Being totally organized is such a wonderful feeling.
But oh, what stress you go through while trying to get there!
This past week, I’ve spent many hours in my new classroom, unpacking all the many boxes I inherited from the two most recent outgoing teachers. I just wanted to get the boxes emptied and all the stuff piled in very rough groupings. I wasn’t insane enough to think anything would be put away; I just needed to see what it was that I had.
It hasn’t been easy. And I’m not even close to finishing the job.
As I mentioned in the Monday Challenge this week, there has been a lot of (pardon my language) CRAP to get rid of. Broken magnets, dirty coffee cups, used notecards that should have been recycled, overhead sheets that had never been cleaned…
It was a horrible mess. And the dust! Oh, the dust! Thank heavens I have a middle schooler with a great work ethic, who also doesn’t suffer from allergies like I do. She came with me to the school and spent many hours just dusting the contents of the boxes as we opened them up. I lost count of all the textbooks she dusted, but it is somewhere in the neighborhood of TWO HUNDRED.
This kind of work is typical of what you have to do when you first try to get organized. Although you may start out with a relatively neat space (in my case, a neat, clean and EMPTY space), pretty soon every available horizontal surface is covered, and you end up with piles upon piles of stuff…and all that stuff must be dealt with.
There is a certain point in the process where you look around and think, “Holy hell! What have I gotten myself into?!”
That’s the moment when you have to make a choice:
- Do I keep with it, and get truly organized?
- Do I panic, and just start shoving stuff onto shelves and into closets just so it “looks neat”?
Although the panic can feel overwhelming, you must not give in to it. Organizing is a process. And out of the period of uncomfortable chaos will come a beautifully organized, useful, and easy-to-maneuver space…
IF you keep at it.
Panicking and giving up doesn’t do any good. While it’s true that you won’t have to deal with it any longer, what you will have actually created is a totally impractical, useless space, simply because you won’t be able to find anything at a moment’s notice.
Shoving the scissors in a cabinet where they will be “neat” and “out of the way” may seem like a great idea…right up to the day you actually need the scissors, and you have no idea where they are, because you always look for them in a desk drawer!
This “storm before the calm” process actually applies to a lot of things, not just organizing. It also applies to:
- Packing to move
- Unpacking after a move
- Sorting through old clothes, toys, etc.
- A new job
…and much more.
There is always a period of discomfort that comes along anytime you are doing something new, creative, or difficult. The key is to success is to stick with it, breathe through the discomfort, and just keep going!
I have many days of work yet ahead of me. Not only am I missing almost all of my Science books and materials (I only have one set of Science teacher manuals and a couple of boxes of epsom salts), but I also have more Social Studies curriculum materials than I could ever use, even if all I did was teach Social Studies for the entire year. For example, if I have 25 kids in each class, it stands to reason that I don’t need 70 textbooks, particularly since the kids won’t be taking those books home. We can simply use the same texts from class to class.
That said, I know that when I have gone through everything and finished sorting it into curriculum topic areas (i.e. Civil War, Reconstruction, Westward Movement, Immigration), I will have an organized space where I can lay my hands on anything, exactly as I need it.
That’s the goal. And I won’t falter until I get there, because the alternative–a chaotic classroom–is not an option. My kids don’t need it, and I don’t deserve to work in that kind of environment.
You don’t, either.
How’s your Monday Challenge going? Have you tackled a shelf, a drawer, or the top of your desk yet? How about just your in-box? Is there stuff you can chuck, file, delegate, or simply take five minutes to finish?
You’ll be surprised how good it will feel when you’ve cleared one space. Trust me on this. It will feel calm and relaxed. And it will probably inspire you to do another space…
That’s all it takes. One space at a time.