A Teacher Tip for Decluttering a Classroom

Taking before photos is a key step in making your disorganized classroom a space you love teaching in and are proud to call your home away from home, but most importantly is conducive to on task student learning. This blog post will explain how to take useful before photos and how to use them as an effective tool in creating a clutter-free classroom.


Taking before photos is a key step in making your disorganized classroom a space you love teaching in and are proud to call your home away from home, but most importantly is conducive to on task student learning. This blog post will explain how to take useful before photos and how to use them as an effective tool in creating a clutter-free classroom.

If you have not yet read it, you may want to start with the companion post: How Taking Photos of Your Classroom Clutter Can Help You Get Organize.

Think of the journey to an organized classroom as a sprint, not a marathon. It is overwhelming to think about taking on an entire room, but a drawer, a shelf or even a closet is manageable. With that strategy in mind you will be taking both large scale and closeup before photos.

Start in one corner of the room. Stand as far back to the wall as you can. Snap a picture of the opposite corner. Rotate clockwise around the room taking pictures from the center of each wall as well as each corner. 
When you return to the starting corner, make a second rotation taking close-up photos. Open closets and drawers and photograph the contents. Take pictures of your desk or teacher workspace. Capture images of all the shelves and their contents too.

How to Store and Use the Before Pictures

After you have taken your before photos I suggest uploading them to your computer and storing them in a file titled “Classroom Organization Process: Before Photos.” This will not only make them easy to find but creates a positive mindset around those photos. The name reflects your goal of an organized classroom while at the same time reminds you that it is a process.

Take time to look at the pictures when you are away from school. Look at them as if you are a visitor in your own classroom seeing the space for the first time. What do you notice? What is out of place? What do you think looks most cluttered, disorganized and in need of your immediate attention?

Ask for outside opinions from friends or family who will be honest with you. Show them the photos and solicit their thoughts on what they first notice when they look at the image. You can even use social media to post a photo and ask for feedback from others.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking at the Pictures

  • Are there any safety concerns? (piled up boxes, heavy-weighted shelves)
  • Are there items that make you look unprofessional? (a Halloween bulletin board on display in January or disposable Starbucks cups that you didn’t have time to finish)
  • Do you immediately see things that don’t need to be in the space? (text books you no longer use, boxed thematic units you no longer have time to teach, an old overhead projector that has been replaced by an interactive whiteboard?
  • Do you see multiple items that serve the same purpose?
  • Are there things in the space that would are distracting and could take a child off task from learning?

Do You Want to Learn More About How to Declutter Your Classroom? Here's how...

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