De-Clutter Your Home

You've heard it all before: Clean. De-clutter. Neutralize. That is the common advice given to owners prior to listing a home for sale. It is good advice. But, a little clarification may be in order.

Although cleaning and polishing cannot be overdone, there is a tendency to strip all personality from a house if de-cluttering, de-personalizing and neutralizing are carried to the extreme.

Emphasize the Architecture

The goal is to show the house to full advantage. For that to happen, the emphasis should be on the structure and space rather than on the furniture and the art. Simple, tasteful furnishings showcase the intended use of each room. A few well-chosen accessories and pieces of art add interest. Personal styles can enhance or detract; anything that distracts a potential buyer from experiencing and evaluating the home itself should be stored or removed.

Personal collections and photographs fall into the category of distractions. Prospective buyers must be allowed to visualize their own families and the possibilities of their own lives in new surroundings. There is nothing wrong with a single framed photo on a nightstand, for instance, but a hallway lined with children's portraits should be discouraged.

Think Like a Buyer

Cleaning out closets, cabinets and bookcases is recommended to demonstrate the wealth of space the home has. If kitchen counters are filled with objects, and every empty space is filled to overflowing, the perception is that storage space is insufficient. Packing up in advance of a move is time management in action, as well. Whatever you can pack and move out of the house in advance means less that you have to accomplish when the sale is finalized.

In the same vein, leaving a pair of reading glasses resting with a book on the coffee table is humanizing. Leaving homework and schoolbooks on the breakfast table, dirty dishes in the sink or a vanity full of grooming aids in plain sight is simply slovenly.

Color Can Be a Friend

Color theory teaches that certain colors are welcoming, just as flowers, pleasant scents and soft music evoke positive emotions. Try to use colors -- fresh, happy, seasonal colors -- as accents to add appeal to your rooms. You don't want to "shout" to your guests, but a subtle dose of sunny yellow or beachy blue-green can lend a sense of excitement or a feeling of peace. Experiment with different combinations. Ask friends for their reactions.