The weather is better in much of the country, and with America's vaccine rollout well under way, lots of folks are actually able to get out and enjoy it. It's a time of fresh air and new beginnings. The perfect time for a big spring clean

For most of us that means getting out the mop bucket and bleach. But if your goals go beyond a clean home and workspace to resetting your mental state with a big clear out, you'll need more than to finally vacuum behind the couch. 

Even folks with spotless homes can feel overwhelmed by clutter.  

That's according to a thoughtful recent TED Ideas post from speaker and professional organizer Kerry Thomas. Unsurprisingly given her profession, her physical spaces have always been immaculate, but as she recalls in this moving piece, after recovering from major surgery she still felt overwhelmed by clutter. It just wasn't the physical kind.  

"My life looked great and I was getting a lot of compliments, but I felt stuck," Thomas recalls. "Why? I had massive amounts of emotional clutter. It consisted of fears, questions like: 'What if the surgery didn't work?' 'What if my heart breaks again?'... And also guilt. I asked myself: 'Why am I still here while other people aren't?'"

Thomas realized that we don't just feel overwhelmed because our closets, inboxes, or to-do lists are overflowing (though that's certainly often a contributing factor). Our minds and our consciences are just as often messy and stress-inducing. Now Thomas teaches her clients to address all five types of clutter:

  1. Physical clutter. This "is the typical stuff we think of -- the closets that are overflowing, the garages that can't hold cars, the storage units that have become a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. alone," writes Thomas. 

  2. Digital clutter. Have thousands of unread emails in your inbox? Then you have digital clutter. But "it's also all the files saved on your computer without naming conventions, so you don't know what they are and you spend a lot of time looking for the ones you want," Thomas notes. 

  3. Mental clutter. This "could be your fears, your to-do list, what's going on in the news, or anything else that's filling your head at night," according to Thomas. 

  4. Emotional clutter. This type of clutter consists of "negative patterns and beliefs you don't even realize that you're carrying around" and can include "can't statements" like "I can't lose weight" or "I can't quit my job and own my own business."

  5. Spiritual clutter. Thomas defines this as "a lack of forgiveness or a lack of peace."

Just like clearing out physical clutter involves both elbow grease and emotional work, so too does working through these other, less concrete types of clutter. 

"With the physical clutter, you've got to box it up, bag it up, take it to the donation center or the curb or wherever it goes. For the other kinds of clutter, you also need to take an action -- it might be talking to a good friend, getting out in nature, meditating, or journaling. In other words, do something, move forward, make a decision and take an action, even if it's tiny. The universe will reward you with momentum," Thomas urges. 

So if you're getting ready for your own big spring clean, don't think tidy closets or inbox zero will cure your overwhelm. For true peace of mind, you need to get your mental, emotional and spiritual clutter under control too.

Interested in hearing more? Check out Thomas's TEDx talk in full.