The ritual of spring cleaning can bring lots of poetic benefits: spiritual renewal, charitable donations, a clutter-free lifestyle.
But it also can be a way to save money _ and even make a dollar or two.
Here's how to get the biggest bang for your buck out of this annual ritual.
A PROPER PLACE: Your top priority is to make a place for everything you own. No matter how well you think you've catalogued your clutter, it will cause you to lose things _ and that means you waste money replacing them. When you know exactly where to find light bulbs or glue or tape or checks, you won't have to buy more when you don't need to.
"In essence, when you spring clean, that equals money in your pocket," says Brenda Spangrud, founder of Sorted Organizing Products and Services in Arizona. "Every client of mine who cleans always finds unused gift cards, uncashed checks left in a pile somewhere." Those kind of things can add up.
SELL IT ALL: Craigslist, eBay, Amazon.com and a raft of more specialized and local websites have made it easier than ever to sell stuff you're done with. So move it on out.
"Resell is big right now," Spangrud says.
Also try consignment stores or throwing a good old-fashioned yard sale when you're offloading. Think no one wants to buy your old denim jacket or discarded camera? Just remember the old adage _ one man's trash is another man's treasure. Just remember to keep it simple so you actually get the stuff out the door.
SKIP THE SYSTEM: Decluttering actually can be expensive if you let it be; there are cleaning products, organizational tools and storage "systems" galore. But the experts have a secret _ all that stuff isn't necessary.
"You don't need fancy boxes and bins to keep things in," says Angie Weid, owner of Organized Solutions in Toledo, Ohio.
In the garage, for instance, she recommends against the $50, $60 and $100 rack. Instead, trash bins will often do the trick. Same for your recyclables.
"Garbage cans are a great way to corral items in a garage," she says.
ONE PROJECT, ONE CLEANER: Multipurpose cleaners abound. And they really do work for multiple tasks, so just buy one, says Sarah Fishburne director of trend and design products at Home Depot Inc. You can even make one by mixing baking soda with water. You can find recipes online using these and other natural ingredients.
Another cost-saving tip: Microfiber rags or even old T-shirts will dust and clean more effectively and at lower cost than disposable wipes.
SHOP YOUR CLOSET: Organizing your closet is a great way of rediscovering clothes, shoes and other items you've forgotten about, letting you create new combinations with items you already have.
"When you take out things you're not utilizing, you can see what you have and coordinate more outfits," Spangrud says.
And when you know you have five black tank tops _ and where to find them _ you're less likely to buy yet another during your next shopping trip.
TAX TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: Whether you've been collecting all those receipts in the top drawer on purpose or not, you may be able to squeeze some serious cash out of them. Get them organized and you'll get more out of your taxes.
"The time and effort pays off when you can reach into your filing system and say `These are all my receipts for business entertaining or medical expenses,'" says Weid. "You need to easily be able to grab them rather than spending time and effort sorting through box or bag to find them."
GATHER YOUR CHANGE: The coins lying under couch cushions, in pants pockets and at the backs of drawers can add up to tens or even hundreds of dollars. So gather them up and you might be surprised how much you have.
And don't be stingy about the fee for a coin-counting service if using one is the only way you'll get value from the coins. After all, it's found money!
FINALLY, THE HARD PART: Improving your habits. After you've decluttered, and maybe made a few bucks, don't wait for the detritus to start gathering again.
Just as cleaning gutters regularly can make them last longer and cut your repair costs, changing your heater's or air conditioner's filter will help it last longer, and keeping the bathtub clean every day will mean less money spent on (and less environmental impact from) extra-strength cleaners to remove tough lime stains.
Says Fishburne: "It saves time, but it also really does save money."