This past week, I took part in Building Book Love’s Clean Classroom Challenge. It was such an uplifting experience that I wanted to share it with others so that you might get some joy from it as well.
A little background
I have a very neat classroom. I pride myself on creating a unique space where kids feel welcome, but doesn’t necessarily feel like a classroom. I describe the ambiance of my room as the Ravenclaw Common Room (yes, I’m a huge Potterhead), and that drives my decor choices most of the time. I have brought in flexible, alternative seating options to make my classroom more inviting and student-centered. You can read more about that here. Here are a few pics from my latest classroom arrangement:
You can see I have a mixture of school-provided furniture and finds from Facebook Marketplace, family and friends, and Goodwill. I love the kids’ faces when they first walk in, and open house is also fun because the parents love it too!
Now, you can see my room is pretty clean, so you might be wondering why I’d need to participate in the Clean Classroom Challenge. Well, the challenge focuses on cleaning out the spaces where most teacher clutter hides- your desk, closets, and cabinets. That’s exactly where all my unorganized secrets lie, so this was perfect for me.
On the first day of the challenge you set your intentions- What do you want your room to convey and what is holding you back? The second day is desk day. This is where you tackle the clutter in, on, and around your desk. I followed her instructions, took everything out of my desk, and sorted things into piles: keep, trash, donate. Then you only put back what is a necessity or brings you joy. Here is the before and after:
Isn’t it glorious? Let me tell you, most people would say I’m a very organized person, but they couldn’t see all the clutter that was collecting in the drawers of my desk! All of my drawers were full to overflowing with random stuff. I mean, y’all, I found a half-eaten lollipop, an old Coke bottle, and a couple of dead bugs. YIKES! Now everything is cleaned out and paired down so that I have a useful space to work from. I even have one drawer that is completely empty! Oh, the possibilities!
Closets and Cabinets
The next day focuses on closets and cabinets. She tells you not to panic because this part of the challenge wasn’t meant to be completed in one day. I mean, we all still have to teach, right? She just wants you to start dealing with it, meet it head-on, and she gives you a plan of attack.
I have to admit, this was a scary day for me. I used to work in a district that I thought I would stay in forever, but that wasn’t in the cards. I have been carting around things from the past, putting them in a closet or drawer, and letting them take up space in my life. This challenge gave me permission to get rid of some of that baggage, and it was wonderful. I took things to the dumpster, and I swear I felt about 5,000 pounds lighter on every walk back. It was so clarifying and energizing. I made it harder than it had to be all those years. I just needed to let it go. And I did!
Here is all my stuff taken out of the closets:
And here is the after:
Can you hear the angels singing?
The next day was earmarked for dealing with stacks and piles of paper. She gave us permission to rid ourselves of emotional paper baggage like old student projects, extra copies we accidentally ran and didn’t want to just throw away, and those resources the previous teacher left us that we aren’t actually ever going to use. I was hiding (hoarding?) all of these in my filing cabinet, and I filled up a recycle bin with all the stuff I finally purged from my files. Here are the before and after pics of my file drawers.
The next task was to finally address that stuff you just couldn’t bear to part with because of its sentimental value. Gifts from students, awards, pictures…all the little detritus that clutters up your space, but you feel like a monster for even considering getting rid of it. In keeping with my objective, I was brutal. I pretty much purged it all except for a few I kept in a “positive” file of things I read from former students when I’m having a particularly rough day. I threw away a Teacher of the Year award from my former district, stuff from when I was a cheer coach, old frames that I took the pictures out of…basically all the things that never saw the light of day but took up space in my life.
It was glorious and freeing.
Now the other teachers in my building are wanting me to clean their rooms. It’s catching! I am going to pass on everything I learned to them, and I hope it helps all my colleagues take back their spaces. You really should check out Building Book Love’s blog because she is such an awesome motivator! You can also check out a previous post I wrote about hygge in the classroom. That is a Danish word that means making your space more cozy and welcoming by bringing natural elements into your space.
I’d love to hear from you if you decide to take the Clean Classroom Challenge. There is a Facebook group and you can also find inspiration on Instagram by following #cleanclassroomchallenge. Happy cleaning!