Spring Cleaning Done Right: How to Plan, Save and Pocket Some Cash

A cough here, a sneeze there. When the dust balls have been piling up and those thick winter sweaters need a boot, you know it's time for that yearly ritual you dread the most...spring cleaning.

When many people think of spring cleaning, they often believe it means cleaning everything, from every nook and cranny in the house to even the outside yard and shed. Such a monstrous task can be overwhelming and expensive. Yet, with some careful planning and a little ingenuity, spring cleaning can be a lot simpler than you might expect.

Getting Organized

Before you even attempt to tackle your first cleaning job, make sure you're mentally prepared to clean in the first place. How long will this cleaning project take? A day? A weekend or more?  Create a list or at least a mental note of all the things and rooms you want to clean. Then decide realistically how long it will take to complete. Also consider whether you're completing these projects on your own or if you're dividing it up among family members, roommates, or enlisting the help of friends. The key here is not to overstress yourself but to have a plan and stick to it.

Quality Supplies

Using quality cleaning tools and products is an essential part of getting the job done right, and it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. However, the tools you use should involve a little investment since these are long-term purchases which you want to be using for years, instead of replacing every year. Avoid purchasing items like a $4 plastic mop that does not absorb water well and can break easily. Most of all, avoid fads.  The latest hip and happening "As seen on TV" product shouldn't be your first choice.

Where to Shop

Buying from warehouse clubs, such as Costco and Sam's Club allows you to get brand name items by the bulk. Even stores like Staples and Amazon will offer deep discounts on cleaning supplies from time to time. Don't forget about dollar stores like Dollar Tree, which carry both generic and brand name cleaning items and hardware stores like Home Depot and Menard's, who tend to to run specials on a limited number of in-season items. Sometimes these sales are discounted immediately upon checkout, while others require a mail-in-rebate. If you're the type of person that has a hard time mailing in these forms, avoid purchasing items with this discounted requirement altogether.

Coupons

Manufacture or store coupons are the most basic and easiest ways to get discounts on cleaning products. You can use coupon codes or printable coupons that can be redeemed in stores or online.

Generic vs. Brand Name

Learning to choose between a generic or brand name cleaning product can sometimes be difficult, particularly when you can't test every product before purchasing it. Americans spend billions of dollars on cleaning products each year, all of which vary in price range. Cost wise, generic brands can save you from a few cents to upwards of 40% off or more, but cheaper doesn't always mean better or vice versa.

  • Read product ingredients labels. Checking the ingredients on your product label is an important aspect of comparison shopping. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the first ingredient being the one that has the most weight. Some labels list the exact chemical percentage that is used. If both items have the same ingredient, choosing the least expensive one would be the best choice.
  • Read product manufacturing labels. If two different cleaning products have the same ingredients and place of manufacture, this could mean that they were made in the same factory. Some brands or stores hire a third party to make their items, which is why some cleaning products are manufactured in the same place using the exact same ingredients.  The only difference is the packaging.  
  • Read consumer product reviews. Do some research by finding out what others have to say about a product you plan on purchasing.  This information can be found on personal blogs, cleaning related websites and forums, and online stores like Amazon or Walmart, which have a customer review section. There are also sites that simply focus on reviewing items and providing helpful articles like Consumer Report, which usually publishes pieces on top rated cleaning supplies.

Whether generic or brand name, it's important to think about how often you will use a cleaning product. A multipurpose cleaner that can be used for a variety of projects makes better use of your money than multiple cleaning products that only complete one task. The same idea can be applied to disposable cleaning items where the cost can add up over time. Sticking to reusable items in this case is better.

Storing Your Cleaning Products and Supplies for Later Use

Where you store your cleaning products can determine how long it will last. If you read the labels on your container, some will approximate the temperature you should have the item kept at or it will have a general phrase about keeping it in cool or dry place. Read the instructions carefully to determine how to handle these chemicals. Always avoid extreme temperatures and whenever possible, keep the product in the original container to avoid potential mix ups. Storing these items properly will allow you to reuse it for other projects so you don't have to replenish your supplies on a constant basis.

Use What You Have at Home

If you're on a tight budget, using everyday items you have at home is a better option. Plus, some of these items even work better than what you may find in a store. If you have hard-water stains on your skin faucet, mixing a teaspoon of vinegar and two tablespoons of salt will give you a homemade cleaning solution. Just use a cloth to rub the mixture on the stain and it should come off. Or if you want to get rid of pet hair on your carpet, simply run a squeegee over it.

