Space to Breathe

Brooke Cooney

This Temporary Home
Published: Jul 09, 2013
Space to Breathe
Cleaning out the clutter can produce a chain reaction in our emotional and spiritual state.

It is amazing what you can learn about your house while playing hide-and-seek.

Recently, during one particular game, an unusual warning spilled from my lips when I discovered my family hiding in the hall closet, “Be careful,” I said. “There is no telling what will fall out on you!”

The contents of the hall closet have changed over the last 11 years of our family’s occupancy. First, it held all the memorabilia that we conveniently kept in long-term storage for my father-in-law. Then, I moved Christmas decorations and other décor items into the space. Now, it is used for luggage, cleaning supplies, baby clothes…not to mention extra candles, griddle, and photo collections. Whew, just listing the contents is giving me organizational hives!

Back to the game of hide-and-seek.

It was my turn to search again when I noticed my bathroom counter was overflowing with multiple family members’ items. I am an “everything has a place and everything in its place” kind of woman. But that day, to look at my counter, you would have ascertained I am a “wherever an object lands there it is” kind of woman.

Something had to give!

First to go was my uptight response that usually follows such discoveries. I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a picture of my counter. Uploading the picture to Instagram and Facebook, I decidedly typed the caption, “This one is for all the people who think I am organized…LOL. Some things you just have to laugh at and let go.”  Who doesn’t like a less than perfect snapshot in someone’s status update?

Next, I made a plan to tackle both organizational projects as soon as I could make the time.

That night, after the kids went to sleep, I determinedly cleaned off the contents of the countertop, organized the bathroom junk drawer, and wiped down the countertops and accessories. With my project completed, I stood back with an air of appreciation and pride over the stewardship of my domain.

I knew my husband would greatly appreciate the gleaming countertop and sink basin. (It is one of his pet peeves to find leftover remains of toothpaste in the sink.) For me, a clean space promotes peace and freedom within our home. How so? Let me explain.

When I find exactly what I search for in a given drawer or closet I am less prone to anxiety. I feel peace in experiencing the expected. When the contents of a drawer, cupboard, or closet are pared down to items of necessity or beauty I am not wasting time navigating through unnecessary piles of clutter.

William Morris put it this way, “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

I know those of you who are sentimental will gawk at this last quote, but truly, when you have gone to be in Glory, will you want your children, friends, or relatives wading through years of accumulated tubes of lipstick, macaroni necklaces, report cards, Publix vases, or cool whip Tupperware bowls? I don’t think so!

Clutter leads to emotional chaos.

How often have you lost your keys simply because you didn’t put them back where they should go? Too many to count, right? Additionally, how many times have you hidden something of value in a “safe place” only to forget where that safe place was? Consistency in both parenting and organization is key… at least so I’ve been told. I am not batting a thousand in either category, but I have seen the effects where this is lived out.

The bathroom counter tackled, I decided that the following week I would work on paring down the storage bins of baby clothes. This one was a bit trickier, but doable nonetheless. I popped in a favorite DVD for the kids and set to work. Multiple piles accrued: keep, consign, donate, and give away.

As the piles climbed higher, one of my children kept asking, “Mommy, are you giving that away? What about this?” She has a sentimental heart. If it was hers as a baby, she sees the items as an extenuation of herself. This provided another opportunity to teach an eternal lesson.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” (Job 1:21, ESV) We cannot take anything with us into our forever home except for the riches of obedience to the call of God to give to the poor, feed our neighbor, take care of the orphaned and widowed, and do good when it is in our power to act. (Proverbs 3:27, 31:9, James 1:27)

Other people benefit when we give away items we do not regularly use. We benefit as well as our soul finds more space to breathe outside of the confines of clutter.

Discipline pursued in one area of our physical lives often evokes greater discipline in our spiritual lives as well. The two cannot be separated. A disciplined life is one sign of Christ in us.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT, emphasis mine)

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV, emphasis mine)

Is your soul longing for greater space to breathe? Join me in asking the Holy Spirit for more of His peace-giving self-discipline. Maybe the place He will direct you to start is in your hall closet.

Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at