Setting up your classroom Part Three - creating a clutter free environment


Does this look familiar?


  • Takes time away from teaching and engaging with the children to constantly clean up and fuss
  • Decreases our ability to focus and may restrict creative thinking and play
  • Produces sensory overload
  • Increased stress in the environment has a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn

Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, is brilliant!

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"Clutter is a failure to return things to where they belong," Marie Kondo

Marie is a firm believer that decluttering your home or work environment will have a positive effect on all aspects of your life.

Rid Yourself of the Joyless

The first rule of Kondo's KonMari method is to discard. Marie Kondo suggests that you take each item in hand and ask, "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If not, thank it for supporting you in your career and then dispose of it promptly.  You will be amazed at how much extra space you will create in your learning environment!

  • Remember: do not transfer your discarded items on others. Whenever you ask someone if they would like something you want to discard, they feel obliged to take it. It might make you feel better to believe that it will be used, but all you are doing is transferring the burden of an object onto someone else. 
  • Create a personal digital "feel good" file - Once you make it to the sentimental items in your room, consider how each item is best honoured. If it's truly something precious to you, how should you display it so that it gets the recognition it deserves? Alternatively, you can start taking pictures of these notes and cards and keep a file on your computer. This not only saves valuable space in your drawers, yet it makes it easy to search for an item if you want a little pick-me-up.
  • Add joy - Add things in your classroom that make it a more joyful place to be. So far, this article has focused on getting rid of things in your classroom, but it's also acceptable to add things in that bring you and the children joy. Actually, that is the entire point of the book. You should get rid of things that are weighing you down, causing you guilt, or taking your focus away so that you can highlight and appreciate the things that bring you joy.


Tackle Clutter by Category

The KonMari method requires you to sort your possessions by category, not by location. So, for example, tackle books first, then displays, then paperwork, then electronics. You will be amazed at just how much equipment is broken or in need of repair that is just not worth keeping.

Teachers are natural hoarders, and I am no exception. Maybe when you've tried decluttering in the past, you have mental blocks like "What if I need this one day?" "I could make so and so craft with this!" "This cost too much money to throw away!" and so forth.  This is where The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up excels. The way Kondo explains how the Japanese view objects really hit home for me and allowed me to change my views on decluttering. 

  • Start with non-sentimental items. Don't go straight for student artworks, work samples or books. You have to build up your decluttering muscles before tackling sentimental items.
  • Do one cupboard or drawer at a time. Take EVERYTHING out. This part is very important. Kondo advocates making a huge pile on the floor of every.single.thing you own in that category. For instance, you might have books in the storeroom and the book corner, make sure you gather all the items in that category before you start discarding! 
  • Once you have decluttered, it's time to put things back in an orderly way. Your mind will see a clean slate and will automatically not want to clutter it back up by filling it with junk. This is also where your budget will thank you, as you will begin to think long and hard before making any purchases.
  • It's totally up to you what sort of organising containers you invest in. Kondo advises not to be frugal with things if they truly bring you happiness, so if pretty containers are your thing, go for it! You can simply group things according to their use.
  • While the classroom is, indeed, one room, it would be easy to fall into the habit of cleaning "spaces." The educator's space. The storeroom space. The book corner space. The art 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, you need to focus on one category - art supplies, for instance - and do that one category only for the entire room.

You won’t believe how good it will feel to finally be rid of the items that don’t bring your early learning culture joy anymore. You may find you don’t even need to replace anything. Early learning services have always had smaller budgets than they have wish lists, but holding onto things you don't regularly use has a way of being a burden each year as we revisit what to do with that cupboard or space.


Find Storage Solutions that will Work for your Space

When using the KonMari method, you have to designate a spot for everything. After you use something, put it back in its designated spot. Everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. Marie Kondo says to store items of the same type in the same place and not to scatter storage space. 

  • Organise office supplies and stationery - The KonMari method is to find small, attractive boxes to store items in drawers and on shelves. This gives everything a home and keeps the items easily accessible.
  • Manage large items like furniture and electronic equipment - Make sure all furniture is safe and clean before finding a storage space for it.


Make Tidying a Special Event, Not a Daily Chore

I know the year has already begun, but maybe there's a staff development day coming up. You can't do a massive decluttering a little bit at a time, or with a spare half hour here and there. You have to commit, save this knowledge and plan a time when you have a day together to create a special event, maybe have a shared lunch to look forward to.

Everyone should get to feel good about a tidy, clean new learning environment. Why not invite children, teachers, and families to come in and KonMari your early learning environment together? Modelling how to declutter and be respectful of your belongings is good practice for everyone. I have also found that by using the KonMari method and getting rid of all the clutter and chaos helped me focus on the important things I am supposed to be working on and enjoying.

Happy decluttering!