Pack It Up, Pack It In…Let Me Begin

Sep 7, 2012

unpacked classroomMany of us are forced to pack up our classrooms each summer—even if not moving to another room or another building, but so they can be cleaned or summer school can be held in them. Prepping for packing leads to some not-so-fun before and after work.


picture of kelly

We return to Kelly, who graciously shared her desk woes with us last spring. Kelly had to move buildings this summer, so she’s got great packing, moving and unpacking tips to share. Kelly shares her process with me below.


jar of hearts

  • Keepsakes, trinkets and other meaningful items: I am never sure what to do with keepsakes that are personally meaningful but really just end up collecting dust andgetting moved from place to place. In this move, I kept a few but took pictures of all. I’ve taught for 12 years, and every year there are keepsakes, so by now I could fill a closet or an entire shelf if I kept everything! But I feel bad chucking that stuff, even though I’m not a particularly sentimental person…. what to do?

We love Kelly’s idea of taking pictures and then storing those pictures in Dropbox, Evernote, OneNote, Noteability, or any other device. If you had all the time in the world, you could print out those pictures and make a scrapbook or fancy collage. Maybe when you retire!

  • The “if you haven’t worn it in a year…” rule applies:                                            garbage canI applied the “if you haven’t used it in two years, you won’t use it rule” for things that are more valuable, and one year for things that are more easily replaced. This resulted in a ton of sample textbooks that have literally never been opened being tossed out. It felt wasteful… but seriously, worth moving to another building?                                                       Packing and unpacking? Nope.

Kelly, you are on to something here. It does feel horribly wasteful, but I would also share some blame with the textbook companies. If you felt really bad, you could also give some of the stuff to a student who wants to “play school” over the summer. My mom did that with some of her teaching stuff when I was younger, and I’m pretty sure that’s also how I taught my younger sister to read.

  • The 80/20 rule also still applies: The first 80% of things to pack is easy. The last 20% is small stuff, breakable stuff, oddly-shaped stuff, stuff I’m torn about keeping or throwing out, stuff that other people gave me (keepsakes, but also curriculum materials that I probably won’t use but feel like I’m supposed to want), fasteners from furniture and files that COULD turn out to be important someday but haven’t so far…. I had a REALLY HARD TIME with this 20% at the end.

Kelly, this is totally okay. The best rule someone taught me is to keep 1 – 2 boxes labeled “miscellaneous” or “flotsam and jetsom” and toss all these things in there. In fact, in my home, my husband and I each have a cardboard Ikea box for exactly this purpose. In mine are random crafting supplies and  birthday cards. In his are baseball card and student letters. Just tape a piece of paper on the front of the box that lists a rough table of contents and know what stuff is in there when you need it. If you have not opened the boxes by the next move, do yourself a favor and throw them away!

  • neat boxesSort at the very beginning or very end: I chose not to meticulously sort files beforepacking. I’d rather do it duringunpacking, when I anticipate having a bit more time. A colleague took just the opposite approach, and was there until who knows when every night throwing away individual pieces of                                                   paper. Then again, he won’t have to UNpack those, so….

Kelly, either approach is totally fine and you are very right to consider when you will actually have more time. I have tried both ways, and find it depends on who is moving the boxes! If I know I have to move them myself, I may be more judicious on the front end. It can also be helpful to pack boxes by sections of the classroom, rather than by all papers, all manipulatives,  etc. For example, you could have 1 – 2 boxes with ALL materials for your Teacher Workspace to include items like papers, sentimental items, and staplers. This flies in the face of ”pack-like-items-with-like-items”, but it makes unpacking your classroom by section a lot easier.

Kelly, we hope your year has gotten off to a great start in your organized, purged, and resorted classroom. We can’t wait for a visit!

Together Teacher Discussion Question: What systems did you use to pack and unpack your classroom?