Today’s episode is all about making things easy to find using the “A” in our acronym CLEAN, which is to arrange the items we already cleared out through the previous steps.
Make it Easy to Find; Spring CLEANing your Classroom, Home, and Digital Files Transcript
Welcome back to our Spring CLEANing series. Where we are working through the acronym CLEAN on our way to cleaning up. Not just like the baseboards and the shower heads, which are both good things to clean, but where we’re actually working on the systems and the clutter in our everyday life. That we can minimize the stress around cleaning in the future.
If we can take simple steps towards that, I think we’re all going to live a little bit easier.
“A” is for Arrange
So today we are working on the letter “A” which is going to stand for arrange.
We’ve actually worked up to this step a little bit when we were going through “C” and were clearing off spaces and categorizing things. We were looking at how much stuff we had, where things were located.
When we went through “L” and we started limiting, we were cutting back on the number of things that we had.
In “E”, when we really evaluated all of the stuff that we had and what was the purpose for it. What was the point of where it was and what we’re doing with it today?
We’re actually focusing on arranging the things that are left to make the most sense for how, where, and when we use things. It’s also going to kind of set us up so that you look back and give the past you a high five because you’re saving yourself a lot of time in the future.
Arranging Things at Home
Let’s start with arranging things at home because at home is always a little bit chaotic. I don’t know about you but I have my two oldest kids right now playing and running around and screaming.
They’re always having a lot of fun. And always having a lot of fun means always a lot of stuff that’s out.
Even though we’re trying to limit that, there’s always more fun to be found with more new exotic things that we can play with.
So we are going to focus on the home stuff and how we can find a placement of things that make sense. But not just for us because we don’t want to be the only people that are putting things away, or that know where things are, but also for everyone around us.
You need to think about what items are going to go with an item that you’re looking at.
So as you move through, even your front entryway, what items do you generally need in that spot? What items are generally located there that everybody goes there for that one item? Does it make sense there? Is there anything else that should go with that one item?
If you’re looking at batteries, what’s one thing that you almost always need when you’re changing batteries? A screwdriver. So do you have a screwdriver near where the batteries are? Because that’s an item that would go with it that would just make more sense if it sits next to your whole stockpile of new AAs for all those toys that you wish grandma and grandpa would stop buying with batteries.
Then we need to go through and look at what space you have for it. So do you have the space to put a screwdriver there? And if that makes the most sense, then what things might need to move out of that location that don’t make as much sense? Or what things don’t even really need to be in your home and need to move into a trash can or a donation bin?
We’re still continuing to really look at things a little bit ruthlessly so that we can make that big change overall in our homes.
While we did cover those a lot in “L” and “E”, now we’re actually going to shift them around so that things make sense.
We’re rearranging our drawers and our cabinets. My favorite hobby is rearranging the pantry over and over again. And this is going to be kind of an ongoing process because once you move one thing, other things need to shift.
But you’re going to find that by just deciding to put things where you use them, and where you feel they make the most sense, or where your kids are always looking for something, that it’s going to make it easier for everybody to put things back where they belong. They don’t have to come and ask you every single time. And that is probably the biggest perk.
When you are in there arranging, you can go back to our episode where we talked about the four personalities for organization and decide how you want to arrange within a drawer, within a cabinet, within a bin, and how kind of micro you want to get on that. Some people love a little rainbow order. I do too.
However, my five year old is not going to be the one to put those things back in rainbow order. Am I going to be able to have enough storage solutions for these things? And do they all fit in the space?
There’s so many questions that you have to ask as you go and it’s kind of like a giant game of Tetris. But one that is worth trying over and over again to win.
So we are going to work our way through spaces one small section at a time.
I can tell you that when an idea hits you, it’s worth putting a note in your phone or even just writing it down somewhere so that you have the memory of going back and doing it. Because you’re not always going to have the ability to decide that you’re going to just completely swap out, like how your dresser is organized. That takes a little bit of time and we don’t always have that.
So you want to start small and then work your way up from there because it is a domino effect. It’ll go all over your house, and put things where they make the most sense.
The other day I needed a cutting board. I went over to the drawer that was farthest away from where I was doing the cutting and I thought to myself, that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I had to look at what was right underneath me and that’s where we kept our foil and Saran Wrap and things.
While it’s nice to have that there, I don’t need it there most of the time. More often than not, I am going to be using cutting boards there. Chopping things up and prepping things for meals. And they were under my air fryer where there was no counter space.
So instead, now I’m going to be switching those things around and just making it flow a little bit easier.
It does take a small adjustment period, but it is one well worth it. When we jump to school, it’s going to be a little bit different of a situation because we have so many things going on there, and even if you try to limit it down, there are so many supplies and so many inherited items that it takes a little bit more of a focused look.
Arranging Things in the Classroom
We did a whole series on the simple classroom setup. So if you want to go back and check out episode four, six, eight and ten, those will all tell you the steps that I take when setting up a new classroom.
I’ve been in four new classrooms in five years, so I don’t want to say I’m a pro, but I’m pretty dang close.
We want to make sure we set up those spaces that make sense. But nearing the end of the year, not all of it makes sense. We reevaluated some when we came into the New Year after break, but there are still things that maybe don’t quite work. This is a great time to take a look at that.
But it all starts with one key, time consuming step, and that’s inventorying based off of location. And I don’t want you to do this alone. I actually really want you to find some trustworthy students and have them take an inventory for you.
Finding a Cabinet System
First you need a cabinet numbering system. You need to label your cabinets with different numbers. Whether that’s with post it notes, or if you have cabinets where you can write on with expo markers so that it wipes off, do that.
I have some different color coordinated little pieces of paper on my cabinets because I’m a little extra. So I have a red lab station, and that lab station has cabinets one through ten. Then the orange lab station has cabinets one through ten. Yellow, green, blue, purple, all the way around the room.
Then my pink lab table in the middle has a slightly different setup. My white cabinets in the back have a slightly different setup as well. That’s where I keep all the things I don’t really want my freshman finding. Like the entire drawer of fidget spinners for a physics lab. It would be best if they just didn’t find those for right now.
What you need to do is you need to have somebody type that into an Excel spreadsheet or into Google Sheets. Type the item number, how many and their location based off of the cabinet name or number that you assigned to it.
Once they complete that, you can go and rearrange to your heart’s content because you have an idea of what you actually have. And it’s something that you can refer back to and modify as needed.
Now you can try a couple of different things when it comes to arranging the things that you use.
If you’re a chemistry teacher, you have a very specific way that you’re going to need to arrange chemicals. For instance, if you are in the middle school realm though, you probably have a little bit more freedom and you could do it by discipline.
Maybe you have a physical science section, or a life science section. And maybe you have it by unit where you put everything you need for unit one over here, unit two over here. But I just can’t really get with that.
I have had the biggest of lab supply sections and then I’ve gone down also to like a singular cabinet. So what I’ve done is tried to create it sectioned off by the type of thing it is.
Right now I have an entire section full of sensors, an entire section full of glassware, an entire section full of consumables, and that has worked out really well for me.
You have to decide what works for you or what you think will work for you and test it out. Because it’s always something you can change.
Once you lock in a cabinet number, you’re not locked in forever. You can go back and just press the backspace key or delete if you don’t have a backspace key.
After you do that, then I need you to add another column into the spreadsheet. In there you are going to add the units or the specific activity that you would use those supplies for.
Why are we doing this? Because it makes it searchable. So easy.
And if you want to add multiple different things you have to press CTRL Enter and it’s going to create another line within that same cell for you.
Then you can still control F and find the name of that lab, or the name of that unit, and see where all of your supplies are coming from around your room.
Arranging Student Supplies
You also need to look at the student supplies. Where are they getting things from? Are they making sense for students to be responsible and put them back? And this is something we’ve talked about a lot.
