I love having a clean house. But, boy, do I hate cleaning.
The thought of dusting makes me groan. Polishing hardwood floors on hands and knees makes me tense. Sudsing up dishes, scrubbing toilets, and vacuuming the rugs are arduous to me. The only time I ever gave my husband the cold shoulder was the day he suggested I clean the windows, as if I had nothing better to do.
I think the reason I loathe cleaning so much is because it is never finished, especially since having kids. I feel like Sisyphus, stuck in an endless cycle of fruitless labor.
Sometimes, it seems like so much work that I give up. I ignore the cobwebs. I kick blocks under the couch before company comes. I let laundry stay in the dryer a few days.
Because, let’s face it: cleaning is a lot of work, especially with two littles in tow.
But, undoubtedly, me and my family suffer when it doesn’t happen, because we live in the mess. We may learn to look past it, but it doesn’t change the fact that the mess is still there. I can avoid it all I want, but the more I do, the more I will have to do later.
Sometimes, I just have to surrender myself to difficult task. I have to devote time and focused energy to making progress. My house needs a Spring Cleaning Revival.
So does my mind.
A Messy State of Mind
Just as my home can become messy and disorganized, so can my mind. There are the cobwebs of resentment. The dust of pessimism. The dirty dishes of disappointment. The windows are smudged with lies. The floors are littered with anxiety. The trashcans are overflowing with wasted opportunities.
As hard as it is for me to muster the gumption to clean my house, it is even harder for me to practice renewing my mind.
Does my Thought Life Spark Joy?
A few years ago, just as Marie Kondo was becoming a household name, I read her book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was inspired. The concept of ridding ones self of things that do not spark joy was so simple, yet effective. I began practicing some of her methods, and though I did not do it thoroughly, I found that the practice was life-giving. The bonus was that there was less stuff to clean and organize, and that which was left was stuff I wanted to care for. The process of cleaning and tidying became almost enjoyable because it wasn’t so overwhelming.
The Kon-Marie method has inspired countless individuals to revolutionize their homes, simplify their lives, and improve the quality of their living.
Imagine the impact it could have on our lives if we took a similar practice to our minds. What would it look like if we threw out those toxic thoughts, gave away our worry, and emptied our the closets of shame and negativity?
Think About Such Things
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a good steward of my thoughts, of what it means to love the Lord with all my mind. And the verse that God keeps bringing back to me is this:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Phillipians 4:8, NLT
There are times I fixate on ideas that have none of those qualities. There are times when I entertain myself with shows or books that have none of those qualities. There have been times I have been in the company of people that demonstrate none of those qualities. Is it any wonder that my mind can become cluttered with lies, self-service, skewed perspectives, impurity, ugliness, negativity, pettiness, idolatry?
Many years ago, when anxiety was threatening to undo me entirely, my mom reminded me that I needed to “hold every thought captive” before letting them ruminate.
Sometimes, I still need to do that. I need to grab each thought by its shoulders and ask it: Are you true? Are you honorable? Are you right? Pure? Lovely, admirable, excellent or worthy of praise?
If not, I need to surrender them.
Sometimes, it’s a relief to let bad thoughts go, but usually, it’s difficult. Sometimes, it’s hard to release a negative thought because I’ve become so used to it, I don’t know what I will do without it. Sometimes, I think I’ve effectively given a negative thought away, but find that something has carried it back in.
I’m grateful that God is willing to sit with me while I go through these thought-purges. He is even more gracious and patient than Marie Kondo. Most importantly, he has yet to be horrified by the mess, as I used to think he would be.
Sometimes, when he knocks at the door, I hide among the trash and yell out, “It’s all good, I got this!” which, of course, is a lie I have constantly been trying to throw away. But when I’ve invited him in to help me go through the mess, it’s been a little easier. Usually, he reminds me that I don’t need that thought, that there is a better one I could hold onto instead. He holds my hand as I throw the bad thoughts away.
Keeping the Good Stuff
If the thoughts do pass the Philippians 4:8 test, however, I can keep them. I can put them on an open shelf, mediate on them unashamedly, and enjoy what they have to offer. I delight in them, use them, and invite people to share them as well.
One thing is for sure: after a good mental tidying, I feel more alive and at peace, and those who live with me do, too.
Another thing is for sure: my mind won’t stay clean for long. I will need to continually remove the junk, scrub the surfaces, open the windows. And I also have to humbly invite God in to help, because I’m not always up for doing the hard work.
Thank goodness, He always is.
Tips for Spring Cleaning the Mind
Does your mind need some Spring Cleaning, too? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Invite God in. Envision him coming and sitting with you among your thoughts. Ask him to show you what you ought to let go of. Ask him to reveal what thoughts should stay.
- Write down the thoughts that most frequently run through your mind. Are they true? Honorable? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Excellent? Worthy of praise? If not, confess them, and ask God to help fill your mind with better things.
- Consider the entertainment you indulge in (social media, music, shows, movies, books, past-times). Run them through the Philippians 4:8 test. If they don’t pass, consider giving them up as part of a spiritual act of worship.
- Consider the people with whom you spend the most time. Do they inspire you? Sharpen you? Do they love you? If so, be blessed by their relationship. If not, consider what and how much you share with them. Of course, we are always surrounded by broken people – this is not a call to separate yourself everyone, but rather, to be more intentional about what you share with whom.
- Find an accountability partner. Share with them your desire to improve your thought-life. Ask if they will help encourage you to keep your thoughts honorable.
- Seek professional help. I very recently have begun seeing a licensed counselor to help me process through my messy mind. There is nothing shameful about receiving help when you truly need it.