In September of this year I was asked to move into a trailer.
One of the conditions of my moving hinged my my student numbers.
I asked (and was given) no more than twenty students. Twenty
big fourth grade bodies can take up more room than you expect!
However, I must confess, having 20 kids is AWESOME! They also
fixed up the trailer and painted it inside and out. It looked
Moving into the trailer was an absolute nightmare.
We were gaining a new teacher and someone had to move into a
trailer. We did not want to pitch a person new to the school
out in the middle of nowhere because we wanted them to feel part of
our group. Made sense to me. So I volunteer
to move (did you see the part about only 20 kids?!?!). It was
confusing. No one really knew when the new teacher would start
and when I would move AND I was to be teaching in the room pretty
much up to the moving day. Yes, I was offered a sub, but it
was not a good situation for anyone; me, the kids, or the new
teacher. So I said I would do move one day after school.
Well, I have an AWESOME school and as I was trying to pack up boxes
after school almost every teacher volunteered to come get something
and haul it to my new home. Hey, they are a great crowd and I love
where I work. Well, the problem was I never had the time to
truly pack up boxes. People just began grabbing stuff and
hauling it over, trying to help. When I finally was able to
get to my trailer it was all I could do to not cry. It was a
disaster. I had about a foot perimeter around the entire room
(the walls were damp from paint). Stuff was piled up on top of
each other about 4 to 5 feet high- nothing was really grouped
together, just put wherever there was a spot. I didn't want to
complain because people were genuinely trying to help (Hmm...but
after reading the last paragraph maybe I just held it all in until
now!!!). I left that night (Friday) upset and stressed to the
max. How was I going to put this together in two days????!!!!!!!
On Saturday I went in early (my choice to do it over the weekend-
remember I WAS offered school time and turned it down. This
ended up being a good thing.) My teaching partner (half human/
half angel) came in around lunch and helped me get it all together.
I was so grateful. And all this leads me too...keeping
organized in small spaces.
Now, how do you keep organized when you are so limited in room?
It is not easy. But, I have managed to keep at least two large
areas that the whole class can meet in, as well as a classroom
library and did it in a day and a half. Here is how I did it:
Rule #1 Get a Big Trashcan
# 2 What Can You Deal With, and What You Can't
Rule #3 Store Up, Not Out
Rule #4 Follow the
Rule # 5 Find your
Nooks and Crannies
Rule # 6 WAIT to Hang
Rule # 7 Baskets,
Rule #1- GET A BIG
TRASHCAN! I spent the first entire half of the day just
throwing things AWAY. It was hard, but I had to do it. I
had tons of stuff I had inherited from other teachers. My rule
was if I hadn't used it in two years I tossed it. At first it
was difficult, but as time went I kinda caught the "fever!"
Since I only teach language arts, I took home all my files that
related to math. I kept my Social Studies file because I
thought I could tie it in to language arts.
To read about how I
organized my file cabinets (and went from two file cabinets to one)
Rule # 2- WHAT YOU CAN
DEAL WITH, AND WHAT YOU CAN'T. Group all of your like things
together. Decide what you can deal with looking at everyday
and what you cannot. For example, I do not mind looking at
Kleenex boxes, the dictionaries and calculator carrier, BUT I just
could not look at the board games and puzzles I keep for indoor
recess. Look for good "hiding places" for things you can't
look at. This means I have my shelf all organized with the
dictionaries and Kleenex boxes and so on, BUT the games went into an
old steamer trunk from a friend's college days. Now I have storage
and student seating!
Here is a
picture of the truck when it is closed. Students sit on
it when they can spread out in the room.
Yikes! It is a mess! But the kids know the rule," You
have to be able to close the trunk at the end of indoor
Rule #3- STORE UP, NOT
One of the first thing I did when I moved in the trailer was buy a
very tall shelf. It cost me about $50.00 at Target, but was well
worth the price. Because wall space is so precious in a
trailer (not just for storage, but also for hanging things on the
wall) I try to store as much as I can on top of things. For
example, I have two tall shelves; one holds all my teacher manuals
and resources and the other holds all my student sets of books for
literature circles. I also use this shelf to store other
random teacher stuff like newspaper sets and so on. On top of
both these shelves and my storage cabinet I have boxes of centers,
paper goods and my treasure box.
Rule #4- FOLLOW THE
ROOM'S PERIMETER. I try my best not to have many things that
"stick out" into the center of the room. Really, the only
thing that does is the student's tables and they have to in order to
fit enough students around them! However all my other
furniture is laid out flat against all the walls to leave as much
floor space as I can.
