Sunday, March 3, 2013


If you are just joining us, you'll want to start here or check out my Clutter-Free Guide to Organizing and Managing Your Classroom.

You can purge your classroom of unnecessary clutter. You can be purposeful and selective in choosing items to include in your classroom. But, the paper just. keeps. coming. at. you! Personally, I feel like it is the biggest obstacle teachers face when trying to become and stay organized. Mainly because as soon as you sort through a pile, more forms, memos, student work, parent notes, etc find their way into your inbox. We're going to work on that.

The two most important things to do are to establish a system for handling all incoming papers and to create routines for addressing them in a consistent and timely manner.

Typically, incoming papers can be categorized in the following ways:
  • file
  • grade
  • read
  • to do (including forms to fill out, dates to enter into your calendar, etc)
I have experimented with several systems over the years. At the time, each seemed to work, but was later replaced by something I felt was better. Everyone is different so the key is to find a system that works for you.

I've used stacking trays.

I've used plastic drawers.

I've used a vertical wall pocket organizer.

I've used empty sections of my classroom student mailbox.

I've used a binder with pocket folders inside.

I LOVE my current system and can't imagine there being a better way. I think this one is here to stay. It's simple and effective. I bought a 5 pocket plastic accordion filer from the Target Dollar Spot and decorated it with some Washi Tape.

Then I made labels to note the sections. 

  • Read or File
  • Action Needed 
  • Grade & Record
  • Photocopy
  • Outbox
I like this system because it is portable, fits in my bag and is easy to organize. I can take it to the copy room and address some of the papers while the copies are running. I can stop at the office and drop my mail into the appropriate spots before leaving. I especially like that it expands, but limits the amount of papers that can accumulate. Below are some other tips and links to help with this week's topic.

  • When you get your mail do not leave the office until you have sorted through it. Use the office recycling bin to dispose of ads and mailers that you know you do not need. If you receive a note or short form from a colleague that can be quickly addressed, jot down your response and place it into his/her box.
  • Assess if you need to save catalogs. The majority of info found in catalogs can be found on the company's website. Recycle the catalog. If you want to look through it, place it immediately into your teacher bag to look through at home...or your son's baseball practice...or at the doctor's office...or basically anywhere BUT school. Prep time is to valuable to waste.
  • Suggest that your school "go paperless" when it comes to memos and such. 
  • Save your "master copies" on your hard drive instead of in binders or files.

Develop systems for consistently managing student papers. Check out my previous posts to see how I handle: 

On Friday, I'll put up the Linky Party related to this week's Clutter-Free Classroom PROJECT. The Linky will be ongoing and you can always jump in and link up at anytime. If you don't have a blog you can respond to the prompt in the comment section on Friday's post. Below is this week's prompt. Keep these questions in mind as you take your pictures:

  • Show us how you organize your incoming paperwork and tell us about your system for managing it.

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  1. Paper work can definitely be overwhelming! Looking forward to finding a solution for it this week.

  2. I like this! This year is my first year going to master copies on my computer (and backed up on flash drive-SUPER important) and it has been freeing to not have all those file folders sitting around or in filing cabinets that I need to sort through.

    My biggest issue is what to do with papers coming in that I need to save because they're important or that I need in the future. This would be a great way to handle them!

    English With Mrs. L.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      I LOVE not having all of those binders and file folders any more. This system has worked so well for me. I hope you find it useful too. :) Jodi

  3. What a great idea to use one of those accordion organizers. I have tried many of the systems you listed above and seem to always have papers everywhere. I'll have to give the accordion file system a try. Thanks!

    Team V's First Grade Fun

    1. Hi Jordan,
      The best part is that it will only stretch so far so you can't let correcting build up too much. LOL :) Jodi

  4. I'm horrible at keeping stuff like this organized. Thank you for the suggestion. I'm going to try it out :)

    1. Hi Kelly,
      I would love to hear back on how it works out for you. :) Jodi

  5. HI! I am your newest follower! LOVE YOUR BLOG! SO CUTE!

    -Holly Phinney

    1. Welcome Holly! Thanks for following. :) Jodi

  6. I love this method of organizing paperwork! I don't have a desk (well, I use my guided reading table as my home base), so this method is perfect and gets papers off what precious space I have!

    The First Grade Scoop
    I'm having a 100 follower giveaway! Stop by for some goodies!

    1. Hi Angie, I also use my small group table as mission control. I love it! :) Jodi

  7. I, too, have tried a variety of ways to organize papers...several of them you even mentioned! However, I had never given the accordian file a try. I switched over last week, and so far I like it! I've tweaked it a bit to make it work for me, of course, but the system is working well up to this point! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I'm so happy to hear that you tried it out. I would love to hear about how you made it work better for you. I'm also looking to improve. :) Jodi

  8. Hi, this is great. How did you set up your printer to print on the washi tape? Thank you for the idea!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I didn't print on the tape. I used the tape to "snazzy up" the folder and added labels underneath to title the sections. :) Jodi

  9. Hi Jodi, the linky isn't up but I did blog about this as well as the week 5 challenge here: L'isola italiana

  10. What a fantastic idea! I bring stuff home with me all the time and this is such a great way to keep them organized! :)

    Sailing into Second

  11. I just posted about my paper-stack issues, my happy Tarjay finds, and my clutter-free solutions :)


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