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August 27, 2014 Clever Classroom Storage Solutions: Part 2 By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I’m back for round two of my Clever Classroom Storage Solutions series. Classroom storage/organization is one of my favorite topics because it is such an integral part of the classroom environment. If you missed my first five solution suggestions, check out "Clever Classroom Storage Solutions: Part 1." Read on for the final five suggestions for thrift store finds, repurposing goodies you already own, and looking at storage containers with a new perspective to find the best uses for them.


    6. Dollar Store Tubs

    I can make good use of just about any storage container I find for a dollar. For most versatile use, I have discovered that open-top storage bins from dollar stores serve the widest variety of purposes. I use oval-shaped, open containers for countless purposes and discover more each day.  Below are a few of my all-time favorites!

    • Above my cubbies, I use these containers for students' loose items from home such as mittens, hats, extra socks, hair accessories, and other miscellaneous goods.

    • For math manipulatives, I love these containers, because they allow for various sizes, shapes, and weights of fun math manips. They sit open on shelves, organized and easy for students to access during math exploration.

    • When presenting specific centers for different workstation options, I use these open containers to store and make available all station instructions, pieces, supplies, and recording sheets. Accessing and cleaning up the stations are a snap!


    7. Home Goods Re-imagined

    Peruse your local super centers and home stores for super discounts on home items that can also be used in the classroom. A few years ago I found an entire set of large baskets lined with fabric for only five dollars on clearance. Originally intended for home storage, I find such items will soften up your classroom space. I placed this basket set behind my small group table in order to store my binders for guided reading, writing, and math, as well as read-aloud books, and other teacher data-keeping materials. They are within reach whenever I’m meeting with students, are totally organized, and give a cozy feeling to my small group nook.


    8. Thrift Store Upcycling

    I love shuffling through various thrift stores for classroom finds. Knowing how tough a year of students can be on classroom items, I never want to pay full price for anything. Also considering that, I know items I purchase need to be pretty durable. A thrift store is the perfect place to find items that marry the balance between bargain and sturdiness.

    My three favorite thrift store finds:

    • This retro-90s CD tower (doesn’t that date it?!?) screamed out to me when I passed it by. After cleaning, spray-painting it black, and removing the swiveling base, it makes a PERFECT shared supply storage caddy. We like to place publishing materials (markers, pens, etc.) inside and use it at our writing workstation.

    • I’m not exactly sure what the original intended use for this little crate was, but I’m guessing a tool or kitchen spice caddy. I cleaned it, spray painted it black, and now use it to hold cute little metal cups, in which I place pens and pencils for either teacher or student use. It looks so cute, you’d never guess what it looked like before.

    • These metal cylinders were meant to be some sort of mixing canister, and came with mixing paddles inside. I simply removed the paddles, added a cute sticker, and now they are used to collect bottle caps and box tops for our PTO fundraisers.

    Thrifting Tips:

    • When shopping in thrift shops, look at ordinary items through an extraordinary lens.

    • Remember that a good washing and a clean coat of paint can totally transform any item.

    • Minor adjustments (like removing the swivel base from the CD tower and placing it on its side instead of standing) can bring new life and purpose for items you find.


    9. Out of the Kitchen and Into the Classroom

    The kitchen is another area of life that requires tons of supplies and maximization of storage. I like shopping in the kitchen section of dollar stores, thrift shops, and super centers for classroom organization items. Check out some of the clever kitchen swaps that I now use daily in my classroom!


    • These popcorn containers were perfect for my “drive-in” themed writing station. I use the tall containers for items like pens and pencils, while the shallow popcorn bowls are perfect for other writing process materials such as sticky notes, notecards, erasers, staplers, and more.

    • Magnetic spice containers are a lifesaver with endless uses in the classroom. We have many magnetic surfaces, so anything I can buy or transform into something magnetic is a plus. These round magnetic spice containers adhere to my whiteboard or side of a file cabinet perfectly. Their clear lids allow me to see what is being stored inside, without taking up space on my desk. They are perfect for paper clips, small sticky notes, and book rings!


    10. Shoe-Tastic Organizers

    I love anything and everything related to shoes, so when my shoe love meets classroom functionality, I’m in teacher heaven! Hanging shoe organizers are perfect for classroom use, and best of all can be found at any dollar store. Label each pocket for maximum organization. I could talk for days about the uses for these hanging wonders, but below are a few of my faves to classroom storage solutions:

    • Math manipulatives: From pattern blocks, to dice, dominoes, to fraction tiles, math manips are easily stored out of the way and easy to access for students.

    • Magnetic alphabet: While there are many ways to store magnetic alphabet pieces, I love these shoe caddies the best. Each pocket holds a different letter, and I hang the shoe holder with a magnetic hook on one side of my large standing file cabinet with the other side open for magnetic spelling practice.

    • Student publishing center: Pens, pencils, markers, oh my! Storing the many materials needed for student publishing can be overwhelming. Stickers, art supplies, staplers, and more often end up all over the place. That’s not the case if you label each pocket and place corresponding publishing materials inside.

    • Puzzle pieces: If you have simple puzzles with small pieces, then they will likely fit within each pouch on these shoe caddies. Either throw the pieces directly into each pouch, or place them in a baggie first. Include the picture of the completed puzzle within the baggie/inside of pouch, or place on outside of pouch for easy recognition of which pieces go to which puzzle.

    • Teacher tools: Much like the student publishing center, teacher supplies are bountiful and difficult to organize with such limited space in our classrooms. Hang the organizer in your teacher work area, office, or on your whiteboard or side of a filing cabinet for easy access and use in a pinch.

    So, there you have it! Ten totally terrific, super simple, and inexpensive, clever classroom storage solutions! From thrifting to dollar stores, and repurposing existing items for new and improved purposes, maximizing classroom storage is a great way to make your daily life as a teacher much easier and more effective!

    What are YOUR best tips, tricks, and super deals on classroom storage and organization? Please share your love of clever classroom solutions with us all!  Thanks for reading, and see you next week!


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