Tag Archives: Classroom

I’d Like a Clutter-Free Classroom, Please.


Waaaayyyy back in February, on Valentine’s Day to be exact, I wrote my first post for “Teaching:  A How-To Guide”.  My goal in starting this blog was to have a public record of my success in the Clutter-Free Classroom Project, which I somehow (Pinterest?) found on this amazing blog, The Clutter-Free Classroom.  Its author is my hero these days!  If you’re not already a regular reader, you need to head on over and see what you’re missing!

Of course, as is typical for me, I came to the Project late by a month and a half, so I never really caught up.  What with kids in the room all day, my chronic migraine flaring up big time as we got closer to state testing in April…  you know how it is.  I realized the day I was having my kids take a reading test while I dragged my area rug from one side of the room to the other that my project might not be in the best interest of my students at that particular moment.  However, I vowed – yes I did – to return to the Clutter-Free Classroom Project when summer arrived.

I have one week left of summer school and planning with my team.  Then I’m going to hit that room hard until the custodians bodily remove me so they can clean.  And I’ll be recording my progress here from now until the room is perfect, which allows me to keep blogging long after summer is over!



Week 4 – Wow, That Desk is Big!


Until I decluttered my desk, I had forgotten just how big that sucker is.

In fact, it’s way too big for my classroom, but we have zero storage for furniture at our school, so getting rid of it is not an option.  I’m still trying to think of a way I could turn it/move it/ utilize it so it won’t be such an intrusion into my classroom space.

Having said that, I am thrilled with the way my desk is organized now!  First of all, I moved my printer onto my desk so I can actually reach my copies.  Seems like a no brainer, but before there was no room on my desk.  And as Jodie at Clutter-Free Classroom suggested, I went vertical with my storage drawers and files.  I got rid of the little organizer for pens, etc. that sat on my windowsill and instead found places for all of those items in my desk drawers.  I did spend a little money on small plastic baskets and bins, but it was so worth it.  The green baskets came in sets of three from the Dollar General, by the way.  The black desk drawer organizers came from Staples.

Here is my new and improved desk:



My suggestions for keeping a clean desk surface:

  • Take time once a day to clean off your desk, preferably at the end of the day before you go home.
  • Make notes on your To Do list of any items that will need your attention in the morning, such as time sensitive forms.
  • I have three drawer files marked Do Something, Someday/Maybe, and File.
  • Everything in the Do Something file should be on your To Do list!
  • Check the Someday/Maybe file once or twice a week and make decisions on what to do with these items.
  • File everything in your File drawer once a week.
  • Your planner/to do list and your lesson plan book should be the only things that stay out on your desk all the time.
  • Only keep in your desk those things you use daily or almost daily.











Eventually, I plan to move the desk to make it less obtrusive.  I’d also like to decorate the front to coordinate with my Frogtastic (Trend) theme, and put a potted plant on my desk for some color.  And hope I don’t kill it.

Week 3 – I’ve Been Purging and My Classroom Feels Lighter Already


One of the benefits of being in a different classroom four years in a row is that you get rid of a lot of stuff.  And a huge benefit of thinking you’re going to quit teaching and move 1200 miles away is that you really, really get rid of a lot of stuff.  So I’ve got a head start on Week 3 of the Clutter-Free Classroom Challenge!

So when that plan crashes and burns, you start over much lighter.  In fact, when I moved into my classroom last spring, I found I couldn’t even fill up all the cupboards and closet shelves.  Cool beans!

One area that has been out of control for months now is my desk.  I love pens.  And pencils.  And office supplies.  Thank you cards.  Sticky notes – oh man.  My desk was definitely the first on my clutter “hit list”.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to dive in, I never took any before pics of my desk drawers.  S0 you’ll have to take my word for it that finding things was challenging.

Purging was actually quite fun.  I set my bins up, dragged my trash can over, set my class recycling bin nearby, and went at it.  Most papers went in the recycling bin.  Seems when I can’t find something in a pile, I just make or get a new copy.  Not exactly a very environmentally friendly habit, I know.  I waited until the kids were gone for the day to discard the Valentine’s Day suckers, cards, and sundry candy.  Except the box of chocolates.  I ate those.  I mean, c’mon.  I did pretty much fill the Keep bin, but half of that was put away in other parts of the room.

