How To Clean A Closet

When cleaning a closet it ALWAYS gets worse before it gets better!

When cleaning a closet it ALWAYS gets worse before it gets better!

Hall closets are my notorious landing pads for STUFF. You know- the items I’m not sure where to put, but might need someday, however company is coming, and I need to clean the counter, and so I will throw it in the closet for “just now”, because certainly I will get to it next week. Please tell me I am not the only one who does this.

When cleaning up my family asks me, “Mom, where does this go?” Apparently I am supposed to know where each piece of minutia belongs. Irritatingly enough, I usually do know. No wonder I can’t remember what I came into a room for- my brain is clogged with the location of each item we own. But I digress. When I don’t have time to answer the location question, I say, “Just put it in the closet.”

Currently, I am tackling the closet that has housed our homeschool items for over a decade. Don’t worry, it has been cleaned out often over the years, which explains why it has not already burst at the seams. Now with only two students, I am re-purposing the closet.

Today, somewhere between old school papers, out of date books, and the plethora of electrical cords I am too afraid to throw away, I was struck by a thought. I don’t just need to clean out my physical closets. I need to clean out my spiritual closet just as often. And conveniently, the same steps apply.

1. Empty it ALL Out

Closet: The only way to force myself to deal with the trivia is to take every single item out. AFTER it is all out, I honestly evaluate each thing. Do I use this anymore? Do I even know what it is? Is it sentimental? Do I need five of the same thing? (Be assured- the answer is No!) Sort out the items.

Where does all the stuff come from? What if I need it someday? And my 27 year old drew that when he was 10. How am I supposed to get rid of that?

Where does all the stuff come from? What if I need it someday? And my 27 year old drew that when he was 10. How am I supposed to get rid of that?

Spiritual closet: Get it all out. What junk am I carrying around that I need to deal with? What frustrations keep coming up? What past hurts are lurking in the corners of my heart? Are there any old memories or desires that are not helpful or life-giving to my present life? Which are useful to keep? With Jesus’ help I WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING I can think of that is mucking up my insides. I list each item separately.

2. CLEAN the Closet

Closet: Wipe down, sweep out, add fresh paint if needed. There steps are never easier than when the closet is empty. Then before I return my any items to the closet, I re-evaluate my closet usage. Just because a hall closet has always been used for linens, does not mean that is the most efficient use of that space. I am master of my closet, not the other way around. How can I best use this space?

Spiritual closet: Clearing out the muck that is clogging my emotions is not enough. I wipe down my spiritual closet by the "washing of the Word." The more time I spend in the Bible, the healthier my emotional and spiritual life becomes. (Ephesians 5:26-26)

3. Keep ONLY What I Need

Closet: Once everything is out I can shop my stuff for what is useful and what I want to keep. I used to try to sort as I took it out, but I ended up keeping far too much. If I only put back items with value and current usefulness, I discard much more randomness. I do allow myself some sentimental keepsakes, such as art from my kids, which goes into a container specified for that use. (Hint: a container can only contain so much, which insures I will have to choose only the best items to save.)

Spiritual: Go through the items I wrote down. Are there any items worth keeping in my memory bank? Circle them, thank God for them, and scratch them off the list.

Are there items of anger and frustration at others? Do I need to forgive someone? I circle these and thank God for each item. Next I ask Him for His grace for this stuff. Then I deal with it by spending lots of time in prayer, forgiving each item specifically. AS much as it is up to me I want to be at peace with all men. (Romans 18:1) I am may not be able to have a conversation with the offender, but I can forgive on my part.

If I need to talk to someone about an issue I thank God for the opportunity. Next, I ask for wisdom on how to speak and for the grace to have no expectation about results or their response, and then I go to the person.

Do I need to apologize for my part in a disagreement? After asking God for the grace and strength to be humble enough to follow through, I circle these and thank God for each one. Then I deal with them. Quickly. Before I lose my nerve.

4. Thanking God for EVERYTHING 

Closet: When I am discouraged at the height of the mess of the great clean-out, I thank God for His incredible generosity.

Spiritual Closet: Did you notice that for every item in my spiritual closet, even the messy bits, I thank God? Honestly, I am still learning this step, but God is faithfully teaching me. I thank God for everything, because He will use it all. Nothing is wasted. No hurt goes without a lesson or a growth. Frustration brings understanding, pain teaches empathy, loss builds dependence on the only One Who does not disappoint.

5. Put Items Back NEATLY

Closet: The most important key to keeping my closets clean is how easy it is to put stuff away. If a member of my family, that does not feel the need to retain the knowledge of the location of all we own, opens the closet, will they be able to reasonably put something where it belongs?

Homeschool closet no more! Now it holds my cleaning supplies and some odd kitchen items that fit no where else. A clean closet makes a happy Mama!

Homeschool closet no more! Now it holds my cleaning supplies and some odd kitchen items that fit no where else. A clean closet makes a happy Mama!

Spiritual closet: The only way to keep my heart clean is to forgive quickly. God does not wait for me to get my act together to forgive me, and that is my standard for others. If I forgive immediately, I stay clean. My heart stays in order when I keep my accounts short.

6. GET RID of The Junk

Closet: As quickly as possible I bag it, hide it in the trunk of my car, and take it to a donation station, before anyone has a chance to rifle through the bag. Items always migrate back out, if the bag hangs around too long.

Spiritual closet: I find that hurts and frustrations have a tendency to wander back into my heart if I leave them laying around. I need to take the items on my list and check off that I have dealt with them with Jesus. The only “donation station” for this junk is the cross. I take it and I leave it. Permanently.

If it is a reoccurring item that I keep wrestling with, I record the date and time beside the specific hurt, in bold letters in my journal, and next to it, “FORGIVEN.” This is true of items I have forgiven others of, or items for which I am carrying guilt. The enemy likes to lure me into wrong thinking by dangling both of those things in front of me. I need a line in the sand that I can point to and tell my enemy, “Nope! That one has been dealt with. It is covered with the blood of Jesus. Go away! Be quiet! You have nothing to bother me about. That is buried.”

7. MAINTAIN the Clean

Closet: If I see something out of place I put it back quickly. The more my family sees things in the right place, the more they will put them there…at least theoretically.

Spiritual: I must keep short accounts- thank God moment by moment, forgive quickly, wash my mind in the Word, and banish my enemy.

That way I STAY clean.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
— Psalm 51:10, NASB