Tidying Up the Shame

Tidying Up the Shame

by Anna Philipsen April 04, 2019

Two years ago, a good friend loaned me a little book that helped me discover how to put my house in order. I’m not a minimalist and I’m not a hoarder but somewhere in the middle—I would say I’m pretty average.

To begin with, we were in between homes at the time, so the small rental house we were packed into, with three toddlers, wasn’t an easy space to manage.

I didn’t have a lot of time for reading, but as soon as I started the book, I was inspired. The author talked about tidying once at a quick pace and discarding anything that does not spark joy. She says the secret to tidying is to, “Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

I made it about halfway through the book when I felt too motivated to keep reading. I had to get tidying! I started with the first item on the list: clothes. I piled all my clothes on the bed and several hours later I had half of them in bags to donate. It was refreshing and exhausting at the same time. I got through my clothes and next on the list would have been my children’s clothes, but I never got there. I made it one step into the process and was unable to keep going.

At the time, I was about a year into my journey of developing emotional awareness and even pinpointing the spark of joy was not an easy task. It wasn’t until recently that I understood what happened.

I was reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and about halfway through the book she touched on the topic of joy:

When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can’t hold space open for the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure of joy. For many of us, there’s even a physiological response—a ‘coming out of our skin’ feeling. We’re desperate for more joy, but at the same time we can’t tolerate the vulnerability.

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

This was me.

This was my hold-up in the tidying-up process. I was still running from vulnerability and the clear path to experiencing joy was not there.

I didn’t notice it the first time through the book (well half the book), but when I re-read through the tidying book the author touches on a similar thing:

There is a saying that "a messy room equals a messy mind." I look at it this way. When a room becomes cluttered, the cause is more than just physical. Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder. The act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of an issue.

Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

My room has been messy my whole life. I’m not really a messy person and in most ways I’m very organized, but something has held me back from dealing with the clutter that surrounds me. If I wasn’t connecting deeply with my own emotions and shying away from vulnerability, I wasn’t experiencing joy to the fullest.

We can’t embrace vulnerability if shame is suffocating our sense of worthiness and connection.

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Regardless of our motivation and aspirations, what surrounds us in our environment is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. If we can’t experience pure joy because we struggle to be vulnerable as we are weighed down by shame, it’s no wonder we are challenged by decluttering our homes and our minds.  

Since my first experience with Pure Desire three years ago, I’ve become so much more aware and connected with my emotions. I’m not running from vulnerability and connection any longer but embracing it. I’m not weighed down by shame like I used to be. The way I experience feelings now and how I experienced them before is a night and day difference.

I am pursuing emotional health every day and making it a priority to practice gratitude—the “antidote to foreboding joy.” It is a lot of work to strive for emotional health but I’m seeing the benefit extend out from me to my home and family.

On New Year's Day this year I was so surprised and excited to see Netflix release a show featuring the organizing expert from that little book, Marie Kondo. Since the release of this show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, social media has exploded with photos of people tackling their organizing projects.

After re-reading her book and watching a couple episodes of the show, I decided it was time to really declutter. Once again, I piled all my clothes on the bed and several hours later I had three large bags of clothes to donate. I was energized and motivated by the process. I even tidied my kids’ clothes this time! I’m still working down the list, but my mind is in a better place this time around and I am already feeling the peace of decluttering.

So this spring, as you’re going through your closets and “kondo-ing” the items you own, don’t be discouraged if you feel overwhelmed. Take a step back and make sure you are really ready to declutter. Keep working to release any shame that is tying you down and make it a priority to practice gratitude.

Continue moving in your emotional and spiritual journey knowing that God will make a way for you to experience joy in your mind and in your home.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1b-2



Anna is the Events Manager for Pure Desire Ministries. Her background is in event planning and social media. Anna also is an online group leader for Pure Desire Women's Groups.

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