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As Marie Kondo, the famous Japanese organization consultant is taking home decluttering by storm, many teachers are also implementing the process to create better learning environments for their students. Kondo uses a method called ‘KonMari’ which is about tidying up mindfully keeping only things that ‘spark joy’ and removing any clutter that doesn’t.

One educator, Andrea Clark, a 5th grade teacher at the International School of Texas in Austin, commented, “The question for us isn’t so much, ‘does this bring joy’, but rather ‘is it useful for my students and me?'” she said, “is it worth holding onto this resource? is it helping students learn?”

With those guiding questions in mind, Clark and her students collaborated to completely re-organize their space. Emptying out old cubbies, taking away resources that weren’t being used and simplifying the classroom layout to allow a sense of calm and focus. “Decluttering in this way has helped students take ownership”, she said. “Bringing them into the process has also given them a voice in shaping their own learning.”

The three main steps in organizing your classroom the Marie Kondo way according to Nancy Barile (an award-winning teacher and writer for ‘Hey Teach’).

1. Rid Yourself of the Joyless

Remove all clutter that doesn’t bring you or your students joy or doesn’t serve a purpose. “I have tests and worksheets for novels I haven’t taught in 20 years. I have shelves stacked with books I haven’t used in decades. It’s time to put those papers in the recycling bin and donate those books to the school library or give them to other teachers.”

2. Tackle Clutter by Category

The KonMari method requires you to sort your possessions by category, not by location. So, for example, tackle books first, then paperwork, then electronics. “I pulled every book in my classroom off the shelves and tables, and I went through them one by one. I was able to decide whether to keep, donate, or discard, and my book collection was cut down by at least a third. Electronics were even easier – I still had little floppy discs in my drawers, and it wasn’t difficult at all to toss them into the wastebasket. Paper work sheets were also simple. If I thought I might use a particular assignment, I’d scan it and save it on my computer and got rid of anything I didn’t need, which was almost all of it. I couldn’t believe how many trash cans I filled!

3. Make Storage Magic

Decluttering successfully means you need to designate a spot for everything. After you use something, put it back in its designated spot, then everything is where it’s supposed to be at any given time. Not only is this time saving for both teachers and students but creates a deeper sense of care and looking after things properly.

Other schools have gone the next step using the mindful ‘KonMari’ method. In addition to decluttering, they have re-accessed their space and the items within it, asking ‘does this bring joy?’. The result has been moving away from a traditional classroom layout to a more collaborative inclusive space with tables, benches and cubbies made from natural materials such as sustainable wood and bringing in calming elements like plants.

How could you use the ‘KonMari’ method in your own learning environment?