Peeking into someone’s teaching closet is a little like walking down a hotel hallway with doors open; you can’t help yourself but look inside!  At least I can’t! I’m always curious to see how people manage their STEM Challenge materials, especially! Like so many others, I binge-watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up series on Netflix.  It was the thing I needed to force me to take a serious look at my STEM Challenge materials closet. Let me tell you, the situation was dire. Maybe you can relate. I recorded a video to show you how I’ve organized things so far:




Some things I learned…

Thing 1: Letting Go is Hard to Do

I probably should have gone in the order Marie Kondo recommended to hone my ability to tell what sparks joy so I could get rid of things more easily. Do I really need that 3-inch piece of leftover pipe cleaner? Probably not, but I’ve convinced myself these things will be perfectly good for something, someday …  So, yeah, I didn’t actually get rid of much. I probably don’t really need everything I kept.


Thing 2: It’s OK to Keep Stuff

However … Kondo told someone in one episode that tidying up wasn’t strictly about getting rid of things.  It’s about keeping the things that spark joy or serve you in a future context, but also making sure each of those things have a dedicated place.  This was ultimately what helped me break past my resistance of tidying up my STEM materials closet. I need to know it’s OK to keep things for a rainy day, and of course, those things should have a home. Now, when it does rain, I’ll be able to quickly find what I’m looking for — score!


Thing 3: Everything Has Its Place

About everything having a place … how many times have you been certain you have cardboard tubes, but you can’t remember where you’ve been collecting them? It happens to me constantly because I tuck things away in weird spots or in shoeboxes in deep storage without labels. I thought a lot of my shoeboxes were empties that turned out to have materials inside. That has been rectified, and it’s a big difference! It’s fine to use shoeboxes, I think, but so helpful to finally have labels. Why did that take me so long to do, I don’t know! It took all of two minutes.


Thing 4:  Treat Yourself

Storage containers are worth the money. I’m a frugal gal. I pride myself on making do and not wasting money. But, you know what, buying these two metal carts from Ikea (~$40 each) was worth it! Could I have gotten away with something cheaper? Yes, I’m certain. Does it make me smile to see these pretty purple babies when I open my closet? YES!!! And does it spark joy to see things in their own well-organized space? Absolutely! A sense of calm washes over me when I know exactly where to find what I have.  Getting a mixture of storage containers is helpful. The deep drawers of the plastic rolling carts (Amazon links below) are great for some things, but a total disaster for others. Having the shallow drawers of the purple carts and the shallow wide plastic containers from Costco makes seeing what I have and accessing it easy and enjoyable!

They say time is money. Considering how much time I’m going to save not running around frantically searching for materials anymore is an indicator good storage is worth the investment!


Thing 5: Being Organized Feels Good

In the past, I have always found comfort in the Einstein quote, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk a sign?”

My mess was an indicator that things were happening! I’ll be honest, I still believe that to an extent. I believe there is a case to be made for chaos, but I also believe order and organization can be enjoyable and beneficial. It’s just not efficient to spend so much time searching for items.


Some storage container suggestions:

Some of the links below are affiliate links. These are items I am actually using and loving. 


From Amazon (but check Target before buying; prices might be better there!)

Sterilite Rolling Carts


Sterilite Shoeboxes


From Ikea:

Rolling Utility Carts (I have three of these in my office and love them.  I don’t use them for materials storage, which is why you didn’t see them in this video, but I think others may find them useful for storage/distribution of materials.)


Purple Rolling Carts



There's no way around it: If you love doing STEM Challenges, you've probably been challenged yourself to keep your mini warehouse of materials organized and accessible. Click through to the blog to see what I've got on hand and where I'm storing how I'm getting organized!