A handful of items went in the small Donate bin.  As I said, I did some major purging several times in the past four years.  Empty Coke bottles, water bottles, broken rubber bands and the like went into the trash can. I kept going until the desk was completely empty.  And of course, I took absolutely NO PICTURES!!  I’ll get better at this before and after thing, I promise.

The next morning, when my class came in, one of my girls asked me, “Mrs. Clark, are you moving away?”  She was relieved to learn I was only cleaning.  Obviously something they’re not used to seeing!

Week 2 – Make a Plan, Stan.


Jodi, over at the Clutter-Free Classroom, has designated Week 2 of her Clutter-Free Classroom Challenge for making a plan.  I love making a plan.  Seriously love planning.  You sweat so much less than when you’re actually executing said plan.


I made a huge list of the areas of my room I needed to work on, but when I finished, I realized it was basically every square inch of my class.  So I’m going to hit the areas the kids and I use most frequently, and go from there.

I decided my sorting bins would be:

  •  Recycle – we already have bins for this in our room
  • Trash
  • Donate – this stuff will go to the teacher’s mailroom
  • Keep
My non-negotiable sorting rules are:
  • If I haven’t used it in three years, ditch it.  (My stuff stayed boxed up all last year because blah, blah, blah, so I’m giving myself an extra year,)
  • If it’s broken, ditch it.
  • If it’s something that I can print from my computer, ditch it.
  • If I have multiple copies lying around, ditch the extras.
  • If it’s out of date or irrelevant, ditch it.
My “sorting kit” consists of:
  • a bottle of cleaner
  • a roll of paper towels
  • garbage bags
  • Post-It notes
  • a tape measure
  • pad of paper and pencil
  • ziplocs of varying sizes
  • large and small labeled bins
My plan is to sort, to clean, and to organize – in that order.  I’m going to start small, as that is the only way I can find time to go Clutter-Free with a room full of fifth graders.  Wish me luck!


Week 1 – The “Before” of My Classroom


      As is par for the course for me, I am about a month and a half behind on the Clutter-Free Classroom Challenge. In all fairness, I just started a week ago, so relatively speaking, I’m right on track.  Really.

     Last Monday I spent my planning period with a throbbing headache and my smart phone.  Sorry about how dark the shots are – my head couldn’t handle flourescent lighting that day.  And because I started the day with a headache, I did not think to bring my camera to school.  Typical.  

This is the only area of my room I really feel good about. Once I step in the door, things start to go downhill.








My desk, while only looking semi-terrible in this photo, generally has very little actual desk showing with all the stuff I pile.  Then I pile things on top of piles.. I JUST found the stack of blank Reading Log forms I copied off in November.  My kids are thrilled to actually have the correct form to use again!

It seemed like a big enough desk when I got it...

The rest of my room is a weird combination of bare, ugly space and junky piles.  It makes my brain tired, to be honest.  I wonder what goes through the kids’ heads while they sit and take it all in.

This is supposed to be my reading corner; my kidney table is just out of the shot.


My little corner, complete with wadded up sweater.


Not screaming warm and inviting, is it?


That black box has all the mojo to run my speakers, TV, and Elmo projection. And it can't be moved.


My very pathetic classroom library. I have tons more books, but no shelves to put them on.


Amazing rolling storage cart - ridiculous use of amazing cart.


Sorry about the quality. This is my very out-of-focus Focus Wall. Which I am obviously not focusing on.


I was actually surprised that I have as many empty spaces as I have.  Four moves in five years has helped me purge a great deal of materials and supplies that I no longer needed or used.  I just need to better organize what I do have.  Oh, by the way, after I finished, I realized I hadn’t taken a single photo of my storage closet. I am very blessed with lots and lots of storage.  As I tackle the closet and my cupboards, I’ll take before shots to share.

The first area on my “hit list” is my desk.  I’m one of those people who has a cluttered mind if I’m sitting at a cluttered desk.  I’ve already been purging and organizing in stolen moments during the day!