May 5, 2013

Organize Your Classroom Using Recycled Items

The teaching profession has a lot of great perks...but the salary is not usually one of them. Through the years, I've learned some tips and tricks that helped me stretch my teacher's salary, all while working around my busy teaching schedule. During this series, I will be sharing them with you! 

This week's tip....

Use recycled items to organize your classroom. 

I don't know about you, but this chick could spend days walking around stores like The Container Store or Bed, Bath, & Beyond, drooling over all the options I could purchase to help me organize my life.

But drooling is about all I could afford to do because- dude! - those little plastic boxes not cheap!

To help my budget and my need for order to coexist peacefully, I realized I needed to get creative when organizing my classroom and use recycled items.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Milk jugs. Cut the sides off of milk jugs to create easy-to-hold colored pencil containers like Recyclart did:
  • Cereal boxes. Cut the top off of a cereal or cracker box, about three inches from the base of the box. Use the bottom as a desk drawer organizer. This is perfect for holding sticky notes, pens, paper clips, and other small things. If you use skinny boxes, they make great organizers for your chalkboard tray. They can hold magnets or chalk. Almost Unschoolers did this with her crayon drawer:
  • Cereal boxes can also be used to store folders, notebooks, or magazines (see instructions over at Apartment Therapy). 

  • Paper box tops. Use the lids that come on those huge reams of paper (snag them from the copy room!) to organize papers or student folders. Line them on the top of a bookshelf with labels for each class you teach. Other labels could include: "Place notes to teacher here" or "Turn in homework here." Decorate the front with colored duct tape and use a permanent marker to write on it. (Then you can always use this trick to change the writing if you ever need to.) The nice thing about these box tops is that they are pretty large, so they come in handy for items that are bigger than standard-sized papers. Miss Battista used the box tops in her room to create desk drawers for each student. Brillant!

  • Milk crates. Ask your cafeteria workers. They often have many of these left over from their milk shipments every week. These can be used to house textbooks, recess balls, or just about anything! Stack them on top of each other and secure with zip ties to create a bookshelf. Turn them over and place a cushion on top to create cute seats like TeacherPippi did:

  • Scrap fabric. Create some easy and cute no-sew valences for your classroom windows by using scraps of coordinating fabric (old t-shirts work well too!). Check out this cute one that Jillee over at One Good Thing By Jillee made:
  • Glass Jars. The picture above also shows the painted jars that Jillee made. I've done this myself and it couldn't be easier. Simply take an old paintbrush and paint (I used latex) and paint the inside until the glass is covered. You may need to do a second coat to cover up any brush strokes that show through. To use it for pencils, scissors, etc., I would suggest rolling up a piece of card stock and inserting it inside so that the paint doesn't get scratched. You can also put fake flowers in these for a pretty touch on a shelf or table. 
  • Egg Cartons. These nifty little containers are perfect for storing small items in your desk drawers. (See more at How-To-Do-It)

Do you have any low-cost organizing ideas? We'd love to hear them!

Find more great budget tips for teachers here.

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