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Classroom Organization Tips for the Frugal Teacher, Part 1

By Allie Magnuson on October 2, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

In this first installment about organizing your classroom on a budget, we'll look at how to arrange basic teacher and student supplies, including some trouble spots that are as pesky as mosquitos.







First, we'll start with your own supplies:

Toolbox Supplies Storage


A toolbox takes up much less space than a desk, and it's portable — so if you're on the opposite side of the room, you don't have to keep walking back for that one last pushpin you need to hang your border.



A metal lunchbox makes a great first aid kit.



If you have a fridge in your classroom, chill a few sponges in resealable plastic bags to serve as ice packs.


Label a cardboard box for large lost and found items . . .


 . . . and frosting containers or cans for small items like puzzle pieces, marker caps, glue tops, and erasers.


Wrap a gift box with gold paper and make it into a treasure chest for all the heartfelt artwork you get (if you're lucky!) from your students.


 Now, on to the even bigger challenge of organizing student supplies:


Store basic supplies in a two-drawer file cabinet with dividers so kids have easy access to them.  File cabinets are ideal because they utilize vertical space, they're nice and deep, they're sturdy, they keep similar supplies in one central location, and the school can usually provide them.


In the middle of each table, keep a paper tray for dry erase boards and workbooks, a caddy for communal supplies, and a mini trash can.


Stow small group materials in milk crates. Use fabric-covered squares of plywood as lids, so that each child in the group can use one as a stool.


Put all books with a similar theme together in one container (cut around three sides for drop-front access) and store the containers out of the way — such as on the tops of cabinets — until a theme or holiday comes up. Don't forget a container for read-alouds; you can rotate your selection throughout the year.


Fabric pencil pouches easily fit inside game boxes to stash small pieces. Keep a bucket near your games and fill it with counters, coins, dice, small toys, blocks, modeling clay, index cards, markers, and other materials students can use to replace missing or damaged pieces.


Beside your classroom door, hang a wet wipes container with plastic bags for students who forget their backpacks or have extra things to take home.

Part two of this series will focus on how to organize arts and crafts supplies, and how to set up your centers.

Thanks for reading!


Comments (5)

Good ideas. Here's another one. For whiteboard erasers, save used dryer sheets. They work great, and you can get enough of them so each kid can have their own. Plus, you don't feel guilty for throwing them away periodically when they get gross.

Love the great organizing ideas. I can never find a bag when I need one, using a recycled wet wipe container is great. Not only with organizing but recycling as well.

Hey Allie,
Great post! Love your milk crate chairs. Looks like your classroom has changed a lot. Hope your year is going well! Love the wet wipes container with bags.

A lot of good ideas here. I really love the last one, using the wipes container for bag storage. I may use this at my home as well!

I love your ideas. I am in the midst of trying to figure out if I want to keep all of the supplies in my art classroom on the "supply table" or eliminate a lot of set up and clean up time by buying containers for each table that has a set of each color and material. Looking forward to your next post!

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