“A place for everything and everything in its place.” That’s the goal all educators share for their crowded classrooms. And, even on a tight budget, you can make this dream a reality by getting a little creative and turning everyday items into lifesavers for the classroom. We’ve combed Pinterest and the blogospheres for 17 of the best ideas to make your classroom more manageable for the upcoming school year. Best of all, each one comes in at a cost of under $17*!
1. Wine rack for marker storage ($12.55)
Get plastic cups to fill with markers, pens, and crayons, and then place them laying down in the wine rack. This trick makes keeping art supplies in check a breeze; students can either can come to take the items they need, or you can pass out the cups to different stations. Find the wine rack here!
2. Shoe organizer for craft supplies ($4.27)
An over-the-door shoe organizer can be a great addition to your classroom, as it takes up zero desk or table space. Place any supplies in the shoe cubbies, such as pipe cleaners and glue sticks, to make an off-the-ground art supply center, or give students a personal cubby where they can receive anonymous notes of encouragement. Find the shoe organizer here!
3. Chip-and-dip tray for art supplies ($1)
Keeping supplies contained and off of your classroom floor is a constant challenge. A chip-and-dip tray can be a great solution for this problem. The lip on the tray will help contain even the smallest teaching tools, like beads for a counting activity. Find the tray here!
4. Jewelry organizer for small items ($9.65)
Use a plastic jewelry organizer to keep smaller classroom items in check. These compact containers with multiple compartments stack well in storage closets or on shelves for easy student access. Find the jewelry organizer here!
5. Muffin pan for portable art center ($1)
Transform this bakeware into a classroom organizer by placing plastic cups in each of the muffin holes. Fill up the cups with markers, pencils, or any supplies your students need, and distribute the trays to desk clusters or workstations. Find the muffin pan here!
6. Ice pop molds for crayons ($6.31 for two)
Ice pop molds are perfect for keeping markers and crayons contained at workstations. No assembly required—fill the molds with your drawing utensils and go. Find the trays here!
7. Squeeze ketchup bottles for paint storage (virtually free)
Paint can be a teacher’s worst nightmare—not anymore with this trick! By cleaning out old squeeze ketchup bottles and filling them with paint (instead of keeping your paint in big, unwieldy jugs), you can turn a potential mess into a controlled activity that your students will enjoy.
8. Bench with three tubs and fabric top ($10.47 for 3)
Create a cute and comfy reading bench for your classroom. Take three storage bins with holes and use zip ties to bind them together in a row. Once the bins are secure, flip them on their side with the open tops facing outward and place a body pillow on top for comfort. This hack creates the perfect spot for your students to read; plus, you can use the bins to store books or other items. Find the tubs here!
9. Duct-tape-covered boxes for decorative storage ($3.02)
Elevate your classroom storage for next to no cost with this simple hack. Take any cardboard box, and use a box cutter remove the flaps from the top. Next, wrap colorful duct tape around the box until it is completely covered. Not only is this a great way to upcycle used cardboard boxes, but it also reinforces the cardboard for a sturdy storage option. Find rainbow-scales duct tape here!
10. Placemats to hide storage ($1.49)
Everything should have its place, and sometimes you need to be inventive, even if the spot isn’t ideal. Space above cabinets is great for storing items that are not of everyday use, but it can create a bit of an eyesore. Keep your classroom looking neat and organized by hanging placemats from the ceiling to cover above-cabinet storage. The placemats can be attached with string or tacks so that you can simply lift the placemat and pull out what you need for the day. Find the placemats here!
11. Canvas work aprons for “seat sacks” ($0.97)
Have students keep track of their personal supplies with a seat sack. Simply tie a canvas work apron around the back of each chair, and your work is complete. The pockets in the apron are ideal for pencils, pens, scissors, and other small items. Find them here!
12. Magazine holders for homework organization ($4.32 for a set of four)
Reduce homework hassles for both you and your students. Set one magazine holder on its side and then glue another on top of it. Repeat this until you have reached your desired height. Create a second set, and then adhere the sets together back-to-back on their closed ends so that each student has a slot. Find them here!
13. Dish rack folder holder ($1)
This is the easiest hack of them all! Use a plastic dish rack and put all of your folders in it—that’s it! The divots in the rack are the perfect width to keep each folder in place, while the space normally meant for silverware is perfect for miscellaneous notes or pens. Find the rack here!
14. Pom-poms for dry-erase board erasers ($1.65)
Dry-erase boards are must-have classroom tools, but accessories that go with them can be hard to keep track of. Keep things simple by combining dry-erase markers and erasers into one handy tool. Take a hot-glue gun, make a ring on the bottom of a marker with glue, and then press the pom-pom against the glue for five seconds so that the glue can cool and set. Find the pom-poms here!
15. Book dividers with paint stir sticks and stickers ($7.96 for 50 pack)
Help your students learn about alphabetical order, and organize your book shelves at the same time! Place letter stickers at one end of each stir stick until you complete the alphabet. Then, use the stir sticks to organize your classroom library alphabetically. Find the sticks here!
16. Plastic storage containers for Play-Doh and other storage ($1.98 for 4)
Students love Play-Doh, but it can cause headaches for teachers trying to store it and prevent it from drying out. Use plastic storage containers as an easy solution because they keep Play-Doh at the right consistency so that students can play with it repeatedly (and you can save a few extra dollars!). In addition to Play-Doh storage, low-priced plastic storage containers can be handy for lots of other supplies in your classroom. Find the plastic storage containers here!
17. Placemats for a reading circle ($1.79)
Take some of the potential for chaos out of reading circle time by using a personalized placemat to give each student a defined space. If necessary, you can use duct tape to secure the placemats to the floor. Find the placemats here!
Looking for even more cheap and easy ideas for classroom organization? Check out this article from BuzzFeed with 29 Clever Organizational Hacks for Elementary School Teachers or take a look at this blog post for 7 Essential Elements Every Classroom Needs!
* Note: Pricing and availability of products featured are subject to change. These prices were current at the time of posting.