How to Pack Up Your Classroom for the Summer


Have you started your countdown?

Be honest...did you start it in January?

Summer vacation is so close you can feel it! Many of you will LITERALLY feel it soon because your classroom does not have air conditioning. You'll have a classroom full of hot and sweaty children who are just as ready for summer as you are. Sound familiar? When that happens, turn those lights off and put that little fan you brought from home on full blast. Those are the signs that you're almost there!

As you try to survive the hustle and bustle of the end of the school year, remember to set aside time to pack up your classroom for the summer so you can leave on your final contracted day and get a jump start on your well-deserved summer vacation. Yahoo!

Follow these 4 easy steps so you can reduce stress at the end of the year and kickstart your summer:

  • Step 1: Purging Before Packing
  • Step 2: Packing Up The Classroom
  • Step 3: Getting the Classroom Ready for the Summer
  • Step 4: Preparing Your Classroom for the Fall Before Leaving for the Summer


Let’s get started!

STEP 1: PURGE YOUR CLUTTER BEFORE PACKING

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. As you go through the items, don’t look at the items you have with “retail value” eyes. 

Instead, look at them 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.

Get 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.

Set aside extra time in your schedule. 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.


STEP 2: HOW TO PACK UP THE CLASSROOM

Packing up for the summer is one of those topics that I find varies greatly by school. I am fortunate that my classroom remains mostly intact. The summer cleaning crew does remove all the furniture to clean the rugs and floors so I usually move all non-furniture items up onto counters and shelves, but otherwise my stuff can stay put. However, I know many teachers that are required to pack EVERYTHING into boxes that are in storage for the summer. 

I have even encountered teachers that take it all home. Pick and choose from the items below so that you can find what relates to your unique situation.

Snap Photos 
If you are happy with your classroom and intend to set it up the same way in the fall be sure to take pictures before you begin packing things up. Take them from all angles and include where items are placed on shelves. Make life even easier by keeping them on your phone so they are easily accessible when you come back to set up. Do this before you pack a single thing.

Use Clear Tubs for Take-Home Items 
I always recommend packing the items you’ll be taking home for the summer (curriculum to use for lesson plans, personal items, etc) in clear, plastic tubs. It’s easy to see what you have.  They are sturdy. They can be reused. Most importantly, they are much better at keeping moisture away and protect the contents than boxes or open crates. This is important because although you pack it up with intention of getting lots done in the summer, these boxes often find their way into basements and garages and are forgotten until the fall. You want to be extra careful with district-owned materials.

Create a “Need Right Away Box” 
Make the box easy to find by using bright paint or paper on it to stand out. Put in only those items you’ll need when you initially walk into your classroom to start setting up in the fall (staples and a stapler for bulletin boards, scissors, things you’ve bought to decorate the classroom, etc). You may want to include cleaning supplies in this box.

Create a “Personal Box” 
Use it to house all of your photos, knick-knacks, etc. Put it somewhere safe and out of reach.

Think About How Your Classroom Will Be Used 
  • Will your room be left alone in the summer? 
  • Will another teacher be using it for summer school? 
  • Is it possible that people will have access to your things? 

This will determine how much you need to pack away. If you have anything of value you’ll want to find a place to secure it. If you are just concerned about others “borrowing” your things you can simply put them in a box and secure it with duct tape or tie it with string that would need to be cut to access. This will deter unwanted borrowing.

Take Inventory 
Be aware of what you have and what you’ll need more of. I created a FREE resource a couple years ago for my blog readers and TPT store customers titled, The Ultimate Back-To-School Shopping List. Feel free to print it and keep it handy when packing so that you are prepared for the summer sales.

Keep Like Items Together
When you are trying to get your classroom set up for the new year you want to be efficient. Don’t make your future days more challenging by shoving things into random boxes now. Have a plan. Pack with unpacking in mind.

Label / Color Code Your Boxes 
When my family moved to our current home, I purchased colored packing tape that was labeled with the words designating their destination (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, etc). Awesome invention! Use colored tape, paper or paint to mark your boxes. This is especially important if you are moving classrooms or schools.

Number Your Boxes 
Record a number onto each box and quickly jot down the contents. I recommend using a computer or notes on a tablet or phone so it can be backed up. This will make it easier to prioritize your unpacking.

Keep District-Owned Materials in One Location 
In the unlikely event that something prevents you from returning to the classroom in the fall (unexpected illness or accident, spousal job transfer, last minute school/classroom change), it will be helpful to have everything that belongs to the school separated from your own materials. This is especially important if you are one of those teachers who needs to pack EVERYTHING before leaving.


STEP 3:  GET THE CLASSROOM READY FOR SUMMER BREAK


Leave a Map 
Avoid having your cleaning crew drag all the furniture into the hall and then just plop it back in anywhere by leaving a map or pictures. They clean lots and lots of rooms and I’m sure to them, they all start to look the same. If you want the furniture returned to your choice location, draw an easy-to-read map and/or leave photos. I’ve seen teachers sketch it out on the whiteboard, but I think taping them to your door is the best place to leave them. 

Leave Your Photos
One of my tips in step two was to take photos of your classroom so you can see where everything goes. These pictures can be helpful to the custodial staff as well. Print them and hang them on the door. Don't forget to include a note of gratitude.

Label
I love labels in any situation, but when it comes to summer at school it is extremely important. Often times everything will be dragged into the hall from several classrooms so they can clean many rooms at once. Increase the likelihood that you’ll get back your own tables, chairs and other furniture by labeling each piece. Painters tape works great for this because it peels off without residue. I recommend labeling it with your name and room number.

Clean 
You’ll need to “reclean” in the fall, but a quick dusting, wipe and shine now will make that easier too. Be sure to remove any food items from the classroom to prevent unwanted pests. This especially applies to lockers, cubbies, desks and any other nooks and crannies of the classroom where your little friends may have accidentally left a snack.

Pull the Shades
If your classroom will not be in use over the summer, pull down your shades to keep the sun from fading materials.

Store Cords and Cables
The cleaning crew may need to move computers and other technology around. Avoid losing important pieces by removing them and storing them together. You’ll want to store the pens and eraser from your interactive boards with them.

Move Everything Off of the Floors
Use counter space to hold baskets and smaller furniture items. Doing so will make the cleaning crew’s job easier and help to keep your belongings from being broken or misplaced. 

Roll Up Rugs
Secure the rolled rug with duct tape so it doesn’t come undone if/when it is moved.

Team Up With a Friend
Many things are easier moved and prepared with extra hands. Have a colleague work with you in your room and then return the favor in his/her room.

Protect Student Confidentiality
Make sure student records, reports, notes, tests, etc are all relocated to a safe and secure location. Shred documents that can be shredded.

Cover Boards and Open Shelves
Prevent damage and dust by covering open shelving and displays before you leave. Plastic trash bags are a great option to use for this task because they can be reused for their intended purpose after the summer.

STEP 4: PREPARE FOR NEXT YEAR

If you’ll be returning to the same classroom in the fall, there are several steps you can take if you have the time that will make things easier when you come back. 

Prepare Bulletin Boards
Hang fabric and borders. Having fabric and border will make the classroom look neat and ready.

Take Measurements
Measure shelves, tables, closets, desks, boards, wall space, etc. Keep these measurements handy (in your purse, on your phone, etc.) so you can use them during the summer. They’ll be useful for planning how you want to set up your room and also for when you are out and about looking to buy containers or make projects.

Label
If you have a class list before you leave, you can prepare nametags, cubby labels, etc. Even if you don’t hang them it will be nice to have them in the room and ready to go and not cluttering your house all summer.

Create Files
I always encourage teachers to use a number system instead of student names where appropriate. Obviously you don’t want their cubby reading “Student #19” as that seems extremely impersonal and unwelcoming, but your files, student folders, book bags, parent communication note files, etc, can be set up with numbers. Go ahead and do that now.

Copy and Prep
If you are allowed to make copies for the upcoming year before this one ends then by all means beat the crowds at the copiers and laminators. Take advantage of parent volunteers who have proven to be competent and helpful at tasks like these and ask them to lend a hand. This is especially useful if you have taught the same grade in the past and know what you’ll be using.

Enlist Student Help
Have some student volunteers stay after school to help with some off jobs. Kids are great at checking puzzles for lost pieces, organizing craft supplies, testing markers, sharpening pencils, etc.

TIPS FROM OTHER TEACHERS in the CLUTTER-FREE CLUB

Below is a compilation of ideas that were generously shared by readers through The FREE Clutter-Free Classroom Teacher's Club Facebook Group: Solutions for Busy Teachers. That's where we share even more ideas for solving all the problems and challenges teachers face in their classrooms. We would love for you to join us: Join the FREE FACEBOOK GROUP


In addition to sharing my own ideas over there, I often will ask the members to share what is working for them. I always love reading the responses to the  and am amazed at how different teaching can be in different states and districts.  The tips below were in response to a question about packing and moving a classroom.

Our district's teacher's union is doing a "free to new teachers" garage sale. They are collecting anything any teacher doesn't want at the end of the year and housing it until early August when they are inviting new teachers to come shop for FREE. I think this is a great idea. - Anne

A lot of good advice here, but be careful about the students you ask to help and make sure you give them clear instructions or else you'll be REDOING all their work! I have learned this the hard way. - Jennifer


I had a week to go through floor to ceilings of what a retired teacher left me. Save yourself and label boxes once packing is done. While going through items now, get rid of whatever you won't use. It will save you time in those 3 days. If you can't get through box, store it up high and get to it when you can. - Alana
Labeling, Colored dots to indicate subject areas, something to indicate whether boxes are priority (teacher's desk, things for back to school), everything that is not used at beginning of year goes home. Everything that you need to sort out goes home. Only 1-2 hard copies of any papers. Do it gradually if possible - I stayed after school 2 hours a night for a month so that I would keep my sanity and stamina. Give yourself rewards for doing this hard work. Use one or two really good helpers. Have lots of tape and lots of sizes of boxes and tubs. Good luck!! - Mary

