The best part about moving into a new home is the fresh start. You have another chance to get life right. If you're like me, you think that somehow, if you put things just right, your whole life will fall into place.

Oh, if that were only true!

But this is clear: Put right things in the right place, and you will live better and more beautifully than if you put wrong things in the wrong place. And, eventually -- and there is an eventually -- you will sell your house faster and possibly for more money.

I'm at that threshold again. As a live-in home stager, my job is to make a stranger walk inside a home that isn't mine and want to move right in, so his or her life will fall into place, too.

The feat requires mastering the lived-in comfort level without the too-lived-in look. So this week, while gearing up for my third home-staging project in as many years, I phoned a pro.

Barb Schwarz, owner of http://stagedhomes.com in Seattle, has been staging homes for more than 40 years, and she trains others in how to do it, too.

"Selling a home is like being on stage," says Schwarz, a former stage actress. "You have to set the scene for every different act, for every room. And regardless of the home's selling price, staging principles are the same."

The basics: Clean (get the flies out of the windowsill); paint (with good neutrals); declutter (eliminate anything smaller than an orange); depersonalize (remove all family photos and collections).


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This is what Schwarz says to her advanced students: "You live in your home one way, and you market it another. First, stand in the doorway and look at each room (pretending) you're a stranger to the place." If potential buyers stand at the door and say "uh-huh," they're not connecting. "Staging pulls them in," she says.

Schwarz offers these home-staging tips:

Show them the possibilities. Help buyers see the good life they will have in the space. Set up a board game in the den. Set the table outdoors with fun linens and margarita glasses.

Think three. When arranging items on a table, go with three items of different heights, arranged in a triangle: for instance, a table lamp (tall), a plant (medium), a stack of wooden coasters (short).

Check the reading material. Put away magazines with busy covers. Avoid celebrity covers, Schwarz says. "If you leave out a People with Kim Kardashian on the cover, the buyers will pick it up and read, instead of looking at your house." Make sure books are appropriate. She says, "I have seen sellers leave out books about sex or the Holocaust, which can turn buyers off."

Play the angles. Putting beds or armoires at an angle can break up flat lines and enhance a room's flow. Try it if the room feels too static.

Invite with towels. Tie bath towels (in excellent condition) on towel bars with raffia, tulle or thick ribbons. Hang towels over the edge of the tub; place French soap on them and a clean loofah. Keep towels you actually use hidden.

Accessorize the kitchen. Pull decorative accessories away from the walls, about one-third of the way. Don't cram them in the corner. A touch I like is a white rectangular plate with three pieces of fruit spaced evenly on it -- peaches, pears and apples. Put an open cookbook on an easel. Put away appliances. Use one large rug, rather than a few small ones.

Detail the refrigerator and pantry: Shelves and drawers need to be clean, and crumb- and grunge-free. Artfully arrange contents (think still-life), and strive for lots of empty space, so buyers will think there's room to spare.

Thin is in -- in the closet. Remove clothes that aren't for the current season. Use nice matching hangers, no wire ones. Edit your shoe collection, and make sure no dirty laundry is visible. Leave empty shelves. Hang a pretty nightie on the door.

Fluff up the bed. The master bed is a major focal point. Stage it with decorative pillows. Put a bottle of sparkling wine on a tray with two glasses on a side table.

"Once we detail the bedroom, some clients sleep on the floor in sleeping bags because they don't want to mess up the bed," Schwarz says.

"That is not happening where I live," I assure her. "There are limits to the lengths I will go."

Contact Marni Jameson through www.marnijameson.com.