Start now, to sell in summer. Don't give up your dream; I am so glad I just plowed ahead and did what I thought was impossible. We decided we wanted to move in late Sept 2004, and put the house on the market Feb 15th! It takes time; don't give up.
I started the impossible task--decluttering and staging my house to sell, in spite of my two little babies, who tear thru the house and create debris nonstop--and my house is SOLD, and my whole ordeal is almost over, as we close in 4 weeks!
Start GETTING RID OF STUFF. You have things stored in your basement? Have you used them within the past year? Maybe it's time to say good-bye, or like you've said, pay $300 to store it. What is that basement of stuff worth to you, really?
We decluttered like crazy, with donating massive amounts of stuff to Goodwill, and packing up tons of stuff to store in a good friend's ample basement (to avoid those $$ storage places...it gets pricey quick.) We removed a lot from our house to make it Pottery Barn perfect...books, a china cabinet, extra chairs, extra knick-nacks, photos in frames, TOYS, toys, toys.
Over the course of 6 weeks, we got things decluttered, staged (our Realtor was very into this...recommended a book "Dress Your House for Success" with tips like, paint your closets a fresh coat of white.....and we did paint two of 'em--night and DAY difference, my god, I thought that was crazy, but then we DID it, and it was right on.
Our Realtor, bless her heart, also shared her own lamps, vases, etc., to spruce up our house. You could also ask friends/family to lend key furniture pieces (a nice side table) or lamps or whatever, too. All those little things; having a clean house with a completely cleared-off countertop, fresh flowers (yes it's a "waste" of $15, but do it!) and green plants, fresh towels, spacious closets...they all create emotion, and emotion will tug at that prospective buyer and make them WANT the house.
With small children, we felt it was worth the effort to do all we could to make the house its most attractive, including asking a non-greedy price, so that it would sell as soon as humanely possible. And guess what, in spite of our sluggish market around here, it sold in 6 days. Amazing.
Just start paying attention to de-cluttering how-tos, here at mdc, and at the library. Start thinking about what you can get rid of. Go to open houses, see what makes a house look messy, see what staging techniques make you say, hey, that's GOOD. Look CAREFULLY at that Pottery Barn catalog page with the kitchen counter...what is ON it? What stuff is on the bathroom shelves? Open a medicine cabinet--is there a gross toothpaste tube and a box of tampax? Or something cute, like lotions and soap and "safe" stuff like that?
Soon you'll be on your way to the house on the street you REALLY want to be in, with your little ones. Now is the time. Technically speaking, it is easier to pull off the house-selling stunt when your youngest can't walk around and mess stuff up, so go ahead and get crackin'!