De-cluttering – It's a thing at the moment.

Decluttering is all the rage, with many of us are weighed down by ‘stuff’, and many attracted by TV programmes galore telling us how to get rid of waste and reduce the amount we hoard. People are throwing away their personal possessions, inspired by Marie Kondo, the Japanese ‘decluttering expert’ and her popular programme on Netflix. Marie says re-organising your home can make you happier and less stressed (though it seems some couples are falling out over it, when one person wants a clear out, and the other wants to keep their ‘stuff’).

We can learn from Marie how to ask if an item we’re hoarding really “sparks joy” in our heart. If the answer’s no, Marie says it’s got to go.

These programmes and articles do all seem to be about tackling clutter at home, though. But I’ve found we are not alone in applying the decluttering principles to the school workplace – Westminster Council have cleverly written a whole section of their commercial waste strategy on decluttering the workplace!

One section is titled, ‘Declutter without involving landfill’ and that’s something I applaud and support. We are steadily but determinedly working on our own decluttering process. A combination of forces leads to us accumulate and keep ‘stuff’ for some ridiculous periods. It becomes wallpaper, effectively; cupboard-filling and insulation at best. At worst it cramps spaces and makes untidy the norm.

Starting in our ‘Workroom’ (another name for our reprographics room, sick bay and PPA base) we have been ruthlessly emptying cupboards, shelves, boxes, tops and under-desk spaces. Some of what we discovered has been remarkable and some of it embarrassingly ridiculous.

Like every office in the land we had (‘had’, please note) boxes of staples that fitted none of our staplers. They’ve gone for recycling. We found further thousands that do fit staplers we have and use, so they have been shared out or claimed.

We found a box of several hundred Certificates that we don’t issue anymore as the need no longer exists. (The desired behaviour happens without any external reward being necessary.) Recycled also.

Half a box of A4 sized sticky labels. (Not A4 sheets of sticky labels, but sheets of A4 sized labels! I reckon it was about £40 worth.) No one could remember them ever being used, or ordered. No one could think up a good use for them, publicly, but after exhibiting them on our collective ‘Thrown by Friday’ table they were gone by Wednesday. Someone must have thought of a use for them, or they must ‘spark joy’ for them.

We found packets of triangular pencil grips (75p each) to assist children in learning how to hold a pencil correctly with a tripod grip. And then a couple of boxes of triangular barreled pencils (£2.00 per box). They went off to support SEND work and handwriting interventions. That should save a part-order and keep waste out of landfill.

Vivid coloured art paper and card, found by the ream, instantly popular once colleagues knew we had unearthed it, had to be shared out equally, and has found engaging uses in every classroom.

Reams and reams of squared paper (which is printed with a baffling range of square dimensions) was doled out gleefully. There is a fear that this may have simply moved clutter from one place to another rather than get it out of the ‘house’, but the action has supported the process and intention.

Folders, files, ring binders, plastic wallets, exercise books, crepe and tissue paper on the roll, sewing thread, haberdashery eyelets, pinking shears, an electric stapler, glue sticks, cables, backup tapes, tape cassettes and cassette players…

And spots; hundreds of thousands of sticky spots. We use red, yellow and green spots to traffic light work when marking, giving children instant, visual feedback on their work. But we also found pack after pack of blue, brown, purple, orange and white sticky spots. The white are small rectangles and everything else is round. One colleague said the blue ones were once used to illustrate the molecular arrangements in the ‘three states of matter’ in water. Someone has taken them all from the ‘Thrown by Friday’ table. We may be about to see a large-scale pointillism project.

Next to nothing has gone in the bin for landfill, but nothing has gone back on the original shelves or into the original cupboards. We will, at half term, be decorating the Workroom and it will be massively better to work in as a result of the work going on. After that we move on to another space (Year 4 quiet room), and another (Music Room and storeroom), and another (Cloakrooms), and another (the Hall)…

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