Most people could probably spend a whole year just looking at IKEA’s 2018 catalogue and still not remember all the details in its 328 pages. But then again, Yaanja Wintersoul is not most people, she is a two-time World Memory Champion so she only needed one week to accomplish the seemingly impossible task.
23-years-old Yaanja Wintersoul says that there’s no such thing as a photographic memory, and that it’s all about training your brain to memorize tiny details that most of us forget almost instantly. She knows what she’s talking about, too. Not only has she won the World Memory Championship twice, set a the world record for the the largest number of names and faces ever memorized by a person, but she’s also become IKEA’s “human catalogue”, memorizing most of the details in the company’s 328-page 2018 catalogue in only a week.
“IKEA just sent me the catalogue and said good luck, let’s see if you can do this in a week,” Wintersoul told Mashable about how she ended up memorizing the Swedish furniture giant’s new catalogue. She loves a challenge so she started flipping through the pages and using various memory techniques to store as many details as possible. At the end of the one week period, she was able to prove why she is regarded as a phenomenon. During several live sessions and interviews, Yaanja was not only to remember all the 4,818 products and what pages they were featured on in the catalogue, but also the special characteristics of each products and even minute details about the decor and lighting on every page.
For example, Mashable tested her “human catalogue” abilities, by asking her about the scene in pages 92-93, to which she answered: “It’s a kitchen, there are wall shelves…there’s checkered floor [tiles] and a giant trash can. The room is a grey-ish black theme but with an element of yellow — there’s a citrus plant near the window.”
Photo: Pages 92-93, IKEA
Maybe it was a lucky guess, so the popular website asked her to make a recommendation for a standard white desk from the catalogue. She casually asked the reporter to flip to page 216 and take a look at Pahl, a height-adjustable table. “It’s great because you can grow with it, so it’s suitable for adults or kids,” she added.
To prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that she really did memorize all 328 pages and 4,818 products in the new IKEA catalogue, Yaanja Wintersoul took part in a Facebook Live event hosted on IKEA Singapore’s Facebook page, yesterday, September 6th, and blew everyone’s minds.
Photo: Page 216, IKEA
Talking about how she got into memory training, Yaanja, who was born in Mongolia but now lives in Sweden, said that it all started when she decided to finish a four year business undergraduate program in just two years. “I was trying to finish my business degree in half the time it usually takes. I accidentally found this book teaching memory techniques…and they explained how easy it is and I thought maybe I could do it too,” she told Mashable.
That’s how she discovered all the different memory techniques, like “memory palace”, where you create a palace in your brain where you can store mnemonic images that can help you remember facts or things in a certain order.
“Say if you have a list of things that you want to learn in a certain order, you put them through a journey in your mind,” Yaanja Wintersoul says. “If you have to remember three countries, let’s say China, U.S. and Brazil, then maybe on your bed you’re eating Chinese food, on your nightstand there’s a hamburger and then a window and you see a soccer ball. If you make it more of a fun story that’s relatable, then it’s easier to remember.”
It sounds easy enough, and memory champions say it really is, but such techniques just require constant practice in order to work.
Yaanja Wintersoul may be the world’s most famous memory champion these days, but the title of “world’s best memory” is usually associated with Dominic O’Brien, an eight-time World Memory Champion, and multiple records holder.