Home & Garden

30-day challenge: From clutter and chaos to pared down and functional

Clutter expert Daria LaMoure, left, and homeowner Joey Miller stand in the reorganized room Miller uses for oil painting, music and as a guest room on April 10 in Sacramento.
Clutter expert Daria LaMoure, left, and homeowner Joey Miller stand in the reorganized room Miller uses for oil painting, music and as a guest room on April 10 in Sacramento. rpench@sacbee.com

The last time we visited Joey Miller’s 1,000-square-foot home in East Sacramento, she was halfway through a one-room declutter project that was forcing her to make some tough decisions about what to keep, what to give away and what to toss.

Out went the nonworking flat-screen TV. The beloved turtles and crawfish and their tank got to move against a wall in the dining room, where Miller and her longtime partner, Todd Phillpotts, get to see them more often. But there was still plenty to do.

If you’re joining us for this 30-day challenge, perhaps you’re in the midst of a project of your own. You can learn plenty from Miller’s endeavor.

Her small spare bedroom, which doubles as a home office and art studio, was not necessarily messy, but it was teeming with stuff and more stuff. The room looked overwhelmed, meaning it was cumbersome to do anything without first moving some things and looking for other things.

A room like that can prevent us from doing what we really want to do, resulting in stress and angst.

Miller, a dietitian with an array of hobbies and interests – traveling, rock climbing, music, painting, skateboarding, her pets – was determined to make this room more functional. She had the expert guidance of decluttering consultant Daria LaMoure.

So how did she do? The room is noticeably different. Sure, there are still plenty of things there, including a Murphy bed with a desk, a piano, an easel, art supplies, paintings and an array of framed photos. But everything now makes sense and the room is more focused, divvied up into zones that define the purpose for the space.

For instance, the few books Miller has on the desk are for her immediate attention – she’s planning her next adventure. The easel has moved closer to the back door – she paints in oil and the flow of air helps it dry faster. The piano has much less stuff on it and is ready for her to play at a moment’s notice. She also has an electronic keyboard; she gave the other one to a nephew.

“I had a giant pile of framed photographs just sitting on my bookshelf,” she said. “I was going to get around to it, but they have been sitting there for a year. Part of what (LaMoure) helped me do was decide which photos were most important to me and which ones I wanted to keep, so I have photos of my mother, my father, my best friends, my family, Half Dome.

“It feels great. I actually bring people back here – ‘Come see my spare room; it’s organized.’ We actually use it more. Last weekend, I had some friends over and we just kinda hung out in here for the first time.”

Now that she has transformed the space, Miller has some advice for others who might be struggling with clutter.

“I think what was nice was having someone impartial to say, ‘Does that make you happy? Do you need that? Do you want that book?’ It helped me say, ‘I could get rid of that book,’ ” she said.

“You really tend to keep the essentials, the things that bring you joy and align with your life,” said LaMoure. “We often tend to live in the past unwittingly when we surround ourselves with the things of the past. So the point of decluttering is people end up realizing what’s important in the present and then live with things in the home that inspire the future.”

If you’re at a loss for how to start in your home, consider joining LaMoure’s upcoming declutter project online. Starting Friday, she will be leading a six-week decluttering support program. For details, visit her website, decluttered.life.

For those ready to dig in, LaMoure offers the following advice:

1. Clutter happens. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel alone.

2. Get clear on what you want instead. Decide the purpose of the space, the feeling you’re seeking, and the activities you want it to support.

3. Peel away all that’s in the way of your vision.

4. Think of how this process would benefit the world around you. Giving things back into circulation where they will be loved, appreciated and cared for is a great way to support the charities, organizations and causes you care about.

5. Get a neutral person to help guide you through the filtering and the decision-making process. If you don’t have an unbiased person in your life, hire someone.

For Miller, getting a handle on the room she calls her “woman cave” was a big deal. She uses the room more, and she’s much happier when she does. And those charming turtles that really didn’t fit with the multiple purposes of the space are now out in the dining room and getting more attention than ever.

If you have a decluttering experience you’d like readers to know about, send an email to brobertson@sacbee.com and tell us about it.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob