If you’re like me, being organized does NOT come easy. I always know where everything I need is located, but when you are a teacher you need to have a system that will be easy to maintain and easy enough for students and substitute teachers to use with ease. I work in a low-income school, and had to figure out ways to stay organized on a budget since I’d be purchasing items to use to keep my classroom organized with my own money. How did I do it? I’m about to let you in on my little secret… Magazine File Boxes! OK, OK, maybe it’s not a groundbreaking life hack, but these things have made a serious improvement to the organization of my classroom and my home music studio. And let me tell you- they’re not just for magazines! I use these to organize my file cabinets, my book shelves, and the many random items I use in my everyday teaching. Let’s explore further…

File Cabinets

My school is very fortunate to have a large collection of Music K8 magazines. I use this resource all the time to plan for programs and assemblies. But it used to be my worst nightmare to go dig in the file cabinet to find the one I was looking for. It seemed there were two options- pack them in super tight so none could fall over (but you couldn’t see which one was which), or give some room to thumb through them, but struggle with them all falling down and curling into each other all the time. I tried to create separators out of cardboard, but they didn’t hold up well, and then they’d get stuck when I opened and closed the drawers. After a few years of this constant struggle, I had a light bulb moment- maybe magazine file boxes would fit in the file cabinet! I was definitely WAY more excited than I should have been with that revelation. I created a magazine file box for each edition (going by months) of Music K8 magazine. Not only did this keep them from falling all over each other and make it easy for me to find a particular magazine, it also made it super easy to grab what I needed to plan on the go. I was easily able to grab the November-December box and take it home to plan my winter concert! At home, I used magazine file boxes in my filing cabinet to organize all of my sheet music. Now I could easily put my hands on everything I needed while teaching private lessons! This was my first glimpse of what these boxes could do for me, and I was hungry for more!


Once I had my Music K8 nightmares resolved, I decided to try to apply the same logic to my bookshelves. I had a huge collection of teaching materials and picture books that I wanted to have available on hand during class, but many didn’t work well on bookshelves because they didn’t have a strong spine. Many, like my K8 magazines, didn’t have titles on the spines. Magazine file boxes to the rescue again! I sorted these materials into different categories and lined the magazine file boxes up on the bookshelf. Everything was easy to grab and easy to put away- something this organizationally challenged music teacher needed!


Boomwhackers are a class favorite- who wouldn’t want to use these? But organizing them was a challenge. When I only had two sets, I used a bucket to organize them, but we didn’t get them out too often because I didn’t have enough for everyone. Once I’d built up my collection, I took to the Internet to see how teachers were organizing theirs. The most popular option seemed to be beautiful displays on the wall using Velcro, but I couldn’t see that staying nice looking for long and I was afraid the Velcro would peel off. I also saw some options using bag organizers from IKEA, but I wasn’t permitted to install anything like that on the walls or cabinets. What could I use? How about magazine file boxes? I taped these together and wrapped the whole thing up in sheet music print wrapping paper. The labels on the front are fading, but the Boomwhackers have stayed organized in this set-up for about 4 years- it even survived my move to a new building!

Recorder Shelves

This year, my fifth and sixth grade classes came straight to music from recess. This caused some problems for me, since they are required to bring a music folder, recorder book, and recorder to music each day. We tried having them bring their materials in a big basket, but it took FOREVER for them to get everything passed out when they got to class. Enter: Magazine File Boxes. I took a bookshelf and set it up outside my room. This gave the students access to it when they first came down to lunch- my room is adjacent to the cafeteria- without them interrupting the class I was currently working with. Each grade level had their own shelf to use. I have different colored Wenger Flip Forms in my room that we use for seating, so I created a spot on the shelf for each group’s folders/books (in a Magazine File Box) and recorders (in between the boxes). We assigned one student per color to grab the materials on the way in, and it only took a few seconds to pass everything out once in my classroom.

My Teaching Manipulatives

We all know that kids love a good teaching prop! I use pointers, flash cards, bells, timers, Plickers… and everything has to be ready at all times, especially when we don’t have any time between classes to change out materials! I have a sound system at the front of the room where I keep all of these items, and they were always getting messed up. Things were getting buried, and I was losing the kids’ attention while I was trying to find what I needed. Any guesses what saved the day? Yep- a magazine file box. I just have one set up on top of the sound system, and I can easily pull out what I need. When these materials are stored standing up instead of laying down they take up a LOT less space! I can still see everything I need and I can access things in the blink of an eye.

Making Organized Look Pretty

Now that I’ve got everything organized, I want to step it up a notch and make it look a little nicer. I created these labels today, and just put them in my store so you can use them too! They come in 10 different colors and fit perfectly on IKEA FLYT magazine file boxes. I love these particular boxes because you can get a pack of 5 for only $1.99. With the number of these that I use, that price is really what made it possible! I’ve included single pages of each color, one page of each different color (except black) and one page using Boomwhacker(TM) colors. There are also instructions on how to use them with any presentation software (such as PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides).

So there you have it- all you wanted to know (and more!) about how I use magazine file boxes to organize EVERYTHING in my classroom. I hope I’ve given you some useful ideas! If you have any other ways these amazing little boxes can help organize our lives, please drop a comment below!


Chrissy @ Hutzel House of Music

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Chrissy Hutzel

Chrissy Hutzel is a music educator in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. She teaches elementary music in a Title I school to about 450 blossoming musicians. Chrissy enjoys playing clarinet, tuba, and tenor sax in the Squeeze Play Accordion Band which performs at area retirement facilities and local Oktoberfest festivals. She loves spending her free time at home with her husband and their two adorable kitties.