The Best Way to Declutter Your Classroom Before the School Year Ends

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Photo of Alison Smith
Updated | 6 min read

Summer break just can’t come fast enough, can it? But there’s just one little thing you have to do … declutter your classroom.

We know. We know. Just the idea of doing One. More. Thing. after a year of pandemic teaching is too much. But if you want to start summer break off with a whole lot less anxiety and tension, and you want to find all those treasures that got lost in a pile of extra masks, empty hand sanitizer bottles, and all those dry erase markers that are now just bone dry, you’re going to want to listen to this.

It’s amazing how quickly clutter builds up, especially in a classroom. In a perfect world, decluttering a little bit and doing it often will help you keep up. But you didn’t do that because you didn’t have time, and you were juggling Zoom classes and quarantines, and you just need to get this done good and fast, right?

End of School Year Refresh and Reboot

The end of the school year provides a perfect opportunity to declutter your classroom and to refresh what has become your second (or maybe first) home. As much as we understand your impulse to run from the scene at the start of your well-deserved break, we urge you to declutter your classroom before you flee. If you declutter now, your energy levels will soar to new heights and you’ll kick start your summer with a sense of deep satisfaction.

Now we’ve got two words for you, or rather one name: Marie Kondo.

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The tidying expert was all the rage a few years back when the bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up became the star of Netflix’s hit show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”. People were pretty busy sparking joy and kicking old t-shirts to the curb until the next home craze came along (we’re looking at you The Home Edit).

But after the year we’ve had, maybe the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing that Marie lives and breathes by is perfect thing to use in classrooms too.

A quick reminder: In a series of inspiring home makeovers, Marie Kondo uses the innovative KonMari Method™ to get you from utter mess to clutter free. She offers six basic steps for tidying:

  • Commit yourself to tidying up.
  • Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  • Finish discarding first.
  • Tidy by category, not by location.
  • Follow the right order.
  • Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

How to Declutter Your Classroom the Marie Kondo Way

Marie Kondo’s principles of tidying and organizing are perfect for the classroom. Her main rules are:

  • Take an inventory of what you have.
  • Declutter in a specific order.
  • Does is spark joy for you?
  • Everything has a place.
  • Respect your belongings.
  • Be a role model.

Declutter and Take an Inventory

The KonMari Method™ encourages decluttering by category – not by location. So maybe you could make a solid start by creating a list of the games that you have in the math games cabinet?

When you have taken stock of what you have, decide what you want to keep, donate, repurpose, recycle, or throw.

To start, get yourself set up with four large containers:

  • one for recycling
  • one for giveaways
  • one for items that need to find a new home, outside of your classroom
  • one for trash.

For tips and ideas on how to have a clear out of your classroom read our blog 5 Ways to Nail the Perfect End-of-Year Classroom Clean Out.

Declutter in a Specific Order

The “KonMari method” of decluttering would have you working through your home in categories. E.g. clothes, books, and documents, miscellaneous, and sentimental items. We suggest the same for your classroom!

Write a list of the classroom categories that need the declutter treatment such as storage cupboard items, craft items, or books in the reading corner. Then, decide which category you will tackle first and work through them in order of priority.

When it comes to books remember that often, less is more and quality is preferable over quantity.

Declutter Your Teaching Resources

Do you use your Teach Starter Gallery effectively? This super handy digital filing system enables you to reduce the need to keep paper copies and arranges your resources into easy to find files:

  • Unit and Lessons
  • Widgets
  • Popular
  • Latest
  • Saved for Later
  • Studio Files.

Declutter Your Desk

Is your desk covered in very important papers and leftover worksheets? Before you check out for the summer break live by Marie Kondo’s principle, ‘finish discarding first‘.

It’s time to declutter your desk and to take stock of what you need to keep. That which you do not need to keep should be generously put in a colleague’s mailbox, donated, or recycled. It’s tempting to keep spare copies of worksheets, but try to avoid this and stick to keeping one master copy.

File your master copies in labeled box files or go new age and hang them up!

Paige Cathcart @teaching6 has some brilliant ideas for keeping a tidy classroom and creating a beautiful, warm, and welcoming home. We love the idea of hanging resources and clearing floor space in a bid to declutter with this creative use of a clothes rack.

Does it Spark Joy for You?


Kondo is perhaps best known for her philosophy that decluttering is all about choosing joy.

Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

It’s unlikely that you have the time to look at each individual item in your classroom and decide whether or not it sparks joy for you. But you could choose a category such as literacy games and decide which games to keep and which ones to let go of and upgrade.

Image of Grammar Game - Name That Noun!

teaching resource

Grammar Game - Name That Noun!

A fun game for students to play in small groups to reinforce their understanding of nouns.

Teach Starter Publishing6 pagesGrades: 1 - 3
Image of Verb Grammar Card Game - Flip It!

teaching resource

Verb Grammar Card Game - Flip It!

A fun game for students to play in small groups to reinforce their understanding of verbs.

Teach Starter Publishing6 pagesGrades: 4 - 6
Image of Digraph Roll Games

resource pack

Digraph Roll Games

A set of 6 phonics games played in pairs to assist students in learning different vowel and consonant digraphs in words.

Teach Starter Publishing20 pagesGrades: 1 - 5
Image of Digraph Roll Games - All Sets

teaching resource

Digraph Roll Games - All Sets

A set of 6 phonics games played in pairs to assist students in recognizing different vowel and consonant digraphs in words.

Teach Starter Publishing10 pagesGrades: 1 - 5

Respect Your Belongings

Let’s face it, your desk is probably the only space in your classroom that you can call your own. Respect your own belongings by giving them their own place and keeping them tidy and safe. During the break, set yourself up with some special boxes for your personal items or perhaps some new desk trays!

It looks as if @pumpkinspiceteacher has taken a considerable amount of time to declutter her classroom! But wow, how inspiring and calming is this desk space!

Be a Role Model

Be a role model to your students by keeping your belongings tidy and organized. By modeling the process of decluttering, you’ll soon find that your students pick up the skill of organizing their own belongings.

Remember that decluttering is an ongoing process and that it’s important to involve your students in a daily declutter routine. Take a look at our collection of teaching resources related to assigning classroom jobs to share the load.

For more ideas on how to successfully assign classroom jobs and share responsibility, read Sharing Responsibility in the Classroom | Classroom Jobs.

Decluttering is a sure-fast way to feel more energized at the end of a school year. It’s a brilliant way to let go of the past and to open the door to new beginnings. So, at the end of this year (or semester), commit to declutter your classroom before it gets out of control.

Then, most importantly of all, get out there and…

enjoy every second of your school break!

Share your before and after photos on Instagram @teachstarter_us


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