Managing materials without a teacher’s desk!

December 19, 2011

Managing materials without a teacher’s desk!

December 19, 2011
I got rid of my teacher’s desk a few years back when I had a large 5th grade class in a small room–we were so squished that year!

I remember how nervous I was about doing so…I actually felt a bit sick over it and almost talked myself out of it!

But I knew it had to be done. I mean, I am the worst kind of teacher-hoarder and all kinds of interesting items were lurking in those wooden drawers!

So, out went the desk and instead I used this cool piece of furniture…kind of like a big hutch with a desktop that pulled out. Oooo…I actually have an old picture of it (and it was not always that neat, believe me!):

But…I’ve been doing a HUGE decluttering of my room this year (actually it’s taken about two years!) and that hutch thing was starting to get on my nerves. It was so bulky and tall…and everything else is pretty low and uniform in the room, furniture-wise.

So it was goodbye hutchy!

What do I have now?

A round table to take groups (or pile my junk, which I am still working on curbing!!!). For my supplies, I have plastic drawers (I think you may have seen some of these on here before, but I’m not sure).

I made sure I bought clear ones, so I couldn’t hoard stuff so easily (no hidden messes!). And I made double-sure they were all labeled, to keep everything neat. And this has worked so well for me!! I’ve been very good about putting my materials away in the right place! (and all this time I was thinking my students were the only ones who needed labels…)

I have two sets of those small 3 drawer units for the little teacherly items…

(Gasp! How embarrassing! You can see the hot glue strands on my label, don’t look!!!)

And these little guys sit on two sets of larger 3 drawer units…

For my teaching manuals and files, I use a bunch of these 3 drawer units…

The cool thing about these drawers is they can stack three high and make a kind of countertop surface!

So I made all of my supply labels with a little apple icon, to show they belong to the teacher. The kids are very good about not opening these unless asked. We joke about how 99.8% of the room is theirs to begin with!!

I hope this is of some kind of help if you are thinking about removing a teacher desk. I have never regretted it and I feel like I have been able to fine-tune my organization more each year without it!

Do you have a desk (I’m sure you’re much more organized with it than I ever was!!)? If you don’t, how do you store your materials? I’m always looking for new inspiration. Thanks for reading! 🙂


  • Alicia December 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

    I just got rid of my desk a few weeks ago due to SmartBoard/laptop locations. I would love to see a wide-screen pic of your drawers just to see how you have it all set up! I am currently using an entertainment cart (ha) as a laptop station. I have a 2 drawer file cabinet to my right and a 3 drawer cart to my left. I am using the entire counter space next to my sink for teacher storage too but so far everything is working out very well! I now have a HUGE open space for my kids to read in and I love that.

  • Tara December 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Love this!!! Will you come do my classroom?! I have a desk but don't use it as a desk…it is my technology table. It holds my ELMO, laptop, projector, wireless keyboard. I use a kidney table as my desk/guided reading area and I have a bookcase behind it for my teacher stuff.

    4th Grade Frolics

  • Kelley Cirrito December 20, 2011 at 12:22 am

    I do have a desk, but I am considering getting rid of it. Where do you put your computer and all your other technology? I also agree what I would like to see a wide shot of your drawers and how everything is organized! 🙂

  • Littlest Learners December 20, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Oh the irony.
    I spent the afternoon cleaning out my desk with plans to finally get rid of it over the holiday break.

    And blog about the process as well. 🙂

    While doing so I was planning my labels for my supply draw and thought "maybe I'll go round a la Ladybug."

    Your timing is so coincidental. Hope you're doing well. ❤Jodi from…
    ★★The Clutter-Free Classroom★★
    Helping Teachers Get Organized

  • Reagan Tunstall December 20, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I don't know whether to be jealous or just so amazed. I guess I am both. I don't have a desk, but I have piles stacking up. They are hidden, but they are making me CRAZY…do you immediately file everything back in it's spot or do you have piles too? Do you have a sweet little drawer that has a label that says…lazy clutter? If so, please share!!! 🙂 oh who am I kidding…I would be too lazy to put it on anything…it would end up in a pile. 🙁

  • Laurie December 20, 2011 at 1:24 am

    I have a desk but have been thinking about getting rid of it. I NEVER sit at it. My students have sat at it more than me and they feel so IMPORTANT when they get the chance to complete work at it. I only use it to stack up paperwork!!


  • sydney December 20, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Hey Kristen – hmmm I cant decide what to do after seeing your post! I have a desk but it's in my trailer that I DON'T use! I teach small groups this year so I carry everything around in a tote bag (organized inside by bags, folders and small containers) but even that drives me crazy!

    – Sydney

  • tiffany @ the nest effect December 20, 2011 at 1:48 am

    It's so nice to see what your classroom is like. I'd love to see more pictures in the future. =]


  • teachermom December 20, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Yes, Yes, Yes! More pics,please. I have tried everything under the sun but am still looking for just the right system of organization.

  • Katie December 20, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Too funny that you posted this, I just got rid of my desk last week. The other 6th grade teachers thought I was crazy, but I am loving it. I am amazed at how much more room I have. I too have lots of clear drawers for storage, and I am actually planning on getting a few more over the holiday break. Luckily, I have a large bookcase near that I store lots of my essential teacher books and such on. I am getting ready to get a kidney table to meet with small groups, and when I need to sit, that is where I will be.

    Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

  • A Teacher's Treasure December 20, 2011 at 2:57 am

    I got rid of my desk when I taught elementary but when I moved up to middle school I brought it back. I just needed some space for myself, somewhere to leave my lap top and do my work. I love your labels!!!! I totally need to do that! Im not going to lie (i know i'm nuts) but I always have an itch to go to school during break (yes yes me, the one that counts the minutes till vacation) and work on my stuff and get organized.

    ❤ Mor Zrihen ❤
    A Teacher's Treasure

  • Jen R. (The Teachers' Cauldron) December 20, 2011 at 3:29 am

    I would LOVE to get rid of my desk!! But they won't take it away 🙁
    I am a label junkie too!! check out this post that shows just a snidbit..

    ♥ Jen Ross
    The Teachers' Cauldron

  • Erika December 20, 2011 at 3:34 am

    I am contemplating giving my desk the heave ho. Would you post a few pictures of your whole "desk" area please?
    2B Honey Bunch

  • Ms.M December 20, 2011 at 5:29 am

    I had one of those collage dorm room desk that they sell at Walmart for $50.00. However, this year, it is more of a storage/ counter top area for me. I am using two smaller rectangular tables in the shape of an L. I love it. I use part of it for my materials and the other part for my small group instruction. Now everything is at my fingertips and I don't have to walk around looking for it.

    I love your organization. you made me laugh with the hot glue strands. What a riot.

    Ms. M
    Ms.M's Blog
    A Teacher's Plan

  • Erica Bohrer December 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I love it! Thanks for sharing. And yes, post whole classroom pictures please!

  • Kristen December 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Thank you so much guys!! I will share more pics at the end of the week once we clear up everything for vacation. Right now it's a sea of glitter and construction paper!!!

  • Kelley Cirrito December 21, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I gave you a shout out on my blog for your blends/digraph posters! I love, love, love them!

  • Stephanie December 21, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I am looking for cute labels for newly acquired furniture (I wrote a grant and got EVERYTHING I asked for!) Is there a chance that you'd be willing to sell blanks? and some with the apple on it? I love these so much!

  • Kelly December 21, 2011 at 2:28 am

    I am slowly working mine out. Got rid of the "associate" desk this fall, moved my current part time help into mine (a smaller desk) and moved me to a "bean" table, a set of three drawers like yours and a couple of shelf units. Now I want to shove a few more things out! What an inspiration! Thanks.

  • Rebecca December 22, 2011 at 3:30 am

    I would also love to see more! LOVE the labels and would be very interested in buying some (either blank with the apple or with the labels already 🙂 ) I struggle with having piles and clutter and am using my workday tomorrow to start labeling and organizing 🙂

  • Lori December 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    i bought colored boxes (photo boxes, office boxes) and labeled them. Stack them on a shelf so it is handy and looks nice and uncluttered in my classroom. I haven't had a desk for years because I noticed it was my catch all instead of a workable space for me.

  • Mrs. Cockrell December 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Do you have a round punch that cuts out your labels or do you cut them by hand or on a Cricut, etc? I LOVE them!!

  • Kristen December 28, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Kelley! Thank you very much, what a nice thing to do! I'm so glad you could use the file.

