Confessions of a Stacker

Hi.  I'm Amy and I am a stacker.  If you are a stacker too then you know exactly what I mean.  You have something important that you need to get to again so you start a stack.   You stack important item on top of important item but you ALWAYS know what is in your stack - right?!?!  Pretty soon you get something really important and start a new stack.  The stacking continues until you have lots of stacks!  And although I don't know where everything is - I know it is in a stack!  If you are not a stacker then let me help you visualize this . . .

Now, my stacks don't usually get this big, but I almost always have multiple stacks.  In the past couple years I have really been working on my "stacker" habits and trying to get more organized.  I've done a lot of self reflection and this is what I have come up with:  I usually stack when I am in a hurry and flat surfaces are not my friend!

Here are a few things I have done at school (and at home) to help curb my stacker ways and better organize myself.

Approach #1 - Organize My Stacks

Before I was ready to completely give up stacking (which I probably still have not done completely) I decided that I should better organize my stacks.  I identified the areas where I am most likely to stack.  At school those were my desk, the top of the filing cabinet and my teaching table.  I decided that the first step was to put some type of labeled container to stack in.  Now, I am not talking about labels like To Do, To File, etc.  Those just don't work for me - too broad!  I looked at what I was stacking and made my labels accordingly (papers to grade, masters to file, books/centers to store for next year).  For me I used a plastic bin with a label to stack in.  This helped make my stacks movable - thus easy to take home with me or easy to put away (aka hide) if I needed to tidy up quickly.  Once I had my plastic tubs labeled I strategically placed them in the key areas where I stack:  Papers to grade on the corner of my teaching table, masters to file on top of my filing cabinet, supplies to put away for next year on the back counter near my storage boxes.  By doing this I actually put the items close to their final destination and made clean-up / putting away easier.  This pretty much sums up my first approach.  But I still wanted more.

Approach #2 - Limit Stacking Altogether

I know - I can't really believe that even got to this point as I have been stacking for most of my 40 years!  But new classroom and new grade level, not to mention all those amazing classrooms on Pinterest, really got me in the mood to create and keep a more organized space.  I could tell you how I organized my entire classroom but that is really another post altogether.  Today I am going to focus on how I limited my stacking to keep an organized classroom during the daily grind of school. 

The first thing I did was purge!  I was bound and determined that if I did not have room for it, I wasn't going to keep it.  As I got my classroom set-up everything had a place.  This was a key starting place for me. 

No stacks! 

Even the cabinet got organized!

I also made the decision to decrease my flat surfaces and get rid of me teacher desk altogether.  My teaching table (horseshoe table) doubled as my desk/work space after school.  Since I knew that I would be using this space with kids on a daily basis I knew it had to stay stack free - or at least minimal.  I gave myself one plastic tub on the corner of my table to stack in during the day.  However, I tried to empty it out everyday after school.  Did that always happen - nope.  But I did my best to limit my stack to my bin.  During the day I would also take the extra 5-10 seconds to put something away instead of stack it.  Yes, there were times that things just got set down but for the most part I tried to keep things put back.  I guess it definitely helped to start at a place where everything had a home.

The next thing that I did that was very helpful in limiting my stacking was to go digital on as many things as I can.  I have decided that paper is not my friend.  It is so much easier to keep a digital copy of a lesson or handout than to have paper copies lying around.  This also helped me with my copy limits because I didn't feel the need to keep 1 or 2 (2 is better right) masters for my files.  I would copy only what I needed and keep a digital copy as my master.  This also helped when students would want another paper because they "messed up" or didn't like the way the first one turned out.  I borrowed a line from Tim Gunn quite often and said "make it work!"  In this paperless quest I am not where I would like to be yet.  Not sure that I will ever be completely paperless, but I know there is a lot more I could do away with.  Eventually I'd like to do away with the metal filing cabinet and scan my files.  But that might have to be next summer's project!

So I am sure you are wondering how I did through the year.  I would give myself an "A" for the first semester.  I really stayed on it and worked hard at keeping my stacks minimal and my room organized.  I did slack off on the daily putting away as the year went on and life got busy.  I did continue to stack, but I didn't give up.  Yes, there were times when we had reading groups on the carpet in a circle.    But in my defense that was during end of quarter assessing and report cards.  But even at the most hectic of times it was nothing like previous years.  Overall for the year I'd give myself a "B-".  I know I still have lots of improvement but I am glad I stepped out and started breaking some of my stacking habits.  Trust me when I say if I can do it so can you!  Start small, make a plan and go for it! 

I'd love to hear from any other stackers out there.  How have you tamed your stacks?  I am looking to take another step forward this year!