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Kondo your mind: how decluttering can help with brain fog

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Anna Brech
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Finding it difficult to focus? A Kondo de-clutter may help

The real magic of Marie Kondo’s infamous tidying method is that it has little to do with tidying at all. 

Rather, when you dramatically slim down the belongings that surround you, you begin to think more clearly – and identify what it is that you really want in life. 

Because the clutter that we live with not only physically weighs us down, it also creates mental baggage. 

In an age of unprecedented stress, it’s an unseen burden that we could all do without. 

Brain fog is a form of cognitive fatigue that’s becoming widespread among younger generations of today. 

Characterised by an inability to focus clearly, and a head that feels like it’s “filled with cotton wool”, psychologists believe it’s an early warning sign of burnout. 

One fifth of millennials now report symptoms of concentration-loss and memory problems, while our capacity to focus has dropped by 12% since the birth of the digital era in 2000. 

So, how can Kondo’s method help? According to the Japanese tidying guru, we only hold onto items for two reasons: either attachment to the past, or fear of the future. 

Neither of these motivations are particularly healthy, because they prevent us from staying in the present. 

An illustration of a woman sitting on a sofa

Our belongings weigh us down, both physically and emotionally

Dig deeper within Kondo’s philosophy and you realise that far from bringing joy, most of our possessions anchor us down. 

Being surrounded by a litany of stuff means literally more things to think about, more things to lose, more things to clean and more things to account for. 

It’s an additional stress at a time when our minds are already buckling under the weight of overload. 

But it goes beyond that, too. 

“We amass material things for the same reason that we eat – to satisfy a craving,” writes Kondo, in The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding. “Buying on impulse and eating and drinking to excess are attempts to alleviate stress.”

In other words, material things are like an itch that you can never scratch: no matter how much you have, you’ll never be satisfied. 

So, when you dramatically whittle down your belongings, it’s like a detox for the mind. Free from things that tether you to the past or the future, and also from the notions that possessions somehow validate you, you can think more clearly once more. 

Tidying consultant Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo: we amass things to satisfy a craving

Time and again, Kondo has noticed that when her clients purge their belongings, they’re hit by a wave of renewed energy and happiness. Often, they pick up projects or passions that they’ve abandoned for years previously.

For example, one thirty-something woman who put her space in order following the Kondo method “felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her” as she discarded her collection of seminar notes and nearly 500 books she had one day intended to read.

“I realised for the first time that letting go is even more important than adding,” the woman said. 

After getting rid of her enormous collection of literature and business cards, with their reminder of her failed ambitions, the woman started to collect information and meet new people quite naturally. It was the trigger she needed to “leap headlong into a new life, quitting her job and finding a publisher for her book”. 

So many of us unknowingly connect ourselves to an ocean of things. When you confront this clutter, you realise how little of it you actually need; and how much of it is sheer procrastination, getting between you and your goals. 

Break free and you gain renewed clarity over your thoughts, leading to positive momentum all of its own. 

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.