Sunday, January 11, 2015

Containing Classroom Clutter: Cubbies

Hi All,
Almost my entire career I have had tables instead of desks in my classroom.  I like tables.  They foster a sense of teamwork, cooperative grouping is easy, and students get a lot of surface space to work.  I do not like tables, however, because unlike desks, they do not give students a place to keep their notebooks, pencil boxes, and various other supplies.  I teach 4th grade, so instilling a responsibility for one's own belongings is a big thing.  We don't do community supplies, so where do students keep all of their "stuff"?

I have tried many things.  When I first started at the school I now teach at I used these plastic stacking bins.  They worked well, until they broke.  They stuck out at the end of the tables so they took up space in the aisle.  When I only had 6 tables in class that wasn't much of a problem.

Then class sizes grew.  Last year I had 9...  yes, NINE student tables in my classroom.  That is a lot of tables, chairs, and bodies!  As class sizes started growing and space became more and more limited, I looked for other alternatives.  One year, I was able to get each students their own Sterilite drawer similar to this one:

Students kept them on their desk along with a magazine box for their spirals and papers.

This drove me CRAZY!!!   I can't handle clutter all over 9 tables.  At the end of the day, I felt frazzled just looking at all of the boxes covering the surfaces of the room.

About 5 years ago I tried wire racks.  I put together sets of four and they sat at the end of each table.  Each student got their own space.  They took up a lot of room, but it was the best I could do.  Then they bent, the connectors broke, pencils and erasers fell through the grids.  I kept them on life support for the last 3 or so years with the help of zip-ties, but this winter I finally had had enough.
Just a note that this is what the wire racks looked like AFTER the students had cleaned them up before they left for winter break.  It is not a TRUE representation of how messy they were on a regular basis.  :)  

What I really wanted was something similar that would slide under the tables, up against the legs.  This would get rid of wasted space and make more room in the aisles.

I had been talking about this for years.  I searched online, I searched Ikea, Target, Walmart, AAAAHHHH!!!   Either it wasn't the right size or it would cost me an arm and a leg...  and I need both of my arms and both of my legs.

Over winter break, as I was going on and on about my cubby dilemma and showing pictures on the internet to my husband, he jumped on board and started looking up plans to help me build custom cubbies.

I secretly think he just needed an excuse to buy a table saw, but hey...  whatever it takes right?!

It took us about a week from customizing the plans, putting together and testing the table saw, buying the materials, construction, sanding, and painting.

But now I have beautiful new cubbies!

 I have 8 tables in my classroom this year and these cubbies have made a HUGE difference in the space we have.
AND...  at the end of the day, when students leave the tables are completely cleaned off and I can breathe a sigh of relief!  
In all, building the cubbies cost about $300 for materials: wood, screws, glue, and paint.  I know that is a lot of money and it was a lot of work, but in the end it is totally worth is to me.  They fit perfectly where I need them to fit, they match my color scheme, and they will last for a very long time.  

Do you have Containing Clutter advice?  I'd love for you to share your tips, just leave a comment.  

Thank you for visiting!  

Recent resources added to my store, Literacy Loves Company:

Glacier Grab 2!  - 5th grade

Glacier Grab! - 4th Grade


  1. In response to the yoga ball, I love them in my room. You have probably already solved your problems, but I have a class set and my students love them. We have two rules: 1) keep your bottom on the ball. This prevents standing and dropping back onto it as well as high bouncing. 2) two feet on the floor. Students begin to understand the safety aspects and generally respect the rules. It is a simple reminder and students know what I mean when I call a student's name and say "rule two." Their feet quickly come back to the floor. I'm struggling because they take up more room than chairs, but I would love to get rid of desks. I like your cubby idea and may try something similar or go to community supplies.
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Tori, for the advice. The bouncing has minimized and the squeaking has subsided for the most part. Overall, I love the yoga balls and enjoy sitting on them myself, so they are worth the little bit of adjusting it takes to get use to them. :)

  2. What are the dimensions of your cubbies?

    1. Hi Jeanne,
      The cubbies are 26" x 26" for each set.
      Thanks for visiting!

  3. Oh my goodness, your cubbies are so beautiful! I love how they fit perfectly at the ends of your tables!! I showed my hubby the pictures . . . he loves using his saw, too! :)