Our family has been preparing to sell my mother-in-law’s little house for the past few months. The process began with the excruciating removal of personal items, followed by the room-to-room sorting, disposing and relocating of all treasures, house wares and junk. Once all remainders were in the garage awaiting an estate sale and the house was ready to show, we had a professional cleaner come in and the place was scoured, top to bottom.

We cleared the yards of the plethora of wind chimes, yard art and empty pots. I then introduced staging items like fresh pillows, kitchen accents, candlesticks for the mantle, more neutral linens, coordinating wall art and a new welcome mat. And today I got word we received a full price offer, before it was even listed!

I have been working with realtors and sellers for several years, in both busy markets and less frequently, in dead ones. Staging seems to be accepted for highly competitive seller’s markets, but as a decorator I consider it a crucial part of every selling process.

Staging a home to sell means preparing the property so that it will appeal to the largest number of potential buyers, and thus sell in the shortest amount of time. The goal of home staging is to highlight the positives, distract from the negatives, and minimize any potential concerns. It means setting the stage for the improved life that a buyer imagines: drawing attention by accenting the deep bathtub, generous patio, sunny reading corner, or large bedroom, for example.

So, if you have great views, arrange furniture to face the windows; a nondescript house can be spruced up with the addition or distribution of interesting art and accessories; and updated lighting and appliances can give a potential buyer the impression the entire home has been well maintained.

Redesign staging is my favorite way to improve a home for sale. This type of staging means working with the sellers and using their own furnishings, art and accessories to show the house to its best advantage. This usually requires removing personal items, pre-packing unnecessary things and neutralizing the home so that anyone can imagine themselves living there. (Think: model home). The challenge for sellers involves living with less substantially stuff while your home is on the market, as a staged home should have a third of what an average family home has in it. It always saddens me that a house looks its absolute best just before it is put up for sale.

A real estate stager will make a house as pristine, simply decorated and neutral in style as possible so that when a house hunter recalls it later, he will automatically remember the unique architecture, beautiful setting, immaculate condition or ample size, as opposed to its personal contents. I recommend staging your home before any marketing is done, as the realtors’ pictures and showings will reflect every bit of your efforts.

Even if your home is not for sale, try to emphasize its unique assets and enjoy its beauty every day you live there.