Decluttering for a new year {printable}

Ok, in all decluttering is taking about two years! Seriously! I began two summers ago and will not be completely finished until the end of this year. I hope.

So you might think I move really slowly...and sometimes I guess I do! But, in actuality, it has taken me a long time to do this because I've tried to be systematic about it.

Anyhow, it all started last summer when I took a look around my room and saw...

STUFF!!! Everywhere! I mean, I was a teacher-hoarder to the extreme!

I can trace the roots to where it first-ever teaching job started unexpectedly in November (my first ELL class ever!) and I still remember how I rolled into my new room with one of those three-drawer storage carts, a few rolls of bulletin board paper, and some borders (I was young, just starting out). The principal and assistant principal looked at me and said, "that's it?" and I said "yup" and then of course panicked!!!

What was I worried about? I took NO TIME whatsoever to build a treasure trove of old books that could still be used, crafty materials, new items I bought frantically.

Fast forward a few years or so and there I was (this is that summer again) looking at my piles of junk. I knew it was time to take action.

I started by removing my closet doors. Now, I know this does not really sound like a logical thing to do, decluttering-wise, but it really did save me.

I was busy covering the old wooden doors with contact paper (you know my feelings about that from this post) and then it hit me. I am very adept at hiding my messes. Everything looks all lovely and organized from the outside, but behind those doors...bleck.

So I took these doors down...
Which led to the organization of math games and manipulatives (this is an older picture from last year)...

And then, a few months into the year, took these doors down as well...
Which forced me to be a bit neater with my textbooks, workbooks, etc (again, an older picture, still a bit cluttered)...

Well my friends, I have to tell you. Once those closet doors were off and everything was out in the open, I HAD to be neat. There were no more hiding places. I slowly began getting rid of things I didn't need. And this was the hardest part! And this is why it has taken two years!

The first going through, I got rid of:
  • Old binders, folders, and notebooks that were partially used (I have a very transient population in my room).
  • Old workbooks no longer used in the current curriculum.
  • Old crafty materials that hadn't been touched in years.
  • Old games/manipulatives I had made in my early teaching years.

So that was pretty easy, 'cause it was all of the old stuff, right?

I worked my way around the room in that fashion and was SO proud of myself.

But you know what? As I looked around again this summer, I realized there was so much more I could get rid of!

I remember talking about it with my bff-teacher-sister. I remember telling her all I really need to teach are the hundreds of books in the class library, basic supplies for the kids, some materials for myself, textbooks, math manipulatives, and the laptops (thank goodness for those!).

With that focus, we tackled my desk (or lack, of...see this post if interested). I took out absolutely EVERY little extra crazy item that I've been keeping forever (odd little supplies I've been keeping forever and never used).

(My "desk" is my table with those blue drawers in the back).

We sorted all of the items into piles of things I would actually use in a normal year and a separate pile for stuff I don't really use. Like the five boxes of brads I've had since 2002. I mean, I am an upper-grade teacher and we don't make too many projects that require brads!

As we sorted everything into drawers, I started sticky-noting each drawer so I could make a label for it later. If an item didn't belong in that specific drawer, it was out! It was either placed in a different one, or put in a pile to be given away...

I am very proud of my drawers! I have exactly what I need this year, nothing really extraneous, and can find anything I need quickly.

The gazillion items I didn't need anymore were thrown away (only if they were in really bad shape) or taken down to the teacher's room with little fancy "Free!" signs on them (more on that in a moment!).

I then went around the room, AGAIN! And it took a few months, again (I mean, I had to do this around teaching and planning). I weeded even more out of my closet...

I also got rid of more things, this time not just because they were old. I got rid of:

  • Professional books I didn't need to refer to constantly--I gave them to the librarian for the teacher reference shelf.
  • A million different computer wires and cords (you guys know how tech-geeky I am!). I put them in storage with the other wires in the school (wrapped up all nice and neat of course!).
  • Nice manipulatives from my earlier years...items better used in other rooms that I felt guilty hanging onto (such as a magnetic dry erase board I used when I taught the younger ELL grades...perfect for that, but not so ideal for 4th/5th).
  • Storage containers I no longer used (these I gave to students for their desks at home and to other teachers around the school).
  • Furniture I no longer needed.

