"As far as I know, no one has ever had 'I wish I had bought more stuff' inscribed on their tombstone. What you own can easily blind you to who you are and what you can be.” —Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh is an author, speaker, and mini-celebrity who teaches people how to declutter their lives. He believes that we are happier and healthier when we get rid of the excess baggage we own. He may be right, but we all know how hard it can be to throw stuff away. What if we need it after it’s gone? You’re probably far from hoarder status, but it's always good to have a reminder about how much we keep that we really don’t need.
A colleague of ours recently described a time she decided to clean out some old school materials she had brought home… three years ago. Thinking it was a 30-minute task, she dug in. Two and a half hours later, she closed the lid of the recycle bin. She reflected to herself after the experience: Why had I kept all of that “stuff”? I hadn’t used it, didn’t even remember I had it, and all it did was take up space. That colleague now loves looking at her clutter-free garage. Life is much brighter.
Cleaning out your classrooms can also make life brighter and roomier—for you and your students. Is it easy to tell what kind of day or week you’re having by simply looking at your desk? For many of us, a messy desk means a rough week. It’s nearly impossible to find what we need when we need it, and to-do items often get overlooked. Valuable learning time gets wasted trying to find materials when they’re not in order.
Life would be so much better for everyone if we could just get rid of what we don't need. Now, how do we do this? The following may help:
- The “5 second rule”: Within 5 seconds decide if you should keep it or toss it. Be able to tell yourself within the 5 seconds if you need it, otherwise toss it.
- If you keep it, put it away immediately. Make sure you have a designated space for keeping your important documents and things.
- Look around your room. How many posters and charts do you have hanging that are rarely, if ever, used? The more you have up that you don't use, the harder it is for your student to find the ones they do need.
- Involve your students in keeping your classroom decluttered. After all, they live there too! Have them help you toss out broken materials, unusable markers, and worn out manipulatives. Put systems in place that promote the "less is more" philosophy.
- Take a deep breath and throw or give away those teacher gifts you're only holding onto for sentimental reasons. After all, how many mugs, candles, cards, and stuffed animals can we keep?
Owning less means you’ll have less to clean, keep up with, and organize.