Celebration: Half a Drawer in a File Cabinet

This week I am celebrating half a drawer in a file cabinet. What’s there is not as important as what’s not. Here is the photo of said drawer.

 Celebration: Half a Drawer There's a Book for That

These files (seen below from a different perspective) are all of the files I have at school. Just these. No others! Really!! Half the drawer is paper files. The other half contains 2 baskets of math related stuff for practice.

 Celebration: Half a Drawer There's a Book for That

What’s in these files? Strategy sheets and games. They are used and reused inside write on/wipe off sleeves that we use during math.

I love these sheets for many reasons. They are low risk, easy to use and fun for the students. For me, they mean less paper, less marking (I snap photos and record on information as I observe on checklists) and they eliminate the “I’m done,” phenomenon of a fixed page. One set of photocopies. Multiple years of use. We rarely (other than our notebooks) write on paper during math class.

 Celebration: Half a Drawer There's a Book for That

I also love them because they are useful. Well used. Supportive of learning. A way for students to represent their thinking.

But . . . I am getting away from what I am here to celebrate. I am celebrating that I have no other files. NONE. This is it. No files full of “I may one day need this” papers. No files of “I should keep this just in case” papers. So. Little. Paper. Hurrah!

These files are in a two drawer file cabinet that is turned sideways and used as my “desk” On the side I utilize the magnetic properties of the cabinet to post schedules and class lists/checklists. On top, my day plan. A basket of sticky notes. A jar of pens. And once the year begins, usually, a pile of books.

I do have some papers in a few other places before this looks strangely impossible.

Relevant student documents for current children in my room are kept in a binder. I also have 8 magazine boxes full of BLM sheets that I use frequently. For example, wonder webs, Fact/React sheets, recording sheets for various things in Reading Workshop, etc. I keep multiple copies so we have these on hand when we need them for a particular activity. School schedules are posted on the side of my file cabinet (hurrah for magnets) and information for a Teacher on Call is posted on the inside of a cabinet.

Right now I have no floating about papers that end up in my letter box and take much too long to deal with. It’s the beginning of the year. I have cleared a space for these on top of a cabinet and am hoping that I can deal with them in a timely manner so they don’t overwhelm me. Paper makes me crazy. I have heard in a few places that we are either “pilers or filers” (not sure where this originated). I am clearly a piler so files mean that I will put papers in a place and never find them again. My math center (half a drawer of files) will be different because I need these things throughout the year and it is only one filing system to keep on top of.

So, this week I celebrate this little half a drawer of files. I celebrate that I bravely recycled a bunch of other papers that I hadn’t looked at in years. I celebrate that I “get” my relationship with paper (only took 20 years of teaching!) and that I feel “paper free” and happy beginning this new school year.

Half a drawer in a file cabinet. My celebration of pared down paper. 🙂

Anyone else out there with “pitching paper” stories? It’s beautifully freeing!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


22 thoughts on “Celebration: Half a Drawer in a File Cabinet

  1. Impressive. I am inspired by your move to go paperless. Paper seems to be like weed in my case. It keeps returning no matter how much I recycle. Using IPads has helped a lot. Maybe one day I can write as proudly as you going paper free.

    • Hi Terje – I am not completely paper free. But moving to a very limited paper place. I still like certain strategy sheets to be filled in by students on paper not on line. The beauty of the wipe off boards in math is that the paper doesn’t follow me. Wipe off and gone! I always say, when we write on paper, we feel obligated to deal with it. Sigh. Paper is exhausting. It did feel VERY good to get rid of so much paper that I just don’t need!

  2. Paper is exhausting! Especially piles of it. When I moved into my current room I moved a tall four-drawer filing cabinet out and took a short two-drawer one, in an effort to not accumulate paper. My problem is I’m not good at organizing documents/files on my computer, so often I will save a paper copy of something just in case I want to recreate it.

    Super inspired by this post, Carrie. Thank you.

  3. I am so with you on this. I am a piler. This year I cleaned out an entire file cabinet and recycled. I never, and I mean never went in that file cabinet. Why it took me five years to figure that out, I’ll never know!
    I love how you’ve maximized your space in a small way. Less does mean more! Congratulations!

  4. This is something that I am striving towards. I’m there. I’ve stopped using the photocopier to copy things for the students to “do”. I’m working on our staff. It’s going to take some time.
    The last day of school this past year I cleaned out my file cabinet from my teaching days. I’ve been a reading specialist since 2004 and had been in the classroom for 8 years. As I went through each folder, I asked myself “is this something I would use now”? My file cabinet is now empty 🙂

    • Wonderful! I am trying to immediately deal with any paper that comes my way and then get it recycled quickly. So great that you have got rid of so much! I did a huge purge a few years ago. And still – more this summer.

  5. Seriously Carrie, you crack me up! Your purge is monumental! As I sit at my desk at home reading your post, I realize that I have done just what you’ve described at school but that I may have actually just dragged the excess home in the event that I might need it someday. Then, I never have the time to look through the mountains (I am definitely a “piler”) and I end up re-creating rather than looking. So once again inspired by your clarity, right this minute I am going to sit on my floor with your aforementioned attitude “willing to clear out more than I think I should.” I know already how good it will feel.
    Cheers to your celebrations!

  6. This is such a scary but interesting thought for me. I am keeping more on my computer but I still have files left over from my 4th grade teaching years that I know I will never use. But it is hard for me to let go of that…but maybe someday thinking. Maybe reading this post will inspire and encourage me to just let it go!

  7. That drawer is amazing! It makes me want to do the same at home and at school. There are way too many pieces of paper floating around that I will never ever look at. I will try to make that one of my school year goals. 🙂

  8. I’m embarrassed to admit that I recycled at least a whole file cabinet of old lessons when I moved out, Carrie. Thank goodness I had already done some when I moved from the classroom. I still have one box here at home to go through, especially for my writing stuff. You are so right, things are changing, and all of us need to do more electronically. I’ve started to put all my writing on Evernote, and it’s a lot easier to tag than to file. Great post, and challenge!

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