the most visible space. Get a garbage bag and GO! Look around at the pile of random things and find the trash. Wrappers, broken items, old ditto sheets that you will no longer use, plastic paint cups that are about to fall apart, etc.
Step 2: Do The Easy Stuff
I LOVE easy stuff. To me it would just be easier not to look at the mess at all. But to create a dream room this must be done. Doing the easy stuff just means that a particular item already has a home somewhere else in the classroom but for some odd reason it’s not there. Take it there RIGHT NOW. That’s easy. You know where it goes and you take it there.
If this is a brand new classroom (new to you) you might not have as much of the easy stuff because you don’t have a history with this classroom. You will be assigning homes for everything in another step.
Step 3: Duh Clutter
This is when you come across something and you think “Duh – why do I have this?” It’s something that is just obvious to you that it needs to go and you can put it right into the Donation Box. There might be a lot of these items if you are cleaning out a classroom that belonged to someone else. If you are new to this classroom make sure you have permission from your principal to get rid of anything you want and you will also want to know that it’s not part of your curriculum (the other teachers can help with this).
Step 4: Ask The Two Questions
Question #1: If I needed this item where would I look for it first?
When you pick up an item and you realize that it’s not trash, doesn’t already have a home and not going in the donation box THEN you take to the place where you would look for it first. Notice I didn’t say where it SHOULD go BUT where would YOU look for it FIRST. Maybe you came across a pencil sharpener and you think that it should go near your desk BUT you know that there is a counter across the room that you find yourself gravitating towards when you want to sharpen a pencil. Put it there. Don’t worry about where you SHOULD put it or where the BEST place would be – take it where you think you would look for it first. Take it there right NOW.
Question #2: If I needed this item would it occur to me I already have one?
Let’s say you pick up an item and you have NO idea where you would put it and you are really stuck. Now you can ask the second question. This question really means – Would you even go looking for this item if you didn’t know you had it or would you end up going out and buying it again resulting in owning multiples? If you know you would never go looking in your classroom for that item you might be able to donate it.
Step 5: Make It Fit
One way to make things fit is to consolidate the items and see how many of each you already have. Then you will want to contain the items. A container will “contain” the items. A box is a container. But so is a shelf as well as your entire classroom – these are all examples of containers.
Let’s say you have a box full of stickers. You LOVE stickers! Maybe you have even more stickers but they will no longer fit in the box comfortably, however, you don’t want to get rid of them. You don’t HAVE to get rid of them. So you get another box. Okay so what CAN you get rid of in order to have space for the second box of stickers? Do you really want a whole shelf full of boxes of stickers? If yes, great what else will go to make room for all your stickers? What if you have 10 boxes of stickers and you need another shelf? Remember, your classroom is a container and you need to fit your kids in there too (plus other learning materials).
So as you can see, you can keep anything you want but you can’t keep everything if you want to teach comfortably in a clutter free classroom. That might sound like a far fetched example but I know it’s not too far from the truth for some people (I just might be one of those people too).
Putting It Together
A cluttered classroom makes teaching harder, finding things harder and learning harder. Don’t let that happen to you. If the teacher before you didn’t want it that doesn’t mean you HAVE to want it. Follow the steps and clean out your classroom BEFORE you bring all your things in. If you are cleaning out your own classroom go through your things and follow the same steps. As teachers we accumulate things and EVERYTHING feels useful. That’s okay. You are not alone! Check out Dana K. White’s YouTube videos and podcasts if this topic is interesting to you and you want to learn more. Although her examples are in homes, she can help you transform your cluttered classroom into a dream classroom.
Are you now ready to set up your classroom for the new school year? Check out this post: