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Spring Cleaning

As the weather has gotten warmer with winter turning into spring, we have a lot of things on our minds. For those of us with children, we’re thinking about spring break. For those of us that go to any supermarket or mall or other place of rampant commercialism, we’re thinking about the Easter Bunny. And for those of us that can’t open our over-stuffed closet doors without ducking first in case something collapses and falls on us, we’re thinking about spring cleaning. With all of the other things holding our attention during the spring months, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the prospect of deep-cleaning a home. Often, we don’t know how to start or what to do. This article will provide you with that: a starting point.

 

Change Your Air Filters

 

While this may seem to be an odd place to start, changing your air filters is actually one of the most important things that you as a resident can do. Regularly changing your air filters will protect the air quality of your home, help mitigate the cost of your heating and air bills, and keep your HVAC system from breaking down. Air filters trap dust and debris that may otherwise settle in your lungs, and changing them about every three months helps them do that job efficiently. If you don’t change them, all of that build up impedes the air that travels through the system, making your heat or air conditioning work harder. This leads to higher bills and wears down your HVAC system, which could mean costly repairs. Starting your spring cleaning with a new air filter means you’ll breathe easier as pollen starts to clog the air and you’ll have lower air conditioning bills as the weather gets warmer. If you haven’t been regularly changing your air filters before now, starting with your spring cleaning is a good way to build that habit. Every three months, mark your calendar; if you have pets, or someone in the house has allergies, try making it every two months.

 

Declutter!

 

We know that saying “declutter” is a lot easier than actually doing it, especially if you’ve lived in your home for a while or if you have a lot of people living with you. We all have busy schedules, and it’s easy to let the black hole in your junk drawer continue to collect expired coupons, paper clips, and dried-out pens until it can no longer open. But the start of a new season–and reading this very useful article–gives you an excuse to just get started. Devise a system. Make a list. Set a goal. One easy way to get rid of all the clutter that you’re tripping over is to divide and conquer. Instead of trying to clean the entire house at once, picking up whatever you see on the floor and tossing it, set small goals. Start with the bathroom. When your satisfied with your bathroom, move on to your bedroom. Then your closet, the living room, the kitchen, and so on. If other people live with you, enlist their help too (if you can stand the groaning). Another method that makes the process faster and more effective is the “Five Box Method” (we just made the name up, we didn’t invent the system). Find four boxes: cardboard boxes, laundry baskets, or those plastic storage bins. Label them “put away”, “recycle”, “fix”, “throw away”, and “donate”. As you go through your home, instead of picking every individual thing off of the floor or a counter and walking to the other side of the house to put it where it belongs, put it in one of these boxes. Put items that aren’t where they should be (the elmo toy under the couch, the stack of DVD’s on the coffee table) in the “put away” box. You can sort through this at the end and find a place for everything. For spare sheets of paper, plastic, and aluminum that aren’t serving a purpose any more, toss those into the box designated for recyclables. (Make sure it’s actually recyclable before you do, though: a lot of packaging may look recyclable when it actually isn’t. Check for a label on your plastics, or google it.) For broken or dirty items, place them in the “fix” box to be repaired or cleaned and put away. Trash should be thrown away. And old clothes, toys, and books can be put in the “donate” box, to be taken to Goodwill or a thrift store.

 

Spring cleaning may still seem like a lot to handle, even with a clear outline of what to do. But once it is done, you’ll have a clean house and a clearer mind for the coming months.

 

Why Rent?

 

For many, homeownership is a mark of success; it checks off one of the boxes on the long list of accomplishments that bring us closer to achieving the “American Dream”. In the case of most Americans, we attach the idea of owning one’s own home to a sense of pride and fulfillment. However, in the face of all this ingrained pressure to purchase a house, we tend to forget certain aspects of homeownership. Not everyone is in a place, either financially or emotionally, where they can be ready to make such a huge commitment at this point in their life. Sometimes the economy isn’t right. And sometimes, people may live a kind of lifestyle that simply makes purchasing a home impractical. So whatever your situation – whether you plan to eventually own your own home or not – here are some of the benefits of renting.

Renting is More Flexible

Owning a home is a considerable long-term commitment for one’s finances: once you make that down payment, you’ve tied yourself to that location and the expenses that come with it. Breaking that commitment is very difficult, and entails additional costs and difficulties regarding buying and selling a house. Renting a home, on the other hand, is structured differently. Renting comes with a short term commitment that is outlined in your lease; you are only bound to that home for as long as the contract says. When that period of time ends, you can choose to either renew your lease or to notify the landlord that you will be leaving. This provides the flexibility that homeownership cannot: if your financial situation changes, or you find that you need to relocate, renting allows you to be in a home that best fits your situation.

Lower Monthly Costs

Another benefit of renting versus purchasing are the lower monthly costs associated with renting. When thinking about monthly costs, our minds tend to go to one place: rent. And more often than not, monthly mortgage payments tend to be higher than rent. There are other bills to consider as well: both utilities and insurance are ubiquitous to living in a home. However, both of these costs are significantly lower when renting a home rather than owning one. Especially for single-income families, those high monthly payments are impossible for their current financial situation. This impracticality becomes even more evident when we consider the long-term attachment to those monthly costs that come with homeownership.

Less Responsibility for Maintenance

When you take on the ownership of a home, you’re taking a lot more ownership than just that piece of property. Owning a home means being responsible for the everyday wear and tear that a home accumulates just by existing: leaky roofs, faulty air conditioning, and old hot water heater will all be expenses that come out of your pocket. Renting a home takes that responsibility off of your shoulders and places it on the landlord’s; the only maintenance you have to take care of are the things that you are responsible for.

Fewer Taxes

As we can see, there are a lot of short and long term costs associated with owning a home. Your wallet faces a huge down-payment, maintenance costs, and monthly mortgage, utility, and insurance bills. All of these are either significantly lessened or completely eliminated by renting. And there is one more that we should be thinking about: taxes. While the exact amount varies from county to county, every homeowner pays the price of owning property through property taxes. Over time, this drain on your paycheck can become a real financial burden. Renting takes this burden away. As a renter, you have a significantly stronger hold on your finances than a homeowner. The government doesn’t control your finances; you control your housing budget with your own actions and choices.

Everyone’s situation is different. Not everyone can be in the right place to buy a house, and not everyone has the kind of lifestyle that is suited for homeownership. Making the choice to rent is the best and most practical option for many Americans. When making that choice, it’s important to know all of the advantages and disadvantages in order to make a well-informed decision that is best for you or for your family.

By: Hannah Champion