The Journey’s End…Almost

helloI can finally say that I am almost finished with the KonMari of my house. It’s been over a year since I began, but as I’ve said in earlier posts, life sometimes gets in the way. That and the fact that being retired gave me absolutely no concrete deadline to finish- and I’m a person who needs deadlines to keep me going. So let me fill you in on where I am in the process now.

Sentimental – Work Related

I spent 30 years in education all in one school district. 28 of those years were spent at one school. In those 28 years, I changed rooms only four times, so I didn’t cull much. And being a teacher, you keep everything – “just in case”. So I brought home with me the contents of a four-drawer file cabinet that contained every appraisal, certificate, note – you name it – that I received over 30 years. I knew I wouldn’t continue to keep all of it, but I needed to be in the right mindset to go through it all to make the decisions about what would remain. After being retired a year, I could feel that the emotional attachment was lessening, so I opened the tubs and began my trip down memory lane.

I read through my very first teaching evaluation when I was as green as green could be. It was done by hand on the old, familiar, white-pink-yellow carbon backed paper of the time. It was a 1st-grade science lesson that somehow incorporated the making of paper pinwheels that the students affixed to their pencils with a straight pin. (Our evaluations were called dog-and-pony shows back then.) Not surprisingly, I had plenty of room for improvement. I saved that appraisal. As I went through the folders, I could mark the evolution of technology by those appraisals – from handwritten entries on carbon-backed paper to handwritten entries on dot-matrix printed forms to handwritten entries on laser printed sheets to all-electronic input only to be printed for a signature.

As our technology improved, so did I as a teacher. I kept one appraisal from each of the varying incarnations, an additional one if I found one that meant more to me. I kept every single note I had from a student or parent. I kept all of the positive notes I received from my principals – and even a couple of the negative ones too. I kept a few pieces of student work that held meaning for me, and the 5th-grade signature t-shirts that we had made each year. I kept copies of the letters I wrote to my principals, superintendent, and the school board over various issues that raised my ire over the years. Yearbooks and lanyards stay. I kept the desk sign with my maiden name from my first years of teaching and the door sign with my married name thereafter.

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30 years of teaching

I laughed, I reminisced, and I read aloud bits and pieces to my husband. I gave thanks for those 30 years – for helping to shape the person I am today, for introducing me to incredible women who have become life-long friends, for putting all those children in my life, some of whom I am still close to today. Then I put the lid on the tub and put it on a shelf. I am grateful for everything those items represent but now it is time to move forward.

Other People’s Stuff

You can’t KonMari other people’s stuff but if you’re lucky, they’ll start doing it on their own. My daughter came home for a couple of weeks over the summer. More than likely, she will never live home again, so she was agreeable to going through her room and doing a final purge-and-sort. Her room can now serve as a proper guest room.

My husband, however, has had the biggest transformation.  I have felt like the walls of the garage were – both literally and figurately – closing in on us. But the idea of simplifying has caught on with him as well, so he finally tackled a good portion of his garage clutter. He had fives sets of 5-shelf shelving units. He now has one – ONE. He still has not parted with any of his Coke memorabilia, but the progress he did make has been astounding. And we now have more room to store his Coke stuff (out of sight, mostly), so I am okay with that. I kept some of my junior high t-shirts – I can hardly begrudge him this!

He has come to realize as we’ve gotten older that, yeah, he could do a lot of the home repairs and projects himself, but he doesn’t always want to. Paying someone else can sometimes be more economical – and less stressful. So that made it much easier for him to part with junction boxes, three of the five heavy duty staple guns, and numerous other workshop items.  Except for the metal tape measures – he has over a dozen of those – and I have no idea why.

Sell, Donate, Toss

I’m not a huge fan of having a garage sale – I like the money, but not the effort – but we had too much stuff to just give it all away, so we had our second and final garage sale of this process. And a large portion of what we sold this time were storage items –  shelves, bins, and crates. When you declutter, you have much less need for places to store things. And my husband didn’t bat an eye. He said if he kept the shelves, he’d find things to put on them. No storage, no flat surface – no clutter. We sold a lot, we donated a lot, and the trash/recycle men will be cursing us this week. But we both feel so much lighter and freer.

What’s Next?

This should have been the end according to the KonMari method but I have saved photos for last. If you follow me, you know I have over 60 photo albums and a few boxes of loose photos as well. This is a problem our children will never know because their photographic history exists on their phones and the cloud. But much like I love to read a real book that I can hold in my hands, I prefer printed photos for the memories that I want to keep. The holiday season is approaching so I will not tackle photos until January. I’m hoping for some cold, dreary days in front of the fireplace for that project. And there are still some small home projects that I want to complete before the holidays, so KM will take a backseat for the moment. But I will be back!

