Friday, September 6, 2013

De-Cluttering and Saving Space and Time

Multi-aged classrooms can get cluttered in the blink of an eye! We need so many different materials to meet the needs of all our students. Here are a few ideas I've tried this year to de-clutter and save space.

Busy shelves BEFORE...

 Shelves AFTER...

I took a bedsheet and cut it in half. I folded it over and connected the two pieces to the shelf with a long Velcro strip.


Busy cabinet BEFORE...

 Cabinet AFTER...

I put a long curtain on a tension rod and stuck it in the cabinet. That makes it easy for students to slide it open to access the contents.

Plain, boring wall next to the SMART Board BEFORE...

Wall next to the SMART Board AFTER...
 I took a long strip of butcher paper and glued it to the wall with my hot glue gun. I did the same with a silver border. I added some words, "WE ARE SMART... ABOUT OUR TECHNOLOGY" above technology rules.
 I bought the rules posters on TpT HERE and HERE.

The Polka-Dot Book

Sometimes multi-age classrooms end up having more adults than students. Add in a busy schedule, and you may have adults and students in your room during lunch/plan periods. When you're working or teaching, you may find yourself being approached by adults. Encourage them to write any questions they have for you in a notebook, using initials for confidentiality-- so you don't forget their important questions (and so you can lessen your interruptions!).

Centers Storage

Centers and games taking up all of your shelf space and/or falling all over the place? Get rid of their boxes, and store them in plastic stackable storage containers. Space saver!

Big Books
I put my big books in a bulletin board holder behind a door. (I do need a new box... I've had that one for 4 years!) When I taught learning support, I kept my big books in a pretty hamper. That was easy, too!

Lined Paper
I keep my lined paper in these organizers. I put my 5th grade paper in the top drawer, then fourth in the next drawer down, and so on. The clear boxes make it easy for students to find. I do the same with composition books.

Grade Level Bins
I keep my weekly materials in grade level bins. There are five bins (one for each grade level). Inside each bin, I put weekly workbooks and teacher's manuals. I put a sticky note on the page where we left off, and I put corresponding worksheets in five-pocket portfolios labeled Day 1 - Day 5. That makes it easy to take the bin anywhere (e.g., if we need to leave the classroom) and pick up where we left off.

I used to spend FOR.EV.ER setting up and cleaning up manipulatives. Then I decided to put them in stackable storage bins. I bought them in the kitchen section at a grocery store. When I'm doing a lesson where I need counters, for example, I simply grab my counters bin. I have a student pass them out, and at the end that student collects everyone's counters and puts the container back on the shelf. SUCH a time saver!! When I took this picture, two of my groups were using manipulatives (hence the missing spaces).

I keep my letter tiles in individual plastic baggies, sorted by letter. This makes it SO much easier to find them, and again- students can clean them up for me.

Picture Schedule

I keep my picture schedule cards sorted in a Rollodex! I printed them on multiple pages per sheet to get extra small schedule pieces for the labels of the Rolodex. I'm going to get an index card box to store them.

Sign-Out Station with Passes on Wall

To save shelf space, I put my passes on hooks beside my sign-out station.

Missing Pieces Box
 Don't you just love finding a random game piece, puzzle piece, screw, or piece of plastic on the floor on your way out the door at the end of the day? When you don't have time to figure out where things go, put them in the missing pieces box. When students realize a game piece is missing, they can check the box. I also assign a student to put away the items periodically.

Monthly Materials Bins
I keep my monthly materials that would take up too much space in a filing cabinet, in plastic stackable totes. I combined short school months (eg., Aug/Sept) to save space.

 Filing Cabinet "Offices"
 Use filing cabinets to your advantage! My instructional assistant had an awesome idea to partition desks with filing cabinets. I loved the idea, because now we have instant magnet boards (note letter and number magnets) where students can hang work. They each also have an independent work space (perfect for centers or for students who are easily distracted/overwhelmed). I put word helpers posters (as suggested by my former colleague, Dominica Skal- the bam of am, tie of my, hen of when, king of ing, hand of and, bat of at, fuz of was, love of of, paw of saw, tent of went, and wiz of is), and a number strip above their desks. OT ball seats and cushions also help students who seek movement and sensory needs.

To Do Notebook

I've always used To Do lists, but I end up losing them, filling them, or rewriting them. I decided to make a To Do notebook. It's a great spot to jot down extra notes, prioritize your lists, and keep track of your thoughts. I think it's also fun to look back at everything I've accomplished. (Cue: Cee Lo Green's "Does That Make Me Crazy?" song lol!)

That's all for tonight. I'll keep you posted if I come up with any new space/time saving ideas. Please feel free to comment with some of your ideas!


Dry Food Containers

Milk Crates

 8-pocket Portflios

28 qt Storage Bins

6 qt Storage Bins

Colored Word Strips

A Peach for the Teach


  1. Great post! I am in a multi-age classroom this year working on math and literacy extensions with students and LOVE organization:) I found you via your TpT and am also new to blogging like you. You have a new follower:)

    Visit me at:

  2. Thanks so much! I checked out your blog and started following! It looks great! I love finding new multi-age resources. Have you thought about putting a "Follow me on Bloglovin'" widget on your blog? It's a great place to gain followers, and I'd love to add you to my Bloglovin' feed. :)

  3. Love your ideas! I found u thru pinterest, what did I do before pinterest? I spent a lot of money on teacher resource books! I especially like the polka dot book! Thank you! Paula @educatingchildrenwithdisabilities.blogspot

    1. Thanks, Paula! I know exactly how you feel about Pinterest! haha I'm so glad you like that idea. It's such a time saver! Can't wait to check out your blog. Thanks for visiting!