Purging My Classroom - Organizing Over Twenty Years of Teacher "Stuff"

Hello Friends,

I have been teaching for over 20 years and this summer, I made the decision to purge. On July 1, I walked into my classroom and started pulling things out of shelves and cupboards. If I hadn't used it in 3 years, it was gone. It took almost a month to purge, but the freeing feeling that it has brought to me has been amazing. I thought that I would share a bit of what I did... warts and all! LOL!


This was extremely hard for me!  I am obsessed with picture books and I have HUNDREDS of books in my classroom. The problem was that I had so many that when I needed a certain title, I couldn't find it because it was buried in a box among a ton of other books. So, what did I do? I purchased another book of the same title.... ugh.... For example, I had FOUR copies of "The Rainbow Fish." Yes, FOUR copies. So, I kept one title of each book (unless I was using it for a small group reading book) and put the extra books in the "give away" pile.

Here is a photo of the mess....

Ugh.... When I look at these photos, I cannot believe the mess I made! LOL....

But, I persevered and continued to sort and purge. I divided the books that I wanted to keep into two groups - teacher books for shared reading and books for my classroom library. I put my shared reading books into plastic boxes with lids.

I added a label to each box. The labels were easy to do. I inserted a text box into a Power Point document, chose a font I liked, and typed a subject. I added a border and attached the labels to the boxes with clear packing tape. Such an easy way to make a label!

I put the books that I did not want on the tables in my classroom.  I sent an email to teachers in my building saying that they could come in any time and take what they wanted. A third of my picture books were taken from the teachers in my school! After that, I put the extra books into U-Haul boxes and donated them.

The next job was to take the classroom library books and arrange them. This is not my leveled library. This is my classroom library which is simply picture books of all levels divided into categories.  If a child wants to enjoy a book that is beyond or below his/her reading level, I am okay with that. I simply want them to enjoy books. The thing that I AM particular about is that kids put their books away in their proper places INDEPENDENTLY.

I organized the books by subject. For example, some bin titles are FAIRY TALES, FAVORITE CHARACTERS, NON-FICTION, FICTIONAL ANIMALS, FICTION, SEASONS, HOLIDAYS, EARTH and SPACE, DR. SEUSS, PETS, TRANSPORTATION, ABC BOOKS, RELIGION, HABITATS, ALL ABOUT ME.... I gave each label an alphabet letter and added the subject to the label.  Once again, I used Power Point to create my labels. I chose a bold font that I liked. To find the photos for the labels, I googled images and copied/pasted them into my Power Point document. I printed them and attached them to the boxes with clear packing tape. (As long as you are only using the images for personal classroom use, you can google images. You CANNOT use these images to create resources that you sell.)

THEN, came the tedious part. I added white sticker dots to each book within the white boxes. Using a sharpie marker, I wrote the letter of the tub in which the book belonged. For example, every book in the FAIRY TALE bin has a white sticker label with the letter A on it. When my kiddos take a book out of the library, they know where to put it when they are finished. Every few weeks, I ask my teacher helpers to go through the book bins looking for books that have been misplaced. This has eliminated so much angst on my part - books put away and organized - woo hoo!

I love my classroom library and know that my students will love it, too. A fun beach umbrella, comfy chairs, and book buddies add character to this comfy area!

Next up... toys..


 In our kindergarten, we still have FREE play. We describe free play as the ability of children to make choices in an exploratory way within their environment. We strongly believe that children should be given some time during their day to just play. Play enables children to learn social skills such as sharing, cooperating, decision making, and creating. When our students come to school, they put away their coats and backpacks, enter the classroom, and find a toy in which to play. They learn how to ask if they can play, share toys, and create i.e. Legos, blocks, or markers on paper. This little peanut was so proud of her zoo structure that she wanted me to take a photo and text it to her Mom!

We do free play at the beginning of the day because we KNOW that this is what kids want to do when they come to school. Making them wait a couple of hours before they can play and interact with their friends does not seem fair. Being able to have time to greet their friends and make free play choices starts their day happy. Our free play lasts for 25 minutes. When it is time for free play to be over, though, I want toys put away as soon as possible.

