5 Ways to Clear Classroom Clutter

Hello and Happy New Year! 

I hope you had a fabulous holiday season and are back at it, full of renewed energy.  I’m back to blogging, (first post since October), and, like all new year’s resolutions, I’m planning to stick with it this time…you know, best intentions and all.

There’s a lot that I’m planning for 2015, but before I get going with all my goals, there’s something at the top of my priority list…Clearing the clutter from my classroom.


So, I have a confession…I’m messy, a pile maker, and someone who keeps waaayy too much.  
This isn't even a terrible day for my desk, yet look at the clutter!  The spray bottle is for waking up sleepy kids who like to put their heads down during class - I do teach high school after all!

I think that’s something common to many teachers – we’re loathe to get rid of anything because who knows when we might try that lesson again, or maybe we’ll switch grade levels, and who wants to start over from scratch?  But, there comes a point when I just can’t take the clutter anymore and I have to do something, which is where I am now.  So here are my 5 ways to clear the clutter from the classroom:

1. Get rid of all extra copies.  I admit that when I’m making copies for classes, I always make about 10 extra for students that lose them, for my files, to share with colleagues, etc.  But here’s the thing, I inevitably have several sheets left over that don’t get used, so I just stick them in my filing cabinets…and my files grow and grow year after year. Rarely, though, do I go back and use up the extra copies. So, why do I keep them?  Do you do the same thing?  This year I resolve to recycle all the extras and declutter my files.
See this stack? It contains a sample MLA format handout I shared with my students...in 2009!

2. Create subject binders.  I actually started this before, but never finished the job, so I think that now’s the time.  I started by breaking down my typical year by the units/standards I teach (and I started with only one prep at a time, because this is an overwhelming job).  Then, I put a calendar in the front of the binder and all the materials that I use in plastic sheets behind that.  I took the handouts from my newly decluttered files, and was able to throw a bunch of ratty file folders away.  Then, of course, I decided that I wanted to do this by literature piece, too, so now I’m really in the thick of it.

3. Replace my hanging file folders in the file cabinet with my newly organized binders.  This step did double duty.  It made my cabinets neater and my materials easier to find, and it cleared a big spot on my shelves where the binders were previously stored.

4. Find place for everything.  The top drawers in my desk had long been filled with personal items - tylenol, extra mascara, a lint roller, mouthwash, you get the gist.  But, that wasn't the best use of my desk space.  So I got a 3-drawer plastic cart and placed it under my printer table.  I filled the top drawer with my personal stuff, the middle drawer with snacks, and the bottom with plastic cutlery, napkins, etc.  Now I have all the things I need out of my drawers and cabinets, and I know right where to go for what I need.

And, speaking of plastic drawers, I picked up several of the smaller, 3-drawer sets and use them to store work to be returned and work to grade.  I assign one drawer to each period, and I'm set.  Here's the work to return set:

5. Donate, sell, gift, or, gasp, toss old books.  I have stacks and stacks of books that, as good as they are, I will never read again.  Many of these are teaching guides, practical manuals for new teachers dealing with class management, procedures, and curriculum.  I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and am pretty confident in my style.  Some are ratty novels that my classes have loved and devoured, and are now missing covers and pages.  Others are books that I’ve inherited from retired teachers that date back before my birth (in the ‘70s).  These books take up so much needed space, but I’ve always hated the thought of getting rid of books – I’m an English teacher after all.  But, it’s time, and I’ve allowed myself, in the wise words of Elsa, to let it go.

It may not yet be a perfect system, but I'm working on it.  I hope that you, too, see success on your resolutions, and maybe, that these 5 tips can help you too.

1 comment

  1. Great ideas. I switched from binders a few years ago but considering moving back to them. Thanks for the ideas and photos.


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