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Ask the Stager: How to make your closet look its best

Ask the Expert
Easy-Closets-Staged
There should be nothing on the floor. EasyClosets

The impact a closet has on your home’s first impression is often overlooked.

Buyers will pace through your home in 5 to 10 minutes, so you might assume they won’t take the time to look in your closets. But be warned — they will. Your master bedroom closet will definitely be on their must-see list.

A messy, unkept, or smelly closet will give the buyer the impression that you, the owner, are equally as messy. They will wonder whether there are other areas in your home that are unkept, lurking behind doors or under roof tile. That’s why it’s imperative that in addition to staging your main living areas, you also spend time organizing and creating a cohesive look in your closets.

Think of closet organization as the first step in moving. This is an opportunity to remove items so that when it comes time to go to your next home, you aren’t carrying clutter into your new space.

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The goal is to have the closet half empty. That’s right — half. This will create the illusion of ample storage space and a large closet.

Here’s how:

■ Donate, consign, or throw away clothing that you have not worn in more than a year, that you just don’t love, or that has gone out of style.

■ If you bought a piece of clothing and for some reason have never worn it, get rid of it. Don’t hang on to it forever in guilt.

■ Get rid of the old college sweat shirts and T-shirts that have seen better days. You’re better than that.

■ Save the pieces that bring you joy.

■ Save the pieces that you feel great in.

■ Save the clothing in the colors that you look best in.

■ Remove all items that are out of season and store them in the attic, not in another closet.

■ Pick up the floor. It should be clean and void of all items.

■ Remove all items that are loose and not on hangers, such as shoes, jewelry, sweaters, belts, etc. Place them on your bed and sort through them to determine which pieces can be stored or donated and which fabulous pieces you’ll keep.

Once you have completed these steps, do them again. You’ll be amazed at what pieces you’re ready to purge.

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■ Get matching hangers

We suggest black or beige velvet slim hangers that can be found on Amazon.com or at Bed Bath & Beyond. They sell 50 for about $20. Wooden hangers are also a popular option. Throw away all of your old hangers and remove dry-cleaning bags.

■ Lighting

If the closet is dark, purchase a few light “pucks’’ so the space feels light and bright.

■ Air freshener

Nothing says “we live here’’ like your child’s sports gear or dirty laundry. An air freshener will instantly infuse a fresh feel into the space.

■ Storage bins

Purchase a few white storage bins in which to place purses, scarves, and other miscellaneous items.

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■ Re-hang the items you are keeping

Organize your clothes by style first: dresses in one section, pants in another, tank tops together, etc. Then organize by color — light to dark within the color packs. Leave one-thumb’s width (or a half inch) between each hanger.

■ Organize the smaller items into bins or drawers and tuck them away. You don’t want to see any clutter.

■ Items that are folded should be coordinated first by style and then by color. Try to keep the shelves with folded items less than half full so the buyer can see there is space for more.

Once you are finished, take a moment to look at your closets through the eye of a buyer. Ideally, you want buyers to see how easily ALL of their items will fit into your beautiful home.

This can be an emotional process, but stay focused on the fact that this task will help you sell your home faster. Look at it as a win-win, not as a lost effort. And as a bonus, you may find that getting dressed is much more fun, as the items you love the most, and that look amazing on you, are on display and waiting to make your day.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Staging Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.