You can find many cleaning hack ideas and learn how to concoct homemade cleaning recipes simply by doing a search online.  Sites like RealSimple, a women's lifestyle magazine that focuses on topics such as housekeeping, food, and childcare has a list of useful tips to clean your house with using basic home remedies. You'll be surprised with what you can do without having to leave the house.

When All is Done: Resell, Reuse, and Recycle

Now that your home is squeaky clean, you're probably stuck with a pile of things you don't need or not sure whether you should keep. It's common to try the one year rule about getting rid of items at this point. That is, if you haven't used or thought about the item in a year, it needs to be purged. Yes, it may be painful, but if you think about the benefits to decluttering, it's well worth it.

Sell old items. After all,one man's trash, is another man's treasure.  Things such as apparel, movies, toys, and more can be sold if priced right.  Just keep the following in mind: know your audience (This will help determine how or where you should resell.), make sure the item you are selling is presentable, and sell items that are in-season (in demand items can be sold for a higher price). You can publish your items on typical go-to online sites like eBay and Amazon for a small fee or percentage of your profit. Craig's List is free of charge.  If you don't want to deal with the hassle of of working with potential buyers, you can sell your clothing, shoes, and handbags to online consignment shops such as thredUP.  Their clothing calculator helps give you an estimate of how much they are willing to pay for your items before you send it in. To sell your item, order their Clean Out Bag, which has a free prepaid shipping label for you to place your items in. ThredUP will offer you up to 80% of the resale value, which you can choose to cash out via PayPal or get thredUP shopping credit.

There are in-store options too, from apparel resale stores like Clothes Mentor and Plato's Closet to used bookstores like Half-Price along with new and used sporting goods chain Play It Again Sports. At these places, you usually come in with what you would like to sell and they will give you a quote. Sometimes they'll trade an in-stock item for what you are offering. Some of these stores will give you more money when you opt for an in-store credit instead of cash. Don't be afraid to ask. Also, even if you item is rejected, don't hesitate to try another store in a different location since supply and demand vary between places.

If you want to avoid the middle man and selling online, flee markets and garage sales are another option. You and your customer will be able to bargain for what you both believe is the best price for the time. Fees associated vary from a few dollars or more for a booth rental and around $10 for a village garage sale application permit.

Reusing old items.Some people use old socks or shirts to clean the house instead of buying cloths. There are also other ways to be creative with leftover items.  An old pair of pantyhose can get you a no heat curls hairstyle. Simply cut the pantyhose in half, braid it into each side of your hair, and sleep in it overnight.  You can also reuse items for craft projects with kids. Not too long ago, my coworker's six-year-old daughter created a project for three-year-olds where she turned our dried out classroom markers into puppets.  The markers acted as sticks that were taped onto animals the kids had colored on and cut out.  It was a simple project that required no additional materials and was a blockbuster hit with the kids.

Recycling. Since you've already dived full force into spring cleaning, why not save the world while you're at it? With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, being eco-friendly is not only in vogue, but it also can give you that special tingling feeling inside. Rather than throwing things you don't need in the trash, you can recycle materials like glass, paper, plastic, metal, and electronics.

Plus, when you resell and reuse your old items, you're also practicing a form of recycling. Donating goods to those less fortunate is another way to reuse items which can directly or indirectly benefit others. Stores set up by nonprofit organizations like Goodwill take your donated items and resell it. The money they make from these sales go to services and training programs that help disadvantaged people who are looking for employment. You can also try charities run through the church, where your items are given directly to needy families. Some public libraries will even take your old books and resell them during yearly book sales to raise money to fund literacy programs. Schools are another good option, particularly ones in low-income areas where even basic supplies like colored paper and pencils are hard to come by.

Think Smart, Clean Daily

At the end of the day, spring cleaning will probably leave you exhausted and wondering why you couldn't have been a cleaner person to start with. So it makes sense to say that if you were to clean on a regular basis, you would actually spend less time and money cleaning up old stains and clutter. Spring cleaning shouldn't be an ordinary yearly task completed aimlessly, rather it should be a reminder to us of what we should have been doing all year.

 

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