Take the Minimalism Challenge to Tidy Your Art Room!

Have you joined the decluttering craze that’s sweeping the nation? From Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to the immensely popular blog, The Minimalists, people everywhere are getting rid of more and making do with less.

But how can that translate to the art room? Sure, we all know we’d probably be happier with less stuff. But, we’re art teachers. Our lives are stuff!

While it’s impossible to get rid of everything and still run a functional program, there are probably quite a few things you could do without. I personally found this to be true while taking a good hard look at my classroom recently.

That’s why I’ve decided to take on a 30-Day Minimalism Challenge in my art room. This challenge was originally created to help declutter one’s home, but what better place to try it out than a messy art room?

pile of cardboard pieces

I’ve taken the original challenge posed by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, and adapted it for a school setting. Join me!

The 30-Day Minimalism Challenge for the Art Room

First: Find a friend who’s willing to join you.

So here’s the deal with the Minimalism Challenge. First, find a friend who’s willing to take this on with you. This helps to keep you motivated and gives the challenge a competitive edge. There are lots of teachers in your building who, I’m sure, could benefit from this game. Invite lots of people to up the ante!

sign up sheet for challenge

Second: Choose a start date.

Choose a date when you and your colleagues will start. For me, the first of a month makes the most sense.

Third: Start getting rid of things!

For every day of the challenge, you must throw out, donate, or otherwise get rid of the corresponding number of items. For example, on Day 1 of the challenge, you get rid of 1 item. On day 2 of the challenge, you get rid of 2 items. On it goes until on Day 30, you get rid of 30 items.

There is no rule against getting rid of more items on any given day or continuing on beyond the 30 days, so go all out! Maybe now is the time you decide to finally throw out the 17 bottles of rancid tempera paint you inherited. Or donate the 9 bottles of dried out glaze you know you’ll never take the time to reconstitute. And maybe, just maybe, you can let go of the 45 empty yarn cones you’ve been saving for “something” for the last nine years.

If you’d like, use the hashtag #aoecleansweep on Instagram and Twitter to share your progress!

4. Reward the winner(s).

Whichever teacher lasts the longest, wins. Incentivize the game by offering a prize at the end, such as a special lunch or a gift certificate. If you get a large group of people to participate, you can even have everyone chip in a few dollars to put toward the winnings.

If this sounds like fun, here’s a download to help you keep track of your downsizing!

minimalism download

Download Now!

At the end of the day, the biggest prize will be walking into your clean, tidy art room. Imagine how easy it will be to find stuff in your minimalist desk, drawers, and closets. If the minimalist challenge works for you at school, maybe the next stop is your closet at home!

How do you keep your classroom from getting too cluttered year to year?

What places in your art room need a deep clean?

Kelly Phillips


Kelly teaches elementary TAB in Hopkinton, MA . She strives to create an environment where all students can become independent, self-directed risk-takers.


  • Carol M Haggerty

    I’m in ;) Maybe I’ll do this at home too!

    • Kelly Phillips

      Yay! That’s my plan, too!

    • Brian

      It worked the opposite way for me: I started minimizing at home and then realized I needed to do it in my classroom as well!

  • Clark Fralick

    As a minimalist and a TAB teacher, I found it helpful to deal with excesses in my art room on a daily basis. As I’ve learned “just in Case” typically means never. It’s also helps kids focus on what they need to do. Less is More

    • Kelly Phillips

      I agree, Clark! Being a TAB teacher and getting endless donations has definitely made me someone who does’t play the “One day…” game as often as before!

    • Brian Walker

      “Just in case” – three of the most dangerous words in the English language.


    Just curious, an “item” would that be a piece of paper or something more substantial like an old glue bottle?

    • Kelly Phillips

      Honestly, my “items” were a set of old glue bottles, or a tray of fabric that had glitter in it. You can go as big or as small as you want!

  • Sophie Phillips

    I generally find that they day after I throw out say a bag of corks that I have been saving for 5 years is the day that I need them. I find it more useful to let my Art colleagues know what I am chucking out and let them take over the problem…

    • Kelly Phillips

      Agreed, Sophie! I made a throw box and a donate box and gave a whole bunch away if it was still usable.

  • Brian

    The somewhat scary thing for me is that I moved into my current classroom from another classroom in the same building about four years ago. I went through a massive purging/donating/recycling effort in my old classroom so that my move into the new classroom would be easier. When the move happened, my classroom was neater and better organized than any classroom I’d worked in during my entire career! It took less than four years for excess clutter to creep back into my classroom.

    I did the minimalism game at home and thought I’d try a version of it in my classroom back in the Spring. Every day, I’d donate/recycle/dispose of 10 things and I followed that through the end of the school year. I’m planning on picking up from where I left off in September when school starts back up again.

    One thing that I found useful is to give some things away to students. For instance, I put on a “crayon buffet” for my kindergarten classes in order to help me get rid of TONS of old, wrapper-less, stubby little crayons that I had been accumulating for a looooong time! I put bins full of these crayons out during class, gave each child a sealable plastic bag and allowed each of them to fill it up with crayons that they could then take home and use. They loved it and I was glad to get rid of the excess!

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