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Ask Dr. Lynch: Taming Cabinet Clutter

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is a department chair and an associate professor of education at Langston University. He has researched topics related to educational policy, school leadership and education reform, particularly in the urban learning environment, and he is interested in developing collaborative enterprises that move the field of education forward. Visit his Web site for more information. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Caitlyn W. asks:

Help! The cabinets in my classroom look like they have been hit by a tornado. How did you organize the cabinets during your classroom teaching days?


Caitlyn, thanks for the question. Now take a deep breath and relax. Your cabinets are most likely overflowing with folders, teaching materials, handmade cards from students, wads of paper, pencils and other stationery, all of which seem to be appearing on their own. Remember that the bigger the mess, the more time it will take you to rummage through and find what you are looking for, which may cause you to lose precious minutes. Use these tips to keep your cabinets in order:

  • Create a designated place for your material. All folders should be marked and kept in one place. There should also be a separate place for personal belongings. 
  • Highlight all original copies of master sheets with a yellow highlighter, to tell you that this is the master and to prevent you from giving it away or losing it.
  • Label all your files and folders, and mark worksheets based on the folder in which they need to go. Next, ask a student or volunteer to help you with the filing.
  • Many times there are some sessions in a year that require more material than others. If you feel that material from one session is crowding your cabinet, try putting all the relevant teaching material into one box. Remember to label it and store it in a cabinet in the classroom. Then you’ll easily find all the required material when the time comes.  
  • Every three months, go through everything in your cabinet and ask these questions:
    • Do I really need this?
    • For what specific purpose will I use it?
    • Should I keep it in my cabinet?
    • Is this a duplicate of something that I already have?
    • Is it outdated, or might it still come in handy?
    • Is it relevant to my current assignment, or will I only need it later?

Don’t clutter your cabinet just because you don’t have the heart to throw some things away. When you discard items, put them in a carton labeled ‘free,’ and invite everyone to dig around and see if they can use anything. Something that you discard may be useful to someone else. If you follow the strategies I have outlined in this column, you will become a lean, mean organized machine.


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.

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