We were having some guests stay with us for the July fourth weekend. Since I had work to do, my husband, Sam, moved his fold-out table from the dining room — where it usually stands against the wall with all kinds of stuff on it — into our bedroom.

When I walked back into the dining room, I was struck by how large it suddenly seemed. The room looked like it had grown a full two feet wider in the space of a few minutes. Meanwhile, our bedroom looked tiny and cluttered.

Perception, brokers often tell would-be sellers, is everything. If you want to sell your home quickly, for the best price, it’s important to clear the decks: remove everything except the bare minimum you need to live.

Why? The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason why many brokers suggest you paint that chartreuse room white before listing. Most buyers have a difficult time visualizing what a home will look like with their furniture in it. Your furniture, artwork, and knick-knacks, become distractions that many buyers’ imaginations will have to work overtime to surmount. Buyers who have to work that hard trying to picture how they’ll live in your home won’t buy it. They’ll move on to the next house.

So what do you have to do to clear the decks in your home?

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 line that highlights it’s best feature.

For example, if you have a spectacular view 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 (make sure that window is 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. If your family room has French doors leading to a patio, make sure the path is clear and open.

It’s difficult to get young children, let alone teenagers, to go along with the ”less is more” idea, but try to contain their mounds and mounds of toys, clothes, blankets and books. The same goes for you. Remove as many appliances from kitchen countertops as possible. Tuck the food processor into a cupboard, and put your cookbooks away. The idea is to unclutter your home as much as possible.

Have you reclaimed some long-lost space? Good. Now, let’s look at the outside of your home.

It’s as important to unclutter the exterior of your home even more than the interior. If you don’t ”give good gutter appeal,” says one broker named Lois, then ”they’re never going to see what you’ve done inside.”

First, make sure your landscape is maintained during each season. If you’re in a warm-weather climate, make sure the grass is always cut and edged, hedges are clipped, trees are pruned, and you have some colorful plantings or flower-filled pots. There’s nothing more inviting than a beautiful front garden. Homeowners in northern areas of the country should also plow, salt or sand in winter.

Keep your gutters clean, your windows washed, and your home painted. If you have siding, be sure to hose it down every so often. If your home is made of brick, be sure it’s tuckpointed. Cars should be in their garage stalls. Children’s toys and bikes, and unsightly patio furniture, should be put away.

By giving your home the clean sweep, both inside and out, before you list, you’ll aid potential buyers, who will only need a few minutes to decide where to put their favorite loveseat. And that will take you a giant step toward selling your home.

Published: Jan 12, 2005