When stressed, many people clean. They say that they simply cannot “think” when their classroom, kitchen, bedroom etc. is a mess. It’s no mystery why – a cluttered physical environment equals a cluttered mind. Wholehearted teachers take care to cultivate a peaceful environment both at home and at school so that they can feel more peaceful during their busy week. At this point, you are probably thinking “Sure, Alison. Sounds great. but HOW?! I mean, it’s not like I TRY to live in clutter – it just finds ME!” I get it. Let’s tackle this.
Now, finding peace amidst the chaos of teaching might seem like a golden flying unicorn to some of you. “What? Peace? As a Teacher? You are out of your mind!!” And admittedly this one element isn’t going to bring you peace all of the time. But what I want for you is an environment that brings you peace and joy as a teacher.
Cultivating an environment of peace and joy means decluttering the things that don’t bring you peace and joy.
Clutter is a distraction and an energy drainer.” – Williams and Menendez, 2015
I have admitted before that organizing is something that does come naturally for me. But this post isn’t just about being organized. It’s mainly about decluttering. This is about getting rid of the things that we collect and keep that contribute to a chaotic environment.
Thanks to my dear friend, Carly, I was just introduced to the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I devoured the book in about 5 days!!! It’s a great book that talks about how to declutter and organize your home and literally change your life.
A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.” -Marie Kando, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
There are so many amazing takeaways from this book, but the overarching takeaway is this…
- First, declutter. Throw away everything (or recycle, sell, or donate) that doesn’t bring you joy. Kondo suggests in her book to gather all like items and touch them one at a time and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, then pitch it. *Caveat – she does suggest that you do this all at once – not the “one drawer at a time” method. Read her book for more on why. Trust me – she is convincing!!
- Then, make a place for everything that is left. She has all kinds of tips and tricks in the book for putting things away (sorting your clothes from “heaviest” to “lightest”, storing bags within bags etc.), but the key is that everything should have a place and be kept in that place. Within a drawer, place shoebox lids or other small boxes and baskets to organize the contents of the drawer etc. Now you can always be “tidy” because all you have to do is put things back in their places.
Again, she advocates for doing this all at one time. It’s the swift and dramatic nature of the tidying process that makes it have that “magical” effect on your life.
So when getting ready for the beginning of the school year, you can declutter and organize your classroom all at once. If your home is the space that needs the reorg, then pick a weekend or two and have at it!! She suggests NOT starting with momentos as those are very difficult and can be time-consuming. Instead master the art of “letting go of your things” with easier things like clothes first.
One thing I really liked about her view of “letting go” is to thank the item for the role it played in your life. (How very feng shui, right?!) But it really does help you let go of things you once loved or once served a role for you but no longer does.
To say Marie Kondo is a minimalist is an understatement. I imagine that she has very few things in her home. But I venture to say that she has an extremely peaceful home that welcomes her in with open arms at the end of a long, busy day.
However radical her methods may seem, I do gravitate towards the idea that having less “stuff” helps us to un-clutter our minds and focus on the things, people, and activities that bring us joy. What wisdom can be found there.
Being a teacher can be very chaotic in general. And I argue that most teachers have a slight hoarding problem. So – what happens when students come in to a classroom that has so much “stuff” in cupboards, drawers, desks, and walls that it’s overwhelming? Do they feel chaotic too?
And what would happen if students walked in to a classroom with minimal, but joyful elements?
Here is my challenge to you – wherever you are reading this, look around you. Look at the room that you are sitting in and pick out the things within the room that bring you joy. What, as you look around, could you get rid of easily? Look with new eyes at the space you have created at home or school and pick out the things you would like to change. Now, go do it. Pick up a stack of books that you’ve been meaning to donate. (Literally – that is what I’m looking at and I’m going to do something about them right now!!)
Coaching Side Note: Decluttering can be mental as well. What limiting beliefs, people, or actions hold you back that you need to declutter from your life?
Happy decluttering!! I hope this act of decluttering (and combined with the other habits of wholehearted teaching) helps you to find peace amidst the chaos of teaching!
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend