Let’s be honest. Teaching lands somewhere between collecting and hoarding. Mr. Ninja once had to bring a giant rock on a 1400 km trip because there was a possibility it might come in handy for a science lesson. It’s lived in our garden for twelve years. So why do we do it?
Well, a big part of it is money. If we can get something for free, we’ll take it. We all know our classrooms are underfunded and so when interesting items come along (whether we actually need them or not) we tend to take them. What is wrong with us?
Fifteen years ago a teacher retired and left me several boxes of materials. It took me two years to go through it all and I basically couldn’t use any of it. It just didn’t match my teaching style. And yet I felt obligated to take it-and move it from classroom to classroom and school to school.
Since then I’ve worked hard to clear the clutter. I’ve had to move classrooms three times in the past three years. Even though I’m teaching the same grade, I didn’t unpack any of the first boxes I packed up. So, why do I need all this stuff? It’s time to clear it out.
Here are ten things I did:
- Anything published before 2000 that isn’t a classic got tossed. It’s not useful to anyone.
- I photographed art projects, posters and large pieces. I organized these digitally so I still have the samples/exemplars but not the space.
- I donated all the craft material
- I scanned relevant lessons that I thought might be useful and organized them digitally. All of the paper was recycled.
- Borders, trimmers and bulletin board letters that I no longer wanted to use went to school and were passed on to new teachers.
- My obscene collection of writing utensils (that only I was allowed to use for some strange reason) went into a large bin and into my classroom so students could use them. It was ridiculous. Who needs 548 Sharpies? And most were lime green and yellow. Many didn’t even work, but I needed to lug them around for years.
- All those professional development texts that I was forced to own or read once were recycled. Turns out a circular saw can take the binding right off. Who knew?!
- How many binders does someone need? Ones that were cleaned with a Magic Eraser and came out spotless were donated to a local school supply drive. Yucky ones were dismantled and disposed.
- Books-as in classroom library books. Special ones are still in my collection. Not so special ones were boxed up and donated to libraries (in perfect condition) or new teachers (gently used). This was the most difficult one, but some of the books were duplicates and there’s this thing called a library that lets you borrow the books (for free!).
- Things I hadn’t looked at since I started teaching got tossed. Nobody needs to be bothered with sorting it out.
- BONUS: All of the decorations for different holidays-we passed them along to other teachers.
- Tools to a local Makerspace and the items that were too young for school went to a daycare (including a set of children’s books that I thought I would carry around just for fun).
- Now we ask our students to bring items to school to borrow for each holiday. Saves money and we don’t have to store any of it.
Be very careful when passing things along to other teachers. If it was a burden for you to go through, it’ll just make make work for them, too. And, I didn’t stop at classroom items. We went through the whole house with this mentality. It was so freeing to get rid of things.
We made a little challenge to get rid of 1000 items. Some items were small like the three mismatched earrings and other’s were larger like the broken vacuum we were keeping for no particular reason other than forgetting it was in the basement. You can find our Clear the Clutter tool in our free Resource Library.
As we were cleaning I found and entire box labeled scrap paper. Yes, I was keeping paper nobody wanted. It made a great photo for this post.
We’d love to hear about the most ridiculous item you’re hanging onto. Leave us a comment below. Happy spring cleaning!