Cleaning out the Closet

It started with the hall closet. Then came the pantry, the fridge, the freezer and the linen closet.

It’s like all those jokes about book writing or really any daunting, looming task. As soon as you’re under a deadline or you know you really need to do XYZ, you suddenly realize how dirty the baseboards are and how you need to work on your budget and oh, yes, now would be a great time to schedule all the appointments and dust all the surfaces and make that phone call.

Basically, all the things you never want to do suddenly become appealing.

Cleaning out my bedroom closet has been on my to-do list since, umm, February. I made somewhat valid excuses, convincing myself there was absolutely no point at all until the weather warmed up, but then March arrived and suddenly the only thing left to do was to actually do the thing.

The truth? My over-stuffed and unorganized closet began to strangely feel like the state of my soul, as if I could see my insides and emotions displayed every time I opened the door to reach for a shirt or a pair of shoes to slip on.

But then I went home for two weeks.

Which meant, as it always does, that I spent the next week catching up on all the non-essential things I let pile up while I was away.

Of course, then I needed to rest and do absolutely nothing to recover from catching up on all the things.

I could keep going with the excuses and the reasons, but you get the point.

Here’s the truth of it: I wasn’t actually trying to avoid the cleaning… I was doing everything in my power to avoid the chaos.

It didn’t begin that way. In February, cleaning out my closet was just another thing that needed to happen, a regular task as the seasons change. But then some life-things happened that left me feeling incredibly human, acutely aware of my helplessness and lack of control.

The last thing I needed was a semi-hidden mess to come spilling out, filling up the floor and covering the bedspread, taking over the small space I work and live and breathe and dream and sleep and process and create in. It’s where the living happens, and too much of life already seemed all over the place.

My over-stuffed and unorganized closet strangely began to feel like the state of my soul, as if I could see my insides and emotions displayed every time I opened the door to reach for a shirt or a pair of shoes to slip on.

And I couldn’t deal.

Which, to be honest, sounds (and feels) really silly to write out and admit.

It is, after all, a closet.

But it was too full. It held too much. And somehow I discovered I could relate to a closet.

The truth? My over-stuffed and unorganized closet began to strangely feel like the state of my soul, as if I could see my insides and emotions displayed every time I opened the door to reach for a shirt or a pair of shoes to slip on.

I needed to clear space and take the time to sit down, take stock of what was going on inside, and bring everything into the light. I needed to hold some things up and decide if they still fit, determine if they make sense for the season I’m in. I knew I might find a forgotten treasure, but I would most certainly find the “what were you thinking” dresses and the “this was never going to fit” pants and the pair of shoes I’ve long outgrown.

Except, I’m not really talking about my closet anymore.

Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Sometimes progress looks like chaos.

At least, that’s what I told myself last week as I sat in the center of my room, surrounded by patterns and colors strewn every which way, hangers and jackets piled on the bed, shoes in a heap over in the corner.

I had entirely too much. I still do, to be honest.

But you know what didn’t happen when I opened my closet door this morning?

Frustration.

Dread.

Overwhelm.

I know exactly what’s inside. I’ve gone item by item and I’ve given away what no longer belongs — for one reason or another.

The truth? My over-stuffed and unorganized closet began to strangely feel like the state of my soul, as if I could see my insides and emotions displayed every time I opened the door to reach for a shirt or a pair of shoes to slip on.

The first step was the hardest: opening the door (and leaving it open). It wasn’t pretty. It took time.

And if my soul is that closet, overwhelmed and holding way too much, then it still holds true: the hardest step is opening the door and leaving it open. It’s tempting to put up walls, to hear the click as the door shuts, to tell myself to “hold it together.”

Not every person is a safe space, but there is a time and a place to not hold it together and instead be held. It’s okay to fall apart. This is a lesson that I keep relearning.

You know the craziest thing, crazier than comparing my soul to my closet?

When I fall apart, I find that I’m still held together.

(Just last night my roommate and I were talking medical things and I went on for a minute or two about how amazing laminin is — the cell adhesion molecule that literally holds us together. It’s in the shape of a cross, because of course it is. Even when we fall apart, He holds us together.)

(His sense of humor is one of my very favorite things.)

I’ve been cleaning out the closet. I’m working on keeping the door open.

This is a little bit of a rabbit trail, but I think it’s worth saying because you should know the truth: it wasn’t easy to write my book, but it’s much more difficult to live it out.

Living in the in between of one thing and another, leaning into the unknown and daring to say “even if not”… it isn’t glamorous. In fact, it often looks like dozens of small moments of mustard seed faith.

For me, in this season, it looks like quiet trust and patient waiting. (Except, let’s be honest, I’m not always patient.) It looks like restless nights and late afternoons of cleaning every closet except the one that really needs cleaning. It looks like sitting with my people, like lighting a candle at 2am and slowly writing “even if not” over and over until my heart can agree with the inked words, like raised hands at the stoplight as worship music plays on the way to the grocery store.

It looks like opening up a blank page only to discover there’s nothing to say, that the words are gone because it isn’t yet time to speak — it’s time to listen.

I won’t presume that you’ve noticed the quiet in this space over the past few months. The Internet has carried on (as it very well should) and it’s unlikely one single soul has thought “gosh, Kaitlyn hasn’t said much in weeks. I wonder why.”

As life has felt more and more chaotic, I’ve grown quieter and quieter on social media and in this space. Some stories are supposed to stay close and others simply take time. I’ve been processing, I’ve been waiting, I’ve been working and hoping and falling apart and finding myself held together.

I said it on Instagram today, but this is it, isn’t it? This is life in all its glorious mundane, full of hopes and dreams and worries and tears. It’s ordinary and messy and beautiful. Sometimes it all falls apart and we fall apart but even then, we’re held. In the unmaking, in the unraveling, in the sorting… He shows up.

I’ve said it before: there is an altar that stands in the rubble. And now there is an organized closet with empty hangers. New things will be added and soon enough, it will be time to clean again.

But for now? It’s time to leave the door open.

The Unmaking by Nicole Nordeman - lyrics

 

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