Monday, January 13, 2020

A Decluttering Post for Teachers

This is not my usual post and I can tell you many that read my blog will have not one bit of interest in it, so feel free to tap out and come back tomorrow for a stitching post.

Basically, the question of the day is... do you just pull the band-aid off when decluttering or do you do it nice and slow? I have done both.

This is the RIP the bandaid portion of decluttering.

I was inspired to write this one after reading over at Field Lilies. She has been on a decluttering mission. This was me six years ago. She did a month long declutter that was fun to follow along.

I have always been a neat and tidy person and my closets are always organized however I am a sentimental ole girl and don't like to get rid of things. It was never more apparent that when I about to retire in 2014.
I had to deal with the 31 years of teacher hoarding before I could ever tackle the house.

That particular school year was one of the most traumatic years of my life; personally there was good and bad going on at the same time and my health gave out as that year was kind of a final straw, but we will just talk about the decluttering of school! I started this blog in the midst of that which goes to show I am an optimistic person. Just thought I would share that!

As the school year was closing I realized it was time to let go of the hoarding. I call it that now because it was a huge load of stuff. I would not have called it that at the time!!!!

Let's backtrack a wee bit to year 28. I was given an opportunity to step out of the classroom to manage a huge science grant for our district. I had a teacher who had already retired but worked volunteering see me toting boxes to the car one day. She asked me why in the world was I doing that. Her advice was to leave or take to the teacher's lounge and let others go through it.

I couldn't do it. You see I had tried one other time to do a job outside of the classroom and hated it and lasted all of 18 weeks before I had promptly taken myself back to the classroom where I am a natural and at home!

So I might need it, but the truth is I was so close to retiring that I knew I would make this work this time!

I brought it all home.
A classroom library filled up the guest bathroom which is like the size of a small bedroom. You could just squeeze in to use the toilet.
The math and language arts items were all around the room with the pool table.
Science and social studies went downstairs to the big room.

There were plastic bins everywhere. Mind you they were organized in those bins and I am sure anyone would have said I had one of the most organized classrooms around. I could find anything quickly.

The problem was 31 years worth of stuff and I had become a self sufficient machine in that world. If funding wouldn't provide me with what I needed I got it on my own.
I could have opened a private school for grades 3-6 easily!!! I even had my own copy machine for which I still have downstairs.

It wasn't long before I felt like I was suffocating and Jeff was asking what my plans were.

I gave up the classroom library first. I called a teacher who was a bit older and had gone back to school to get her degree. I had taught her daughter and I knew she could use it. She was extremely grateful. She took the library and some teaching materials.

Bathroom cleared --- all good.

Not nearly enough to soothe my uneasiness. Over the course of some very stressful months, little by little I would take it into the science labs at each school and send out a notice to teachers to come and browse.

This is the result.
Older teachers had the same problem --- stuff everywhere and the young ones didn't want anything. They were in fact all digital.  They weren't interested in a hard copy book that you would take to the copy machine.

To sum it up,  a lot was left. On the last week of school, after losing my step dad (really a parent since he was with me since age 11) I walked with tears in my eyes and just through most of it in the dumpster.

The truth was I was emotionally spent and my health was failing and I just gave up. I was chunking things. Beautiful bulletin boards that I had drawn and colored with pastels (that is where my creativity went for those years), tons of teaching books that I had spent so much money on. All my work and treasure!
Fortunately no one saw the mess of tears flowing. I am not even sure I can describe the feelings that went with it all into that dumpster.

I read how people feel better after getting rid of stuff. I can't really say I did.

It had to be done was all I can say!

I was retiring and it was causing me angst at my home. I wasn't going to be using it all and it pained me that no one wanted it.

Now, here I am 5+ years later and I am glad it is out of my house. I will say that I miss only one thing I threw away.

So I guess the moral of the story is my life is better without the clutter, but doing it like that wasn't easy.

That is why the house clutter has been approached with a slower methodical method. Each year I tackle every area of my home again. I get rid of a bit more each year. It has been a bit easier on my heartstrings.

HOWEVER, if I am honest it is time to do some bandaid ripping again.

So what got kept.
Here are the final things that were saved with pictures.

One tub of teaching materials. A hodgepodge materials that have great memories attached to them. I have a book autographed with a lady who taught creative writing. I wish I could bring myself to tell the story of her. It is a deeply personal story, but that book should really come out of there and onto a shelf in the sewing room:)

AND One tub of science tools that even though some might be outdated I think grandkids might like to play with one day.

One sleeve of posters that are either vintage space related or the patches that my students designed for our space plays. That was my big deal and niche as a teacher. No picture.

Two shelves of books that I used for teaching or reading aloud.

They are now mixed in with other books.

Now this is the sentimental part. I had a sleeve from every classroom of letters, cards,  pictures, etc the kids gave me each year. 28 of them. I decided to scrapbook the 31 years but allowed myself only so many pages per year. I have two scrapbooks of that and then one that is devoted to the science portion of things.

That my friends is 31 years of teaching in a nutshell that the kids will have to deal with when I am gone.

The only thing I have missed is a set of calendar strips for the months. They followed me through the entire career. I think they would have been fun to put out in my sewing room as a memory.

The scrapbooks are a great show of fashion and aging!

In case you can't find me, I am the far right back row!

This is when I quit coloring my hair. I cut it short and cut the dyed part off. Kind of ripped the band aid off there as well.

