Remembering short lists long term?

I am fairly new to this, so forgive me if I am misunderstanding some things here and there. So far I’ve learned that you can use memory palaces to remember long lists, and I’ve also learned to remember single events using the Dominic system.

However, sometimes I need to remember short lists of three, for example, but I’m not sure how to go about that. It seems wasteful to use a memory palace here. yet at the same time it would be nice to have them linked together somehow. How do you guys handle this, usually? I should add that I am talking about lists and that I would like to commit to long-term memory, not shopping lists etc.

It’s stuff like: the three German emperors were: 1. 2. 3. … or '3 main reasons why Rome fell:" 1. 2. 3. …

The first example is chronological, so I could link them all together. In the second example (reasons why Rome fell) I am more reluctant to do this, since I wouldn’t want to go through all 3 items if I just want the 3rd.

Curious to hear what you have to say.

I use “Grid technique” for this kind of situation… Once encoded in a Grid, I can then access the items any way I want,chronologically or otherwise…Left to right, top to bottom, or randomly!!!

One challenge I see to having a lot of shorter lists like this is how to keep track of all of them. If you have 10 short lists of 3-5 items each, how do you store them all? My suggestion is… a memory palace specifically created for holding a variety of short, self-contained lists. Because of its special function, I’m thinking that maybe it doesn’t need to look like your other, typical palaces.

For instance, in a typical palace, you’d probably end up with a lot of wasted space; you’re storing three things, say, in a space where you might otherwise put 20 locations. So maybe think more about having a “palace” that is like a series of smaller compartments—elevators, maybe. Or cubicles, like in an open office. The trick will be distinguishing each one from all of the others.

Maybe the elevators or cubicles could have inherent characteristics that match what you’re storing there. I’m going to stereotype here—I apologize!—but maybe the German emperors are stored in a little room that has beer taps everywhere or is built in the style of traditional German architecture. Maybe your Roman information is stored in a cubicle that happens to be shaped like a miniature Coliseum. (I recently rewatched the fantastic horror/comedy “Cabin in the Woods,” and this idea reminded me of the finale sequence in that film, where a structure is shown containing hundreds of identical compartments like this, each with its own unique occupant. I just wouldn’t suggest basing your own rooms on the kinds of things stored in the movie!)

I usually recommend that folks use real places they know well for their memory palaces, but that’s based on the assumption that they’ll be storing a lot of information there, and the familiarity of a real, known space will help trigger all of those associations. But you don’t need that for these lists. As long as you can identify the specific cubicle or compartment you need, you’ll be fine.


Hello, d.miller! I am also somewhat new to the Art of Memory but here is my suggestion if it makes sense for you:

I remember short lists via small palaces. Rest stops, a park, gas stations, and the like all work very well. I simply choose one that is mostly empty (fewer distractions) then walk through it a few times to develop the layout, followed by conceptualization of a path and then I walk the path backwards and forwards (at least 4 times going through the entire place) while also walking it in my head making sure it works, then I purposefully distract myself with a lunch break or a couple songs or something and then mentally walk through the palace again and repeat the path in real life to concrete it in my memory.

These palaces usually hold between 1 and 10 loci depending on how big it is, how unique the loci are (multiple corners is a no-go for me, for example), and how many people were around (more people around when creating palace = less loci).

I split my micro palaces up and then grouped them and placed them in specific palaces to hold the journey. So the first year I went on vacation to Colorado and Yellowstone and my favorite place to stay was a campground in Utah. So in that campground I start by placing a Bison in the first loci because it was the most notable animal I saw that trip and I consecutively place a link to each rest stop like normal loci. Second trip to Colorado and Yellowstone the palace is signified by a bear, most notable place was a hotel in Deadwood. The third palace is signified by a cougar and is a place in Denver; the fourth a moose in a place in Dillon.

I organize them like this so that I have a specific cycle of places so I don’t keep reusing the same ones or forget which palace I connect to to continue the information stream. The same concept could be used in a single city as businesses on a specific street as one group of micro-loci.

As far as scholastic information such as you posted such as “the reasons Rome fell” you don’t necessarily need a palace or a journey, simply the image of what is happening.

You could create a mental image of Rome (I imagine a building with massive columns) and then tell a story to explain why it fell. So I imagine Rome surrounded by a massive wall with barbarians banging on the north wall. Owls are flying secret messages in and out of Rome with various stamps etched into the wax seals of the letters. A man in luxurious purple robes is carting out a load of gold, and inside the building is many other individuals in equally nice robes that represent Roman upper class, as well as some dark-cloaked stealthy figures dotted around who clearly are friends with the Upper Class. Each dark-cloaked individual is doing something shady from bribes, to sawing table and chair legs, stealing food, and whipping the slaves of the Upper Class; many also hold cups of poison, knives, and a book that represents Knowledge in my mind. There are several treaties with symbols that represent various city-states and several of them are on fire or signed by a dark-cloaked man, who has no authority to sign a treaty.