It’s time for teacher stores to capitalize on the tidy trend
by Tina Manzer
“Where the hell are the crayons?” I yelled to my Sunday School students. They were watching me rummage around in a cabinet for a box or maybe a coffee can of coloring utensils. I cursed myself for not preparing materials ahead of time. Based on my behavior, the six-year-olds decided they should take charge of the day’s lesson. “You don’t even know about the CRAYONS!” someone cried.
A situation like that is why “real” classroom teachers have a simple rule for organization. “Everything in its place and a place for everything.” You can’t create magic if you don’t know where the ingredients are.
“A good cook can whip up any menu within minutes if the kitchen is stocked and everything is in place,” says educator Dianna Mendez. “Similarly, a teacher can navigate rocky waters if her classroom is well organized.”
One look at Pinterest – where teachers proudly share pictures of orderly bins of books, color-coded folders, clearly labeled buckets and baskets, and rolling carts with drawers – shows you how much importance teachers place on classroom organization. It’s as if their lives depended on it.
“Classroom management and organization are intertwined,” says the Handbook for Qualities of Effective Teachers. “How the classroom environment is organized influences the behavior in it. For example, actions as simple as color-coding folders, establishing fixed locations for lab supplies and maintaining folders for students to pick up missed work after they’re absent can have a dramatic effect on classroom organization and, consequently, on student learning. While these procedures and a multitude like them are simple matters, they nonetheless can be essential components for a smoothly operating classroom.”
Just like artists love their brushes and palette knives, and mechanics love their tools, teachers love the things that keep them organized. They just can’t seem to get enough.
Non-teachers have become equally organization obsessed. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), founded in 1985, reports that it has 32 different chapters in 22 countries with more than 4,000 certified professional organizer members. (It started out with 16.)
Many experts attribute the trend to 2015’s bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, but it actually started much earlier. In 2003, reality TV shows like “Mission: Organization” and “Clean Sweep” debuted, showing mainstream America what teachers have known all along: when you operate in an organized environment, you’re healthier, more productive, and feel more rested. (By the way, people who make their beds every morning are 19 percent more likely to report regularly getting a good night’s sleep, reveals a survey by the National Sleep Foundation.)
Remember the multitude of organized classroom pictures on Pinterest? Psychology Today calls them “organization porn.” It’s all over the internet, and teachers are not the only ones enjoying it. “Like food porn, it has nothing to do with pornography and everything to do with appealing, well-curated photographs of everyday items,” said the article. “Whereas food porn might involve a picture of, say, a salted-caramel cupcake with a perfectly swirled dollop of chocolate frosting on top, organization porn might involve a picture of pens arranged by color and size, or a gorgeously minimalistic living room.”
We can’t help but love images like that. Humans are hardwired to thrive on organization, says the article, because our bodies are made up of tens of thousands of well-organized, integrated biological and neurochemical systems. “Many of our cells operate on strict schedules, or circadian rhythms. Even at the atomic level, we are well-regulated and well-organized. Without this organization, our bodies would collapse into chaos.”
So everyone needs it. Do they know about your store?
“Decluttering Your Life Is Not Just A Trend – It’s Big Business,” headlined an article in Fast Company a few years ago. It talked about the impact of the “get organized” trend on businesses of all sizes and kinds. For $75 an hour, it reported, customers of the Container Store’s Contained Home service can have an organization expert visit their home and make de-clutter recommendations. The fee is refunded if customers spend at least $500 on Container Store products. Most spend much more than that. The average ticket is $2,500.
Marie Kondo would probably not buy things from the Container Store – her book advocates getting rid of stuff, not storing it. But, “Kondo’s book reminds us that we want to be organized,” concludes Fast Company, “just like Rachael Ray or Guy Fieri reminds us that we want to know our way around a kitchen. The exact recipe or tidying method isn’t necessarily relevant. It’s the aspiration that counts.”
Organize Your Visual Display Toolbox
Busy storeowners often put “refresh the displays” at the bottom of their to-do lists. The process requires so much thought and “stuff.” Who has time to pull it all together?
You do, if you keep a visual display toolbox on hand. Retailer and retail consultant Shari Waters has made a list of the tools and materials you need every time you create a visual display. Having all of the items in one location not only saves you time, she says, it will motivate you to build more effective displays more often. Here’s Shari’s list.
• A stapler
• Double-sided tape
• Straight pins
• Hot glue sticks and glue gun
• Monofilament fishing line
• A tape measure
• A razor blade or utility knife
• A hammer and nails
• A screwdriver and screws
• A notepad, pencil and marker
• Sign holders
• Glass cleaner and paper towels
In addition, Shari shared a checklist of elements that make a display more effective.
– Asymmetrical balance, like a small but brightly colored item on one side balanced by a larger darker item on the other side.
– Color to set the mood. Cool colors like green and blue create calm and trust; warm colors spark happiness, and excitement. Black can create “dark” feelings but it’s also classic and chic.
– A lighted focal point where your products, props and signage come together.
– Simplicity – less is more.
From “the balance,” a personal finance website from about.com.
Romanoff Products offers plastic storage items in colors that range from Hot Pink and Lime Opaque to translucent Blueberry and Tangerine. They come in all sizes, and sleek-to-chunky shapes and configurations. Bestsellers include stackable Stowaway bins and boxes, stackable small and large caddies, magazine files and cups.
