Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to Really Organize a Music Room

So I found out in May that after 13 years of being a traveling teacher I finally get one building.  So excited about that.  However the teacher who retired left 27+ years of teaching in the storage closet + my 13 years = 40 years of stuff.  I had about 10 tubs in the storage closet and all of my other stuff was in my room and at my other school so I had an awful mess in my classroom. 

So I got to spend 40+ hours organizing my classroom and the storage closet.  On this blog post I want to share with you how I organized a major amount of stuff as well as what your room will look like as you organize it. 

What to do:
Step 1- Before we start I want you to sit down and grab a box of tissues.  Just get the crying out of the way before you start.  Yes, every time I have organized a classroom or have been relocated I have cried at least three times during the organization of my room.  This time I cried five times.  I am not proud, but think you should know you aren’t the only one to break down in your room.  You are allowed to break down and have a moment as you get your room ready.  I also had difficulty the last two weeks sleeping and eating.  It’s called stress and everyone deals with it differently.

Step 2- Go buy a LOT of Sterilite tubs and drawers.  Enough to fill up your storage area.  I had 33 tubs with props and items in my other classroom and bought about 50 tubs total.  In the storage closet I started with the tubs I had at my other school.  I removed everything off the top shelf and moved the shelf using a ladder.  I moved the shelf on top of the shelf that was even to it.  Each of my shelves was in two pieces and very heavy.  Next, move all the metal brackets, and lock the brackets.  Next slide the shelves over onto the brackets that have been moved and move the brackets and lock on the other side.  Next fill up the top shelf.  I was able to put 11 tubs across on the top shelf and stack them three tubs high.  Next remove all the items on the next shelf.  I had to work around the brackets that hung down under the shelf so I could only fit nine tubs across on all the other shelves.  Keep working your way down.

Step 3- Lay out the tubs and organize like items together.  Open all the boxes and get the props in something you can see.  Put items like costumes and hats on the top shelf where you don’t need to get them every day.  Items like my four tubs of puppets and holiday items are on the bottom three shelves. 

Step 4- Throw away the stuff you think you would never use.  Yes that includes the technology that is older than you, and the garbage.  I found boxes of cotton balls for bunny tails and pony tails made from braided panty hose.  I had to throw some cute felt hats because they were stored with some foliage that made them stink.  I was able to throw away 8 large lunch room trash cans of stuff.  If it doesn’t serve a purpose or give you joy see if a new teacher might want it.  All the teachers in my building put their unwanted items in the lounge at the beginning and end of the school year. I have found some great items and I have given some great items.

Step 5- Save the file cabinet and all of your paperwork for later.  After dealing with all the other items and props I couldn’t bring myself (without crying at least five more time) to deal with the paperwork and file cabinets. 

Step 6- Sometimes you take a step back to take a step forward.  So at this point I have most of the storage closet organized.  Now it is time to tackle the classroom.  Think about how you want your classroom to run.  I recommend reading my previous blog post about organizing your room.  Start organizing your student areas.  Have areas for centers, instruments, student supplies, rewards, music textbooks, stereo system, etc.

Step 7- Cry again.  Yes you are dealing with 100 degree heat because the air is off, you are hungry and tired, and if you touch one more dead thing (beetle, roach, spider) you are going to lose it!!!! 
Step 8- Ask, ask, ask!!!  If you could have whatever you wanted in your classroom what would you need or want?  Now ask your principal or custodians if there are any of these items in storage at your school or in another district building.  I shared with my principal why I thought it was important to get some bookshelves and how I planned to use them.  I actually got my principal and asked him to come down to my room to see what I was talking about.  I had a good start on my closet and had everything in tubs.  He was very impressed with the closet and offered to help cover the cost of the storage tubs.  Yeah!  He was also able to get me a cabinet with a door.  Other people to ask are the PTA/PTO for supplies, Walmart for donations, or write a grant on  I have received over $30,000 in classroom instruments, supplies, and technology just on DonorsChoose.  One more idea is to send out an email to your school offering to trade items.  Hey, it works. 

Step 9- Don’t expect everything to be perfect right now.  Make a plan and give yourselves deadlines to meet.   I am not 100% happy with my classroom.  Ideally, I want two black shelves on each side of mega shelf to make my back wall look asymmetrical.  It is driving me crazy, but it’s something I can live with until I can write a grant for the shelves.  I plan on getting my grant submitted this month.  So my plan after I get the shelves is to move all my center supplies (currently in the cabinet with the door) to the storage closet, move all the K-8 magazines to my room on the shelves.  I also need to go through the paperwork in my file boxes, rolling cart, and file cabinets.  I also need to put my books and binders together.  Right now they are in two areas.  I also have some duplicates of some books and program binders because I have always traveled.  I also plan on making spine covers for all of my 3 ring binders so I can find what I need quickly.    

Step 10- Remember that you only have to do this major organization project once.  Then you can enjoy your room, find all your supplies, and have a great functioning space.  It will not be perfect and you might have to change your plan as you begin organizing.  It’s okay.  Your room is your home away from home and I hope this post helps you as you get your room ready for a new year.