KonMari for the Classroom – The Short Version

KMClassroomCrickets. That’s what I heard after my first post on getting rid of paper clutter in the classroom.  I’m not surprised; it was a lot of information and probably, a little overwhelming.  So rather than turn everyone off, I’m going to give you a streamlined version so you can get it done and get on with the new school year. While I do believe it is possible to KonMari your classroom by category, I know that may be impractical right now as many items are stored in boxes and cabinets, and you can’t readily see all that you have. So we are going to depart from Kondo’s category approach and declutter by area.  This is presuming you are unpacking the same room you were in last year and got to keep most things in place. If you are moving into a new room and it is empty, the second part of this post will be the most beneficial; if someone else left their clutter behind, well, keep reading here.

*Note – Teachers spend A LOT of their own money; I know I did.  I am not in any way suggesting that you be wasteful with district-purchased supplies, nor that you get rid of things you purchased with your hard-earned money. Only you know for sure what items will likely be provided by your school so that you do not have to keep an overabundance of items in your limited space.  Keep those thoughts in mind as you go through this, and do what will be best for you.

Storage Closets and Cabinets

Out of sight, out of mind probably means that your cabinets are full of items that you don’t use regularly (or ever). So let’s pare down so you’re left with only those items you need and use.

  • Writing Implements
    • Pens, markers, and high-lighters that are more than a few years old may have dried up. Test the ones you know have been in there the longest and chuck any that do not work. Still have more boxes than you’ll use in year or two? Stop hoarding!  Put them out for the students to use.
    • Pencils never go bad.  If you are hoarding these too, sharpen those suckers and put them out for the students.  I know we want them to be responsible and take care of their own pencils, but is it worth it?  Choose your battles – put out the pencils and move on.
  • Paper
    • I’m sticking by this one – if you’ve got loose sheets that are creased, curled, or wrinkled, recycle them. Same with half-used or mostly-used notepads and sticky-notes (especially if you have brand-new ones in front of you.)
    • How much is too much?  Look at the number of stacks of construction/manila/notebook paper you have.  Do you have more than you could possible use this year? Next year?  Are the kids going to be bringing in any more of this thanks to the supply list?  If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s time to purge. Reduce what you’ve got by at least half. Recycle what’s torn, creased, or loose, and give what’s left to someone who needs it.
    • Are you storing notebooks and folders?  Do you have a planned use for them?  If not, recycle the used ones.  Again, if you have more than what you would use over the next couple of school years, reduce it by half.
  • Miscellaneous Supplies
    • This is everything else – paper clips, thumb tacks, staples, binder clips – all those odds and ends.  If they are things that you use regularly, keep them.  But again, how many boxes of staples do you need?  If you have more than two, that’s probably too many.  Think of this year and the next – keep what you need to get your through that amount of time, and remove the rest.
  • Teaching Aids
    • I don’t want to repeat this unnecessarily, so click here and scroll down to Teaching Aids & Informational Display Items for my suggestions.
  • Room Decor
    • Many teachers have a theme for their room decoration each year.  Some use the same year after year, some change it.  If you are keeping the same theme, go through your items and trash any that are damaged and beyond repair.  Keep only what will look best.  If you are changing themes, ask yourself if you really need to keep all of the decorations from the previous theme(s).

Box up all of the items you’ve removed from your cabinets and pass them on to the new folks in your building who could probably use them.

Open Shelving

This is a tricky area because it holds everything!  Remember, our goal is to make your vision for your classroom a reality. I’ve seen some teachers hang curtains over their shelves and claim that it was because it looked nice when really it was just to hide the clutter. Hang the curtains if you must and if they fit your vision.  But behind curtains or not, it’s time to declutter those shelves.

  • Books
    • Classroom Library – It took me a long time to put together my classroom library. Many years of getting free items from Scholastic and Troll book clubs, and taking from the pickings of a weeded library. It’s hard to part with books, but sometimes it is for the best.
      • Any book that is torn up or has missing covers or pages should really be sent to recycling.  If it is a well-loved book, jot down the title so you can try to replace it later.
      • Non-fiction books that have out-dated information (think Pluto). These should probably be recycled as well.
    • Textbooks
      • Out-of-adoption or sample textbooks, and consumable workbooks – Are you really using these or are they still there because getting rid of books feels wrong?  If they are out of line with current teaching standards, let them go.
    • Professional Materials
      • Training/Workshop Binders – In 1989, I took a summer writing course.  All of my writing samples and the workshop materials were contained in a 3-inch binder. When I changed rooms, it went with me. When I changed positions, it went with me.  Did I ever open it again after the workshop? No. Did my district continue to use that writing program? No.  When did I finally part with it? When I was cleaning out for retirement – in 2015.  If the workshop information is more than five years old, isn’t part of a plan that your district is still following, and isn’t something you are likely to ever need again, toss it.  If it is something your school or district has paid for, check with someone in charge and see what the policy is for removing it from your classroom.
      • Professional Books – Is the information still relevant?  Is it something you refer to frequently and always want to have on hand?  Is it something that was provided by your school/district that you must keep? If not, buh-bye.
  • Everything Else
    • It would be impossible for me to name every other item that you probably have lurking on those shelves, but I’m guessing manipulatives, baskets and other storage containers, odds and ends that you don’t know where else to place are among them.  Go through each shelf and pull out anything you have not used in recent memory and know you will not use this year.  If it is a personal item, what you do with it is your call (trash, donate, send to long-term storage).  If it is school/district property, you may have to keep it. Check with someone who would know if it can be taken out of your room.

A Place for Everything, Everything in Its Place

I am hoping that when you look inside your newly decluttered cabinets and closets you are seeing lots of empty space.  The same should also be true of your shelves – surely you now have a few empty ones. In my next post I will share tips on how to organize this new-found space to keep your clutter from coming back and to make your classroom a welcoming place for students.

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2 thoughts on “KonMari for the Classroom – The Short Version

    1. I completely understand! Especially with Kinder, you will make use of almost everything. And it almost feels blasphemous to ask teachers to get rid of anything. But I know that most can really get by on less; we’re just convinced that the minute we get rid of something, we’ll need it! I think it would be tough to do the full KonMari on a classroom, but I’m hoping I can provide at least a little bit of guidance to reduce some of the clutter. And I’m certain you are having much nicer weather in BC than I am in Texas!

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