2020 may be the year to rip the bandaid off in some closets at home.


  1. Oh I love seeing the pictures from your teaching years. Leta is the same way. She is still getting rid of things from her teaching career. I think she has had one last decluttering task and she did give a lot of it away. I am determined to be brutal this year. I found a Community Thrift Store near by that the profits go to Missions. They will be loving me for all the things I am taking them.

  2. Thank you for your great honesty in telling us this painful account. This is exactly why I am downsizing at my own pace, while I don't have crises and pressures to deal with. I've seen friends go through that and it was hard to watch.

    I hear you on saying goodbye to good work you did. That's a big part, I think, of why downsizing is so tiring. It's an emotional journey.

    1. Thanks. I do think it is a journey and doing the school stuff was hard. I wish that more of it could gone to good use. I think if I had been at a school where I taught a long time it would have been gathered up a bit more because those teachers knew me so well. I am not moving from our current home any time soon, but I have seen how hard it is to move my mother down here when my step dad passed. Wow, I don't want to do that to my kids. So, slowly I am dealing with the stuff in the closets and cabinets.

  3. Fun pictures! Yes, ripping the band-aid is never easy! I think I like the slow and easy better, now that we have purged to downsize (3 years ago). I can see how going through each room might be a very good way to continue to purge.

  4. Yes, you just have to let it all go! I left teaching after 28 years to move into Educational Publishing and I just had to throw it all out (except for a few digital files) otherwise my house would have been overflowing. Not easy but has to be done! Like you are now, I do the slow and easy way of decluttering - a section of the house at a time!

  5. I found this very interesting, Sandy, and am going to refer my sister to it who is also a teacher who will be retiring this year. I never even thought about all a teacher has in her classroom to bring home or dispose of. I am pretty slow at decluttering, but every now and then I go on a binge and really get things done. I have to say, my husband is a minimalist so that has helped keep our "stuff" under control through the years :)

  6. Hi Sandy! I thought your words rang so true in all phases of life. I not only had a lot of teaching materials but so many things from each base we were stationed at. Like you, each and every thing I saved seemed so important to me. I still have such a hard time getting rid of anything from others or memories I just can't part with. Believe it or not, I had planned on 2020' being my year to really declutter and your post is so helpful. I too am a very organized person but don't have the heart to rid myself of anything so it has been a battle. But, I'm going to do it this year too.

    So happy to be back in blogland again. I have missed my blogging friends so much. It was a rough fall but I'm determined to get my mojo back again. Happy January to you. I'm enjoying seeing all of your photos from the last posts that I missed. RJ

  7. I loved reading this, Sandy. I honestly wished there was more. I'm thinking you have a lot of stories you can tell us. I think you've done amazingly to whittle your classroom stuff down to what you have. And the letters and cards from students - oh my. I can only imagine how special that collection is. I love the school pictures you shared. You look like one of the students in the first one! Except for how you're dressed. That was the only way I was sure I had picked you out. :) What a cutie. And a beauty.

    As for me and my decluttering, I'm finding myself dragging a bit as a new week starts. I had a spurt of energy over the weekend, but today after working for a few hours then grocery shopping I'm pooped. I don't know how I'm going to keep making progress at this rate. I'll keep coming in here is what I'll do. And visiting others'blogs where this great unburdening ourselves of STUFF is going on. We will all encourage each other and we will make progress so we don't leave this task to our kids if we can help it. Thanks for sharing from the heart. I truly loved it.

  8. Your journey through de-cluttering has been painful but bless you for doing it. One day when you are gone, there will be that much less for your family to deal with, and that will be a blessing.

    But de-cluttering can be very painful, as you have described so well.

  9. All I can say is Thank You:) I retired almost 5 years ago. Then my mother died 2 years ago. (she lived with us 18 years, and 4 years in an assisted living). I have stuff all thru the house and I am slowly trying to clean it out. This years my goal is to simply get rid of paper. I have so many things I have saved, i.e. receipts from 20-30 years ago:) Again thank you, for giving me the courage to move forward.

  10. Sandy, thank you for sharing this today. I was just thinking about unloading/getting rid of the teacher stuff that is in the basement. I just need to RIP that band-aid off and let it go. I do have a couple of avenues to check out first and then I am going to start taking a load of it each time we go to the transfer station and toss in the paper container. But it is time to let it go, so thank you again for this post!

  11. Sandy: I found this to be a fun post, I know how you feel about decluttering, I am like you I take the slow and make sure approach, I have tossed things in the past and now wish I had not.
    Some items that I keep are very sentimental so no getting rid of there.
    We are not sure what will happen to what is left when we leave this earth, we have no children, however we have a niece and nephew who will take care of our will, it could be a mess with a big fight.
    My Mother used to like to visit antique shops and find me a little trinket, even if it was something I would not buy myself, those things I have kept, they came from her heart.
    It feels good to be free of lots of unused items for me.

    Have a wonderful Week

  12. I cannot wait to come back and read this post word for word. I'm sure it will bring back so many memories of my de cluttering after I left my classroom. I still keep one boxful of stuff I kept on my desk every yr right outside my door to my garage. Everytime I go out that door, I look at it and smile.
    Remembering all the good times I had teaching but also smiling with happiness that I'm not there anymore!!!!!
    I'm hanging in with borderline pneumonia/bronchitis right now. Just trying to rest. Will be back to read all your words again!!


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