Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Cleaning Uncovers Fall School Supplies

The annual ritual of spring cleaning has paid an unexpected bonus. I now have a money-saving head start on another annual ritual: back-to-school shopping. My closets, drawers and filing cabinets have yielded enough writing and craft supplies to stock a small stationery store. As a result, I will spend far less on binders, pens, markers, notebooks and poster boards in the fall.

Here's how I plan to save time and money with this surprise stash of materials:

Create a master list: Every year, I ''find'' new or barely used school supplies around the home. But in a rush to get the kids ready for the fall, I sometimes earn poor grades for recycling. This year, I plan to get the most out of my home store by maintaining an inventory list. On a yellow pad of ruled paper, I've started tracking our school and office supplies. Next fall, I plan to compare the home inventory list with the supply lists provided by my children's teachers. This comparison should reduce the time and money consumed by back-to-school shopping.

• Enlist the kids: I found spiral and composition notebooks that range from new-but-dusty to barely touched. To encourage my children to use existing supplies, I will give the kids a percentage of what we save by not buying new supplies.

• Repackage: Our crayon stash looks rather colorless in a plastic bag that has become clouded with age. It's a faded turnoff. My daughter prefers crayons tucked into a neat box. I plan, however, to repackage the older crayons in an attractive, but reusable container. Additionally, other supplies can benefit from quick upgrades, including the vinyl covers of notebook binders. A quick wipe or a few stickers offer easy makeovers for older supplies.

To be honest, I tackled spring cleaning with more passion this year. I looked into bins and corners that have been untouched for years. As result, I cleared out more clutter and found more treasure, including a stash of poster boards that were tucked behind a bedroom dresser. We now have a two-year supply of poster boards for science fair projects.

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