I’ve discovered the most effective way to clean out a closet: Let someone else do it for you!
While putting away my husband’s laundry one day, I reached a breaking point. Eighteen years of accumulated clothing and shoes stuffed into the confines of his closet had created a storage nightmare. Fighting to make for space for his clean clothes had become a cardio and strength workout! And no matter how many times I painted a picture of space and ease if he’d just get rid of the clothes he never wears, it just wasn’t a priority for him. It’s not that he didn’t agree it needed to be done. It just didn’t bother him enough to do something about it.
So I decided to do it for him. One item at a time, I sorted through his closet, pulling out anything I thought needed to go and placing it into a pile for him to sort through. Later that day, under strict supervision, he went item by item through the piles. We laughed about the things that were grossly out of date, delighted in the brand new items that still had tags, and wrestled over the things he insisted he needed to keep. I relented on some items, while he relented on others, like the heavily starched Wrangler jeans that have hung stiffly on the same hangers at least nineteen years without a single wear. Time to go!
In a matter minutes, the job was done. He walked away feeling like a new man.
It was brilliant! It’s effectiveness was in my lack of emotional attachment. I had none, yet for him, parting with a few of his favorites was like saying farewell to a best friend (like the Wranglers!). Having someone else do it with him made the task less daunting and confronted him with the junk he no longer needed. It was slightly painful for him to let go, but now that the old, worn out, and totally out of date items have been cleared out, his exact words are: “Wow, it’s so nice to have some room and actually see what I have!”
Believe it or not, there’s a spiritual application to all of this.
Cleaning out the junk in our thoughts and hearts is much the same way. We all have spiritual closets packed full of things we no longer need, and we’re emotionally attached to them. We need someone else to come into our closet with us to help us sort through what’s there, what’s old, what’s no longer needed. And to help us find the brand new treasures we don’t know or remember we have because they’re buried so far beneath the junk!
The old clothes and shoes in James’ closet used to serve a valuable purpose – they were new and in style at the time. The power of the old stuff is that it once did something for us. In the same way, there are things in our life closets that used to serve a purpose, but now they are hindering us and even causing us shame – fear, distrust, guilt, lies, unbelief, addictions, sexual sin, self hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, and so on.
Paul says it like this: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:21-22).
These things produce fruit, negative as it may be. These things once did something for us. Perhaps they made us feel alive, empowered, or in control, but now we know the death they bring. It is our job to confess them, to turn from them, and to walk in newness of life in Christ.
How can we confess what we’re not willing to take a hard look at? What we don’t want to remember, or admit, or see? It’s hard, yes. It’s ugly to see the truth of what we’ve experienced and chosen before we were saved or even after. But it is through honest confession and repentance that we EXPERIENCE the freedom that is already ours.
Paul describes spiritual closet cleaning in Ephesians 4:17-24:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (emphasis added).
WE have to PUT OFF the old: see it, yank it, and get rid of it! Then we put on the new – all that we are in Christ now, righteous and holy. He has a new wardrobe for us, but sometimes it gets buried in all the old stuff we don’t need any more! All that Jesus exchanged for us on the cross – taking all the wrath due us so we can partake in all the blessing due Him – is ours at the point of salvation. But scripture tells us we have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We have to clean out our closet!
Sometimes it’s a major undertaking and the discard piles are huge. Other times, as time goes by, the Lord makes us aware of a few items here and there that we need to reevaluate. Some of it is obvious. Some of it is harder to recognize.
Sometimes we can clean our closet just the Lord and us in private. But other times, it’s helpful and beneficial to invite a trusted sister in Christ into our closet to pull things out together, pray about them, and get rid of what we no longer need.
Either way, we have to take time to dig around and see what’s there, and then endure the temporary discomfort of conviction so we can get rid of the junk. Only in this way can we put on the new the Lord has for us:
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:12-14).
We search through our closet, cast off the works of darkness – the things of our flesh – and put on the armor of light!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The junk in our closets? It’s the old.
If the old isn’t gone, it’s so much harder to see and benefit from the new!
Here’s a guide to getting started:
- Invite the Holy Spirit into your closet. Pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
- Confess to the Lord any fear and unbelief, and tell Him that you are willing that He would make you willing to trust and obey Him completely.
- Invite a trusted sister in Christ into your closet with you.
- Open up, honestly, deeply, thoroughly. Show her what’s in your closet.
- Pray together about the things you discover: confess, repent, and ask the Holy Spirit for what you need to be fully free.
- Stay there together until the job is done.
- Stand back every once in a while and admire your progress. See what the Lord has done and celebrate together!
- Be the type of woman someone else can invite into her closet.
If the Lord hasn’t already brought you a woman to invite into your closet, ask Him to send you someone you can trust implicitly. Be very wise as to who this is. I’ve done some deep spiritual closet cleaning during my time in the dark room with God (see In the Dark Room with God). As the Lord led me into the closet, I knew I needed someone to help me, and I prayed for a mentor. I didn’t have a specific person in mind, and honestly, I resisted trying to seek someone out because I know my tendency to find people who will simply tell me what I want to hear. But I did have a list of things I felt were non-negotiable:
- Older and wiser than me, with the “been there done that” value of having experienced what I’m facing.
- Common circumstances, with experience in navigating and overcoming familiar challenges.
- Trustworthy, with locked lips so I could share the deepest, darkest secrets that haunted me and made my closet a dreaded place.
- Non-judgmental, with the love, grace, and compassion of Christ that would make her a safe person to confess what I’d never told another soul.
- Grounded in the word, with experience acquiring God’s wisdom and in living it out in her life.
- Truthful, with the courage to tell me the truth, even if it hurts, from a heart of knowing scripture, loving the Lord, and wanting the best for His children.
It was beneficial to have this list, but ultimately, I trusted God to know what was best. If this person isn’t in your life yet, don’t compromise in impatience if God has you wait. He is all sufficient. He is all we need, and He knows better than anyone exactly how He has designed us for relationship, not just with Him, but with others. The fellowship with one another by which “we stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The Lord brought me this person in the most unexpected way, according to Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
And I am so thankful, because there are things about her that I didn’t even know would be so beneficial and encouraging to me. God answered what I didn’t even know to ask for!
He will do the same for you.
And as you wait, perhaps you could clean out a closet.
In hope and love,
P.S. All that stuff in your closet is a time and energy waster! When it’s gone, it’s no longer a spiritual, emotional, or mental distraction or drain! For more, read Time and Energy Killers.