We want our students to be in charge of putting things away or make it so easy that it’s hard for them to ignore it when you tell them that they need to clean it up.
There’s also just the extra things that we have that cause more of a mess. My extra pencil sharpeners for instance. They don’t need to be there because when people do use them, they just kind of empty the pencil shavings all over the floor. So I’m just going to take those away, and I’m going to put them in a tote off to the side that I can still use in future years if it works out. But right now it’s not working and so I’m going to arrange that they disappear from that spot.
If you don’t need it in your classroom, it’s usually not worth keeping out so that students can get to it. And it’s not because we can’t trust our students, but it’s because when you put too much out it becomes overwhelming for you and for them.
At some point something is going to happen. So if we just remove the ability for that something to happen, we’re going to feel a lot better about the whole situation.
For papers, we’re actually going to do our extra credit episode this week. All on how I think that teacher paper organization can be improved and added into a system just a little bit.
So I actually want to give you instead a tip on digital arrangements for digital files.
I’m going to walk you through the biggest simple step I can give you and it’s that naming is key.
You can go back to episode 29 for my quick digital file decluttering system that I have that’s not on YouTube, that’s only going to be on the podcast.
But don’t be cute in how you name the file. When we talk about naming, we want it to actually be valued space because this is what you can search through whatever file organizer you have. Whether you’re using a Google Drive or the Microsoft OneDrive or you’re just searching files on your computer.
You can name the actual paper, whatever you want. You can create a cutesy little title with all the fonts and stuff in the document. But the document name that it’s saved by needs to go something specific. For example, for teachers, I would name it the class – the unit – and if it’s an assignment, lab review, test, quiz, whatever type it falls into, and then the topic.
For example, let’s just say I have a file sitting around there and I’m going back to rename it. I would call it Physical Science (that’s the class) – Energy (that’s the unit) – Review Game (that’s the type of file/assignment it is) – and then Potential and Kinetic energy. Why am I doing that?
I am stuffing every single thing I would probably search for in that name.
And if I know I have something specifically called “Let’s Make a Baby Lab,” I would probably put that in there as the topic of that file so that it still was there because I’d have a really good idea.
But then you can also just type in things like energy into the search bar and it should pull up everything for the unit, energy. Maybe some extras, but you would have all of it at your fingertips.
So even if you don’t have time to drag and drop it into a folder, it’s right there when you need to search it because you keyword stuffed everything in that search bar.
So for arranging, let’s kind of summarize this up because we’ve been all over the arranging everything world right now.
We’ve gone through your home. Arranging things into a space that not only makes sense, but next to things that make sense.
Then making sure that everything fits where you want it to be, where you think it belongs, without investing too much time and energy or money into it.
In your classroom, you are going to arrange everything by inventorying it so you have a better idea of the organization that you want to implement.
When going to go through your digital files, arrange them by giving them a title, something that is so easy to find later on. It’s like putting the pens all in one drawer at home.
You know exactly where to look or how to find that one specific item. And by doing this, we’re going to cut down on all of the wasted time.
Later on, we’re going to create a system where other people can help us either to grab things or put things away exactly where they belong. When things get put away, the cleaning is a lot less of a chore.
And this isn’t a game of perfection. It’s going to take some time, but it’s finding out what works for you that maybe you haven’t tried yet.
So as you go and arrange things throughout your house and rearrange them and maybe rearrange them again, just know that little by little you’re getting close to that point where you have figured it out.
You found that sweet spot for everybody, not just yourself. Because it all doesn’t have to be on your shoulders. Until next time.
49: Spring Cleaning Series, Part 1 – Clear, Classify, and Categorize
50: Extra Credit Strategies for Spring Cleaning Your Counters
51: Simple Steps to Letting Go and Decluttering for Spring CLEANing
52: Extra Credit On How to Start Decluttering
53: Reevaluate your stuff, schedule, and more for Spring CLEANing
54: 5 Simple Meal Planning Tips for Busy Teachers
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