Why Can’t We Throw Things Away?

I have moved in and out of many classrooms during my teaching career. Some were spacious, full-size classrooms, others were no bigger than a closet. These rooms were in different schools, different districts, even different states, yet they all shared one thing in common.

They could have been featured on an episode of Hoarders.

Teachers, why can’t we throw things away? What is it that compels us to keep workbooks that haven’t been touched in years? Why can’t we purge the twenty-year-old encyclopedias still sitting on our bookshelves? Why do we keep training manuals that are more than a decade old?

The first classroom I inherited had one solid wall of floor-to-ceiling, wood closets. Some of the doors stuck and made loud, whining noises when they opened. Inside, the closets smelled like dusty, yellow newspaper. Each closet contained several shelves and each shelf was packed from top to bottom with workbooks, text books, alpha smarts, board games, fidgets, bulletin board boarders and half-used, faded pieces of construction paper. None of which had been touched in YEARS.

Many of us are counting down the days until summer. We can tell you exactly how many days until the next federal holiday. We can tell you exactly how many years are left until we can retire.

But, we cannot let go of our stuff.

Trying to purge my classroom cabinets and files is a lot like purging my closets at home. While I haven’t worn my once-oh-so-stylish, faded jean jacket in years, I just can’t quite bring myself to part with it due to the extremely remote chance that:

#1 - It could come back in style.

#2-  It will fit again.

#3-  I will second-guess my decision and experience remorse once the jacket I haven’t worn in years, is no longer an option in my closet.

While this thinking has led me to hang on too long to numerous clothing items, can the same be said for overhead projectors, alpha smarts and maps of the U.S.S.R? Isn't it time to let those things go?

This year, I’m vowing to do it.

I’m not going to lie, it feels a lot like going to the gym. I don’t want to work out, but I want to have worked out. I don’t want to clean out the classroom that has been collecting old materials for decades and none of my predecessors chose to do, but I want to have a clean, organized, non-cluttered classroom.

Teachers, at this point I think we have two options. We can make things easier on ourselves-- or at least make it easier for the teachers who will come after us—and throw some things away.

OR, we can join together and pitch a new television series called- Hoarders: Teacher Edition.

I'll bet there are many classrooms that would be perfect for the show.

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