It seems like every year I make something new in the classroom, and this year it may be kind of small. We’ll have more children than we have cubbies, so some old shelves in my basement were turned into this:
This is actually in the entryway of my house, but at school it will go by the other cubbies and each space will have a basket. I only need three of the spaces for children, so the other two spaces will hold 1) extra mittens and 2) the ‘line-up’ tambourine we ring at the end of outside time.
People will love saving things for you to use in your classroom – egg cartons, old ribbon, film canisters, plastic whatevers. In fact, so much will be collected, you will never ever be able to use it all.
So don’t keep it all. I say this because if you keep it all, you will not be able to store it well, and the mess will make you crazy. (Or your co-workers crazy.) However, always graciously accept anything given to you. If you refuse something, you might miss out when they have something really cool to give away!
Recycle un-needed donations if it makes you feel guilty to throw things away, but please don’t keep a lot of stuff out of guilt. That’s poor stewardship.
It reminds me of a little saying – “When life gives you lemons, thank life politely and then throw them away when life isn’t looking.”
Baskets have so much going for them! They come in all shapes and sizes, they look fabulous, they lend a warm feeling to the space they occupy – they are your best bet for in-room storage. (We’ll talk about clear plastic tubs in the closet/storage room as the best bet for out-of-sight storage in another post.) If you shop the thrift stores or find them on clearance, the prices are very reasonable! Buy sturdy, and replace them if they start to fall apart. (Ratty baskets do not make for a good environment!)
These baskets hold non-everyday art supplies – extra craft sticks, pom poms, tissue paper, etc. They are on a shelf in my classroom close to the ceiling.
These are baskets that hold paper, markers & crayons in one of our preschool rooms.
This photo is too dark, but you can see how we used baskets to store food & dishes in our toddler room.
…and everything in it’s place. When I first began teaching preschool, I inherited a classroom that was in the basement lounge of a college dorm. (Really.) The Center was still fairly new, so most of our furniture was donated shelves, & hand-me-downs. We had cars stacked on puzzles shoved on Legos in the corner full of dolls by the books with the dishes and the papers….. it was just chaos. Every few days I would storm around in a silent fury in the afternoon wondering why I was the only one who kept the room presentable. One day I voiced my opinion and a co-worker meekly said, “Well, I’d clean up, but I don’t know where anything goes.”
Life changing moment: A few weeks later I attended a church that had a preschool and I snuck a quick look. It was the Hoy Grail of ‘A-Ha’ moments. Along one entire side of the room, somebody had made a floor-to ceiling wall of cubbies – each about a cubic foot – and inside each cubby was *gasp* ONE item. Plus there was a picture of the item in the cubby to show where it should go!!! (In my memory this was all shining with a light brighter than the sun!)
You don’t need everything you have out all the time! Find someplace to store your excess (we’ll talk about trimming the excess at another time), and only have out some beatuifully displayed, great items that have their own place that is labeled!!
Now let me get up on my soapbox here: I firmly believe that everyone has way too much stuff, including me. You (and I) really could make do with half of what we have. (Sidebar: I am a complete slob at heart, but found a website that helped me develop some better habits. It’s a home cleaning site, but I apply it to our school environment, as well. I’ts www.flylady.com )
When I taught second grade, I bemoaned the lack of storage in my classroom, and said that every classroom should have it’s own attic or basement. In our current facility, our Center has been blessed with that. We have a huge basement where we store our extra games, toys, dress-up clothes, books, etc. It is a gift. Amazingly, though, we still get overwhelmed with ‘stuff’, and it gets junked up. We have done a good job of ‘thinning the herd’ and storing what we have in clear plastic tubs. (Not a cheap investment, but SO worth it. You can see what you have, and when someone donates 50 egg cartons, you know that you already have 70.)
So, if possible, find a place that you can designate as storage, and keep it as organized as possible. It will save you many, many headaches!