Rule #5- FIND YOUR NOOKS
AND CRANNIES- After I set up my room I had several "gaps"
between furniture. Just a good 7 inches here, a fire
extinguisher that blocked part of the wall there and so on.
I use this space too. My bulletin/ poster box fit into that
seven inch space. The fire extinguisher? My overhead
projector cart fit perfectly underneath. The small gap between
my desk and file cabinet? Great place to put glass vases- on
the floor so the won't fall and break, shoved just far back enough
where small feet won't kick them! That pesky computer I have but
have not jack for (well, I do now, but didn't when I moved in)? I
hid it under a table that I made a skirt for with cloth.
How do you create a table
skirt? I love this idea that I borrow from someone else! I am
not sure who, but it is a good one! I put Velcro circle
all around the edge of the table. Then I took a piece of cloth
that had been seamed with that tape that you iron. I can't
remember the name BUT you can find it at the cloth store, I
peeled of the back of the corresponding Velcro tab and stuck the
tabs together so the sticky side was facing out. Then I took
the edge of the cloth and gently pressed it around the edge of
the table until the cloth went all the way around the table and was
stuck to the Velcro.
how messy things are- it is right after school has let out and
I am packing up!
Rule # 6 WAIT TO HANG STUFF! We have had several
teachers moving into trailers this year in the middle of the year
because we have added five new teachers to our growing school.
I was trying to pass along the good deed of my friend and help a few
others move into their new rooms, just as my teammate helped me.
One thing I noticed is that ALL the
people I helped wanted to start hanging things immediately, before
even the furniture was moved around in place. I thought about
it and figured this makes sense because moving is so confusing and
over whelming that easiest thing to do would be hang stuff on the
walls, right? Wrong. This should be the last thing you
do for a few reasons.
First of all, you may end up wanting to
move a tall storage cabinet right in front of the great poster you
just hung. Then you will have the take the poster down, to
move the cabinet. Don't waste your valuable time redoing
stuff. Secondly, when kids are coming in your room in two
days, the most important things are not what's on the walls
(generally speaking). The most important things are where are
their desks located? Can they see the board? Do they
have a place to store their materials? Book bags?
Think about the way you want the room
arranged. Then place the posters and wall stuff according to
what makes sense( reading poster near your reading table, writing
posters near the writing center, choosing books poster in the
Rule # 7- BASKETS, BASKETS, BASKETS!- I
have learned that everything looks neater when it is stored in
something. I use tons of the dollar store baskets and tubs
for just about everything. My entire writing center is stored
in some kind of tub or basket in a million different shapes and
sizes. To keep everything looking clean and neat I label the
outside. I have used index cards that I laminated and hot
glued to the outside of these boxes, but they fell off. This
year I took printer labels and hand wrote a label. These
worked pretty well, but some of the labels tore off.
My library corner is completely organized
into baskets, except for my large Animal Encyclopedias. I
leave these sitting up on the shelf. I like having the books
in baskets for many reasons:
It keeps the shelves looking neat.
It is easer for kids to flip through the
Students actually see the COVERS of the
books- which usually helps them make choices.
Labeling these baskets were difficult as
well so I printed out labels and clip art which I glued to index
cards. Then I laminated the index cards and punched two holes
at the top and actually TIED the labels to the baskets. This
has worked out quite well!
There are DRAWBACKS TO
The one thing I REALLY
miss is a "teacher table." You know an area where I can put
some of my stuff so that my desk doesn't because a huge pile.
I have no place to spread out except student tables. This can
make it hard when students are at them!!! My desk is usually a
mess all day until I clean it right before I leave.
I also miss having just a
place to put supplies for students during an art project. For
example when we were publishing our Poetry Anthology I had out the
construction paper, the stickers, beads, sequins and so on. I
had no place to put it so students could come get it. I had to
lay it in the floor. It worked, but it is a pain to get it all
This is a
view of my desk area. To the right is my shelf with all
of my teacher resources. On the left is my computer desk with
all my paper stored underneath. The posters on the floor
were temporary; they were map projects students had turned in
that I had no place to store! This is why I need a a
What is MY SOLUTION?
My in-laws had an old,
small computer table they were no longer using. In fact it was
shoved in their storage shed. When we were cleaning it out
this summer, they asked me if I could use it and of course, I said
yes! Now I have it beside my desk length-wise and it does a
great job catching all the "over flow" off my desk.
I was going to buy
a SMALL card table that I could fold up when I don't need it
and haul it out when I did. However, I think I am going to
stick to this little rolling desk, since I can haul it out easily
when I need to.
Click here to see how my trailer
was set up.
All graphics are from