Last Saturday, I talked about how Tiny Shifts in our habits, behavior, and actions can, over time, affect change in our lives.  Even small micro-adjustments can, if consistently implemented, move us further toward our goal of focus, simplicity, and tranquility.  

One place where these small changes can be particularly effective over time is in reducing clutter.  Here are five tiny shifts you can make to create space in your life when you find yourself overwhelmed with the flotsam and jetsam that comes with being the successful educator you are.  

These are not intended to be (read this in your best, reverberating radio announcer voice) GIANT CHANGES, but instead should be small, consistent, slightly out of your typical habit ninja moves that will, I promise, result in less clutter and more space in your world.

  1. Clean your desk. I never used to bother with this because I didn’t think I had time. So every morning I would come in and start my day buried in the detritus of the previous afternoon. But a few weeks ago, I started taking the time (and we’re really only talking about ten minutes or less) to straighten my desk and remove everything that doesn’t absolutely HAVE to be there. The impact it has had on my disposition and sense of peace to arrive in the morning and sit down to a clean, uncluttered desk is startling and its effect cannot be overstated. Start doing this tomorrow.
  2. Clean some other space. Find some other space in your classroom that needs tidying up. It can be one of the counters, a corner, or a closet that has become overrun with a heap and jumble of excessive nothingness. Clear it. Clean it.  Make it purty.
  3. Take One Thing Off Your Calendar. Look at the current week of your calendar and remove one thing. No, not your doctor’s appointment, Grandpa’s birthday celebration, or Tiffany’s session at the gun range. Look for things that SEEM urgent and necessary, but aren’t. If you don’t go to that third church potluck this year, for example, I promise that God will understand.
  4. Throw stuff out.  I guarantee that you have many clothes, old papers, useless lesson plans in file cabinets, ancient teaching units, and even outdated philosophies that can be tossed and, well, good riddance. You don’t need that stuff. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you won’t. My recommendation is to start practicing by taking one week and throw away ten things every day. If you throw away 70 items in one week (be proud of me, I did that math in my head. . .), you should feel a difference in the space you’ve created.
  5. Rid yourself of eClutter. If you’re like me, the desktop on your computer is a giant mess. My Google Drive is such a sick abyss of files, folders, and images that, judging from the leftover garbage and noise at night, I’m pretty sure a family of four lives in it.  So here’s my suggestion:  Every time you open your laptop or your Google Drive, take 5-10 minutes and do something: delete files, create a folder, move stuff to the trash, or clear your email inbox. If you don’t like working in time increments, pick 5 THINGS that you can deal with. If you do this, even for a week, you’ll be able to breathe more easily and find the things you DO need in that crazy lair we call CyberSpace.

Let’s face it: All of that stuff is not there because you like it or need it. It’s there because it’s always been there and you’re familiar with it. So what? Less is better! Jettison it!  Committing to less creates space to let in more good, fun, soul-fulfilling stuff that you like.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the chaos and the white noise of modern life, exercise a tiny shift by doing one or more of the five steps mentioned above to create some space and breathing room for a more focused teaching practice and a more thoughtful, fulfilling life. TZT