Tidying Up Your Classroom - Marie Kondo Style
On New Year’s Day in 2019, professional organizer Marie Kondo took the world by storm when she debuted her Netflix series, Tidying Up. She first published her book on the same concept (her KonMari method) in 2011 but didn’t truly explode into virality until this year. In her series, she comes to the rescue of families who are at wit's end with their household clutter. We can relate to the clutter chaos even at work! Can you?
Let’s get started with cleaning up the classroom -- for good!
Tidying Up Basics
- Be gentle with yourself and others as you work through this process
- Always remember why you want to tidy your classroom
- Tidy your whole space in one fell swoop
- Discard items by category, not by location
- Allow yourself to fully experience JOY
Step 1: Dress for the Occasion
Let’s be honest -- you were imagining changing into your old painting t-shirt and yoga pants for this tidying challenge, right? Instead of getting comfy, let’s get confident! This is the time to dress in a way that makes you feel like this is a special occasion. If that means curling your hair and adding a smokey eye, go for it.
Step 2: Invite a Supportive Friend
The key word is “supportive.” In this process, you will be making ALL of the keep/discard decisions, but having friends to help you haul piles of who-knows-what out of the closet will most definitely help. Bonus points if they provide the type of encouragement you need.
Step 3: Pile it up!
Working one category at a time, pile all like items in the center of your classroom or on your group rug. You may find yourself searching every nook and cranny of your classroom to gather everything (which may sound daunting), but taking a proper mental inventory of what you have in your space is crucial.
Tackle the following broad categories in this order, from easiest to most difficult:
- Miscellaneous Items
- Sentimental Items
Typically, Marie Kondo recommends approaching Clothing first, but we are hoping you don’t have a massive clothing collection at school. Wink wink.
Step 4: Process of Elimination
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: you might be still stuck on the mention of removing books from the classroom. It will be okay! This process will rid your classroom of things you and your students don’t use or love and keep the things that bring you all joy.
Gather every single book you have in the classroom and put them into two piles mountains on the group rug: student books and professional development books. Touch each and every book and ask yourself a few questions:
- Does this spark joy (for me and/or my students)?
- Has this book been used in the last few years?
- Is this book still in usable condition?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, kindly thank the book for its service and move it to a discard, donate, or sell pile. Thanking it releases you from any guilt you may feel about letting it go. Donating and selling the books that no longer fit your needs is a great way to pass on the learning opportunities to others as well as potentially raise money for new supplies your class may need.
Now that you’ve gotten into a great rhythm with tidying your books, let’s move on to the Paper category. We will have to approach this category in a few phases. First, gather all loose papers, bound papers, etc. and bring them to the center of the classroom. Identify all blank paper (construction paper, printer paper, activity paper) and place them in one pile. Identify all blank notebooks, pads, paper rolls, and workbooks and place them in another pile. These two piles are for unused, mint-condition paper. Next, divide the remaining “used” paper into two piles: one for your stuff and one for your students.
If you have a random scrap pile left, you can do one of two things depending on your comfort level: thank the scraps and place them in the recycling bin en masse or pick out only the very cleanest ones and place them in a plastic zipper bag for ONE last craft project next week.
Voila! Now that sparks joy!
When approaching the teacher and student piles, try to safeguard your Urgent/To Do stack so you don’t cause yourself any unnecessary stress. Identify any papers that are outdated, no longer useful, or not “portfolio-worthy” and recycle or shred them. For remaining papers, sort them into like categories and feel free to label each pile with a sticky note. File teacher papers and student papers in separate Classroom Keepers® units. Student work can go in labeled Mailboxes. Your documents can be placed upright in Folder Holders and Magazine Holders.
Has anyone seen my stapler? Let’s gather all your classroom supplies and move them to the group rug. If it feels sentimental, put it aside for now. For fun, try to guess how many pairs of scissors, bottles of glue, and eraser-less pencils you have in the classroom!
This might seem like the most awkward pile to sort through yet and you’re not wrong. In the classroom, if it’s not made of paper, it’s likely miscellaneous! Just as you did in the Books and Paper categories, you will need to move everything to the center of the room and begin sorting everything by sub-category:
- Technology (headphones, tablets, extension cords)
- Decor (desk clocks, plants, posters, and signs)
- School supplies (scissors, glue, rulers, pencils)
- Arts and craft supplies (markers, crayons, paint, glitter)
- Learning and activity kits
- and more...
Hold each item in your hand and see if it’s broken or unusable. If not, decide if it sparks joy or has a specific purpose in the classroom. If not, thank it and place it in a Discard, Donate, or Sell pile. Place the miscellaneous supplies you decide to keep in storage bins that allow for easy access and an aesthetically-pleasing display. Who doesn’t love when everything is arranged in ROYGBIV order?
The last category may not be the most physically tedious, but will likely pull on the heartstrings the most. Over the years, you have received countless “World’s Best Teacher” mugs, stuffed animals, and scented lotion -- all from students who have touched your heart. Once you gather your sentimental items, take your time in holding each item and decide if it sparks true joy. Is this the coffee mug you always grab first? Does that plastic dinosaur give you roaring confidence? Does that Magic 8 ball give you the best advice? If your sentimental item has only been touched to dust around it, then it’s time to let it go.
A simple reminder: most gifts have served their entire purpose once they entered the recipient’s hands.
Step 5: Celebrate!
Once you complete the previous (and most difficult) task, take a moment to soak it all in. Look around and admire your rejuvenated space. Daydream about how it will feel to move about and teach in a classroom that sparks so much joy.
If you complete this Tidying Up challenge, upload your before and after photos to social media and tag us @paconcorp!