Pardon my language, but there is such a thing as having too much crap!
So many people have clutter problems these days. It seems to have become almost common, at least in this country, to have too much crap floating around our houses. We know the stories from TV (A&E’s “Hoarders” comes to mind), and we all know someone who has entirely too much STUFF. Some of us are those people with too much stuff. The result is that our homes are full to bursting.
Unfortunately, not only are our homes packed to the gills, but so are our offices. I’m not talking about our home offices, mind you; I’m talking about the places where we work.
I’m a schoolteacher by trade, and after many years of being a stay-at-home-Mom, I am preparing to return to the classroom this fall. I’ll be teaching 6th grade Social Studies and Science, and am really excited about it. They’re my two favorite subjects.
However, I’m not only taking over another teacher’s duties, but I’m also taking over almost all of her stuff as well.
Everything that used to be in her room (including stuff that used to belong to the teacher who had the room before her) was boxed up and moved to a different building. That means that I not only have to unbox her stuff, but I also have to sort through and purge her stuff as well.
Thankfully, I’ve read Julie Morgenstern’s book, Organizing From the Inside Out, and I live by her “S.P.A.C.E.” program for getting organized, which is as follows:
(Note: This is a good method for clearing the junk out of your home, bedroom, car, kitchen, or even your workplace.
It is so ingrained that this is how I tackle everything now–I couldn’t manage without this method!)
I spent three and a half hours at my school today, and I am both horrified and depressed at the sheer volume of junk that landed in my classroom. So far I’ve made it through just under half of the boxes I inherited, and this is some of the junk I’ve found:
- Approximately 75 different Social Studies reproducible workbooks–so many that, even if I taught only history all year, and used only these workbooks, there are still more than I could ever use (keep in mind these are over and above the actual district curriculum)
- Five mugs, four of which are dirty (yes, old dried coffee in the bottoms)
- broken ceramic magnets
- old student-written notecards
- Math books and supplies (note: this came from a SS/Science teacher, like me)
- Language Arts books and supplies
- dusty, chipped, and broken plastic tubs and containers
- a broken plaque awarded to some teacher I’ve never heard of in my life, which is impressive, considering that I started teaching in this district 16 years ago
- overhead projector sheets that are still full of writing (seriously? she never cleaned her overheads?)
- cassette tapes without cases; cases without cassette tapes
- two social studies book & cassette programs…with three of the four cassettes missing
- a pile of CD software
- 50+ VHS tapes about history, only three of which I might actually use
- Reams and reams of photocopied papers that were never used
- Old and dirty pencil cases filled with broken crayons
- An old hard-back dictionary with the front cover ripped off
I guess I should count my blessings; I’ve never had to take over for a teacher and sort through their years and years of accumulated stuff before. In my first year as a teacher, I literally inherited an empty room. There were a few art supplies, half a class set of Social Studies texts, and not much more. There wasn’t even so much as one chapter book to be found, nor were there workbooks or files or even any games or flashcards for the kids.
However, in a way, it was pretty awesome. There’s something wonderful in starting off from scratch–you get to create exactly the environment you want.
And that’s really what all this is about: it’s about creating an ideal environment for myself and my students, of which I will have about 75. They’re going to want a clean, bright, cheerful, and comfortable place to learn and to do their work. They, like everyone else, will want good supplies that work, new books (or at least books that are in good shape), and space to tackle their assignments. And they’re going to want, and need, a teacher who can lay her hands on the best materials possible at a moment’s notice, without having to scrabble through piles of junk to find the right items.
That means that I have a lot of work to do in my classroom to get it organized and “put away”, before I can even start planning my year.
Unfortunately, I have to sort and purge carefully, because I’m not exactly sure which of the workbooks I might actually need. Thankfully, at least the off-subject items can go to my teammates. After all, I don’t teach language arts, but Jessica does, so anything Language Arts is going into a box for her to take. As she’s a brand-new teacher, she’s delighted to get her hands on the stuff.
But those magnets? And the broken bins? And that mangled dictionary?
Chucked, chucked, and recycled.
I refuse to keep using anything that is in that kind of shape. My kids deserve better than that, and frankly it should have been chucked already. Unfortunately, most teachers are total pack rats, so I have many years’ worth of another teacher’s accumulated crap to go through before I can figure out what I have and what I actually need, if anything.
Your Monday Challenge is this:
This week, start tackling the clutter in your office. Unless you are one of the rare people who has a spotless office where there is a place for everything and everything really IS in its place, I’m sure you can think of something you can work on.
It may be a drawer, it may be a cabinet, it may be your files (oh dear Lord, those files), or it may even be the top of your desk. Whatever it is, use Julie Morgenstern’s S.P.A.C.E. method and sort through one bit at a time.
Start small by tackling that one drawer, or even that one in-box. Sort through the stuff you have. Purge (chuck, recycle, give away) anything you don’t want or can’t use. Assign it a home by thinking of where you will look for it in the future, then putting it there. If necessary, containerize–if you need a new file, make one…if you need a new container, go get one. When you’re finished, don’t forget to keep it in good shape by “equalizing”, or maintaining, your new neat environment.
After you’ve done your drawer/cabinet/desktop (or what have you), chances are it’ll feel so good, and you’ll be so happy that you can actually find everything, you’ll want to do more.
Keep at it. A bit at a time is all it takes…unless you’re a school teacher that has just inherited a classroom full of another teacher’s accumulated crap. In that case, plan to spend long days at school every day wearing gloves and a dust mask while you get your new professional home in order.