Spring Cleaning

Dear Jeff,

Spring is right around the corner, which means it is almost time for my annual Spring Clean. I have often heard about individuals who make extra cash by selling their junk. Do you have any advice or tips that can help me de-clutter my home and clean up my finances at the same time?

Amy R.,
Moose Jaw, SK

Thanks for the question Amy!

I also hope that Spring will finally arrive; and just like you, I also look forward to my family’s annual spring clean. After the winter we have had, I think there are countless other individuals and families across the country looking forward to opening their windows and letting in some fresh air.

This year, take the time to de-clutter and make some money in the process.

Unless you are a professional organizer, I’m guessing you are unsure as to where to start. If you are like most of us, there is a good chance there is at least one room in your house that’s sole purpose is to collect junk. Perhaps it’s your basement or garage that serves as the dumping ground for the stuff you just don’t know what to do with. Maybe you keep shoving items into a spare room when you don’t know where else to store them. Or possibly you have an outdoor shed filled with things you just can’t part with.

Regardless of the space you are looking to de-clutter, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and bring order to both your home and your finances – and these tips can help you start to de-clutter and turn your trash into treasure:

Organize First, Buy Second

Don’t rush out and buy a ton of storage containers and supplies before you start sorting through your clutter. Clean out and organize first, then assess what storage (if any) you really need.

Get Sorting

Now that we have that warning out of the way, it’s time to start organizing. In order to get to the bottom of the mess, you need to start sorting your clutter into three piles:

  • Trash
  • Keep
  • Sell

Sometimes junk is just junk! And the best place for it is the garbage can. Your Trash pile should include any items that you don’t need or want, and that are not worth any money. Look into free dumpster days in your community so you don’t incur any unnecessary costs, and ask about the appropriate way to dispose of electronics in your community.

Your Keep pile should be the smallest of the group. The items in this pile should include things you just can’t part with or that you use on a regular basis. Take the time now to find a more appropriate storage solution for these items, or reconsider keeping them if they won’t fit into your home. As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Just because something is junk to you, doesn’t mean it’s not of value to someone else. If you don’t want to keep an item but don’t consider it trash, get creative and find ways to sell it. However, set a timeline. If you don’t sell the item by a specific date, then donate it to a charity of your choice.

Turn Trash into Treasure

Once you have taken out the garbage and put away the things you wish to keep, it’s time to start turning that trash into treasure. Begin by taking pictures of the items you wish to sell, then post them on eBay, Craig’s List or Kijiji to turn a profit. Garage sales are another great way to make money from the stuff you no longer want or need. Post signs around your neighbourhood, and announce the sale on your community’s Freecycle page. Be prepared to start early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and have fun making some extra cash while de-cluttering your home. Another way to make money from your old stuff is to take it to a consignment store. Consignment stores are especially useful if you are trying to get rid of old clothing, baby gear or sports equipment. Selling on consignment typically doesn’t generate a lot of profit, but a little money is still more than you would earn if the junk is still cluttering your home.

Put Your Profits to Work

Now that you have de-cluttered your home, it’s time to put the profits towards cleaning up your finances. If you are carrying debt, consider using the money you earned towards eliminating your credit card bills or student loans. If debt is not a concern, this is a good time to boost your emergency savings or start planning for retirement. Or perhaps, like our friend Frugal Frieda, you have a long-awaited home renovation planned and want to put your hard-earned de-cluttering money towards sprucing up the yard or finishing your basement.

However, you choose to use your new found treasure, be sure to plan wisely and not waste it on more “stuff” that will end up cluttering the space you just worked so hard to organize.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about your credit or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to [email protected]. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.