Does your classroom feel like it’s straight from an episode of “Hoarders”? Do you waste time looking for supplies or waste money buying supplies that you already have but can’t find? We’ve all been there! Running a classroom full of students is tough, but having everything well organized makes it a little bit easier. Classroom organization is a process that begins like this:
Tackle the clutter with these 5 easy steps.
(And be sure to print your own set of free editable labels. There’s a link at the bottom of the page.)
1. Work on one (small) project at a time!
This is the most important thing – do NOT try to do everything at once.
Tackle 1 shelf, 1 pile of papers, or 1 drawer at a time.
Make a reverse “to do” list. Rather than make a list of all the organizing projects that need to be done, make a list of projects that you have completed.
2. Group like supplies together
This is such a simple idea, but it’s the key to organization. Look through your supplies and group them by their use: art supplies, sensory materials, office supplies, math manipulatives, fine motor tools, etc.
When everything is together, you can gauge what you have too much of, what you might need, and how much space you will need to store it.
3. Purge. Purge. Purge.
This is the hardest part, but it’s impossible to organize without purging. If you’re like most teachers, you are a saver, a penny-pincher, and a planner. You’re always thinking, “I could use this for ___” or “I might be able to use this when we ___.” STOP! Be honest and ask yourself these questions:
Have we used this supply in the last year (or 2 years)?
Do you know the saying, “The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.”? It’s true! If you haven’t used the supply in the last year (or whatever period of time you determine to be reasonable), you are NOT going to use it in the future. You’re not! Clear it out and make room for the things that you use.
Is this supply old, broken, or outdated?
If it is, please donate or recycle it. Having fewer materials is better than having materials that are of poor quality. Our students deserve to have updated supplies.
Do the students enjoy using this supply? Is it appealing? Do we have another supply that would serve the purpose better?
If the answer to the first questions is “no” then donate or recycle it. If you have 2 similar supplies, choose the better one and donate or recycle the other one.
Is this easy and cheap to obtain? Do I need to store it or can we acquire it again when we need it? (think toilet paper rolls!)
Okay, so all teachers have a stash, right? A pile of bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, and scrap paper. We have a supply of old wrapping paper and broken sponges. Only keep these things for the 2 weeks before you plan to use them. Then, get rid of them. It does not make sense to use valuable storage space for things that are free and easily obtainable.
Do we have SPACE for it?
This is non-negotiable. How much SPACE do you have? For example, we keep our thematic books in these white filing boxes from Ikea. We can only keep as many books as fit in the filing boxes. So, as soon as the box begins to overflow, it’s time to PURGE!
We recently had a family donate a HUGE garbage bag of rubber ducks to our classroom. A HUGE bag. We decided on the container (the SPACE) that we could use for them and donated the rest to another classroom.
4. Put everything in a container. Then find a “put-away” place for every container.
You know the quote: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” That’s the goal!
Every supply needs a container. The containers do not have to be identical, but it is helpful if they stack easily so that you don’t have to play a game of jenga or tetris every time you take out a container. Over the years, we have used different containers and are just recently in a position where most of them match.
Organization is a process, not an end-game. Just keep working at it.
5. LABEL everything!
Labels are essential. Not only do they help you locate the supply you need quickly, they are crucial for everyone who helps to put things away.
Chances are high that you will relabel your supplies or move them to a new container at some point. For that reason, we recommend using plastic adhesive pockets for your labels. They make it really easy to take the labels our and replace them with new ones.
We use picture labels for resources that the students use and clean up, but for supplies that only the teachers access, plain text labels are perfectly fine!
Our classroom “decor” is clean and simple and these labels match perfectly. You can use them in your own organizing too. They’re free and editable.
Enjoy the process and savor all the extra time you will have once your classroom is organized like a pro!