Organizational Tips for Messy Student Desks

Teach Your Students These Proactive Positive Habits for Neat Workspaces

messy school desk
Photo Courtesy of Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Neat desks are essential to help students build constructive study habits, organizational skills, and a clear mind for concentration. I know for myself, how much better I feel when I come into my classroom in the morning and things are all straightened up from the afternoon before. It works the same for students. When they have clean desks, they feel better about school and the whole classroom just has a better atmosphere for learning.

Here are a four simple strategies that I've found help students keep their desks as neat and structured as possible. I hope they'll work for you and your students, as well.

1. Little Stuff is Everywhere


The Solution: A plastic shoebox-size container, which can be bought at any Wal-mart or Target store, is a cheap and lasting solution that keeps all of the little things together in one place. No more pencils, calculators, or crayons stuffed in the nooks and crannies of a desk. Once you buy a set of these containers, they'll last you years and save you at least a dozen or more gray hairs!

2. Loose Paper Explosions


The Solution: If you look in your students' desks and see countless loose papers flying all around, then you need my patented solution - the Neat Folder. It's simple, really - just give each student a folder in which to keep their loose papers that they will need again in the future.

With all of the items consolidated, the inside of the desk assumes a more organized and sophisticated look. Well, at least as sophisticated as a 30-year old school desk can look! Give students each color-coded folders that correlate with each subject. For example, blue folder is for math, the red folder is for social studies, the green folder is for science, and the orange folder is language arts.

3. There is Not Enough Room


The Solution: If there are simply too many items in your students' desks, consider keeping some of the less-used books in a common area, to be distributed only when needed. Take a critical look at what you're asking children to store in their desks. If it's too much for comfort, alleviate some of the items in competition for precious storage space. Every little bit makes a difference. Try creating space on the bookshelf just for student textbooks. This will help alleviate all of that extra clutter in their desks.

4. Students  just won't keep his/her desk clean


The Solution: As soon as it's tidied up, it transforms back into its formerly disastrous state. Some students just can't seem to keep their desks clean for any length of time. Consider implementing a program of consequences and/or rewards to motivate the student to maintain the proper standards of desk cleanliness. Maybe the student has to miss recess, maybe he or she can work towards earning a privilege. Find a plan that works for that student and stick to it!

Those are my top tips for helping students keep their desks clean. Now if someone could just tell me how to keep the piles from forming on my own desk!

For students with extremely messy desks, consider implementing these extreme messy desk strategies. And, for an overall ultimate organized classroom try these tips.

Edited by: Janelle Cox