Several years ago, when we were getting ready to sell the co-op we used to live in, we had some guests stay with us for the long Fourth of July weekend.

The most comfortable place for them to stay was in our second bedroom, which I had been using as an office. Since I had a work deadline, my husband moved his fold-out table from it’s usual place in the dining room and set it up in our bedroom.

When I walked back into the dining room, I was struck by how spacious and open it suddenly seemed. The room looked like it had grown by several feet. In contrast, our bedroom now looked tiny and cluttered.

The moral of the story: Moving a piece of furniture — even a modest piece — can make a huge difference in the way a room looks and feels.

Homeowners often find themselves masquerading as collectors. We collect everything from fish hooks to china, old jelly jars to old teddy bears. While many of these items remind us of places we’ve been or things we’ve done, to buyers they simply look like fodder for a garage sale.

Once you get used to the way your collections or your furniture or even a messy room works, you will no longer be able to see it with a buyer’s eyes. And being able to take that objective look is critical if you want to make the leap from being a homeowner to a home seller.

If you truly want to sell your home, you’re going to have to clear our and clean out your home, from top to bottom, even if that means parting with some of your collectibles or putting them in storage.

When home buyers walk through your front door, they want to see a clean, open, spacious home that will allow them to live in the style they envision within their mind’s eye. since that’s wholly intangible (you can’t possibly know what each buyer imagines his or her dream home to be), you must ready your home as if preparing a blank canvas upon which any buyer could paint the house of his or her dream.

Here are four basic things you must do to get your home ready for sale your home:

Remove almost everything from all tables, countertops, and bookshelves. Pack extra family photos and gather up loose sheet music stacked on the piano. Take the videos off your VCR and TV, and gather up the CDs that are strewn on the floor. Leave only a few nicely spaced coats in the closet. In fact, pack away half of your clothes so that your closets seem bigger.

Give away most of your plants, or rearrange them unobtrusively in one corner of your home. Gather up your children’s toys, books, art projects, and homework and stack them neatly in their bedrooms. Remove all magnets, papers, your child’s first drawings, and the invitation to your cousin’s baby shower from the refrigerator door. Take everything off the bathroom sink; remove all but one razor from the shower. Do the laundry as frequently as necessary to avoid having huge piles of dirty clothes spilling out of the hamper. Clean out your basement and attic, neatly stacking any boxes you have stored there.

The subtle, positive effects of these changes can’t be overstated. The more you unclutter your home, the more finely attuned your eye will become to areas that have yet to be tackled.

Throw out, store, or give away as much of the furniture, knickknacks, or personal items in your home. It’s no use uncluttering your kitchen countertops or bookshelves if all you’re going to do is stack these items or boxes in closets, the basement, or the attic.

Let’s start with the interior. Store all excess furniture, including sofas, end tables, stools, and chairs. Make simple arrangements with your furniture, so that each room has a clean, well-defined look that highlights the best feature.

For example, if you have a spectacular view of the city or garden from your living room, your furniture should be arranged in such a way that a buyer can walk in a straight line from the door to the window (which should be so clean it sparkles). If your bedroom has a cozy sitting area by a fireplace, make sure the fireplace can be seen from the doorway.

How much should you pack away? Enough to help you reclaim some long-lost space and give your home a spacious, gracious feeling.

If it’s broken, fix it; if it’s peeling, paint it. And above all, clean. Once you’ve uncluttered your home, and packed away furniture and other items to make the space feel bigger, you’ll want to give your home a thorough cleaning, inside and out. Go as far as to have your rugs shampooed and send your draperies to the cleaners. Buyers can smell if a home is clean, and in many cases, a clean home is more reassuring, as if the sellers have taken the time to care for it.

Broken items, such as doorknobs that fall off if you touch them, and hinges that squeak should be taken care of. Peeling paint and wallpaper is a sign of neglect. Make sure you scrape it down and touch up any loose spots. You may just want to give your entire interior a fresh coat of white, or off-white, paint. A fresh paint job adds to a buyer’s feeling that a home has been well cared for.

Don’t forget the exterior. If your home doesn’t look good on the outside, why would anyone want to step through the doorway to inspect the interior? You should keep up with the seasonal maintenance on your home, and take the extra step of planting eye-catching flowers and pots in seasonal colors. Sweep up the sidewalk and driveway, and make sure your garbage cans are attractive and clean.

In addition, it’s important to keep children’s toys and gardening equipment neatly stored in your garage or a tool shed. Buyers will want to inspect the garage, so it’s best to keep it neat and tidy. Tools, gardening equipment, bicycles, and strollers should be stored off the garage floor, if possible.

Finally, if your home’s exterior is looking rather dingy, consider investing in a paint job or power wash. While an exterior paint job might run you a few dollars, you may be able to raise the price of your home to a new level.