How I Declutter My Brain, and You Can Too

You’ve heard about – and probably done – a brain dump. That particular term doesn’t sit well with me, but the idea does.

Last fall, when I did a personal retreat for my business, my primary goal was to get all the stuff that was cluttering my brain out, so I could actually see it and do something about all of those swirling ideas STUCK in my head.

Seriously, I was stuck in business and in life and I felt like I had so much stuff in my head that there was no room for thinking. I had to declutter my brain, so I created The Brain DeClutter™.

The Brain DeClutter™ System

This system:

  • helps you get everything out of your brain and into a place where you can deal with it.
  • helps you get more organized.
  • helps you prioritize.
  • helps you feel like you have it together! (don’t laugh at this one – it’s a real thing!)

Essentially, you’re going to take all those zillions of thoughts in your head, get them out in an organized manner, and then put them in the right places.

You know how Marie Kondo doesn’t just say “clean out your closet?” Instead, she gives you a system. 

Below is my system for a Brain DeClutter™. I’ve outlined the steps that I use, but remember, take this advice and create things the way they work for you.

MATERIALS NEEDED TO DECLUTTER YOUR BRAIN AND MAKE SPACE FOR MENTAL WELLNESS

  • Kraft Paper or wrapping paper. The 35#-40# kraft paper seems to work best. This is usually what you find if you are buying a roll for wrapping packages you are going to mail, etc.
  • Paint-friendly tape. I found that masking tape worked just fine for me, but the blue painter’s tape is safe. But always test it on the walls.
  • Sharpies or something similar.

STEP 1 | CHOOSE YOUR BRAIN AREAS/TOPICS

These topics are like the categories of your thoughts. In The Magic of Tidying Up, you are told to declutter based on topic (clothes, books, photos, kitchen, etc.). This approach with your mind is similar. Here are the categories that work best for as I declutter my brain, but you might have others.

  • Business
  • Personal
  • Worries and Fears
  • Other Project
  • Random Thoughts

STEP 2 | PUT THE PAGES ON THE WALL AND START WRITING

This is the “brain dump” part. The fabulous thing is, you have things organized from the get-go.

Write the topic on the big page, and then put these up around the room. Pull out a couple of Sharpies and write whatever pops into your head.

  • Business – anything related to your business. New ideas, something on your website, find new clients, order new business cards, etc.
  • Personal – make a doc appointment, clean out the fridge, lose 15 pounds, schedule a date night, send a birthday card, go to the grocery store, etc.
  • Worries and Fears – anything that you are worried about. I had everything from driving on I-85 (stresses me out) to a loved one getting sick, to not being able to find a password for a credit card account. They are just little (or big) things that bother you – or keep you up at night.
  • Other Project – I know this one is sort of random. You’ll know – if it is something so big like a new start-up, a new ad campaign, a showhouse you’re participating in, a three-week vacation that you are planning, etc., give it its own sheet.
  • Random Thoughts – Things that didn’t really fit anywhere: write a book, create a keynote speech, etc. Not things I need to necessarily do, but things I didn’t want to forget about.

Don’t think about what you’re writing down – don’t judge – don’t plan- just write.

STEP 3 | ORGANIZE EACH ITEM INTO A CATEGORY

Look at all the pages and organize them deeper. You can do this by using different colored markers or by marking each item with a letter that represents one of the areas below – whatever works for your brain. You are looking at all your sheets as you do this. Well, the one exception is your Worries and Fears – leave that sheet alone for now.

Mark every item as one of the following:

  1. TASKS – These are things that don’t take any real thinking, just doing. Answer a simple email. Make or go to an appointment. Go to Target. Pay a bill. Circle all of those with a color or use the letter T.
  2. DEADLINES – Anything that has a hard deadline. (mail mom’s birthday gift; write the article; record the webinar). Circle with a different color or write a D.
  3. PROJECTS – Things that have several steps. They may involve others. They probably require a timeline. But, you already know what it looks like and you know it needs to happen.
  4. CONCEPTS – These are new and require some real thinking. You haven’t started them. They aren’t just out-there ideas – they need to happen – they would be great for your biz or maybe your life. But they need more thinking and more definition.
  5. EDUCATION – Anything that has a learning curve that takes more than 10 minutes.

STEP 4 | GET RID OF THOSE WORRIES

Look at your Worry/Fear list.

Ask yourself, “can I do anything about this?” If so, it’s a task or something to do. If there is something you can do about it, mark it as a task.

If there is nothing you can do about it, you need to let it go – release it.

Okay – an entire sheet is GONE! Let’s get back to the others . . .

STEP 5 | DELETE & PRIORITIZE!

You can’t do everything that you have written down. So, as you look at your lists, ask yourself these questions:

  • What on these lists will take me less than five minutes to accomplish? Mark those <5 (less than five minutes – get it?)
  • Which of these things do I need to simply not think about in the next month and postpone?
  • Which of these do not fit with my personal or brand values?

If it doesn’t light your heart up – DELETE.

If you know you will not have time for it during this quarter and it’s not critical to your family, your health, or your business, put it on a separate list to look at on a specific date and move on.

Set a timer for 45 minutes and do as many of those <5 minute things that you can – right now.

STEP 6 | SCHEDULE

Use your calendar as your to-do list. I find this sooooooo much more productive than a traditional to-do list.

  • Deadlines – give yourself a hard deadline and reverse engineer it with dates
  • Concepts/Projects – give yourself a time and place to think about it. Timeline it out or postpone.
  • Education – do you really need to learn this? Why? Could you pay for someone to do this for you? Will you use it over and over?
  • Tasks – your calendar is your to-do list. Block off 30 minutes a day and fill it with your <5 tasks – get them all on the calendar.

Once it is all either on your calendar, or put aside to review at another time, that’s it! You will be amazed at how your brain feels once you do this. After the first time you go through The Brain DeClutter™ it takes a lot less time, and can be a tool that you will come back to again and again! Good luck! 


Ready focus on your mental health as an entrepreneur? Get our Mental Wellness Ultimate Guide here.

Kimberly Sundt

After many years in hospitality, events and design, Kimberly Sundt now works with those in the interior design and other lifestyle industries to position and promote their small businesses in ways that make them stand out in the clients’ minds. She helps her clients both simplify and strengthen their marketing and branding through the lens of customer experience. This results in a brand that resonates, has a soul and lives throughout all parts of a business. Kimberly has recently launched a second business, mypersonalretreat.com, guiding small business owners in planning their own personal retreats.

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