A lifetime accumulation of furniture and belongings is infused with memories for the owner …and is a major complication to selling. Whether you are clearing out a house you have inherited or are pruning back toantique-nov-11 move to a retirement place, here’s how to sort with an eye to selling.

First, think about the market appeal of the house itself. If the house has a unique style – midcentury modern or Victorian, for instance – that style will be a selling point. Listing photos will need to reinforce the unique design elements of the house and buyers will want to see how the heritage of the house comes through in real life.

That means that you’ll want to use furniture and accessories that reinforce the unique appeal of the house in listing photos. So, even if the carved wood Victorian sofa is the first thing you want to sell, consider holding on to it to stage the Victorian living room.

It might be worthwhile to work with a professional stager who can help you choose the items that are in the best condition and that work best to highlight the features of the house without making it look like a museum. If there’s a lot of stuff, consider calling a professional estate sale company to see if the extra help in sorting and selling is worth the fee of about 30% of the sale proceeds.

Clear out closets, pantries, cabinets and built-in storage. Buyers want to see clean, open storage space. It’s a safe bet to empty out storage areas so they can be cleaned and freshened.

Clear out and clean the bathroom, paying particular attention to medicine cabinets and under-sink storage. Remove or replace shower curtains. Be sure to dispose of medicine safely – don’t flush prescription medicines down the toilet or pour them down the drain, where they can affect the water supply. Safely dispose of cleaning solutions, too. Throw out old makeup, grooming supplies, soap and the like. Do keep a ready supply of liquid soap, toilet paper and disposable guest towels.

Consider holding two estate sales: one for small things, collectibles, yard furniture and garage gear. This clears out small things and sparks interest in the house itself. Even if the house isn’t yet ready to paint, stage and photograph, consider creating a simple listing (free at USRealty.com) so you can pass out listing sheets to sale shoppers. Also collect email addresses of shoppers interested in furniture and larger items you want to sell after the house is under contract.

Successful staging of the house might invite buyers to inquire about buying the furniture, lamps, and accessories that complement the house. Research asking prices in advance so you can respond with reasonable asking prices. As well, you might offer furnishings as part of the negotiation, especially for first-time buyers on tight budgets.