Declutter Your Soul: 5 Things to Throw Out

cluttered desk with two people trying to clean up

Declutter Your Soul: 5 Things to Throw Out

The new year is a wonderful time to take stock of our possessions and streamline our storage spaces. But what if we also took some time to pay attention to our hearts and declutter our souls?

My husband often quips, “Any garbage day that my wife hasn’t put me out on the curb, I’m grateful. She loves to throw things out.”

While I would never try to get rid of my husband (he is one of the best things in my life!), I do take pleasure in cleaning my closets and clearing the clutter. Not that it’s always easy. I still struggle with getting rid of sentimental items like the prom dress from high school or practical garments like the sweater that kept me warm through many a cold winter. But once I’ve removed the things I no longer wear, I’m left with space. Space that helps me see the clothes I still own. Space that gives me a visual breather. 

During this time of the year, many of us will set goals and make resolutions. Experts tell us that one of the top New Year’s resolutions is to get organized. So we pull everything out of closets and start to sort through the contents, throwing out what we no longer need in order to make room for what we do use, bringing a bit of order to our chaotic lives. 

The new year is a wonderful time to take stock of our possessions and streamline our storage spaces. But what if we also took some time to pay attention to our hearts and declutter our souls? What do we have a tendency to hold onto that actually harms our relationships with God? What attitudes cram our hearts and crowd out peace and joy?

If you want to declutter your soul, consider throwing out these five things:

1. Sin

As humans, we are no strangers to sin. We all make mistakes. We all disobey God’s holy law. 

I, for one, blurt out hurtful things in the heat of the moment. I rush through life, focused on my own needs and forget to show kindness. I neglect my relationship with God. 

These sins can weigh down our hearts. Even the psalmist David experienced this. He wrote, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat." (Psalm 32:3-4 NLT)

David felt the weight of his sin when he neglected to confess them. The heaviness of unconfessed sin filled up the closet of his heart and crowded out the light of God’s grace.

But David knew the answer—clean out the closet! He goes on:

"Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.' And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone." (Psalm 32:5 NLT)

Because Jesus took the punishment for all our sins, big and small, we can receive forgiveness. When we confess our wrongdoings, God completely cleans out the closet of our hearts and makes room for His grace.

Soul Decluttering Step: Read Psalm 32. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal sinful actions you’ve done and harmful attitudes residing in your heart. Ask God to completely clean them out of your soul. Rejoice in His forgiveness and grace.

2. Shame

Even after God has cleared out the guilt, we may continue to store shame in our hearts. What’s the distinction between guilt and shame? Researcher Brené Brown defines the difference this way, “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’” 

Guilt can help us in our relationships with God and others. When we feel remorse over something we did, we can go to God and receive forgiveness. When we’ve messed up with a friend or family member, we can go to him/her and attempt to make amends.

However, shame keeps us stuck in feelings that we’re too flawed to be loved, too unworthy to belong. Thankfully God’s Word continually reminds us that He never doles out His love based on our behavior. He loves us because He is love. 

The Old Testament is full of words of judgment against the people of Israel who repeatedly disobeyed God’s instructions. But even when they ignored His law, God reassured them of His constant love. In Isaiah 54:4-5, God tells the Israelites, “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you…For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!” (NLT). In other words, God says, “Yes, I know you’ve messed up, but I still love you. Return to me. You don’t need to wallow in shame. I love you like a husband loves his bride.”

Soul Decluttering Step: When feelings of shame and unworthiness start to fill the closet of your heart, remember that your Maker loves you just as you are. Because of Jesus, He has made you worthy of belonging. He can remove your shame.

3. Anxiety

Who doesn’t occasionally store up fear and anxiety? Simply watching the news can fill us with apprehension. We worry about our health and our families, our finances and our careers. These fears can fill our hearts with dread and crowd out hope.

God invites us to get rid of the harmful emotion of anxiety. His Word tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done" (Philippians 4:6 NLT). These words remind us that God wants to purge the anxiety that fills our hearts and so He invites us to talk to Him about every concern. He even promises to pour something better into our souls, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NLT). Once you’ve given God all your worries, He will replace them with His peace. 

Soul Decluttering Step: Grab a piece of paper and record your worries and concerns. Then give them all to Jesus as you rip up the list. Thank Him for taking them off your hands. Picture the door of His peace guarding your heart and preventing anxiety from reentering.

4. Bitterness

We’ve all been hurt. A friend said something offensive. People we relied on deserted us when we needed them the most. We live in a broken world with broken people. We can’t escape pain. But that doesn’t mean we need to let it accumulate in our hearts. When we store anger and hurt, bitterness begins to grow and squeezes out our joy and happiness.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT). God doesn’t want us to fill our hearts with bitterness and hate. After all, what kind of life is that? We may think we are punishing the other person by withholding our forgiveness, but storing up anger will only hurt us, stealing our joy. God gently reminds us that we don’t forgive because the offender deserves pardon, but because He has forgiven our sin. We don’t extend mercy because they aren’t guilty, but because storing up bitterness only makes us feel miserable.

Soul Decluttering Step: Take stock of your heart. Have you been holding a grudge, refusing to forgive? Ask God to help you get rid of any bitterness stored in your soul.

5. Comparison

After we’ve cleared guilt, shame, anxiety, and bitterness out of our hearts, what’s left? For many of us, comparison still hides in a corner. The kind of comparison that leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and inferiority.

I might compare my modest home to the 4,000-square-foot home of a friend and no longer feel content. I may look at the high-flying career of a neighbor and feel less-than. When my shape looks nothing like the shape of the model on the magazine cover, I believe I don’t measure up. 

Galatians 6:4 warns us against this harmful practice, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” God knows that comparison will only leave us feeling empty. He asks us to instead look at our own lives and our own work without attempting to measure them against others.

Some practical ways to curb your comparison tendencies might include unsubscribing from magazines that make you dissatisfied with your home. Try limiting your time on social media which offers a myriad of comparison opportunities. Take stock of which activities tend to fill up your soul's closet with feelings of less-than and limit them whenever possible.

Soul Decluttering Step: Ask God to help you throw out your tendency to compare your life to others. Remember that your loving Father made you exactly as you are for a reason. Embrace your uniqueness and store up gratitude for the life you have.

This season, whether you clean out the closets in your home or not, take some time to assess what you’ve stored in your heart. Your heavenly Father invites you to let Him remove the sin, shame, anxiety, bitterness, and comparison tendencies that pile up in the corners of your soul. Instead, He will fill your heart with His joy, peace, and grace.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/shironosov

Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of Enough for Now: Unpacking God’s Sufficiency, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com

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