9 Steps to Spring Clean Your House, Finances and Paperwork

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Artist and writer William Morris once said:

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

I agree. I get a strange satisfaction out of doing dishes, folding laundry, and donating an entire closet full of junk to Goodwill (I also enjoy the tax deduction).

Spring cleaning is an annual event in my house. Once a year I scrub from top to bottom, clean out drawers and closets, and reorganize the pantry. But I don’t stop there. I look at spring cleaning as a chance to organize everything – including my paperwork, online life, and finances.

If you get a thrill out of cleaning – or could just use some organization in your life – check out this roundup of tips and you’ll be ready for spring.

Start the process with this video from Money Talks founder Stacy Johnson, then pick up the story on the other side…

Clean your house…

1. Save money on your cleaning products

If green or organic cleaners are your thing, check out 8 Places to Save on Green Household Products. After nearly doubling my cleanser budget going green, I found eight sites that run great deals on organic products: Amazon, Drugstore.com, and Alice are three of my favorites.

If you’d rather go the traditional route, read 8 Ways to Save on Household Cleaning. Tips include buying generic, which could save you up to 38 percent, using coupons, and buying refills.

Of course, you could skip the store altogether and use what you already have around the house. Check out 19 Uses for Baking Soda, Dryer Sheets, and Beer for a list of ideas like using white vinegar to clean your windows or polishing metal with beer.

2. Clean the easy way

In 6 Tips and Products for Cleaning Tough Stains, we have ideas, courtesy of Consumer Reports. For example, easily clean your microwave with lemon juice. Pour ¼ cup of lemon juice in a bowl, microwave on high for one minute. Remove the bowl and wipe the oven cavity, using the condensation that formed to clean it. Clever!

3. Sell what you don’t use

No spring cleaning would be complete without clearing clutter.

Go through your closets and pile up anything you haven’t worn in six months – then sell it for some quick cash. In 5 Places to Turn Spring Cleaning Clutter Into Cash we list five sites to try, including thredUP.com for kids’ clothes or NeverLikedItAnyway.com for everything else.

Clean your finances…

A lot can happen in a year: Papers pile up, important documents go missing, your budget gets outdated. So while you’re spring cleaning, why not organize your finances? In Clean Up Your Finances in 7 Easy Steps we’ve got a whole bunch of ways to get organized. Examples:

1. Fight identity theft with a shredder

Before you toss unwanted documents, look for information an identity thief could use like your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card information. If you find sensitive info, shred it.

2. Toss out what you won’t use

Go ahead and toss expired warranties, out-of-date insurance policies, old receipts, or anything else you won’t use again. For stuff you want to keep, file the temporarily needed stuff toward the front of your filing cabinet so you can grab it and toss it as soon as it becomes outdated.

3. Don’t keep it if it’s already online

If someone else is already keeping a digital copy, you don’t need it. For example, online banking has made saving paper bank statements unnecessary. My bank stores all of my old statements online and I can access them there.

4. Go paperless

Maybe this is the spring you go digital. We’ve got a list of what you’ll need in 5 Tips for Paperless Finances. For example, after investing in a scanner, start storing important documents on your hard drive and backing them up online. There are lots of online storage sites like Google Drive and Evernote (which has a matching app). With online storage and a scanner, you won’t need to sort your filing cabinet again next year. Better yet, it’s much easier to search through digital files than paper ones.

5. Update your budget

I also use spring cleaning as a time to give my budget a quick tune-up. Since I already have one in place, it only takes a few minutes to go through it and make sure everything is still accurate. For example, last year I realized I had over-budgeted for electricity and under-budgeted for water and sewage fees.

Don’t have a budget? Now is a great time to make one. Check out Resolutions 2013: How to Make a Budget You Can Stick With for tips, but the best thing you can do is start budgeting digitally and automatically.

Example: Money Talks has a partnership with PowerWallet – a free site where you simply input your bank account, bills, and goals, and it does the rest: keeps track of everything you make and spend, reminds you when your bills are due, and helps you find extra money to accomplish your goals.

Clean up your online presence…

Whether you know it or not, odds are you’ve built a bit of an online persona. That could be good news or bad news depending what it looks like.

For example, if you’re tweeting about an upcoming book you wrote, having those tweets show up in search results is a good thing. But if your former college roommate keeps tagging you in embarrassing photos and you’ve got a job interview coming up, that’s a bad thing.

Better to play it on the safe side and remove anything you don’t want someone else to see. We’ve got the steps you’ll need to do just that in 4 Steps to Clean Up Your Online Presence.

Did I leave anything out? Tell us what you’ll be doing to spring clean this year below or on our Facebook page!

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