Hypothetical Inferno, Hypothetical Escape

I used to have a real clutter problem. I think most teachers do. We suffer from this pervasive idea that we can use this <insert random thing here> later. I blame Pinterest. And the fact that most teachers buy their own supplies, so we become glue-gunning magpies, collecting all sorts of shiny things to use later. Out of necessity, I got a little better at decrapification when I moved from Pennsylvania to Florida, but stuff still piles up. For no reason. At all. Except that I don’t throw it away. Because I might use it later. Oh wait, there is a reason…

So when prompted to decide what 5 items I’d take with me if my apartment caught fire, and everyone I love was out and safe, I was at a loss to come up with anything. I have a lot of stuff. Like a lot. But in the end, I don’t particularly need any of it. It’s stuff. That can be replaced. But probably shouldn’t be. Because it’s non-essential crap. So, yeah, I guess I’d leave everything behind.

We don’t need no water, let the m*f*r burn.


I have enough insurance to cover my laptop and a small professional wardrobe, so I can continue to do my job. All the important documents are in a fire safe, so leave those to do their thing. I mean, this is the existential purpose of a fire safe, right? So I wouldn’t deny its moment in the sun (blaze?). Everything else is non-essential. (See previous post re: boxes of spray paint and general state of simply having too much stuff.) Sure, I’d mourn the loss of my books, pictures, memory foam pillow, etc. But in the end, it’s just stuff. And most of it is crap anyway. So let it burn.

world burn

Wait. I lied. I’d take my cell phone. My mom would drive to Florida and kick my butt if she didn’t have a way to get in touch with me. And I don’t actually know anybody’s phone number. So yeah. Cell phone, then flee the inferno.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Burning Down the House.”

The Big Bag Bother

Today I learned… that my shoulder really freaking hurts.

I once posted about how I don’t carry a teacher bag.  I don’t lug stuff home, I don’t have a giant organizer bag, nothing.  Yeah… this morning I realized that while that may be true… I have a big bother of another bag.  I don’t when I sold my soul to the big bag gods, but at some point I started filling up my purse with random stuff.  Seriously.  It’s weird.  It’s like I subconsciously thought “well it’ll fit, so I’ll just toss it in for now and put it away later.”  Somewhere along the way, I turned my purse into a giant bag of holding (if you don’t know, ask someone in a comic book shop).

Here’s what is inside my bag. I dumped it out and organized it just for you.  Printed copy of student grades?  Check. First aid kit? Check.  Three lip glosses?  Check, check, check.  Lighter, even though I don’t smoke?  Velcro for a bulletin board at school that I absolutely did not have to put in my purse and bring home?  Even trial contacts and contact solution that, again, did NOT have to be in that bag.

ImageThen I weighed it. 6 pounds. 6 pounds of crap I really don’t need. It’s got an undetectable extension charm.  It’s bigger on the inside. Whatever.  It’s over.  I’m done.  I’m breaking up with the giant bag.

Again, those of you carrying around a giant purse, messenger bag, or teacher bag, take note. Big bags are okay, as long as you aren’t packing them full of random things.  That weight is murder on your shoulders, neck, and lower back.  Just ask Oprah.  Take inventory of what you really need on a day to day basis, and get rid of the rest.  Can you keep it at school?  In the car?  Do you absolutely need to carry it around with you?  If not, take it out of the bag.  Your shoulders will thank you.  I really like this article with tips for how to STOP bringing everything home with you.  Teacher burnout isn’t pretty.  Neither is a chiropractic bill.  Ditch the bag.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go empty my TARDIS purse.

Today I Learned… The Teacher Bag is Totally Pointless.

So for many years I had a teacher bag.  It was orange and I got it for free from Staples at one of their teacher appreciation days.  And it was orange.  Bright orange.  I loved it.  Did I mention it was orange?  It was my teacher bag, and I faithfully carried all my stuff to and from school in it.  Teacher guides, tests, worksheets, whatever.

In addition to my orange teacher bag, I often had my lunchbox, my purse, coffee, and a muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts.  I tell you, I would have *killed* Mary Poppins for that bag of hers.  I never truly understood the meaning of the word schlep until I started carrying all that crap around with me.  To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure I understand schlep now.

