02/25/2013 12:16 EST | Updated 04/27/2013 05:12 EDT

11 Ways to Get Your Home Ready for the Market

This June 13, 2012, photo, shows a house for sale in San Diego. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday, June 14, 2012, that average rates on fixed mortgages rose this week, the first increase in seven weeks, but they remain near historic lows, boosting prospects for home sales this year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Sort. Declutter. Clean... Repeat.

That's been my life for the past eight months since we decided to put our home of 28 years up for sale.

We're nearing the end, and my firmest hope is for a quick sale... and a long closing. So I have a break from this routine and more time before I have to pack. And clean again.

If any of you are about to embark on a similar venture, here's a few pointers on getting your home ready for the sale.

1. Allow yourself plenty of time, especially if you have been in your home for decades. You will need that time to sort through everything. It all takes longer than you think, especially when an item triggers a trip down memory lane.

2. Get expert advice. If you have a real estate that you plan to use, call them in early and get their advice on what you need to do. Our agent walked through the house and gave us a list of what needed to be done and fixed, and provided us with a list of contractors we could use to get the work done.

3. Don't spend dollars on expensive renovations. We were all ready to renovate two bathrooms, but our real estate agent talked us out of it. Instead we had a bathtub repainted (who knew you could do this?) and purchased a new vanity and toilet. The bathroom looks new and modern, at a fraction of the price that a full renovation would have cost us.

4. Get outside photos done in summer. Instead of having your photos done in the winter, which can make your house look gloomy, take them ahead of time so you can showcase your home at its best.

5. Go for beige. We had the walls repainted in the house. Now I would call it "blah beige" but I am assured that clean, neutral walls sell.

6. Let there be light. Make sure all your light bulbs are working so your rooms look bright and cheery.

7. Clean your grout. Who knew that this could be a deal-breaker for some people? I tell you it is also a back-breaker trying to clean it up.

8. When in doubt, out. As I have sorted through each room, I have some pieces I would love to keep, but I have also had to be brutal and ask myself -- where will it go, and will I really, really use it?

9. Give away treasures. Finding a "good home" for some treasures has been fun. Some friends have gladly adopted some items and our daughters have been quick to put in their bids on certain pieces of furniture.

10. Decluttering is freeing. We rented a dumpster early on and it was very freeing to just get rid of paper and files that are no longer relevant to our lives. We also arranged for more personal documents to be shredded.

11. Donate. Once you've determined that no one you know wants certain items, you can always donate them to charity. I have been making regular trips to the Salvation Army for weeks now, and I gave away several collections of books to organizations whose clients would use them.

So just a few days to go, and the house goes on the market. I have to say it looks amazing. Typical, all those jobs we'd put off for ages, have been done and the house is sparkling and looking its best.

To be honest, it is going to be hard to part with this home that has been so much part of our lives, and in which our children grew up. But I also know it is time and a new young family will just love living there. Fingers crossed for the quick sale.

Staging A House