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An Oily Rag Spring Clean

It's that time of the year when spring is in the air - and keen oily raggers know that their trash may be another's treasure. Here are some oily rag tips to make the task easier.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

It’s that time of the year when spring is in the air – and keen oily raggers know that their trash may be another’s treasure. Here are some oily rag tips to make the task easier.

Plan for the big clean up and make it a family social day. Organise and arm the troops with fluffy feather dusters, top secret cleaning agents, rubbish bags, boxes, and most of all a positive attitude as they march towards victory. Write down the Mission Impossible task for each trooper, and have them report back to HQ at regular intervals – where tea and pikelets are available for re-fuelling purposes!

Break the tasks down into small and simple steps. Plan one room at a time. Work in pairs if need be and keep the communications short, sharp and snappy, something like; Question: “What about this?” Answer: “Rubbish”.

Start by rummaging through forgotten places. There may be lots of trash that you can turn into cash. Golf clubs, unwanted household appliances, furniture, books… they can all be sold online, at a garage sale, swapped or given away.

In the bathroom check the medicines for their use-by date. Destroy anything that’s a bit dubious – it’s dangerous having them lying around, especially if there are littlies in the house. Get the torch out and have a good look at the back of cabinets and drawers. Be ruthless…  if you haven’t used it, you probably don’t need it.

The kitchen is one of the bigger challenges. Start by removing everything out of the cupboards, pantry and fridge. Toss out things that are gathering mould or are past their used-by date. Make sure everything in the pantry is visible and easy to access. Have the stuff you have to use in the near future at the front so you can adapt your menus to suit.

While you are at it don’t forget to spring clean the deep freeze. Make room for the bargain buys and baked goodies for school lunches.

In the wardrobe, if you haven’t worn it for years, you are not likely to need it (unless you plan to go to a retro theme fancy dress party!). Sort everything into one of three piles:

  • Stuff that you wear,
  • Good stuff that you would wear if you could fit into it (!), and
  • Stuff that should be thrown out or used as rags.

Get rid of the good stuff that you don’t wear – drop it into one of the charitable thrift shops, or sell it at a garage sale. When putting the clothing back, try sorting by items (all the shirts together for example) or by use (for example, best, casual, work and so on). The better organised your stuff is the more efficiently you will use it. You may discover useful items that have been lost through decades of wardrobe chaos!

Cancel subscriptions to magazines that are no longer read or enjoyed. Sort though the old stacks of magazines that will invariably be cluttering up closets and mounting up in ever taller piles on coffee tables.  Take them to second hand book shops and turn them into cash, or donate them to your local hospital.

A spring clean can mean that you not only feel better about things, but that you free up lots of dollars to go back into your pocket. There are loads of avenues available to sell those unwanted goodies: everything from free classified ads in your local community newspaper, to garage sales, car boot sales, and a proliferation of online trading sites.

Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have some favourite money-saving or money-making tips, share them with others by visiting the oily rag website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at