It’s that time of year when garage doors open, rakes come out, closets get decluttered, and floors are polished to a sparkling shine… well, in theory, anyway!
It would be great if we could just keep our homes and our worlds clean and uncluttered all year round, but the reality is that life is just crazy. And when you’re running in six different directions all day, every day—getting kids to and from activities, putting in extra hours at work, attempting to feed your family half-wholesome meals, navigating mountains of laundry, and trying to squeeze in a workout somewhere in there—deep cleaning often gets bumped to the bottom of the priority list.
At least, it does in my world! After a while, I look around and realize that the garage is a mess because I just keep throwing things in there that I don’t want to look at, the windows are filthy because—confession time—I’ve literally NEVER cleaned them, and the hall closet looks like it’s about to vomit every time I open the door.
So yeah. Spring cleaning.
But lately I’ve realized that my house isn’t the only thing around here that needs a bit of an overhaul this year. Recently I was listening to episode 1 of the Orange Kids Podcast, titled “My Cup (Doesn’t) Runneth Over”. During an interview with Shannon Scott, the pastor to women and children at Church of the City in Franklin, Tennessee, Shannon shared a powerful anecdote that opened my eyes to a different kind of much-needed spring cleaning.
Shannon said, “When your cup gets jostled, what’s in it spills out. And if my cup is getting jostled and what’s spilling out is temperance, and kindness, and moderation with my words, then I am probably in a healthy place. But if my cup gets jostled and I’m biting people’s heads off, or gossiping, or anger comes out, those things are a red flag to me that I’ve long past emptied my cup of what was good, and now what’s in it is detrimental.”
I was convicted. I had to stop and think about what’s been in spilling out of my cup lately. And if I’m being honest—and I mean, really honest—I know that, despite my best efforts to disguise it, my cup has had some nasty things in it of late. And when jostled, what has been spilling out of my cup has been things that, in Shannon’s words, “I don’t want people to believe is in there.” Frustration. Tension. Stress. Bitterness. Fatigue. An “I don’t have time for that” mentality.
So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some soul work. Some spring cleaning of the soul, so to speak.
Sometimes you have no idea how much stuff has started to pile up in your garage or your hall closet until you dig in and start to declutter. Likewise, I had no idea how unhealthy my soul was starting to become until I got down to business and gave it some attention.
Maybe you are in a place like me. Maybe you’ve been noticing things beginning to spill out of your cup that you would never want to drink. Maybe it’s time to do a spring cleaning of the soul.
How do you do that? Well, my first recommendation is to hop over to Amazon and order yourself a copy of the book “Soul Keeping” by John Ortberg. This profoundly thought-provoking book has helped me identify the toxic clutter in my soul and determine a few next steps for cleanup.
But beyond that, here are a few other suggestions I have employed (or that are still on my to-do list) which I think will be very helpful as you begin your own spring cleanup of the soul:
1. Stop ignoring the mess.
The first step is to acknowledge that the closet of your soul is overflowing with junk. Don’t keep shoving more and more stuff in there and thinking that it is “out of sight, out of mind”. The longer you ignore it, it the worse it will get.
2. Look beneath the clutter.
Sometimes clutter hides bigger issues—like leaks, or spills, or rotting food that stinks up the place. Take time to dig beneath all the busyness, the work, the activities, the stress, and figure out if there are any hidden toxins beneath it all that have been slowly releasing poison into your soul. Allow yourself to dive below the surface and search out the underlying issues.
3. Take it one step at a time.
You don’t have to clean out the closet, reorganize the garage, rake the lawn, trim the hedges, and scrub the floor, all in one day. Pick on thing—one area of inward turmoil—to address today, or this week, or this month. Give yourself permission to take your time and heal gradually.
4. Air out the stench.
One of my favorite things about spring is how inviting it is to open the windows and breathe in the beautiful fresh air! When it comes to spring cleaning of the soul, you need to do the same. Open the windows of your soul to the refreshing spirit of God. Allow him into the dark, dank corners of your soul, and give him a chance to breathe new life. Slow down. Put away your phone. Read his word. Soak up his truths. Spend time worshipping him rather than focusing on your own junk. Air out the nasty odour that has built up through the winter of the soul.
5. Reflect and say thank you.
Even the mess can remind us of all the good in our lives that we can be grateful for. What have you learned recently as a result of the trials you’ve been through? What does each piece of soul clutter represent in your life? Maybe all the stress represents a steady job that you are grateful to have, or a beautiful family that God has blessed you with. While decluttering can lead to some truly foul discoveries (like that time after a full summer of camp when I found an old, rotting watermelon under some trash in the back of our old station wagon), it can also lead to the recovery of precious memories and meaningful relics with history that runs so much deeper than the mess. So don’t forget to reflect. Make a conscious effort to choose joy and gratitude for the gifts that come through the chaos.
If you don’t get around to spring cleaning this year, I won’t fault you for it. But don’t neglect the mess that matters more. Set aside some time this year to do a spring cleaning of the soul.