When it's time to sell, most homeowners don't look forward to preparing a home for the real estate market. 

Homestaging simply sounds like so much time and energy! It means decluttering, cleaning, and second-guessing the decor decisions made over the years. 

And if that homeowner is cost-conscious (and who isn't?) she's probably dreading the thought of having to make costly repairs and purchases to look better than similar houses on the market nearby. 

DIY home staging is the budget-conscious approach to staging a home. Rather than pay a staging business, you can throw a small portion of that cash towards the work and embellishments your property might need to appeal to a large group of buyers. 

Whether you've just begun considering a home sale, or you've had your home on the market for more months than you like, or are at any other point in the selling timeline, this post's for you. It's my list of five economical must-haves to kick start your home staging.  

In his timeless, classic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lists the first three habits as "be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first." It is in that spirit that I'm suggesting this starter kit for staging your own home. 

If you follow Covey's advice, you'll save yourself time, money, and frustration and be pleased with your results. The fact that his book has celebrated 30 years as a five-star bestseller tells you alot. It's bound to make getting a home ready for market much less troublesome without going over budget. Here's what's in your starter kit.   

A sample of your main color 

Don't let your current color scheme boss you around. One of your first decisions (First things first!) as a home stager will be to choose a neutral color for all walls. Perhaps you already have interior walls painted a suitable background color, a color that anyone could live with, a color that harmonizes with all your fixed features like countertops and flooring. For staging purposes, I always recommend one interior paint wall color throughout the house whenever practical. 

Maybe you have a paint sample card from the paint store. Or maybe you made a card yourself from paint on hand. If you want to color match exactly something immobile in your home, like the grain in a granite counter or one color in a large rug, bring home chips from the paint store until you find the perfect match. I don't trust a cell phone to accurately save a particular color. 

Keep this sample with you as you hunt for staging items like fabrics and props. This is your go-to color that will pull all your decor together. Of course, you won't always be matching the color, but you need to see if new purchases work well with your main color. A simple color scheme works best. 

Greys and other neutral colors can be tricky to match and to coordinate with other neutrals.
Having a small sample of your main color simplifies decisions. Photo: Magnolia

Some microfiber cloths

Your starter kit needs a bundle of microfiber cloths. For the best price, buy them at the discount store or automotive department. Every professional cleaning person relies on these cloths. Get them in a variety of colors to make your work easier. I use blue for window cleaning, green for floors, grey for granite and tile cleaning, and yellow for general wipe-ups and dusting. Often no cleaning chemical is required, since these cloths grab and hold dust and grit. 

Cleaning is a crucial piece of the homestaging puzzle. After an initial deep clean (you might want to hire a pro team if there is too much for you to handle), using microfiber cloths, and microfiber mops and dusters will keep your home show-ready with the least amount of effort. Wash the cloths in warm water without strong detergents, scented products, or fabric softeners. 

Begin with the end in mind: a super-clean home. A Realtor once told me, "A clean house, well priced will always sell!" You can't underestimate the value of a spotless, good-smelling house.  

A supply of eraser sponges

No cleaning kit is complete without a few Magic Erasers. I don't find there is much difference between knockoff brands and the big boys. I often cut one in half in order to get more mileage from it. 

I've already blogged about these cleaning sponges, what they are made of, how they work, where to use them, and when not to use them.     

Tape measure 

Be proactive. Anticipate results and problems when you are planning your staging. For example, the phrase, "Measure twice, cut once," is just as true for fabric as it is for lumber. Be prepared to take measurements. Bringing home a lampshade that's too small or a nightstand that's too large can waste your time and maybe your money. 

It's easier to pack a tape measure rather than a yardstick or ruler when you go out. It's pocket-friendly and flexible enough to measure upholstered pieces and furniture curves. If you are shopping garage sales or second-hand stores, it's even more important to be able to measure what you want to buy. Don't be the guy who has to saw a table in half to get it up the stairwell or in the elevator. 

Alternatively, you can use your smartphone to take measurements. It will take some practice but you'll have measurements handily on record!

Spray paints

Now that you've selected a primary paint for your walls, you might as well arm yourself with some cans of spray paint in either secondary or tertiary colors. The best home staging color combinations are based around a 3-part formula -- a main color as the background, a second color that harmonizes with that one, and a third color to provide some depth and interest. For staging, selections based on an analogous color palette work best. They are less distracting and create a sense of intent and security. 

The reason I am including spray paint in this starter kit is that you can make your own small samples on paper and carry these as part of your shopping kit. 

When it comes to spray paints, Krylon is my fave. You'll have no excuse for not finding
a perfect accent color, plus basics like black, whites, greys, and metallics. 

The other reason is that spray painting projects are best done under ideal conditions. Outside, in a protected area is ideal, away from airborne particles like dust and bugs. Humidity should be below 85%, and temperatures should be between 50 and 90 degrees. Too hot and the particles dry in the air to give you a bumpy coat of paint, too cold and the paint won't dry quickly enough. Stay out of direct sun, and give yourself good ventilation. 

So, tackle those spray jobs when it works best for you. Gather your spray paint projects and get ready for that perfect spray day. 

Get the look, get the book

Begin with the end in mind: a home that sells quickly at a price you like. Of course, no staging starter kit is complete without a copy of my eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. Download yours now so you can get started budget staging your home, or so you can tweak the way you've already staged it. Realtors, investors, professional home stagers, builders and others rave about what they learn from my eBooks!