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Spring cleaning on the cheap

Dust off your organizing skills with these tips

By Danielle Braff, Special to Tribune Newspapers

5:55 PM EST, March 6, 2014

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Spring cleaning is nearly upon us — and experts nationwide say it doesn't have to cost a fortune to organize your home. In fact, it doesn't have to cost more than a few bucks and a little work. And if your home is organized and tidy, you've already made the first step toward easier and faster spring cleaning.

Follow these handy tips to conquer every nook and cranny in your home, so your house will be superorganized.

Embrace your inner shover. If you prefer hooks over hangers, dropping over folding and bins without lids, then you're a "shover," said Erica Ecker, professional organizer in New York with The Spacialist. "Shovers are broad organizers, not granular ones," Ecker said. "They prefer open space. They believe that less categorization is better for them." If you're a shover, then you need to get products that work for your organizational style, such as Land of Nod's Cubby Cups ($24.95 at landofnod.com), which can sit on a desk or attach to a wall — and are perfect for organizing tabletops, Ecker said.

Two-year rule. If you haven't used something or worn it in two years, then it's time to say "goodbye," said Nina Smith, organization expert from The Container Store. "These items take up valuable space and probably won't be missed," she said.

Set up activity zones. This is best for determining how to arrange a kitchen — and especially good if you're starting from scratch. Kitchens have four main areas: Prep areas, baking, cooking and washing. "Place the towels near the sink, the knives near the cutting boards in the same area that you actually prep, the pots and pans and stove-top gadgets near the stove, etc.," said Karen Duncan, a certified professional organizer based in Florida.

Sort and purge. Can't decide what to keep and what to toss? "Put like with like so you can easily decide if you really want to keep a specific item," Duncan said. You don't need two similar items, and once you put them next to each other, you can quickly decide which one is best.

Label your wires. Don't bother spending the money on a cable zipper or a tube to stow your wires, Ecker said. "They're nice, but they're a pain when you've got to remove something." Instead, get a label-maker (like the Epson LabelWorks LW-300 Label Maker, $39.99 at epson.com), punch in the name of the wire (printer or hard drive, etc.), print it out and wrap that label around it near the plug end. "Next time you're rummaging around on the floor, you'll know which wire is which without having to do the crazy yank test, which is not only a huge pain, it could actually cause you to lose data or damage your equipment." You can also label the wires that sit on your desktop — especially the ones that aren't always connected to their devices. Label your networking cable, so that when it's needed, you're not figuring out what goes with what, Ecker said. Finally, use grip-twist or gear ties to wrangle the whole bunch into one unit, or individual cable ties to corral excess cords.

Discover secret storage. Even if you think you've used up every last inch of storage, there's probably a little more space that's just hiding from view, Ecker said. "Take, for instance, that gigantic lobster pot that you used three times in the last seven years," she said. "It's great for stashing one-time items for their annual use like leftover July Fourth, Christmas or Halloween paper goods — and for steaming lobster, of course," she said. You can also use cake stands and covers for storing cake decorating tips and sprinkles; large Tupperware cake totes for stashing extra sugar and flour sacks; and empty space in pantry, linen and clothing closets for undershelf baskets.