Lessons Learned from Cleaning the Closet

Things I’ve learned in cleaning out my closet.


First: I’m great at starting things and terrible at following through. I think most people I know fall into this to some degree or another, but the greatest evidence of this in the clutter I found was the countless journals. Each one would begin strongly and end before the pages were filled. Calendars were similar…lots of notes in the early months, tapering off to nothing notable by the end.


Yes, this does terrify me when I think of homeschooling. I do not want to fall into the easy temptation of starting well and finishing poorly.


Makes me think of the Eugene Peterson book titled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  Such a visual example to me of how easy it is to get lazy.


Second: I don’t like to throw things away. Catalogs. Notes. Papers. School papers. Drawings. Notebooks. Pictures. Scribbles.  Yep, after 9 garbage bags (I told you it was a big closet!!) I am aware that I need to throw more things away. I filled up boxes for each of the boys with school papers and drawings and cards from their grandparents and friends. Little things to look back on some day and remember. Which leads me to number three.


Third:  I’m really glad I don’t like to throw things away. Okay, I could do better with the scribbles and the catalogs. I found, however, the history of the last few years in the cards that my folks have sent. The messages from my mom of well-wishes for birthdays or get well cards when someone was sick. Notes that were in her familiar pen (and I can picture her hands as I think of this), that began to be not so familiar. Shorter messages with a stilting cursive. Then just her name. Then the latest ones with Dad signing her name.


There is history in the things I am saving, and I save them because they carry that history. Some day when I am gone, if these things survive floods and fires (which many things did not for Steve’s folks in the Nashville flood a couple years ago), my children will go through these boxes. I have no doubt I will make Steve lug them to wherever we land next, although they are at least organized. My children will go through them and they will see the notes and the love and the stories that are held by fragile pieces of paper.


Pieces of paper that tell a story beyond just the words written on the paper. And I am thankful I didn’t throw them away and they are safely tucked away now.


Fourth: I realized that life has a way of getting in your attention in peculiar ways. Cleaning out a closet. Yes, the cards make me think of my mom and her progression in her dementia. They also make me laugh and bring back great memories of the boys and of this amazing life I’ve experienced. I did not expect the clothes to catch me off guard. The yellow sleeveless dress that I have not fit into in I don’t know how long, and the red suede jacket. They have hung faithfully in the corner, mostly ignored. Tonight, though, they stood as another reminder….that I’ll never go clothes shopping with mom again. I won’t have the opportunity for her to tell me what she thinks looks good, or for her to send an outfit or some makeup off to me, just because.
And that is painful.


We humans adapt to things in amazing ways. I’m reading a book about women in France who were in the Resistance against Hitler. The things they adapted to are astounding.


We all do it all the time, though. We adapt to pain when our bodies begin to fail. We adapt to pain when relationships begin to change. We adapt to life as a family instead of an individual when we marry. We adapt to new places to live, new jobs, new relationships. We adapt. And in the adapting, I think sometimes, we grow a bit numb to the reality. We grow numb to the pain, because if we focus continually on our sadness or pain we become unable to move forward.


Sometimes, just like pricking our finger on something we didn’t see, something peculiar will get our attention and God will remind us that there are greater realities we need to pay attention to.


So, the closet is clean (well, almost…but so very nearly done I thought I could go ahead and write about it). Trash is discarded. Things not needed are ready for someone who might need them.


And memories have been sparked. In the midst of cleaning out clutter God has spoken.


“Pay attention.”


“Don’t be lazy…be consistent and follow through to the end. Persevere.”






This life He has given is amazing. It is filled with color, with sounds, with joys and sorrows…and sometimes those enormous realities are carried in the frailties of paper and fabric. He uses these little things to remind us who we are and what is important.




4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Cleaning the Closet

  1. Oh my! I think you are my much younger twin sister!! Love you even though we’ve just met.


  2. Donna says:

    Sarah – You are amazing… You are raising four children, homeschooling three of them and still… you have time to clean closets in the wee hours of the morning, find a lesson in the task, and write about it in such an eloquent manner…

    Take Care…



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