How to Declutter Your Classroom

Teachers have a lot of stuff. We use a lot of stuff. Sometimes that stuff stacks up. It piles up. It's always there, in our way. If you feel like clutter is taking over your classroom, then keep reading. In this post, I'm going to share my favorite tips for keeping your classroom clutter-free.

declutter and organize your classroom

The purpose of this post is to help you tame the piles of stuff scattered about your room and the junk that may be crammed into your closets, cabinets, drawers, and everywhere in between (OK, junk is harsh, but I'm willing to bet you have some of it crammed into at least one of those spaces).

This post is not meant to make you feel like you need to have a designer classroom. A clean space is not the same as a decorated space. They are two very different things, and this post is simply meant to help you clean up your existing space.

Why Declutter?
Why should you care about getting classroom clutter under control?  Because, whether you realize it or not, the clutter could be contributing to an uncomfortable classroom setting. It might make you feel anxious or stressed because you can't find things buried in the 97 (or 25, or 10, or whatever) piles scattered around your room.

We all have different notions of what constitutes clutter. And, some people are more affected by clutter than others, but it's important to keep in mind that it does affect people. I definitely fall into this category. Too much clutter makes me feel anxious and distracted. I have a very small classroom.  When there is too much clutter around me, I feel like the walls are closing in on me. I definitely feel anxious and bothered. That may sound dramatic, but it's true.

Your students could be affected too. A classroom that is free of clutter is more conducive to a productive learning environment. Less clutter means students can find what they need easily.  It means they can focus on their work with less distraction. A clutter-free space means students are more likely to feel calm and focused.

Clutter and chaos hold you back. Your brain can't fully focus when it's distracted. Clutter is distracting. And, when we're relating clutter to a classroom setting, it stands to reason that clutter may also be holding back some of your students.

Bottom line, our physical environment affects how we feel, and it can completely squash our motivation. While some people are affected by this more than others, the impact of clutter is something teachers should be cognizant of so that our students are able to learn in a more optimal learning environment.

Are you ready to tackle your room and make it clutter-free?

How to Declutter Your Classroom
These tips are fairly general and they are presented in no particular order. We all have different notions of what clutter-free should look like. To some, that means your space is as minimalistic in appearance as possible. To others, it means that things are put away and kept in their designated spot. So, when you read these tips, choose the ones that work best for you and your idea of a clutter-free classroom. :)

Start Where it Matters Most
You can't expect to declutter your entire classroom in one afternoon. Don't try to bite off more than you can chew.  Attack one space in your room at a time. Start with your desk. Chances are this is where the majority of your clutter ends up, and it's the space you rely on most to do your planning and grading.  How can you productively plan upcoming lessons when your desk is covered in old memos, resource books, or whatever else. Each day, move to a new space and tackle the next clutter zone.

Prioritize Your Mission
You want to declutter, but you can't do it all at once. Break your mission into smaller ones. Make a list of all the spaces in your classroom that need to be decluttered and organized. From there, decide which spaces need the most attention and which ones need less attention. Then, decide how you want to prioritize from there. Do you want to start with the spaces that need the most attention and work your way to the others, or vice versa? There's no right or wrong way, do what works for you.

Do a Little Bit Each Day
So this tip is kind of a recap of one and two up above. You cannot declutter your entire classroom in one sitting. It's too overwhelming and you'll just be more stressed than before you started. Set aside a specific amount of time each day to tackle the spaces you've identified as needing some attention.  You'll feel more accomplished and more excited about tackling the next space the following day.

Get Rid of Stuff
As you work your way from one space to the next, purge as you go! Get rid of the stuff you don't need or use. If you don't need it, love it, or use it, get rid of it! Grab a bag and fill it up, and Or, if you prefer, pass it on to someone who could use it.

If you're super serious about decluttering, then, grab a trash bag and fill it up. Looking to baby step your way through the decluttering process? Then, grab a smaller bag (like a grocery bag) and fill it up.

Keep a second bag (or box) on hand where you can place items you aren't sure you should keep or toss. You can go back to these items a day or two later and then decide. In situations like these, I usually go with the advice my mom gave me as a teenager: "If you aren't sure, then you don't need it." This was what she'd typically tell me when shopping for new clothes and I couldn't decide if I really liked something or not. But, I've found that this advice has been helpful with other types of decision making. ;)

Organize Everything
As you go from space to space and weed through the materials/items in that space, give them a permanent home (if they don't already have one).

