3 Easy Ways to Corral Art Room Clutter

If your classroom looks anything like mine this time of year, you might be thinking about getting more organized. Sure, you could wait until spring or next school year, but the following organizational tips are so super simple and quick, there is no reason to wait! A few small things can go a long way to making the last half of the year feel a lot more streamlined.


1.Re-label Your Storage:  If you haven’t jumped on the ‘tote tray’ bandwagon yet, you should! Here is an idea to take it a step further. Try color-coding your storage labels. I put green labels on supplies that students may access at anytime, like pencils, erasers, and scrap paper. Sort of like a green light! Yellow labels are for supplies that students need to ask before getting into (scissors, glue, etc.) and red labels are for things that only I can get out for them.

Photo 1 copy


2. Make Drying Rack Class Markers:  I am always getting classes mixed up in the drying rack. Solving this issue is as easy as printing off and laminating a paper for each class. You can even color code them according to grade level. Once your students have placed all their work in the rack, it’s as easy as laying the right class label with the last papers. You’ll never get classes mixed up at the drying rack again.

3. Put Together a Sub Tub:  I hate leaving lesson plans for subs! I never want them to work on our lessons, but I can’t bring myself to do free drawing days. The solution? The Sub Tub! Put together a folder with your daily schedule, numbers and names of important people around your building, seating charts, an outline of your classroom procedures, a simple evaluation for recording the behavior of each class, and couple developmentally appropriate, highly engaging one-day lesson plans with all the materials need to carry them out. Label it clearly and put it in an easily accessible spot. Those unexpected absences won’t make you scurry ever again!

Small tricks like these can turn you from frazzled to efficient in no time flat!

What are some other methods you use to “corral” art room clutter? 

What else are you ‘color coding’ in your art room these days? 



Sarah D Bio

Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Janis

    Great ideas, Sarah! I especially love the Sub Tub. That can apply to any teacher in any classroom and can bring a lot of peace of mind to teachers when they need to be absent. The color coding of supplies can apply to any classroom as well.

    • Janis, I agree. The mark of a good idea is it’s universal application. So many things can be streamlined with a little label and color coding in any classroom.

  • J. Coyle

    I love the color coding idea! My students are not sure what’s okay to use and what to ask permission for! I will definitely use this idea. I want to share what I do with my drying racks (I’m blessed with two!). I teach 24 classes (Child Development to 5th grade). I tied a ribbon to the frame of the drying rack and put labeled clothes pins (two per class, as I misplace them) on the ribbon. When a class paints or collages, they put their work on the drying rack, and the upper most shelf with the class’ work gets the appropriate clothes pin pinned onto the rack. Sometimes, when the work is dry later in the day, and I need the drying rack space, I can quickly pull the work and use the clothes pin the clip the pile to file away into the class folder later.

    • J., I too was constantly giving or denying access to materials. With this system we are all on the same page. I love the clothespin idea! Easy to see without lifting the shelves, and makes storage neat and tidy. Brilliant!

  • Dell Radcliffe

    Congratulations on being a writer!

  • Awesome! This is super cool!

  • Fran

    Congrats on joining the AOE team! You’ll be amazing!

  • Christy Humpal

    Great post! I mark my drying rack in a similar way, but use clothespins – I ‘sharpied’ the classes onto the pins – kids are trained to load the rack bottom to top, so I can just clip the clothespin where one class ends and another begins – so easy – and if I’m in a rush emptying the drying rack, I can use the clothespin to clip the work together and keep it corralled until I can get it into it’s proper place.

    • Christy, another reader suggested the same strategy and I put it into use this week. I’m loving it! I had a few fifth grade helpers paint the clothespin fluorescent colors so that I’d keep track of them more easily.

  • cfrobeyinc

    Hi Sarah,

    Welcome to AOE! You will inspire many along the way!

    I know you won’t remember but a couple of years ago I spent a morning observing in your art classroom while finishing up my teacher prep. I was very captivated by my observations of your classroom management and your fun art projects the students were working on. A couple of things I watched you implement I even added to in my own art classroom. I was so thankful you allowed me the opportunity to observe.

    • Thanks, Cathy!

    • It’s very cool to see how we have all touched each other’s lives in the past and present, and we didn’t even know it!