WARD lesson plan and class record books are a teacher classic. They’ve been produced in the U.S. by the Hubbard Company for more than 50 years. The 5-N-1 Book contains a grade book, lesson planner, student behavior forms, calendar/reminder and a phone and address keeper.
Hundreds of uses
With Ceiling Hanglers from the StikkiWorks, teachers can create an organized display of artwork, posters, signs, name cards and projects without a ladder. StikkiWAX dots hold things, either temporarily or permanently. The nontoxic, non-putty wax adhesive sticks to any surface but is easy to remove. Use them instead of pins, tacks, staples and tape.
For versatility, strength and ease of use, you can’t beat the polypropylene files and portfolios from C-Line. The two-pocket style (a) is three-hole punched and comes with or without prongs. Binder Pockets (b) have write-on index tabs to make material easy to find. A tuck-in flap keeps papers secure. The Rainbow Document Sorter (d) holds up to 250 sheets in five colorful pockets.
Themes with coordinating products
There are 75 different SKUs in the Chalkboard Brights line of classroom décor and organization items from Teacher Created Resources. Among them are storage boxes, book bins and caddies, and matching accessories that include sticky notes, supply labels and glitter clothespins.
The planner from Order Out of Chaos is a helpful time manager, thanks to its grid for every week and other organizing features. “I am a teacher, a coach and a grad student. This planner keeps me organized with my work, classes, practices and games,” says one testimonial. “It’s a must for busy students, teachers or parents with many obligations.”
Colorful stacks with access
Reach inside Stack and Nest 90° containers (e) when they’re cross-stacked and nest them when they’re empty. You can safely stack six of Shirley K’s multipurpose clear view bins (f) to create a tall and sturdy storage system. The wide front opening provides easy access to their contents. Bestselling Storage Trays (g) range in size from 10 by 10 inches to 19-7/8 by 23 inches, and come in a variety of popular colors. Place them on desks and project tables or in drawers and closets for optimum and durable organization. To see installation demonstrations, and table and closet accessories, visit
Carson-Dellosa’s new S.S. Discover theme features 30 different items including stickers, labels, and folders.
The file folders in Eureka’s Blue Harmony line of 40 décor and organization items are best sellers.
Make Life Easier. STAY Organized.
Whether you’re teaching students or selling products for teaching students, it’s often a struggle to stay organized. There are reasons for that, says Psychology Today. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by our clutter and/or unfinished projects that we literally can’t think straight.
Another reason is that it’s easy to get distracted in the midst of organizing. Sorting through old documents, for instance, is a trip down memory lane. The trip can divert you from organizing to remembering both good and bad times.
Some of us simply refuse to be organized because we want to remain “flexible.” We’re the ones who cancel meetings because something else has come along.
We also think too much, says Psychology Today. We think we have to clear everything out of the way before we can tackle getting organized. “It’s kind of like needing to lose weight before you step foot in a gym,” notes the article. “It’s counterproductive, but human.”
Finally, the very tools we talk about in this article may hinder our ability to organize. “Those who can’t organize because they need to find the ‘right’ tools first are land-locked in their stuff. Others, who purchase a wide variety of inappropriate tools, simply add to their collection of clutter.”
To save us from our disorganized selves is Regina Leeds, a professional. She literally wrote the book keeping things neat; it’s called The 8 Minute Organizer. Because it contains “easy solutions to simplify your life in your spare time,” Canadian lifestyle magazine Chatelaine shared tips from it with its readers two years in a row. We are listing some of them here.
1. Organize every day
Mail, bills and voicemails should be organized every day, not saved for the day when you need records of your payments or to contact someone immediately. Regina recommends manila folders with labels like “To Do” and “To Call.”
2. Ditch your desk’s junk drawer
You only need one pen, one pencil, a highlighter and a Sharpie. “All the other crap in there (and you know there’s a lot) should be stored in plastic baggies for when it’s time to replenish,” wrote Chatelaine contributor Robyn Shanks-McInnes.
3. Don’t just clean, organize.
Give every item its own place. Do it in small chunks, one at a time. Today at your store, organize the gift-wrap station for speed and efficiency. All the bows, ribbon, bags, tape, and paper should be easy to see, to access, and to use. Tomorrow, tackle the cupboard in your break room. Addressing everything at once just creates more chaos in your head.
4. Everything in its place
“It takes as much time to toss your keys on the floor as it does to hang them up,” writes Shanks-McInnes. “When you start creating organized habits – like making your bed, hanging up your clothes or putting the dishes into the dishwasher – you save yourself time in the long run. Regina suggests picking two actions to start practicing (and mastering) before moving onto the next.”
5. Organize your sweaters
It will make you feel so much better because folded items, like our sweaters, have always baffled us. Regina suggests cutting cardboard pieces to put between each sweater, then you pull it out almost like a shelf to ensure the rest of the pile doesn’t budge.
6. Say no to multitasking
“There’s a time to engage in more than one activity and a time to just say no to the madness our society embraces as a sign of productivity,” says The 8 Minute Organizer. At work, try completing one task fully, then enjoy a few seconds or minutes of peace before starting the next one.
7. Give it time
Regina recommends choosing a single routine to add and work it for three weeks before adding another.