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Creating a Memory Palace

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

A Memory Palace is a way of linking your imagination with the real world to help you remember a list of items.

A Memory Palace can be based on a building or a location (or series of locations, if you are moving, as you might be in a car on the school run). The key point is that it is a place or places with which you are familiar and can remember easily. These are things that are already in your long-term memory, which make them easier to recall. For instance, you could use:

· your bedroom (or living room, or kitchen)

· your house (and/or your grandparents’ house)

· your garden

· your school (or classroom)

· your neighbourhood (or a place you visit often)

· your town centre and the shops there

· your walk to school (or any other place you go regularly)

· your school run (if you go by car rather than walking)

Creating a Memory Palace is very straightforward. You choose items that will act as mental hooks that you can hang things on. You do this by making associations. Hanging what you need to remember on hooks using interesting associations will mean than not only can you recall whatever it is you need to remember more easily, but you can do it in a specific order, which can be important.

A Memory Palace can be as big or small as you like, depending on how many things you need to remember. 20 hooks is a good place to start, but you could easily increase it to 40 or 50. You can have lots of different Memory Palaces, and use them for different things.

When you are creating a Memory Palace, there are some things you should remember:

· start in the most obvious place (e.g. if you are doing a building, start at the front door)

· always go in the same direction (e.g. you could go to the left, or to the right)

· the direction is up to you, but be consistent

· choose items that are unlikely to move

· big items usually work better than small ones

· choose items that stand out

· items that mean something to you tend to work better, as you’re more likely to remember them – this is your personal Memory Palace – the more the items mean to you, the easier it will be to remember them and the more useful you will find it

· choose items that are very different from each other (e.g. don’t pick a television and a computer monitor, as you might get confused between them; go for one or the other)

When you’ve picked all your hooks for your Memory Palace, write them down on a list. Read over it, then walk round all your hooks again, saying them out loud to yourself. Check you’ve noted them correctly. You have to be very clear about what the hooks are and what order they are in.

Once you are comfortable that you know them all and where they come in the series, go through your Palace again, but this time just in your mind. You may need to do this several times to begin with. You will need to practise this stage, so that you are very comfortable with your Memory Palace and the hooks in it. The more you practise it, the easier you will find it to use and thus the more things you are likely to remember.

As soon as you are secure in your Memory Palace, you are ready for the next stage, where you will create strong links between the items on the list you have to learn with the hooks you have chosen.

Go through the list of things you have to remember and attach one item to each hook, in order. Take your time doing this. For instance, if the first thing you have to remember is ‘elephant’ and the front door was your first hook, picture an elephant charging through your front door, trumpeting, with the front door exploding into smithereens. If the next item on the list is ‘butter’ and your second hook is the hall stand, picture a giant pat of butter that is oozing down over all the coats – smell the butter, feel the greasy butter as it melts, see the contrast of the creamy butter against the coats. Go through the list you have to remember, in order, attaching a mental image of it (including your other senses, if possible) to each of your hooks, one after the other. Involve yourself in the images as much as you can.

There are certain things to bear in mind that will help you remember the items. Make the links:

· funny

· outrageous

· colourful

· disgusting

· weird

· big

· larger than life

· outrageous

· unexpected

· sensual (i.e. uses your senses)

· loud

· smelly

· very different from each other

· you can combine as many of these elements together as you like – the more, the better!

We'll do a blog soon on making good links.

Above all, make them personal to you. Be active in the image as much as you can.

When you need to remember the items on your list, walk through your Memory Palace, in order, and conjure up the image you created for each hook. The more memorable you make the image, the more likely you will be able to remember the item from your list.

The more you practise this technique, the easier it will be come and the more useful you will find it.

When you are comfortable with Memory Palaces, you can have a different one for different things – for instance, the one of your house could be used for your holiday packing list, while the walk round your garden is for things you need at the supermarket. You could have a different room for each day to remember what to put in your schoolbag.

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