Everyone loves the New Year because it is a chance to refresh—a chance to see things in a new way. As a Realtor, I know the value of refreshing a home before a sale. I encourage my clients to envision their home through the eyes of a visitor…does their styling enhance the best parts of the home? Does a potential buyer come in and feel comfortable? Does the space function well for a variety of uses?

Answering yes to all three questions often results in more offers and a higher purchase price (really!). For those of us who are staying put for a while, considering these questions for our own homes can lead to more satisfaction and a higher level of enjoyment (really, again!).

We all use our homes differently. To successfully refresh your home, thoughtfully consider how you need it to function, and what you want it to convey.

The main room of your home is a great place to begin, but feel free to choose the room that is going to bring you the most satisfaction. Then, before you lift a finger, select five or six words that describe the purpose of the room. Writing these down beforehand is a crucial step in defining what you want and need from the space.

If you plan to sell, you will want your staging to invite visitors to feel immediately at ease, and see the countless possibilities available in your home. You may choose words like calm, neutral, welcoming, spacious, clean, open, inviting, and simple.

If you are refreshing your home for your own enjoyment, your words might vary greatly. Choosing the words beautiful, formal, elegant, peaceful, and calm would take you in a different direction than the words light, open, comfortable, welcoming and kid-friendly. Being purposeful with the words you choose will help guarantee you end up delighted with your new arrangement.

Next, you will want to “quiet the room.” Quieting the room is a technique used to look at what you have with new eyes. Start by finding a large space that is close to, but not in, the room you are working on. This is your holding area. A clean kitchen counter or dining room table works great. Then, remove all the room’s accessories—everything except the furniture and rugs—and move them to your holding area.

If you are willing to repaint, now is the time. Painting is inexpensive, relatively easy, and can change the feel of a room dramatically. A $30 can of paint is worth $1000 on the walls. Home sellers will want to choose a neutral color that has broad appeal. We love Behr’s Mineral, Benjamin Moore’s Hazy Skies, and Sherwin William’s Worldly Gray, but you will always want to test a color in your room before committing. If you want a new look, but are lacking inspiration, spend a little time on Pinterest.com or Houzz.com.

When your room is gleaming with a new coat of (dry) paint, look at your furniture. Reducing the amount of furniture in the room will make it look larger. Make sure the room is easy to walk through, and has a flow that leads into the other rooms of the house. Ask yourself if each piece is contributing to the feel you want (remember your five words!) and don’t hesitate to move things around a lot before you decide on the best arrangement. Also, don’t be afraid to paint a piece of furniture to add some new life to it. Painting a wood piece white will lighten a room considerably. Or, try a bold color for a pop of excitement. You can always repaint it if you don’t like it. The rewards are worth the risk!

Make sure you vacuum and dust while all the surfaces are empty, then it’s time to add accessories back in from your holding area. This can be the most fun part, if you take your time and don’t aim for perfection.

For home sellers, the things you put back will be minimal. You want your home to look valued, but simple. Choose a few large pieces to accent the room, but put away anything smaller than a cantaloupe. If you don’t use something every day, pack it for the move, or set it aside for a garage sale. It’s also a good idea to remove anything personal such as family pictures and mementos, so potential buyers can easily imagine the space as their own.

For your own home, choose an inspiration item (something you LOVE) and build around it. A favorite wall hanging might be squandered if surrounded by too many objects, but a few items with the same colors can really make it stand out.

Take your time, but don’t think too much. Experiment with new places and arrangements. Move things around, and move them around again. You might be surprised at how the end table you never quite liked looks wonderful with a different lamp. And shop your house! There is no reason the chair in the bedroom can’t make a move to the family room. You are refreshing—starting from scratch with the things you already have.

Back to those needs and wants…You may want a refined, simple space, but your small children need their toys to be released from the holding area. It is easier to enjoy a room when it functions well, and it is easier to have functional objects if they are also attractive. Good-looking storage containers are not very expensive, but have a considerable payoff. A beautiful bowl on the bookshelf can corral reading glasses, spare change and other small objects that need a home. Keep your five words in mind, then purposefully add baskets, hooks, bowls, and bins that will make your room function at its finest.

Ahhhhhhh. Time to rest in your newly refreshed home!