by Susan Caplan McCarthy
It can be easy to think of decluttering and organizing as tasks for our to-do list, but ultimately our desire to get organized is much bigger than a list of chores. Being an organized person isn’t about thinking, “Ah, Saturday morning, time to try to organize the garage. Again.” Instead, being organized is about the little day-to-day things that don’t seem like they’d matter. Until they aren’t done.
This month’s A Year of Decluttering articles are focused on organizing tips from the classroom. Although I was never a classroom teacher, for years I went into preschools, daycares, kindergartens, and elementary school classrooms to do presentations about nature.
While I’d love to see classrooms with less visual clutter (do kids really need so many signs directing them how to write an essay or what questions to ask while reading when they are supposed to be focused on math?), teachers do instill systems in their classrooms to keep things organized.
(Unfortunately, these habits and routines probably don’t carry into the home unless you copy some of the cues that the teachers use. Which you could.)
Organizing Tips from the Classroom You Can Use at Home
Yes, if you have kids, these techniques work. However, even if you are single and retired, these tips will still help you stay organized.
Have a place to hang up your coat and to store your purse, tote bag, backpack, etc. Big family? Consider cubbies like schools have.
When you enter the house, immediately hang up your coat. Then remove any papers or objects from your purse, briefcase, tote bag, shopping bags, etc. and bring them to where they belong in the house.
Have a box, bin, basket, or even a small table (or whatever works for you) to store items that you need to take with you the next day when you leave your house. When you realize that you need to take an item with you (library books, dry cleaning, gym bag), set it in this space. Right away. Teachers set up mailboxes for their students and the kids learn to look in this space when packing up at the end of the day.
Keep similar items together. This tip works whether we’re talking about office supplies, hobby supplies, linens, cookware, etc.
Bins are your friend. They help keep similar items together so you can find what you want when you want it.
Keep your energy high by alternating periods of focus with periods of activity. Teachers keep things moving – reading followed by writing followed by math. Also, teacher have the kids move around the room – maybe they sit on the floor to read, sit in groups at tables to work on their writing and then move to their individual desks to work on their math.
The schedule for the day is posted on the board so kids can look and see what to expect next. As an adult, do you feel that you have to power through a task, tethered to the location, until you’re done as opposed to giving yourself a break?
Practices like the Pomodoro Technique and 52/17 (discussed in future articles this month) encourage you to schedule regular breaks so you stay mentally and physically energized.
I’ll be expanding on some of the tips listed above in this month’s articles. The way I see it, if one adult can wrangle 20+ kids and all their stuff into some semblance of order, then I want to pay attention to the techniques that they use.
Are you a teacher? What techniques do you use in the classroom that could also be used by both kids and adults at home? What does your kids’ or grandkids’ teachers do to help keep the kids organized in the classroom that you’ve thought would be great to try at home? Include your tips in the comments below.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.