As an elementary teacher, you know that not having the right containers makes it hard to properly store and access materials. For example, when things are stored in containers that are not transparent or labeled, it causes disorganization and may result in wasted time looking for things. Also, it will cost you money. You’ll often end up rebuying things you can’t find. This post shares classroom storage ideas (free or cheap) and recommends where to find or buy them. Read below to learn about different types of storage solutions that fit your budget.
Classroom Storage Ideas for Elementary Teachers
Below are lists of free and cheap classroom storage ideas. In addition, they is a list of classroom storage ideas that require more of an investment, but may be worth it.
8 Free and Upcycled Classroom Storage Ideas
Don’t be afraid to ask your students’ families, colleagues, friends, and family for donations of any of the items below. When upcycling everyday items, you’ll want to keep the following items on hand: spray paint, Mod Podge, decorative paper (e.g. wrapping paper and scrapbook paper), duct tape, Washi tape, and labels. Be sure to use a consistent color scheme (no more than 3-4 colors) to create a cohesive look in your classroom.
1. Target Boxes
I do love Target at any time of year, but the back-to-school section has a special place in my heart. While I glare at it with bitter eyes in early July because it is way too soon to be thinking about going back, my excitement increases as the summer progresses. In addition to those perfectly pointy Crayolas and gorgeous speckled composition books, there lies hidden treasures. Boxes! Not just any boxes, either: these are sturdy, colorful boxes that are designed to house notebooks and other related supplies. They are also perfect for organizing your classroom (especially the shelves). And they are FREE! I simply condense the straggling folders and notebooks into one box and ask really sweetly for the (now) empty ones. Put a label over the writing and you have some awesome new storage tools.
2. Copy Paper Boxes
The second classroom storage idea on the list is copy paper boxes. Copy paper boxes are easy to obtain, sturdy, and congruent (which makes them easy to stack). The downside is that in their natural state they are ugly and can add visual clutter to your classroom. A simple solution is to cover them in contact paper or fabric to make them not only uniform, but also allow them to match your classroom decor.
3. Shoe Boxes
Cover it in scrapbook or wrapping paper and use it to hold things like science experiment materials and math center games.
4. Baby Wipes Containers
Baby wipes come in a variety of different containers made of hard plastics. They can often be stacked and are good options for housing a variety of small manipulatives or art supplies.
5. Pringles Cans
The fifth classroom storage idea on the list is Pringles cans. Pringles cans are tall and also come with a lid which is great for games or holding things inside.
6. Crystal Lite Containers
These containers are perfect for holding smaller items. They are sturdy and have a lid. The label peels off extremely easily and you are then left with a clear container.
7. Stonyfield Yogurt Containers
Cover it in duct tape and Washi tape and use it to store smaller items in your classroom.
8. Progresso Bread Crumbs Containers
The last item on the list of free classroom storage ideas is Progresso Bread Crumbs containers. These sturdy containers are great for holding things like rulers and popsicle sticks.
5 Cheap Classroom Storage Ideas for Teachers
Below are 5 cheap classroom storage ideas for elementary teachers.
1. Ziploc Bags
Ziploc bags are outstanding for organizing within a container. I love them because they come in so many sizes and you can add labels or write directly on the bag.
2. Small Trash Bags
Small trash cans are perfect for storing pattern blocks, multilink cubes, and other math manipulatives that kids grab by the handful to use. They fit perfectly on storage shelves and the open top works well in this situation.
3. IKEA Magazine Holders
IKEA magazine holders work great for organizing photocopies. They are cheap (especially if you are able to snag the super frugal cardboard ones, like the ones sold at IKEA). They are open on top which makes it easy to add and remove papers. Also, they have a wee bit of expansion ability so you can stuff them if you have a week that is copy-heavy. The downside to this low-budget option is that they will wear down over time if used as-is. You can reinforce them with packing tape, but honestly the cost is so low it makes more sense to me to just replace them as needed. I would estimate their lifespan to be a couple years.
4. Dollar Store Containers
Dollar Store containers are great! Be cautious about mixing and matching too many sizes and colors. Using containers that are the same size, shape and color will present a much more organized appearance.
5. Containers from The Dollar Spot at Target
The Dollar Spot at Target offers so many different containers. It’s easy to find something that will be perfect for the space you are working with.
10 Investment Classroom Storage Ideas
Below are 10 classroom storage solutions that are more expensive, but may be worth it. You can decide!
1. Construction Paper Organizer
After YEARS of struggling with organizing, managing, and storing construction paper, I finally caved in and bought a sorter for that purpose. I’ve now owned my construction paper organizer for many years and am happy to report that it has far exceeded my expectations. It has not only solved an ongoing problem I had, but even after years of use, it continues to be sturdy and look like new. I’m always hesitant to purchase things made out of cardboard, but this item has been phenomenal.
2. Wooden Literature Sorter
Not only does a wooden literature sorter work great for student mailboxes, but also for unfinished work boxes. I recommend assigning a number to each student, labeling each box with a number, and placing a list of student names and numbers next to the boxes so classmates and volunteers can help to put assignments in when needed. I found that sliding different colored papers into each slot, as well as using different colors to label the boxes, provided helpful visual cueing. This made it easier for students to find the correct box quickly.
3. Corrugated Literature Sorter
If you are looking for a cheaper version of the wooden literature sorter, check out this corrugated literature sorter. I have used a cardboard version, but found it did not withstand the amount of daily use that these boxes endure. I think it is worth the investment to get a sturdy wooden set.
4. 10 Drawer Cart
Although a bit pricier, my favorite way to store classroom items is in plastic drawers. They provide vertical storage and are easy to move around as needed. I’m especially fond of the drawers that slide out all the way. A 10 Drawer cart are really worth the initial investment.
5. 3 Tier Cart
We have all seen these carts all over social media, and for good reason! 3 tier carts are great! They are a fantastic tool to keep near your small group table so you can easily access everything you need quickly and easily for your small group instruction.
6. Stacking Trays
These stackable trays have grooves that hold them in place. These stacking trays will fit perfectly on top of your desk.
7. Small Containers for Centers
These small colorful containers are great for storing math and word study centers. Stick a label on them so you or your students can grab them and go.
8. Clear Storage bins
For larger items such as seasonal items and thematic units, you may wish to consider the bigger bins and tubs. It’s easy to see inside of the bins because they are clear. That’s why I also stick with clear storage bins for this purpose.
9. Tiny Containers
These tiny containers are great for storing dice for math and word study games. They effectively prevent dice from flying around the room during learning time.
These colorful baskets are great for all kinds of centers (e.g. math and science).
We hope you found these classroom storage ideas helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts: