We all tend to think that spring is the best time of year to clean out the house and down-size. But if you have kids that have been home a lot this summer, or you've spent most of your weekends in or around any body of water available, fall might be an ideal time to get your house in order.

It's also a good time to redecorate, because retailers are slashing prices on last season's decor to make room for their fall collections. But even when they're on sale, home goods are never cheap. And you still have to figure out what to do with all your old stuff. So here's a suggestion: Have a yard sale, then use the funds to buy new decor while the sales are still going.

I'm a big fan of yard sales, but one of the biggest problems I've seen is when the hosts don't pay attention to merchandising. You really have to pretend to be a retailer when you have a yard sale. Organize your sale into product categories, and make everything you're selling visible and eye-catching. That means hanging clothing and sorting them by size, gender and season.

Advertise everywhere possible at least a week beforehand, and start the sale toward the end of the week instead of Saturday morning. Consumer Reports advises not to put price tags on anything because buyers will typically bid a price that's above what you'd typically be asking for it. If you're selling precious items, you might want to consider an online auction site if you want to get the highest return on it.

Now that you have all that cash, it may be tempting to spend it all on a new couch or TV set. But try to stretch your dollars on things that will freshen up the place without splurging on all new furniture.

Throw pillows, new lighting, even new paint can work wonders to give your home the new look you're craving. Westelm.com has curtains and pillow covers under $40, and Pier 1 Imports has dozens of decorative goods on clearance right now.

And since you're now a pro at navigating yard sales, check out a few around town if you don't mind used goods. And keep in mind, many leases on downtown houses were up at the end of July, so August is a great month to find used goods at the downtown Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 731 Meeting St.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail