Purging Before Packing {Ending The School Year Series: Post 1}

Summer vacation is so close I can feel it. While many of you already sent your kiddos off with their report cards in hand and closed out the 2012-2013 school year, there are still many teachers in the (unairconditioned) trenches. I still have almost a full month of school left...but who’s counting.

For those of us who still need to wrap things up, I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips and ideas for ending the school year as stress-free as possible. I’m breaking it down into a mini-series.

Day 1: Purging Before Packing
Day 2: Packing Up The Classroom
Day 3: Getting the Classroom Ready for the Summer
Day 4: Preparing Your Classroom for the Fall...before Leaving for the Summer
Day 5: Tips from Other Teachers (see the bottom of this post for details)

Today’s post was inspired by a blog reader who recently left a comment on my blog entry titled, Be a Successful Teacher in the Fall by Planning Ahead Now blog post. She wrote:

My favorite teacher and mentor is retiring after 40+ years of teaching. While she is the person I hope to be when I "grow up", I in no way have her knack for making everything look easy. She has generously "willed" her entire classroom to me. Everything is in MINT CONDITION and looks as though it has NEVER been used even though it has. My problem, I have NO IDEA what to do with my belongings (20 years worth) as well as hers. I have read every clutter challenge (some more than once), purchased your binder from Tpt, and sat in the middle of my classroom crying over the disaster. I MUST be packed up by Friday and am not permitted back into my room until 3 days BEFORE school begins!!!!!!!!!!!! Pleeeeeeaaaasssseeee help me get this under control!!!!!

My first thought was YIKES! My second thought was that the time limit is both a blessing and a curse. It certainly makes the task more overwhelming, but I always find that time limits and decluttering/organizing go hand in hand. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and sidetracked, but a deadline will help to move things along quickly. So with no time to waste, let's get started!
  • Get a container / containers for the items coming home with you. This would include personal items that you want to keep safe along with curriculum you may want to use for planning over the summer. I recommend clear, plastic tubs because they are sturdy, offer a defined (translation: limited) amount of space and you can see inside easily. Put these items into the designated tubs as you come across them so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • Get big, sturdy, trash bags. I like the contractor bags from Home Depot. You may be placing heavy objects inside and you won’t have time for picking up the contents of ripped bags.
  • Gather boxes for donations/giveaways. Copy paper boxes work well because they are uniform in size and have lids so they can be stacked.
  • Talk to your principal about designating a space for giveaways. At this time of year, many teachers are purging. See if you can set up a table outside your classroom for other teachers to pick from or perhaps even in the teacher’s room or work room. Send an email to the staff letting them know that there will be items available throughout the week.  
  • If you can, go back to the classroom to work at night or extra early in the morning. Your mind will be clear and you will have less distractions.
  • Enlist the help of a “runner.” This can be a friend, former student, etc. Have that person take the items from you to their new spots (trash, recycle, donate, take home, etc) and scurry back to you for the next item. This will save you lots of valuable time because you’re attention can remain focused on the act of purging while your runner can be in charge of simply moving things along. 
  • Pick a starting point and quickly work your way around the room until you get back to the starting point. Be brutal about what you choose to keep. Remember an item is only valuable if it is of use to you and your students. If you come across an item that is a duplicate to another you already own keep only the better one.
  • Once you make it all the way around, go around a second time. This time will be faster, but you’ll find that you will want to get rid of things that made the “first cut” after giving it another glance.
  • Get the unwanted items out of your space immediately after a box / bag is filled. Again this is where having a runner will save you lots of time. As your space becomes cluttered with boxes/bags you’ll feel more overwhelmed. Keeping the space as clear as possible will help a lot.
  • Break the room into zones (one wall, one shelf...whatever works for you) and set time limits. Work to music and challenge yourself to finish before a song ends. Set a timer and “beat the clock.” The need to move fast helps keep the overwhelmed feeling away.
  • If you have not taught the grade level you’ll be teaching in the fall before, enlist the help of a veteran to that grade level. He/she can share what you’ll really need and what will essentially become clutter because it most likely won’t be used.
  • Remember: The more you get rid of the less you need to manage and organize. This will be especially helpful in the fall when you come in to start the new year. You want to start off recharged and refreshed and not frazzled and overwhelmed.
  • Don’t look at the items you have (or in the case of the reader above, have inherited) with “retail value” eyes. Look at them instead as “what value do they have to me?” An item that is free may actually come at a price. The price being your sanity, your space, your time, etc. Even if something is given to you and it is in perfect condition and it seems like a waste to throw it out, it will be a burden if you don’t use it. If you are on the fence about parting with something, consider giving it to a colleague who can use it and borrow it from them if/when you need it. Chances are you won’t ;).

To get more ideas I reached out to other teachers through the Clutter-Free Classroom Facebook fan page.  I’ll be featuring their fabulous ideas at the end of the series. You read them over at the FB page today or wait and see them on here on Thursday.
Do you have additional tips or advice to offer? Leave a comment here or respond to yesterday’s question of the day over at the CFC Facebook Page.

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