You’ve made great progress, but once again you’ve put off the most dreaded piece of your spring-cleaning project. With one eye closed, you turn the handle slowly, cautiously, expecting the worst. And you get it! Both eyes pop open, bringing the nightmare into focus. Your cluttered closet is catastrophic, littered with balled-up sweaters and slumped suits. Don’t even mention the mountains of shoes. Mine even had a jump rope stuffed behind an accessories basket.

You want to slam the door shut, cut and run, never looking back.

At least that’s what I want to do, what I used to do. Ignorance is bliss, right? Sure, until the mess in your closet is so massive it spills into other segments of your life, including your spirit.

Ignore it for too long and the disorder destroys any peace and serenity you may have had. So here we are in spring. It is a season of new beginnings, a time to reflect and refresh. We’ve already dug our way out of the snow; now it’s time to plow through piles of clothing and heaps of spiritual unrest.

You might be surprised at how similar, and cathartic, the process is for overhauling both closet and spirit. The overall effort may seem overwhelming, but break it down into seven simple steps and restoring order is easier and more empowering than you ever dreamed possible.

(It worked for me, and I may have had the most cluttered closet and spirit of all.)

Step 1: Accept Responsibility

Whether your closet is mildly messy or absolutely disastrous, accept responsibility for its condition. You were charged with its care, and you blew it. It’s like we tell our children, “You made the mess; you clean it up.”

The same is true for our spirit. Matthew 12: 36-37 says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” We alone are responsible for sins that soil our spirits just as we are responsible for the godly acts that restore them. Recognize where you’ve let your spiritual health slide and accept the restorative journey ahead.

Step 2. Schedule Time

You didn’t create the mess overnight; don’t expect to clean it up in five minutes. Instead, schedule a reasonable amount of time to get the job done. You will need time to work through this. Set aside time to ensure you don’t willy-nilly toss out a favorite cardigan or hidden scarf.

Ditto for spiritual de-clutter. The negative traits and sinful behaviors didn’t appear overnight. You will need quiet, uninterrupted time to thoroughly clean your spirit. Ask God to show you where you can devote some time to Him and His word as you work to take on the traits of Christ and discard the habits you’ve picked up.

Step 3. Purge, Assess, and Pile

Dump everything onto the floor. As you do, assess each article of clothing. Carefully consider: Have you used it recently? How does it feel? Is it made of fine silk, soft cotton, or a scratchy synthetic? Does it fit, or did you buy it two sizes ago. Toss each item into one of three piles: give away, keep, or uncertain.

For your spirit, purging is often the most important part of your spiritual cleansing. Write down everything that represents the contents of your character, taking a full, honest inventory. Ask yourself: Does it fit? Does it flatter? Does it offend? Most importantly — does it represent Jesus? Love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and humility. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Those are keepers.

What about those things that are in conflict with God’s word and toxic to you or those around you? Have you wrapped yourself in resentments? Accessorized with greed? Adorned yourself with envy? Toss them!

Still holding onto a few items that don’t fit neatly into one pile or another? Hang tight.

Step 4. Cleanse

This calls for serious elbow grease. In your closet, dust and disinfect shelves, and vacuum or sweep the floor. Make sure to suck up the dust bunnies and cobwebs lurking in corners and crevices.

To cleanse your spirit, connect with God one-on-one. Ask Him with deepest sincerity to wash your spirit, clearing out the wreckage of your past and wiping away your sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9

By admitting and surrendering our failures and shortcomings, God sanitizes our spirits. You have worked hard, and your rewards are coming to light — both closet and spirit have a clean slate.

Step 5. Put Back Keepers

One by one, put back the clothing you’ve chosen to keep. Coordinate by clothing type and color, using uniform, high-quality hangers. Thinner, felt-covered hangers are great for blouses and blazers, but you may want to use thin-profiled wooden varieties with metal clasps for skirts and slacks. You get my idea. Do what works for you!

In similar style, place the “keepers” of your character back in your spirit. Embrace each moment as you visualize putting love, compassion, empathy, honesty, and kindness into a clean, open, and forgiving heart. No hangers required. Take this time to say a prayer of thankfulness to God for allowing these attributes of Him to shine through you.

Step 6. Sift Through ‘Maybe’ Piles

If you haven’t worn something in two years, chances are you won’t wear it next year, either. Maybe your favorite pair of slacks still fit, but the cut is outdated. It served its purpose. Now it’s someone else’s turn. Into a charity bag it goes!

What about those items that simply need a little TLC? The pants missing a button or your favorite turtleneck sweater with a small hole are salvageable. A few stitches and they are good as new.

Assessing your heart, maybe there are parts of your spirit that have been damaged or hurt — that left you limping through this last season of your life. Give God the pain; ask Him to help you heal. Anger from a friend’s betrayal? Forgive, seek reconciliation, and let it go. Shame from something you did or didn’t do? God has already forgiven you! Forgive yourself. Mend the traits worth mending. Discard the rest.

Step 7. Give Away Giveaways

Finally, before you change your mind, take the giveaway bag to your chosen charity; someone who has less than you will be overjoyed with their “new” clothes. You will benefit from a tax deduction and the knowledge that you helped someone who needed those clothes much more than you did.

Your spiritual giveaway pile goes straight to God. Again, this is a great time to seek Him. Pray, begging Him to take the character defects that polluted your spirit and left your entire being in shambles. Ask Him, in earnest, to scoop them up with His own strong hands and toss them into the deepest seas.

Once you’ve completed the entire process, celebrate your victory. Your prizes? A clutter-free closet and sparkling, spruced-up spirit. But don’t forget to maintain and nurture both, ensuring that chaos doesn’t creep back into either one. The organized closet is awesome, but the shiny, restored spirit is best of all.  Once packed with greed, resentments, hatred, and anger, it is now fully stocked with peace, serenity, love, joy, empathy, and forgiveness. The gifts of Christ in our lives are blessings that never fall out of fashion.