Decide how and where you should store these items. Storage bins and tubs are a great way to contain items and they allow you to find them more easily when you need them again.

Decide which items need to be kept on a shelf or counter top, which ones can be stored in a closet or cabinet, and which ones can be stored completely out of the way.  For example, I keep my math manipulatives in labeled storage bins inside my wardrobe in the classroom.  This way, I can grab them as needed, but they are tucked away when we don't need them.

There are some items that I simply do not need to keep in my classroom. I keep a giant bin of play props and costumes on my storage shelf in our pod storage room. I don't even label this bin because I know exactly what it holds. It might be just the world's second oldest storage bin, by the way. Since I only need access to these items once a year keeping them in the classroom really makes no sense (and so, a pretty storage bin is so not necessary).

Just remember, everything needs a home. When you're done with something, put it back in its home. Make it a habit.

Keeping Things Decluttered
Once you declutter your space, you'll want to keep it that way.  So, here are a few of my favorite tips for making sure your newly organized space stays that way.

Clean Your Desk Every Day
This is non-negotiable for me. Before I leave each day, I make sure my desk is cleared of clutter. It takes me less than 5 minutes. There is nothing worse than coming in first thing in the morning with the intention of being productive only to be defeated when you remember that your desk is a mess and you don't have any space to do your work. Prevent unnecessary morning stress from the get go and make sure you clean that desk off before you go home each day.

Sometimes my desk looks like this during the day.

But, I can't leave for the day until it looks like this.

Once upon a time, I left school with a mess on my desk. I forgot about said mess overnight. When I got to work the next day I was supremely disappointed to see that I couldn't tackle my to do list because I didn't clean off my desk the night before. I had to go through the junk on my desk just so I could get to work. Then, I was grumpy because my morning wasn't as productive as it should have been.

Moral of the story: Starting the day with a clean desk is totally worth the five minutes it might take me to clear it off at the end of the previous day.

Put Your Stuff Away...All Day, Every Day
When you're done with something, put it away. Seriously, it takes more time to do a full cleaning of your classroom than it does to clean as you go. So, tidy up as you go through the day. Sometimes we feel rushed and just set things down with the intention of putting it away later. If you do this 15 times a day, that adds up to way too much stuff sitting where it doesn't belong. Just put it away. I mean, it will probably take you less than a minute to do so, so just do it (even if you have to save that task for after school, just make sure you do it).

When we're done with a set of manipulatives, or reading group books, or a specific art supply, I put them away. If you're done with something, just put it away. Leaving it out is pointless.

Weekly Clean Up 
I get it, teaching is  crazy. You are bound to have some stuff sitting out that you should have put away, but literally did not have an opportunity to do so. I'm guilty of this too (I hate clutter, but I'm not perfect). I try to put things away as soon as I'm done with them, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. Once a week, take the time to survey your room and put away any lingering items that are still sitting out. Make it part of your end of day Friday routine. Visually sweep your room and put away any small piles of stuff that are still out of place.

Keep the Clutter at Bay
Don't buy things you don't need. In other words, don't bring more stuff into your classroom unless it will serve a specific purpose, and you have space for it. Also, just say no.

Let me repeat that last one. Just. Say. No. When your neighbor asks if you want her old collection of empty toilet paper tubes, just say no!  First, WHY would you want them?  Second, WHERE will you keep them. Third, do you REALLY need them?  I mean, taking them won't make you a more effective teacher. And, they're just going to take up space. If you find that you really need those tubes later, ask your students to send them in. 

Anytime is a good time to tackle the clutter, but as the new year approaches, make it a goal to get the clutter in your classroom under control. Making sure your classroom is clean, organized, and calm will help you and your students in the long run.


declutter and organize your classroom

Related Posts
Click an image to go to that post. :)

Decluttering your classroom is just one way to eliminate stress in your life.  My post on Self-Care for Teachers will give you more ideas on how to eliminate and manage stress.

If you're looking to work smarter, not harder, then be sure to check out this post.  By following some of the tips found there, you're sure to eliminate more stress in your life.

Looking for some easy to use organization ideas? Check out these posts.

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  1. Your messy desk picture is what I would consider my clean desk picture lol!! 😂😂😂

    1. Haha! Too funny! We all have our own definitions of clutter-hehe. ;) Thanks for stopping by! :)



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