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?



Taking before photos of your classroom in its current state is a valuable tool for transforming it into a clutter-free classroom. It may seem silly to snap pictures of the space instead of just jumping in an organizing it, but there really are many benefits to documenting where you are starting. 

 This blog post will explain why taking before photos is an important step in working towards an organized classroom that makes you feel less stressed and more productive as a teacher.

This blog post will explain why taking before photos is an important step in working towards an organized classroom that makes you feel less stressed and more productive as a teacher.

Why Before Pictures are Helpful in Organizing Your Classroom:

  • Your eyes don’t register the reality of the situation. You spend hours in your classroom every single day and as a result things begin to blur together and not register as they truly are. Taking  before pictures removes you from the environment and enables you to see your classroom in its true state. Looking at things from this perspective will let you see things out of place, identify problem areas you may not notice in ‘real time’ and approach the overall task of improving your classroom organization with a critical eye.
  • Before pictures provide a baseline and will continue to motivate you throughout the process. Taking your classroom from its current state to the desired clutter-free, super-organized state is not going to be easy, but it will be well worth the time you will need to invest. Having those starting point photos to reference will enable you to see the progress you’ve made and will provide encouragement to continue on the journey.
  • It will serve as documentation for your taxes. If you are planning to donate a lot of the unwanted items you can claim those things as charitable donations on your taxes. It is helpful to have good documentation for that purpose.
  • It feels amazing to compare before and after photos when the work is done. Not only will you enjoy the benefits that come from teaching in a clutter-free classroom, but you will experience even more pride when you see a side by side comparison of how far you’ve come.
  • If you are like most teachers you are overwhelmed, crunched for time and more stressed by the demands of the job than ever before. Those are legit obstacles. The good news is there are simple strategies that can be completed in manageable steps to set you on the path to having a truly organized classroom.

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

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

Subscribe to the Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter. I hate clutter and promise not to spam you. I value your time and won't waste it with junk. Instead you will receive valuable free content and printables delivered in one weekly email each Sunday morning. 



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