How to Conquer the Classroom Clutter Once and for All

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I don’t know about you, but as soon as a new year begins, I like to get things organized!  And, since we just kicked off a new year, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss the giant elephant in the room…classroom clutter.

As teachers and homeschoolers, it seems like we need to keep everything.  While it’s true we do need to keep a lot for documentation purposes, it doesn’t mean your room (or house) has to be so overwhelming.  If you have some useful tools to help you, the task will be much less daunting.

While I personally LOVE organizing (I mean, seriously LOVE it), not everyone shares my affinity for it.  So, if you are one of the HATERS, it’s ok.  I’ve spent several years learning to conquer classroom clutter, and today, I want to share a few of my secrets with you.

Managing Classroom Clutter

Before I get into the specifics, I want to give you my two best tips for managing classroom clutter and organizing homeschool clutter.

Throw Away the Unessential

Now I know that as teachers we tend to have a hard time letting go of stuff that we spent our hard-earned money on.  And the truth is that we feel it’s our civic duty to hoard all of the “Googly” eyes and popsicle sticks that another teacher is “giving away.”

But the recycling bin is a very important part of managing classroom clutter.  And whether you believe it or not, it’s ok to throw some things away!

Yes, you need to keep relevant items for your child’s portfolio, but you do not need to keep the 14 coloring sheets your sweet kiddos completed before Christmas break…yeah, I said it.

Also, if you aren’t grading it, and it isn’t vital…trash it.  (Let’s be honest, if you were planning to grade it but now you’re too far behind, trash it and move on with your life.  You can thank me later!)

If you find yourself drowning under all of the papers, I’ve written two additional posts you might find helpful.  One is all about helping you figure out which papers to keep and what you can toss.  The other is focused on unique and creative storage solutions for all those school papers.

Make Sure Everything has a Place

As a teacher and homeschooler, there are things that you HAVE to keep.

If you have a class of 25-30 students, you’re going to have to keep 25-30 sets of various things.  If you’re homeschooling multiple children, you’re going to have several years worth of curriculum that will need to be kept as well as all of the current year’s curriculum.

Regardless of your class size, the amount of papers accumulates fast.  That’s why all of the essential “keepers” need to have a set place to keep it.

Unfortunately, the only way to MANAGE classroom clutter is to make sure that each item is put back into its proper place after use.

Obviously, that’s a lot easier said than done. But if you do this, you will conquer classroom clutter!

The Best Tools to Organize Classroom Clutter

Now that you’ve eliminated the “non-essentials” and are ready to designate a home for every single thing, you need to have the right tools for the job.

Every classroom or homeschool area is different, and thus, there’s no cookie-cutter solution.  But here are a few storage items I use that have revolutionized my war against classroom clutter.

10 Drawer Carts

10 drawer carts?

Totally worth the investment!

I bought mine from Sam’s and Wal-Mart (you can also find them on Amazon here) for my classroom and I kept two beside my classroom door while another one lived next to my desk.

But when I started homeschooling, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them.  Fast forward a few years and now I can’t stay organized without them!  The two multicolored carts are in the closet of our schoolroom while the translucent one has found the perfect home in my son’s room.

The ones in the schoolroom closet store a variety of different things.  One stores teacher supplies like printer paper, labels, clipboards, page protectors, and spiral notebooks, while the other contains my VIPKid props and reward systems.

You can also dedicate cart to a specific subject.  You could have one full of math manipulatives, another filled with various art supplies, and still another with STEM supplies.  They are perfect for corralling all of the small pieces and parts.

In fact, the one that has landed in my son’s room stores LEGOs.  (And although I know this isn’t directly related to classroom clutter, I had to shaw you how awesome this cart is for LEGOs.  It certainly beats the floor, and, inevitably, my bare feet. #BoyMom)

So no matter what you decide to put in them, these carts are invaluable!  They maximize vertical space and can hold a ton of classroom tools and supplies.

Labels

This may seem kind of obvious, but you need to label EVERYTHING to prevent classroom clutter, including what you have hidden stored in your 10 drawer carts!!  If it isn’t labeled, you won’t know what’s in it.

The only requirement for labeling is legibility.  Here are three of my favorites.

  1. Avery Labels.  While they aren’t the most beautiful option, they are definitely one of the easiest.  You just write, peel, and stick.  If you really don’t like your handwriting, you can actually just put them directly into your printer and print!
  2. Post-It Notes.  If you are debating on a location for specific supplies or resources, Post-It Notes are perfect.  Obviously, they would be a short-term fix, but they would certainly be helpful until you can do something snazzy.
  3. Pre-made labels.  With an unlimited number of designs available, pre-made labels are wonderful.  I’ve absolutely fallen in love with farmhouse style…everything.  (Thank you, Joanna Gaines!)  And, because of that, I actually created 2 different lines of classroom decor that include Rustic Wood labels and Rustic Coastal labels to fit on the front of your 10 drawer carts.

3-Ring Binders

I LOVE 3-ring binders because you can grab them and go, as opposed to dragging an entire filing cabinet with you.

For my friends that don’t know, when you get your first teaching job you are blessed with the standard black or khaki filing cabinet.

What the administrator neglects to tell you is the teacher before you left everything when she retired…just in case you might need it.  (Can I get a show of hands for those who know what I am talking about?)

So, rather than go through the bottomless pit, you find another way to store your units, plans, and stuff.

Enter the 3-ring binder.

Personally, I prefer 3-ring binders because they are portable, and, if organized correctly, can save you tons of time when planning!

My favorite binders have the clear pocket in both the front and the spine to hold a cover page and a label.  I love that I can easily see what’s included in the binder (even when tucked away on the shelf) by simply looking at the spine.

Right now, my boys have their own personal binders that serve as portfolios of graded work.  I have one that holds my lesson plans and calendars.  I keep a vast supply (to the tune of at least 25 in our current inventory) ranging in sizes from 1/2 inch to 3 inch.

But the most commonly used size in our house is 1 inch binder because it it holds everything we need without being too large.

Classroom organization is wonderful in theory, but hard to accomplish...especially in elementary classrooms. With the introduction of Marie Kondo and the KonMari method of decluttering, teachers everywhere are embracing the concept of "less is more." Find ideas and teacher hacks that will have you organizing all the things. There is even a set of free classroom storage labels! Decluttering your classroom just got a whole lot easier. #classroomorganization #teacherorganization #teacherhacks

Well, friends, what do you think?  Do you think these tools will help you tame the classroom clutter beast?  I truly believe in you, and I want to help you in every way possible.  So, I’m giving you a set of 10 Drawer Cart Labels FREE!

Just visit my Free Resources page, and you’ll gain access to these labels and other great organizational products!