Seriously.  Multiple teacher editions, tests, worksheets, workbooks, parent contact forms, student data tracking forms… I crammed it all in that stupid orange bag.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  My only consolation is that I knew I wasn’t alone.  Almost every teacher I know carries some form of a teacher bag.  One very seasoned veteran I carpooled with had a fanny pack *and* a briefcase.  He was dedicated.  But we all do the same thing.  We schlep everything home because we will so definitely do ALL OF IT while we watch Netflix.  Or… instead… we won’t.  We’ll cook dinner.  Or drink a glass of wine.  Or clean the house.  Or drink a bottle of wine.  Or spend time with our friends and family.  Or workout.  Or drink a glass of wine.

Yea.  I almost never opened that damn orange bag.  I brought it home, and either left it by the door or left it in the car.  If I did work on stuff from the bag, I never finished all of it.  Never.

So this year, I finally gave up the ghost of the teacher bag.  I don’t take it home unless I absolutely have to because grades are due or I have a conference or whatever.  I don’t bring stuff home.

Don’t get me wrong, I still plan from home.  I create Smart Notebooks and presentations, worksheets, tests, and plan.  But it’s all digital or online.  I don’t physically carry stuff around with me.  Schlep-free for me!

(Mostly schlep-free.  Grades are due tonight, so as I write this I’m looking at a pile of tests that I did bring home to finish.  What can I say?  I write first and retract later.)

What’s my point?  I have no idea.  I guess I’m trying to convince others to give up the teacher bag.  It doesn’t make you a horrible teacher if you don’t bring everything home.  Odds are you aren’t even doing it all every night anyway.  Because life happens.  And it should happen.  I somewhat regret the amount of my early 20s that I wasted on grading parties and data binder nights (more on that another day).  I loved teaching, and I wanted to do it the best I could, but I made myself unnecessarily stressed… all in the name of doing extra work at home that I didn’t need to do.

So now the teacher bag holds something far more important.

Beach clothes.

Burning Down the House! Or Donating Stuff. Whatever.

I am 3 days away from moving from Pennsylvania to Florida.  I’m not quite packed, but I’m almost there.  Turns out packing a 3 bedroom house is much more work than packing an apartment.  Anyway, as I sit here surrounded by moving boxes and packing tape, I am faced with the fact that there is a lot of stuff in my house that I reaalllllyyyy don’t need.  When I moved to Philadelphia to start teaching, I fit all my belongings in the back of Zelda, my Mercury Sable.  Once I started teaching I acquired books, stuffed animals, workbooks, bulletin board sets, pocket charts, and all manner of other things.  And that’s just for work.

So here I am, 3 days from moving to Florida, and I have bags and bags of garbage, bins to move, and boxes of things to donate.  And one thing keeps coming to mind.  How did this happen? 

Honestly, I always thought of myself as a bit of a minimalist.  I blame teaching.  Teaching has turned me into a pinteresting, crafting, oh-but-I-might-use-that-later crazy lady.  I just packed 12 cans of spray paint.  Seriously?  I don’t have a garage or a basement where I’m moving, so I’m not sure where I’m planning on spray painting, or what, but at least I’ll have color choices.

Anyway.  I asked my boyfriend if we could just pack what we wanted and burn the rest down.  He politely and patiently informed me that, no, arson was not a viable solution.  I should probably find another way to deal with the decrapification process.  So.  Keep, toss, or donate?  Tough questions.  Here, inspired by this blog post, I have listed the questions I  asked myself when paring down the boxes and boxes of teaching materials retrieved from the basement.

  • – Did you inherit it?  With the room or from another teacher?
  • – Have you used in the last year?
  • – Is it part of the curriculum?
  • – Does it belong to a curriculum you will teach again?
  • – Can it easily or cheaply be replaced?
  • – Does it make your room a better learning environment?
  • – Does it make your room more attractive?
  • – Does it have all the pieces?
  • – What condition is it in?

Take the giant Constitution print I have.  I have not used it in 3 years.  It’s in pretty good shape.  It is not part of my curriculum, but I know a Social Studies teacher who might like it.  Solved.  Give it away.  The bulletin boards and units leftover from my stint in Elementary School – give it away.  The board games with all their pieces?  Keep.  The 5 coffee tins that I was absolutely going to spray paint (!!!!) and use as storage?  Yeah!! No.  They’re in the recycling bin.

So I am hoping for an uncluttered move, an uncluttered apartment, and an uncluttered classroom.  We’ll see how it works out.

Update: I moved into my Florida apartment 17 months ago. The box of spray paint cans is still at the top of my front closet, untouched. Something is very wrong with me. Can I blame Pinterest for this one?