Love those toy trains from your childhood? Totally attached to your collection of moose stuff? Dedicated to your college fraternity memorabilia? Take a deep breath and a long gaze –then box ‘em up and ship them out to a storage facility or at least to a hidden spot under your bed. For no matter how much sentiment these personal items hold for you, these little treasures are nothing but CLUTTER to prospective buyers.

Removing clutter is an important step in fighting the staging shark. Clearing clutter from your home accomplishes two things; it makes areas of the house easier to clean and it neutralizes the space so prospective buyers can picture their own treasured items there. So, if you begin cringing as you read the following suggestions, repeat this mantra after me: Space sells.

Many folks find it easier to begin with clearing out the garage, an area where unwanted items often land. Throw away worthless items you can do without and store important items in a warehouse or friend’s garage. As you collect "disposable" items from your house de-cluttering, organize them neatly in your garage in preparation for a garage sale. Many home sales experts recommend removing half your furniture from the house. This is a good time to repeat, "space sells." Accent tables, extra chairs, cabinets that hold huge collections are good choices for removal.

For example, a dining room table with chairs should be kept in the room while a corner china cabinet or curio shelf would be removed. Bedrooms should contain just one double or queen size bed or two twin beds. Extra beds should be stored. Take an inventory of those items you can do without for awhile. Make a note of where you plan to put each item when it is removed. Store it, sell it or give it away. Depersonalize space. Remove your teenage daughter’s poster of Orlando Bloom from her bedroom, your husband’s stuffed deer head from the study and any partisan items like bumper stickers, books or magazines from the family room. All spaces should be neutral zones so potential buyers can picture their own belongings in each room. Remind your family members that they can have these items back as soon as the house sells!

Just as it is good to remember that space sells, it is also important to remember The Rule of Three. Step one of the rule: Take everything off the kitchen counter, bathroom vanity, table tops and mantles and wipe them clean. Step two: Return only THREE items to each space. Yes, ONLY three. As for the left over items-store them, sell them or give them away. Keep in mind that nothing is sacred when a house is on the market. Anything that can be opened in any room-closets, drawers, cabinets, shower curtains, pantry doors-will be explored by potential buyers. Clean out and organize closets, drawers and the pantry. Keep the shower spotless and remove shampoo and conditioner bottles or any other personal care items.

In the bedroom, remove half the clothes from each closet, put shoes on a rack and hang purses and belts on pegs or organizers. Don’t forget to recycle all those newspapers you have stashed in the hall closet. Leave no cabinet door unopened or unclean. In her book, "Simples Steps You Can Take to Sell Your Home Faster and for More Money in Any Market," AIlyce R. Glink suggests creating a "clutter collector" in areas where papers and writing utensils seem to collect. Glink’s clutter collector is a large flat storage box that is kept where mail and schoolwork seem to end up each day. Keep all receipts, old phone messages, pens and pencils, children’s artwork, permission slips and other miscellaneous papers in the box. Just before a potential buyer is scheduled to arrive for a showing, store the cutter collector underneath a bed.

Whew! Now that you’ve de-cluttered your house, what do you do with the items that you no longer need but are still usable? You have several options. If you donate them to a charity, you may be able to receive an income tax deduction for the value amount. An added bonus: Often these organizations will pick up donations so you can spend your time elsewhere. You can always sell unwanted items through consignment shops, classified ads, garage sales, tag sales or an auction. It might be nice to have a little extra cash to help pay moving expenses. But if you can’t bear to part with these unnecessary treasures, self-storage may be the right answer for you. Rented storage units are particularly convenient places to keep furniture, seasonal sports gear, holiday decorations and patio furniture.

If clearing clutter seems like an overwhelming task, just remember that doing so is an important part of fighting the staging shark. Reducing clutter makes each room easier to clean because there are fewer objects to move when dusting and vacuuming. And don’t forget what is down the road: The move. The more you clean out or box up, the easier it will be to prepare to move after your house sells. Since you will have more important things to do at that time, doesn’t it make sense to get it done before your buyer looks at the house?