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3 Teacher-Inspired Tricks To Tame Clutter At Home

Smart, efficient, and creative, teachers are master organizers. And while your grade school days may be far behind you, there’s still plenty to be learned from teachers. Here are three of their best classroom clutter-busting secrets that can help you stay organized at home.

To speed mornings: Bundle in pairs.

Get out the door faster with “intuitive organizing” — that is, pairing two like items, suggests Whitney Rancourt, a third and fourth grade teacher who blogs at “In the classroom, I pair scissors with construction paper and pencils with the sharpener.” At home? Place your phone with your wallet, and stash sunglasses near shoes. “Mini zones” are easier to
navigate quickly, so you’re out the door in a flash. Also smart: Every classroom has a calendar. Consider hanging yours by the front door as a cue to grab what you need, like your gym bag for that after-work yoga class, on your way out.

To corral paperwork: Tap the rainbow.

The tool found in almost every grade-school classroom? The rainbow cart, with each drawer a different hue because its built-in color-coding makes organizing so easy. “I loved mine so much, I use one at home,” says Rancourt. “It’s great for sorting bills and mail, plus it rolls, which is handy in tight spaces.” (One to try: Whitmore 10-Drawer Rolling Organizer Cart — Buy from Amazon, $53.) Or simply use colorful folders to contain paper clutter: green for bills; red for social activities; blue for health forms and so on. Organizing visually lets you pinpoint papers without thought. Also smart: Go lidless. “I don’t use lids in class because it’s one more thing to put back,” says Rancourt. “I do this at home, storing items in bins, in a single layer, sans lids — it’s much easier to keep everything in its place.”

To declutter fast: Set a timer.

Young or old, no one loves chores. “Teachers make heavy use of timers to keep kids on task, and it’s another trick I use myself when decluttering at home,” says Rancourt. “When you know you’re only committed to 10, 15 or 30 minutes, it’s easy to focus. Plus, you wind up ‘racing’ yourself, so you get more done in that brief window than if you had an unspecified amount of time.” Also smart: Time to-do’s right. Rancourt plans classroom clutter clean-outs before breaks, when her kids are too antsy for schoolwork. For you, this might mean decluttering before an important appointment when you’re feeling a bit restless.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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