How to Remember Everything Pt. 1

Mnemonic devices are, simply put, mental tools used to aid memory. Many teachers in grade school have put them to great use. Remember this saying?

“My Very Eccentric Mother Just Sold Us Nine Pickles”

If not, it’s a simple mnemonic device used to remember the order of planets in our solar system. The first letter of each word corresponds to the first letter of each of the planets: Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto. There are variations on this saying, and of course Pluto has since been stripped of its planetary title, so I guess your mother no longer sells anything, but that’s beside the point.

There are many types of mnemonic devices, but they all work either by adding emotional value, lumping multiple pieces of information into one idea, or by infusing arbitrary information (lists, etc.), with an already established thought structure.

Most Americans can’t remember the last 10 US Presidents in order, but I bet at least 85% percent could name the previous winners and runners up of American Idol, in order. All connotations about the US education system aside, most people can’t remember presidential order because the information seems arbitrary, whereas there is a massive emotional, and contextual factor to American Idol. The planetary order is arbitrary as well, until you instill structure via the small story about your industrious mother.

Except for the occasional question at trivia night, knowing how the planets stack up won’t really be all that useful. However, circumstances like running errands and remembering everything your boss said needs to be done by 3pm are situations we run into every day. I would now like to share an awesome, mnemonic device my 7th grade social studies teacher taught me for remembering 10 items, in order, forwards, backwards, leftwards and even rightwards.

How to Remember Anything

First, remember this easy list. Hint: all words rhyme with their corresponding numbers.

1. Bun

2. Shoe

3. Tree

4. Door

5. Hive

6. Sticks

7. Heaven

8. Gate

9. Line

10. Hen

Second, create associations with each item on your list and the corresponding word from the above list.

Example:

These were the first 3 items chosen by the class, for the demonstration in 7th grade (1997 and I still remember).

1. Pencil

2. Welcome mat

3. Garbage can

  • How do I relate a pencil to a bun? It might sound silly, but the pencil has a similar shape to a hot dog, and would fit nicely in a bun. Done.
  • The welcome mat and shoe was easy, you wipe your shoes on the mat. That was a gimme.
  • Garbage can? Well, you throw a lot of paper in the garbage can, and paper comes from trees, so there we go.

It doesn’t really matter how silly or unusual the relationship is, just as long as you form a connection in your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else except for you, and you’ll often get strange looks if you try to explain your thought process anyway. I use this technique all the time, and never forget a thing at the grocery store.

Coming soon: How to Remember Everything Pt 2 – Learning Languages and Creating Original Mnemonic Devices.

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One Comment on “How to Remember Everything Pt. 1”

  1. Tim Says:

    Haha, I remember when you came home and tested that while also trying to make me feel like an idiot because I couldn’t remember any of the stuff you pointed out


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