As you watch your teachers close down their rooms for the end of the year, do you wish they’d throw out more? Do you wonder if you should’ve done a PD on clutter removal? I think most teachers would agree that they save more than they need. Guess what? Principals have the same affliction.
Every school has a hidden space for storing old textbooks, desks, audio-visual equipment. Some even have names for it: The Attic, The Dungeon, even Dante’s Inferno. Break through the clutter with these five ways to KonMari your school based on the lessons of Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant who wrote a little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
1. Deal With Categories, Not Rooms
Kondo even has an order with which to cope with your cluttered items.
To KonMari your school, start with books. Ask yourself how do children or teachers connect with these books? If you find they have outlived their usefulness and are no longer bringing joy to your school, tell them thank you and find a way to donate or dispose of them. You might even find that some can be sold to make money for purchasing new books that will bring your students joy. Tip: Don’t leave them in a pile by the dumpster or you can be sure a school stakeholder will take a photo of them and post it on Facebook.
Next, take care of papers and documents. Touch each paper and either file it or destroy it. Much of the paperwork we keep can be scanned and saved digitally and most of it isn’t necessary to keep forever.
Then organize office supplies and stationary. The KonMari method is to find small, attractive boxes to store items in drawers and on shelves. This gives everything a home and keeps the items easily accessible.
Finally, manage large items like furniture and electronic equipment. These are the toughest items to deal with in a school. School populations grow and shrink with regularity. Make sure all furniture is safe and clean before finding a storage space for it. Be sure to dispose of any furniture that you are certain will never be used again. There are plenty of companies that will come and haul away your old items, even those electronics that seem impossible to get rid of.
2. Respect Your Belongings
If anyone questions why you are decluttering your school, explain that when items are broken or have outlived their usefulness, we can respectfully remove them. This opens up spaces and simplifies workloads for custodians and anyone else who needs to work in these spaces.
3. Nostalgia is Not Your Friend
There are ways to feel really good about our history, but keeping everything remotely related to it is not one of those ways. Be sure to take digital photos of things you want to remember. Perhaps ask the PTA to consider creating a shadow box or bulletin board with a few memories to share with this year’s students and faculty, but in general—let stuff go.
4. It Feels Good to Let Go
You won’t believe how good it will feel to finally be rid of the items that don’t bring your school culture joy anymore. You may find you don’t even need to replace anything. Schools have always had smaller budgets than they have wish lists, but keeping things you aren’t using has a way of being a burden each year as we revisit what to do with that closet.
5. Invite Students to Clean
Everyone should get to feel good about a tidy, clean new school. Why not invite students, teachers, and families to come in and KonMari your school together? Modeling how to declutter and be respectful of your belongings is good practice for everyone.
Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more ideas on how to transform your school community.