How to Clean Your Emotional House

Health & Wellness






{voice softens}

“You’ll see, when you feel that fire burning in your stomach – it will break down barriers. Anything you couldn’t deal with before. You can. You can now.”

It was a Tuesday. And I was crying in yoga again. Shaking and sweating in extended side angle pose. My hands were pressed against each other and close to my heart. My eyes were closed and they trembled with determination. I was there, in a room with 50 strangers, breathing through my nose and out my mouth. I was completely still. I could feel every limb on my body, even my middle toe, which I hadn’t noticed in quite some time. And my insides felt like they could lift a building. I like to refer to this emotional yoga attack as “cleansing my emotional toilet.” All of the bullshit goes away and I’m left spread in savasana feeling like a human piece of butter on toast. Or like I got hit by a glorious dump truck. Or both.

I like to refer to this emotional yoga attack as “cleaning my emotional toilet.” All of the bullshit goes away and I’m left spread in savasana feeling like a human piece of butter on toast. Or like I got hit by a glorious dump truck. Or both.

This happened once in cycle class, too. Cycle is an interesting place for me. The first time I tried strapping myself to a bicycle for 45 minutes, I thought I was going to pass out while bound to a stationary object. I surpassed emergency but most times I have to take precaution and start slow. Near the end of the class, the instructor gave us three minutes to dedicate our workout.

“What does it mean to fight?” she asked.

I pedaled faster.

“Put all of your energy into this moment.”

I envisioned my heartstrings pumping energy into my ankles.

“This is your five minutes.”

Somehow, my emotions rose with my energy and I felt like a human match lighting a firework. 

“This time is yours.”

What I’ve learned here is that apparently, the combination of intense movement and inspirational yelling makes me FEEL SOME STUFF. In the moments above, I did some emotional spring cleaning. I cleaned my emotional toilet. I cleaned my emotional linen closet. I cleaned my emotional underwear drawer (Writer’s Note: why do I have so many dryer sheets in there?). I cleaned my emotional bookshelf. I cleaned my emotional house.

I have to clean these things often because I’m a messy emotional person. But, just like anybody, I’m human. And feelings are okay. We are full of emotional bedrooms and dust and garbage. Most importantly, we deserve to take the time to clean those dark corners every once in a while. Have you seen the back of a toilet before? Whatever dust particles are growing in there can sometimes grow in our soul corners. And Clorox doesn’t clean up that mess.

So, what does?

Cleaning up an emotional house can be different for everybody. It took me thirty years of my life to discover yoga, for example, and how the elements of movement and personal freedom brings me to a special place. Yoga became my emotional equivalent to discovering Pine-Sol for the soul. 

Here are some other key ways I like to clean up my emotional house:


I hate the pressure of working out. Which is probably the reason I rage-ran on the treadmill all throughout college to get it over with. And waited until I was three decades old to try yoga. I’ve never been a stationary person but since I’ve changed working out in my headspace to simple movement – I’ve found solitude in its practice. Going on long summer walks. Cruising on leisure bike rides that have little to no hills and many spots I can stop along the way and enjoy the view. Visiting the barn where I ride horses, and moving with them.

I think about yoga and it gives me an extreme sense of personal place. Setting. A place with good, raw feeling. I want to go back to that place. A place not necessarily a physical room with yoga mats and candles. The place is a comfort couch in my soul. Good emotional movement that sets me carefully down into an inner room I want to re-access always. One I want to open the door to every day.


Music is one thing; the world around us is another. Every spring, sometime at the end of April, I hear the geese come back north. I hear water, melting off roofs and down drains. I hear birdsong. I hear how water sounds whooshing off car tires. I hear conversations outside on the sidewalk through my bedroom window. Much of the time, cleaning my emotional house means opening the windows and listening to the world breath.

Finding color

Adult coloring books and those wine and painting classes stress me out. I’m not particularly sure why. Perhaps the distant pressure to find color and make art is too much for me. I’d rather roam around Michael’s and buy some paint, a canvas, and make something horrible while sitting on a picnic blanket outdoors. If we can explore the world, look up into the sky, acknowledge its existence, and flush it back through the world in art (even if it’s horrible), it’s really something. Take one of my favorite quotes by our queen Anne Lamott for example, “My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom. Instead, they walk around bitterly, bumping into glass walls.” So, the lesson here is look up. Get out there. Find the color in the sky. Describe it to the world.

Slowing down

I am always in a hurry. And honestly, it gives me hives. The minute I wake up, I’m on my phone checking Twitter, CHOWING down a piece of toast and butter, rushing out the door, checking my Waze App to see how long it’s going to take me to get to work in traffic, refilling my tank like someone that’s going to murder me is close behind, and slamming down the gauntlet to respond to every email I receive in less than ten minutes. It’s… unhealthy. When I take the mental break, even in the middle of the day, to slow myself down, I am washed of the stress. I am clean. Things like physically walking slower to the bathroom during work, or physically getting my lunch ready slowly. It sounds a little ridiculous typing it out now, but when I physically move slower, slug-mode style, I feel exponentially better.

Practicing Rituals

Travel. Writing. Painting. Volunteering. Hiking. Trivia on Tuesdays with your friends. Treating yourself to Starbucks on Saturday morning. We all have rituals. And we should keep them. We should make more of them. My rituals make me happy and they promise routine. I thought about referring to these as “hobbies” but those seemed less functional than rituals are. Rituals are tiny promises that we’re doing things to keep our hearts full and emotional bedrooms clean with joy.

Quick solutions: 1. Go on a walk. 2. Listen to the nature around you. 3. Look up at the sky. 4. Paint or write about it when you get home. 5. Make all of this part of your daily routine.

Taking care of your emotional house isn’t just about showing up to clean. Personal care is a lifestyle. It’s about being in the here-and-now of your soul makings. It’s about accepting who you are. Burn, burn, burn. Feel the fire inside of you. It will cleanse and open up your heart.


BY Brittany Chaffee - April 2, 2019

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JoAnne Fleury
April 2, 2019 4:12 pm

Delightful and insightful….as always.

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May 3, 2020 4:34 pm

When you described what the instructors said during cycle and yoga class, I FELT THAT. Thank you.

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