"The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past." - Marie Kondo
Teachers are hoarders. It's in our nature. I tend to believe it's a survival technique that we adopted early on in our college days. I think we collectively have the mentality of, "Keep it! You might need it!" I know that when I was in college, I was exposed to so many amazing resources, most of which were on paper and I had no way to digitally access this material. During my sophomore year of college, once I was really getting into my core education classes, I started hoarding every useful bit of material I could lay my hands on in one of those big plastic totes with a lid. I knew that in just a few years' time I would be going into The Great Unknown and I had no idea what I would need to take with me along the way! So I saved and saved and saved. Nary a graphic organizer slipped through my fingers.
Just a few days ago I completed my sixth year of teaching. Would you like to hazard a guess at how many times I have waded into that glorious tub o'inspiration?
Not a single time. The magic survival tub of materials has not been cracked since I finished stuffing the remnants of my student teaching materials into its depths six years ago.
For those of you that haven't heard of her, Marie Kondo is an organizational guru who has taken the mommy/homemaker/clutterbug blogosphere by storm recently. She is the author of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and is a firm believer that decluttering your home will have a positive effect on all aspects of your life.
The KonMari Method is a simple one: you start by discarding materials, and then you thoroughly and completely organize your space in one go. Kondo boldly claims that "If you adopt this approach—the KonMari Method—you’ll never revert to clutter again."
I am a person easily inspired, so needless to say when all of this KonMari business started showing up on my Pinterest feed, I was instantly hooked. I started cleaning ALL THE THINGS.
It was while I was voraciously tackling the clothing category (Kondo advocates decluttering by category, not by room, which is both novel and painfully obvious after the fact) in my own home that I realized that my home isn't the only space in which I live. I live in my car. It could use a good KonMari-ing. I live in our outdoor space, which has been on the road towards decluttering since we bought our home, though we've never quite hit the finish line.
I live in my classroom. Talk about clutter!
I would feel ashamed to admit to the amount of clutter in my classroom except for the fact that I just know without a doubt that there are other teachers out there who have this same problem. Again, it's in our nature! We are an organized species, but under the guise of really pretty file boxes and cute plastic drawers with labels we bought from Etsy, we are holding onto a plethora of crap we don't need... just in case.
"NO MORE!" I vowed, waving a trash bag in the air like an American flag. The cycle ends NOW.
FIVE 32-gallon trash cans later and I feel like I can finally breathe in my classroom again.
The KonMari Method isn't exactly meant to be used in a classroom, so I adapted it to my needs, following the same basic principles:
Visualize the Destination - I knew what I wanted out of this. I wanted empty space in my filing cabinets, my classroom cabinets, the bookshelf, on the floor, and on the walls.
Focus on One Category - Not Room - at a Time - While the classroom is, indeed, one room, it would be easy to fall into the habit of cleaning "spaces." The teacher's space. The student supplies space. The cabinet space. The books space. The problem with cleaning by room or space is that you start shuffling things around, from one space to the next. This isn't decluttering. Instead, I forced myself to focus on one category - books, for instance - and do that one category only for the entire room.
Get Everything Out So You Can Examine It All - Kondo advocates making a huge pile on the floor of every.single.thing you own in that category. I piled stuff on desks. So if you're going to sort through all student papers, that means ALL student papers are pulled out from wherever they are hiding (on the walls, in file folders, in drawers, on shelves...).
Start With Discarding - Do not choose what you will throw away. Choose what you will keep. This mentality helped me to throw things out. Another rule I followed: if I did not use it in the last year, out it went.
Keep Only That Which Sparks Joy - This is the most notoriously "KonMari" piece of advice. She advises that you handle each and every item and ask if it "sparks joy." Meaning, does it bring you joy to keep this? (A note on necessities - they spark joy, but in a different way. Toilet paper? Imagine how messy life would be without it. So when you handle a roll of tp, it probably doesn't instantly spark joy, but it is highly valuable and highly necessary. It serves a purpose, and it serves it well. Keep it.)
Save Mementos for Last - Start with the stuff that you don't feel any emotional attachment to, and work from there. All those letters and pictures and cards and whatnot from students that you've been saving over the years? Don't start with that stuff. You have to build your resolve. Nostalgia is the enemy of clutter, but it's like fighting Bowser in the Mario games. You don't start immediately by fighting Bowser; you take out some Goombas and Koopas and a bunch of minor bosses to get yourself warmed up. (Is my nerd showing?)
Make Tidying a Special Event, Not a Daily Chore - This should be a big cleaning event, what we're talking about here. You can't do a massive decluttering a little bit at a time. Like a holey sock that you swear you've thrown away three times, clutter has a way of getting itself back in the game. You gotta wipe that shit out in a major event.
So are you feeling inspired yet? I can't tell you how much better my classroom feels! There is now room to grow! I even have empty filing cabinets. If you feel like this is the year to attack the clutter in your classroom once and for all, I've made a little checklist based off of the one I used, free of charge! I hope you are as inspired by this as I was! Click here to download your own PDF!