Because, in addition to the zillions of supplies I had accumulated over the years, I was also a furniture hoarder!!! I got rid of...

(Looks pretty neat, but really took up a ton of space and didn't hold as much as you might think). And...

(Extra bookshelves and magazine racks that I had received from retired teachers and stores...I had too many and they were hard to label/organize).

So, to wrap this up, some things that helped me to declutter were to:

Go through the room multiple times. It is too daunting to complete all at once and you will find new things you might not need a second or third time.

Tackle one part of the room at a time. This makes it easier to manage, plus it's not so overwhelming.

Ask for an extra pair of eyes, another person's opinion. I am very lucky my sister helps me out and I know that! I often asked her opinion and my teacher friends' opinions on certain items (have you seen that show Hoarders? There's a reason why they need a team of people to decide what goes and what stays, lol!!).

Think not "I may use that someday" but "do I need this item this year, for my instruction?" This was probably one of the greatest things I learned. I was always saving things for another time...but that other time rarely came!

Think about where or how the item may be better used. I thought a lot about how another teacher or classroom might be able to use something...more than I ever could. This made it so much easier to part with certain items!

Finally (and I'm wicked sorry this has turned so long-winded and rambling, I hope you don't mind!!)...

Ways to get rid of that extra stuff!
  • Take an appealing photo of an item, then send it in a staff email, to see if there are any interested teachers.
  • Ask students if they would like any supplies/books they might like to use at home. Raffle off fun items for students (old crafty materials, games, etc.)
  • Think of other classrooms/teacher friends who might like items.
  • Think of other homes where they may be better used (such as the school library).
  • Use the teacher's room!! I got rid of the bulk of my items by displaying them nicely on the windowsill with brightly-colored stickies that said "Free!".

And, on that note, I am sharing a little printable that can be used to advertise any items you may be giving away. Here's a little preview...

Do you have some decluttering tips to share? I would love to hear them! I know I will still be continuing the process as we head back.

Also, would you like to see more about this? I have some more "after" pictures I can share when I get back to school.

The file is below, if you'd like it and...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Thank you for everything you have done this year...your support, inspiration, advice, friendship, everything!! :)

Free! Signs


  1. WOW!!! Great Job Kristen!! I moved to 5th grade this year, after 4 years in 3rd grade. New classroom, MUCH bigger class size, MUCH smaller room!!!! I only had 1 week to set up my room (not even) before school started. I've been playing catch up for the last 15 weeks. I am continually de-cluttering, and reorganizing to maximize my space for teaching and learning, and purging is a big part of it. Causes me great anxiety...... wish I had a helper like you! Anway, GOOD LUCK and THANK YOU for all that you share!!! Jodi

  2. I have been trying to declutter my room since I first got in it this past March. The teacher who was in there before me had been in the room for over 20 years and had accumulated quite a bit of junk. I quickly became good friends with the dumpster. I still wish I had some more storage, but that is getting better. Your organization is such inspiration to me and I hope that I can be that organized in the near future!

    Do you sell the super cute circle labels that you made? I would love to have something similar on my drawers.

    Hope 2012 is wonderful to you!

    Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

  3. I went this morning and cleaned out my desk! It is GONE! Step one completed! Heading to wal-mart to get some of the storage drawers! Thank you! for your help! Carmen

  4. I love everything you do and enjoy your honesty about decluttering and organizing. I've been teaching a while and I am still decluttering and organizing my room. I can't get into my room over the break, but I plan to spend some valuable time each day working on problem areas and getting the last of the furniture I need for optimizing my organization. I brought home two more organizers and will probably take one of them to school to continue working on my room. I hope to have it completed by next year, but realize that it will get done when its done. Thank you for all do and share with us bloggers!