I know that many early childhood teachers like their toy boxes labeled with the contents of each. I used to be particular about that, too, but am not so much anymore. The thing that drives me nuts, though, is the time it takes to find a shelf in which to put away their toy box. I know that it is a problem solving challenge to allow them to arrange the boxes until they fit, but for me, it just takes too long and I would rather use that time for morning meeting. My toy shelves are small and my boxes are inconsistent sizes, so it does make it difficult to fit them all on the shelves. 

So.. this was my solution.... I arranged the boxes on the shelves in such a way that they all fit. THEN, I created number labels in a Power Point document (just like I did for the library labels) . I printed the labels and attached them to the boxes. All the boxes that fit on shelf one were labeled with a NUMBER ONE. All the boxes that fit on shelf two were labeled with a NUMBER TWO and so forth until all the boxes were labeled. I should add that BEFORE I added labels to the boxes, I sorted through them. I gave away toys that were never used. I threw away broken toys and games missing pieces. I consolidated similar toys and gave a large wooden block set to our preschool that took up a TON of space on the shelves.


My organization for math and literacy boxes is no different from what many Early Education teachers do. I sorted and labeled boxes according to what was inside. My math boxes have a BLUE lid and my literacy boxes have a RED lid. This helps my kiddos return their boxes to the proper places.


This year, I splurged and purchased crayon caddies from Lakeshore Learning. I have always sorted my table crayons by color, but created my own DIY containers. They worked fine, but by the end of the year, they were a mess and I usually ended up throwing them away. I am hoping that these caddies will last a few years and be worth the expense. I placed a paper cup inside each section to protect them from crayon rubbings. 


I am terrible about organizing my "stuff" in May. Historically, I shove things anywhere and everywhere, just to get it up off the floor for maintenance to clean the floors. These photos show you what I encountered when I got to school in July.... ugh.... I am really baring my soul by showing you these photos, but they make me realize how important it is to purge. Because we use our Promethean board for almost everything, there was no need for me to continue to save posters from 10 years ago. I DID try to keep them sorted throughout the year in large Ziplock bags, but by the end of the year, this is what it looked like.... yuck....

And these were my reading and math storage shelves... once again.... ugh....

........ and...... my loose paper shelves.... oh my.....

So..... I took EVERYTHING out of the cupboards and began my purging routine. I threw away unusable paper, gave away learning games that I had not used in three years, and searched through folders and boxes replacing lost parts and pieces. What I look at now is a breath of fresh air!

 I labeled tubs by month and placed within them seasonal/monthly math and center games. It will be awesome to be able to take down a box and find what I am looking for without reinventing the wheel every time because I am unable to locate something!

I attached large sized binder clips to their cubbies. I have been doing this for many years and I love the simplicity of using them. Far across the room, you can see their book boxes which are labeled with their names and placed in numerical order.

This is the FIRST time that I will have a teacher's desk! I know many teachers are getting rid of theirs, but I am hoping that this area will help keep me on track with things that would otherwise end up in a pile on a table somewhere!

I am using Katie Mense's CAN DO centers for Early Finishers during our literacy block.  I used them towards the end of last year and I LOVED them! 

So... if you made it all the way, thank you for sharing in my journey. It was such a soul fulfilling one for me. It is true that time flies and as we continue through this journey, it really is important to stop, look around, and remove the "stuff" from your life. I am so excited to share this space with my kinders. Now..... I need to do the same thing with my house! Well......Maybe next summer.... LOL...

Until next time!



  1. Wow! What an amazing transformation! Have a wonderful school year :)

    1. I know! Crazy, isn't it? To be clear, my classroom did not look like that when the kids were there... this was all "behind the scenes" stuff... but still crazy!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Your room looks great. I did this last summer. What a huge undertaking!

    1. Thank you! It's a cleansing feeling, isn't it? My kinders come on Friday.... I'm not sure it will look like this much longer! LOL!

      Thanks for commenting!!1