Spring Cleaning = Free Makerspace Stuff

As we all know, makerspaces can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of things. Low-tech, high-tech – it doesn’t matter as long as you provide students a safe space to create, explore, and discover. 

I am always looking for free to low-cost makerspace items because, well, I’m a public school librarian and my budget isn’t limitless. Whether you have a small budget, a medium-sized one, or a bottomless one (I feel like Goldilocks!), we can ALL use things for free. So, let me tell you my secret for obtaining free makerspace items…spring cleaning! 

One Person’s Junk Is Another Person’s Makerspace Supplies

You might be saying, but Brandi, why would we want other people’s junk? Ah, but it’s not always junk! I’ve learned you can find some amazing things when others clean out their houses. 

Right around spring break (peak spring cleaning season), I put a flier in every staff member’s mailbox that outlines what items I am looking for. It can be anything from scrapbook paper and craft sticks, all the way up to small older technology (to be taken apart) to toys and more! I also send the flier out via email to catch as many people as I can. 

Page 1 of 2 of the flier

Here are the items I have on my flier:

  • Cardboard
  • Old toys
  • LEGOs
  • Fabric
  • Craft sticks
  • String, yarn, twice
  • Play dough
  • Casters
  • Wheels
  • Wire

Download the flier to see the full list. 

What to Do When You Get Donations

I ask for donations to be delivered to the library, or my student workers can pick anything up from the teacher’s classroom.  A lot of people who donate just throw things in bags. 

I (or my students) then go through each donation. For this task, the students need to be focused and be able to take direction to sort the different items. Then I (or my students) sort the items by type. For instance, all the yard/string go in a pile, all the sewing items go in a pile, etc. As I go through them I look for items that I may not use or items that may not be in good shape. And, unless we plan to take the item(s) apart, I recycle those not needed or throw them away. Very rarely do I have to do anything like that. When I do, it’s usually for old bleached-out stickers that wouldn’t be pretty when put on anything. 

The staff at South has been generous when it comes to their spring cleaning items. I also send a reminder or two throughout other times of the year (with the flier attached to the email) when teachers tend to do heavy cleanings, like winter or summer break. To help advertise, I put the flier and a blurb in the Friday email of information that gets sent to the whole staff by our principal. 

Any time something is donated, I make sure that I send a follow-up thank you email, and if I remember, send a photo or two of students using the materials. I do need to get better at the photo(s) piece. 

Please feel free to use my flier! 

Inquiring minds want to know – how do you get free/lost-cost items for your makerspace?

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