    Stephanie, I will try to share something like these soon 🙂

    Kelly and Rebecca thanks!

    Lori, what a brilliant idea! I love how those boxes look, what a great item for storage.

    Mrs. Cockrell, I use a circle cutter (I am a bit obsessed with it, lol):

  • Jane December 28, 2011 at 5:51 am

    This is such a great idea!
    I can't use my desk usually anyway since it always seems to be buried under a pile of things I need to do.
    If I didn't have a desk, maybe I would just do things straight away instead of piling them up. 😉
    It's worth thinking about…

  • Stacy December 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Kristen, I got rid of my desk over the summer…along with A LOT of my kids desks as well! Instead we have lots of alternative seating options because how many kids do you know begging to stay seated in their desk all day? 😉 I LOVE your labels and would love to see more pictures of your room and I agree with Holly on seeing the overall area.

    On my blog I have pictures of my room without 20 desks, a letter for parents and administrators sighting research for this approach as well as lesson plans for implementing this into your room.

    I would love for you to check it out

    Ps: I LOVE your blog and am definitely a follower!

    2nd Grade Paradise

  • Elisabeth January 5, 2012 at 2:58 am

    I got rid of my desk several years ago and do the exact same thing you do with your drawers. I found that my desk only collected more crap. And we all know that teachers don't need more crap!

    Twins, Teaching and Tacos.

  • Kristen January 5, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Thanks Jane! Stacy, I just stopped by and I love your blog posts showing your classroom!!

    Elisabeth, you cracked me up–this is so true!

  • Miss Foote January 7, 2012 at 6:34 am

    One of the first books I read, after beginning teaching, was On Solid Ground, by Sharon Taberski. She talked about the percentage of space the teacher desk takes up verses the amount of space each student has and what that says about student/teacher roles. We all learn, I just facilitate:-) So I immediately found a way to get rid of my desk and use a smaller "student" size table. You can check it out here:


  • Linda Nelson January 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Funny story: I, too, got rid of my teacher desk (a.k.a. pile storage facility) last year – such a huge improvement for the kids, the classroom, instruction, and me! The first time my administrator came in to observe (he usually sits at the teacher's desk to do this), he looked totally confused, then apologetic -"We can get you a desk, you know." I explained the logic and also gave a low-key research-based justification when we had the post-conference. He looked at me like I was totally out of my mind, and said again, "We can get you a desk, you know." Oh, well – at least he didn't make me get the huge desk back again! 🙂

    Great blog, by the way – I'm enjoying your videos!

  • Danielle May 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

    I LOVE this idea! By this time in the year, I'm noticing my supplies are trashed from student use. What fond did you use and where did you get that adorable apple icon? I love it!

  • marta June 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

    When I first started teaching at my current school several years ago I was baffled because there were no desks – just tables… It didn't take me long to fall in love with that approach. I also got rid of a proper desk and now I have a small, sleek one that attaches to a bookshelf (thanks Ikea). There are no drawers to collect clutter. I do have a few small storage containers to hold essentials. Everyone is talking about getting rid of their desk – for me the first thing that I got rid of was the filing cabinets. Most of my resources that would be in a filing cabinet are stored digitally with one copy in a binder. The drawers could too easily become dumping grounds so out they had to go.

    Thanks for all of your ideas everyone!

  • Jill Peck June 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I a, going to be a first grade aide in the fall and am looking for storage ideas. This is great. I would love to create the same labels you have. Any help with the font and graphics and layout would be tremendous! I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Monica Gadson July 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Are these labels for sale in your store? I cannot seem to find them. Your site is a such a blessing : ) Thanks!

    • Kristen July 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks Monica!! I'm sorry, I don't think I have them anymore and can't seem to find them on my site anywhere (now how bad is that?!?). 🙂

  • Ms.B October 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Love this. I am still decluttering as well. I got rid of my desk last year. I just use my kidney table. We have laptops so my laptop stays on my kidney table or I move it to a shelf when I need to hook it up to the interwrite board. I use 3 drawer plastic bins as well and I actually use a cubby shelf which sits in the back of my table against the wall. On the cubby shelf I have students work, graded papers, etc. I use the top of the shelf for my files. Its still a work in progress but Im determined to declutter my room.

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