After 39 years of teaching I just do my best. Sometimes I have loaded it up and gone through it at home. Not my husbands fav but it saves my sanity! Good luck! - Eileen

I helped my mentee clean out his room by emptying all his cabinets into piles in the floor by subject. We then sorted trash and give-aways to other grade levels, then put everything away in a place that makes sense. I think it had been at least 10 years since some cabinets had been cleaned out! - Stacy

I've moved a lot over the yrs too, plus having to pack everything & store it elsewhere while walls were being built in our Pod (finally- a classroom with 4 walls after 16 years!). We did all that was previously mentioned, but there are custodians in our buildings all summer painting and doing repairs, so we can get in if we really need too. She should go to her union... 3 days is not enough time and she's doing it for free, to benefit the kids! They should be able to give her extra days, just ask! - Rebecca

My administration made lots of changes for the comming year. What we have done is band together and work together and WORK to get all of this done. We have one teacher who refuses to move, though. A small group is moving her, while the rest of us move each other. - Katherine

I had to move grade levels and buildings within my district last year this time. We had to pack my entire classroom before the end of the school year. I was lucky to have two instructional assistants who literally saved me!! I cannot believe how many boxes we packed by the end of the year. It was a wall of boxes. My kiddos did great with it, we didn't start until the last two weeks of the year. And in the summer I did a lot of the initial unpacking so I could put stuff where I thought I wanted it. But I enlisted help from former students (middle school age) who spent a day unpacking, sorting, labeling things. They were happy to help and enjoyed a pizza lunch on me. I have thrown out and purged a lot this year and now I will have to do it again as I clean up and get ready for year two in the new bldg next year. - Jennifer

I use bins from home depot that are strong and sturdy and can be nested once empty. Also I can zip tie the top so no one can get into it. I love to get curriculum items and then redirect them to the grade level that needs it. - Genevieve

I sought help from my personal children and school children the last two days of school. My school children really liked helping move books, count textbooks, and sort school supplies. My personal child liked getting to come to school (she was out) and helping organize. All of my school belongings are now packed and ready to move-but I have to wait for floors to be refinished before moving. - Jennifer

I have to wonder, if she's a 20 year veteran herself, how much of these materials will she actually use? She most certainly has her own stuff, and a way of doing things that works. I started going through every page of materials left by a teacher who died suddenly. It felt disrespectful to get rid of it, but at the end of the day, I have my own things I haven't used in years, and I wasn't going to abandon what I was doing and start using what she left. I kept a few things as memories of her, left things out for a few days for others to take if they wished, and then made lots of trips to the dumpster. - Heather

I took stuff home  I'm moving classrooms and wanted to organize everything I had... Much more work, but when I return in the fall, all ill have to do is put items back on the shelves- shouldn't take too long to set back up - Courtney
Plastic bins are king! We have to pack up every last paperclip each year. I would say sort first like items and then toss into bins what you want. Toss what is junk or outdated (there is always some) and then leave what's left and send out an email to everyone to come and get or it's going to goodwill. Or into another classroom that is getting a new teacher as a surprise? - Kim

The retiring teacher in my building opened up her room and said take what ever we wanted. She cleared a lot of the big things out just by doing that. - Heather
We have to pack our entire classroom up every year and bring what is ours home. It cannot be left. And we are not allowed to start until the kids leave for summer- then we get 2 days. It can be done just label everything! - Pam

Our high schoolers need Community Service points. I'd call and enlist a few of them. - Eileen

Host an open house for new teachers in the district to come in and grab what they want. - Susan

Many of the parents in my area do not have money to give a gift for the end of the year. I spoke with our room parent and asked to send out a letter to parents with the option of the end of your gift to me being 2 hours of help after school during that week. I organized myself with a list of tasks I knew would take 2 hours. I setup Netflix and snacks for their kids while we got to work. Several of these parents even take the things home that I want to toss for their own kids. It's a win-win! - Gretchen

Last year over 70% of our elementary staff were reassigned to different grades or buildings, but we knew on May 11 that we were moving. Students love to pack... Are there any students in the building that can still help. My husband and inlaws helped a lot too. The hardest part was I had to move all my stuff home. Our dining room was filled all summer. Then the fun was moving it back in! Ugh! Having boxes for specific items helped... Professional books, phonics resources, comp resources, office supplies, decor, etc. - Jaclyn

Gotta be honest, most of that stuff is just that...stuff. Depending upon how long you've been there, how long at same grade, etc, more than you realize can be purged. Get a GIANT recycle pile/box and get to it. If it's older than 2000 (& that's reaching), its probably too old to use & not in line with best practices with kids. Get rid of it! Most posters, etc, can be remade with kids (& they take more ownership of learning &using it if they help create it). If you can't, keep ONE copy in a labeled file, group together by subject/theme. If you don't use it in a year, get rid of it (donate, recycle, whatever!). I agree with someone else who said take it home, organize, bring back. Purge until the take home pile is feasible. - Barbara

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