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KonMari for the Classroom

KMClassroomWell, it is August 1, and for many, especially my educator friends here in Texas, that means another school year is on the horizon. Ready to tackle your classroom with a renewed sense of purpose and organization? Wondering how to KonMari your classroom? Well, you are in luck!  I’ve decided to share some ideas on this. I spent 30 years in education – 15 as a classroom teacher, 11 as a technology facilitator, and 4 as a media specialist. In each of those roles, organization was always a high priority for me.  I can’t function in a mess, and I truly believe that most students can’t either. Even if being organized wasn’t a natural state for my students, they learned to be at least for the time they were in my room. I had systems in place for everything from turning in assignments to selecting the desired lunch item.  I could go on and on about ways to keep the kids organized (and I will), but you can’t get them organized if you aren’t organized yourself.

Create a Vision

Before you start unpacking all the boxes and bins that were stored for the summer, I want you to create a vision for your classroom. In your perfect world, what does your classroom look like? What’s on the walls?  How are the shelves organized? What systems do you want in place for your students to promote self-sufficiency? Think about the atmosphere you want to create. How do you want it to feel for your students as they walk in each day?  Draw a picture, make a list, print out your favorite pins from Pinterest – do whatever you need to so that you have something tangible that represents your vision. Now I want you to tape it to a wall or tack it to a bulletin board so that you see it every day while you are preparing your classroom for the coming year. This will be your reminder of what’s important to you and will help to keep you on track.

How Will This Work?

We’ll tackle your classrooms in a similar way to how Kondo recommends doing your home – sorting by category, discarding first, and using the storage containers and spaces you already have.  When we tidy our homes with the KonMari Method, we all know the key question is,  “Does this spark joy?” But that question is not as likely to work here – before you know it, you’d have an empty room! But you can still approach it from a positive viewpoint.  So while you’re standing there holding a stack of old newsprint, ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to keep?”  “Is this still useful to me?”  I’m willing to bet that a large portion of what we have in our cabinets is there simply because it always has been.  It might have been something that was useful once, but it’s not any longer, and we just don’t take the time to dispose of it. Now is that time.

Don’t Buy Storage Bins

I know you – teachers are lured by pretty bins and tubs and baskets in matching or coordinating colors and patterns. And with back-to-school stuff out now, it all screams, “Buy me!”  But I beg you – don’t do it.  First of all, the storage bins themselves take up a lot of prime real estate.  Secondly, as you are discarding, you will probably free up space in the bins and baskets you already have.  Wait until you’ve discarded everything and then see if additional containers are still necessary

 

Change Your Mindset

This will be toughest of all.  Teachers are pack-rats by nature for a couple of reasons.  1) We don’t make a lot of money, so we tend to keep anything that we think can be of use, and 2) Our frugality makes us industrious, so we are convinced that everything can be used for something.  Stop the madness! Eliminate “just in case” as a reason for keeping things. When was the last time you actually did an art project in your classroom?  I bet it’s been long enough that you can probably let go of the paint and yarn and craft sticks (at least some of them, anyway).

I speak from experience.  Before I retired, I spent weeks going through old files and boxes. We all know things can change in an instant so even though I had been out of the classroom for fifteen years, I kept things “just in case” I had to go back.  Well, that never happened and even if it had, much of what I kept couldn’t have been reused. I’m pretty sure a worksheet I made using a Thermofax machine back in the ’80s would hardly be relevant today.

So today is step one – create that vision for your classroom, and display it prominently in your room.  Then get ready to make that vision a reality.

My next post will focus on the category you probably have the most of – paper. Subscribe to this blog or check back in a couple of days, and be ready to KonMari your classroom.

Komono – Just Because

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buttons2Does anyone else out there have a grandmother who had an old coffee can full of spare buttons?  I’m betting a lot of you are nodding your head.  Now, how many of you have your own stash of spare buttons?  Still nodding I bet, and that’s okay because I am too.  But when was the last time you ever actually used one of those buttons?  Can’t remember?  Me either…and I’m guessing that’s because the answer is NEVER.  How about the spare piece of yarn (thread, fiber?) that comes with some woven items?  I’ve got those too, but honey, if I’m not sewing on a button, I’m darn sure not going to repair a pull in a sweater!  So why do we keep these things?   Typically, the answer is “just because”.  Because why?

The buttons, the items in the junk drawer, the innumerable pens you picked up at the last convention you attended – all of these are a part of what Kondo refers to as komono – miscellaneous items that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories.  And komono is everywhere.  Just sitting here at my desk I see that I have three pairs of scissors (all the same size), half a dozen flash drives (no idea what, if anything, is on them), and Sharpies in an array of colors.  I can easily get rid of the flash drives – they probably contain old work info and I’ve been retired almost a year now – and two pairs of scissors can go too (besides, there are two more pairs in the kitchen!)  None of these items spark joy, and I no longer need the flash drives, but scissors do come in handy. Those Sharpies bring me joy, however, so they are staying!

That’s the thing about the miscellaneous stuff – some items you just have to keep because they serve a distinct purpose; you can’t be running out to buy a new pair of scissors every time you ditch an old pair for not bringing you joy.  But do I need six pairs? Probably not. To me komono is one of the more challenging categories because it encompasses so much, and it is in every room of the house. How many times have you cleaned out your junk drawer only to have it fill up again?  Folks, there’s a reason it is called a JUNK drawer – and you probably do not need ninety percent of what it contains.  I can sort of envision the whole KonMari process as cleaning out the junk drawer.  If you tackle that drawer once and for all and never put anything back into it that doesn’t belong there, you will never have to clean it out again.  The same goes for tidying the KonMari way; if you do this massive tidying one time, you should never have to do it again. That’s the goal, though it will be a while before I can test that theory.

So, I’m moving on to komono and junk drawers and who knows what I’ll find. The key is going to be to keep only those items that serve a purpose or spark joy. I’m sure there are probably a lot of items that were kept “just because” – but that’s how you end up with a can full of buttons…or ten tubs of t-shirts.

Books & Paper

Starting with clothing, which ends up being relatively easy in my opinion, you think that the next categories will go just as smoothly – ha!  Books and paper come next.  I think it is safe to say that we are all drowning under the weight of the amount of paper we have in our homes. Computers were supposed to take care of paper; everything is stored electronically so there should be no need for the paper copy.  That might be true if you are a millennial, a digital native.  But for the rest of us, that little voice that says you should have a hard copy “just in case” (along with an inherent distrust of computers), means there probably hasn’t been a serious amount of paper reduction in the home.

I consider myself a digital immigrant.  I bank and shop online and am confident enough in my financial institutions that I no longer have statements mailed to my home.  But each day when I go to my mailbox, I am reminded of that Seinfeld episode – you know the one – when Kramer tried to stop the mail, specifically junk and catalogs, from being delivered. I may be doing everything else online, but the places we shop and bank still get us with offers and catalogs that just keep coming.  (They must be in cahoots with the postal service.)  And straight to the recycle bin they go.

But beyond the daily paper items that come in and go out pretty quickly, Kondo addresses those items that we all hang onto because we think we must.  Her philosophy is discard everything; anything of importance can be found again electronically.  And while that may be true, I think we all realize (and she does too) there are some things that you just can’t throw away (marriage licenses, passports, etc.) So I went through the file cabinet, ditched what I knew for sure was not needed and kept only those things that I knew I had to.  And while I still have the file cabinet with my categorized hanging file folders (gold/green, concrete-sequential, remember?), I was able to reduce down from two drawers to one.  That was good enough for me.

There may not be a lot (or any) joy in the necessary paper of our lives, but books…well, that is a different story.  My husband, my daughter, and I are all voracious readers; we have a lot of books in our home. To do this the KonMari way, you would unload all of your books onto the floor much like the clothes, and go through them one by one.  Well, I am here to tell you that was not going to happen.  First of all, not all of the books are mine, and I have been the only one KonMari-ing my house at this point. Secondly, I could see them all much better on the shelves.  It’s not like we had books spilling out all over our house, so I was content to keep them as they were.  But later on, KonMari once again made sense in hind-sight.

To put out certain Christmas decorations, we always clear off about six bookshelves in our living room.  The books get boxed away for a month and put back out when Christmas is over.  As I was taking them off the shelf this year, however, I came across some that really didn’t speak to me.  So those went into a separate box to be sold/donated.  Had it not been necessary to remove them from the shelves in the first place, they would have remained indefinitely. So if you get to the section on books and think to yourself, “I can just sort by sight,” you are wrong.  While you might not want to empty every shelf at once, I think emptying one or two at a time and going through the books by hand will make a huge impact on what you choose to keep.  Those books that have real meaning for you will be the ones that remain.