The New Year is here, and that means a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. Just because you have done something one way for the entire year so far, doesn’t mean that you can’t change now if it’s not working the way you wanted it to. This is true for instructional practices as well as how you organize your classroom.

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays I have an urge to re-organize and purge things both in my personal and professional life. It’s probably due to all of the excess of the holidays, but whatever the reason, it happens every year.

So, if you’re like me and are ready to de-clutter your classroom, here are some helpful tips to get you started.

Just Do It

No matter whether you start small by de-cluttering for 30 minutes each day, or if you spend a whole Saturday in your classroom purging and reorganizing, just do it. Some people like to organize space by space—first the classroom library, then the computer station, then the centers area, etc. Others prefer the KonMari method and organize by category—books, files, manipulatives, etc. There is no single right way to organize your classroom. The most important thing is to just get started.

Consider these questions as you evaluate the “stuff” inside your classroom:

  • Have I used this in the last 6 months? If not, it’s probably not needed.
  • What is the purpose of the item?
  • Does this item bring instructional value to me/my students?
  • Does this item help me/my students be more efficient and effective throughout the day?

Find a Place for Everything

Whether we realize it or not, clutter can cause stress and anxiety both for our students and us. Clutter can also prevent us from being efficient with our time because we have to search around for the instructional tools and support we need to deliver quality instruction. So, it is important for everything in our classroom to have a specific place. Then, we always know where to go to find it, and we can even train our students to know where things belong so that they can help keep the classroom organized.

Organization and de-cluttering expert Barbara Hemphill says, “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” As you de-clutter your classroom, make a decision about where each item belongs. If there is no logical place for it or you can’t decide where it goes, it probably means that the item is not needed.

Label All Storage Containers/Areas

Once everything has a place in your classroom, label all of the containers and bins so that it is easy to know where things go when it is time to put them away. This is also key in helping your students take ownership in keeping the classroom tidy and organized.

Be Discerning About What You Bring Into Your Classroom

Even if you haven’t finished de-cluttering and organizing, become more discerning about what you let come into your classroom. Do you really need the item and does it have a place? Chances are, the answer is no. Remember, you can always borrow from another teacher or buy it later on if you really need to.

Store Papers Digitally

You can minimize the amount of paper and the storage space needed for papers by keeping your master files digitally and storing them in the Cloud using a service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon Drive. Not only will you cut back on the amount of paper in your classroom, but you can also access your files from anywhere and on any device. You can still keep physical files, but you don’t need to store more than one copy of everything since you have digital copies.

Make Time for Daily/Weekly Cleanup

Once you have put in the time and energy to de-clutter, you don’t want things to slide back to the way they were. It is important to clean up as you go every day to maintain a clutter-free classroom. This keeps the workload small and manageable.

If you can’t clean up continually every day, set some time aside at the end of the day or week to tidy up. Also consider including students in this time, as well. Not only will this help students develop healthy organizational habits, it will help everyone feel better when their space is clean and ready for the next day/week.