A Recommendation For Slippery Surfaces

Encouraging a reduction in surface clutter for an increase in hygiene and cleanability.

It’s not surprising that some people think elementary schools abound with sticky surfaces; after all, K-12 schools are “home base” for hundreds of students and teachers.

What may be surprising is that a sticky surface is often not at all what we think.

While we may envision spilled juice and glue or paste, the word “sticky” — especially from an operations perspective — has little to do with spills; instead, it has to do with what flat surfaces attract.

Flat surfaces often become a magnet for clutter and chaos, leading to an unkempt and potentially unhygienic environment.

Related content: A Clean Slate For Productivity

Those flat surfaces, from desks to countertops to locker room floors, act “sticky.”

Once an item is placed on the flat surface, it is often likely to stay there for some time — somewhat “stuck” in place.

Those items, in turn, seem to cause other objects to stick to them, creating piles.

Such a sticky chain reaction presents a challenge for those in charge of streamlining the cleaning process.

Achieving the goal of producing healthy schools means staffs must be able to thoroughly clean surfaces.

Often, those very surfaces are covered with materials that seem to be stuck and permanently piled there.

Promoting Slippery Surfaces

The concept of conquering clutter by viewing surfaces as initially sticky, but then making them slippery — the polar opposite of sticky — is the brainchild of Miss Minimalist, a nickname for author Francine Jay.

In her book, “The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide,” Jay explains how our imaginary slippery surface works.

Jay, who focuses on how to declutter, organize and simplify your life, says that we need to imagine our surfaces as slippery.

“If they were as slick as ice, or tilted just a few degrees, nothing would be able to stay on them for very long,” notes Jay. “All we need to conquer our surface clutter is a new attitude and enthusiastic adherence to the following principle: Most flat surfaces are not for storage.”

Surfaces are for activities:

  • They exist for students to write papers or do projects

  • They exist for teachers to prepare lessons or staffs to handle daily tasks

  • They exist for custodians to clean.

Approach clutter with two simple questions:

1. Do these items represent an activity by a student, teacher or staff member?

If so, they can stay; if the activity is complete, they should be moved.

2. Are these items being stored improperly here?

If the answer is yes, they should be moved to an appropriate storage area such as a file cabinet, desk drawer, bookshelf or storage closet.

“Everything we place on our slippery surfaces leaves with us when we leave the room,” proclaims Jay in speaking of how to keep decluttered surfaces clear.

Encourage clear surfaces by:

  • Providing education that clear surfaces are those that can be cleaned, and clean schools are healthy schools

  • Providing adequate storage in file cabinets, on bookshelves or in other dedicated storage areas

  • Promote regular decluttering by having a school-wide declutter day.

As Miss Minimalist says, “Heed this rule: If the room is empty, the surfaces should be too.”

After all, only clear and clutter-free surfaces can be properly cleaned.

Posted On February 8, 2013

Rex Morrison

President of the 501c3 Nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) Group

Rex Morrison is president of the 501c3 nonprofit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) group. He helps school districts across the nation implement the PC4HS program to save money and jobs while enhancing the health of the indoor environment. Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) is “schools helping schools” gain mastery of maintenance budgets, improve cleaning processes, health and the bottom line. Visit for more information.

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