My memory palace has saved my sanity
– it’s enabled me to live life again. Without it I’d become an empty shell
reliant upon notes (and other techniques) left around our home reminding me to
complete the most mundane tasks.
Building my palace started by revisiting an old family home – it wasn’t somewhere I was able to venture inside but was able to photograph from the outside. Re-familiarising myself with the building included sketching the rooms onto paper as I remembered them. My grandparent’s home was five stories and included a cellar and an attic which had provided lots of space for my cousins and I to share some wonderful memories. Each visit bought back a memory that I spoke into a voice recorder. The images I made enabled me to gradually build up an image on paper and eventually in my mind. Once I could remember the layout of the building I was able to close my eyes and imagine walking though each of the rooms.
Memory palaces work by associating the memory you want to store with an item or image that you place within your palace. One way I embed a memory is to write a four to six line poem and pair it with a photograph of an event and they get placed together inside the building that now forms my memory: if I have ever shared this act with you (because I often turn my poetry into a physical image too) then know you were a part of a day that meant a great deal to me.
As with any filing system there is a natural order within mine. Its somewhat precise, almost OCD and depending upon the memory it will depend on where I store it. Those of you who have read my thrillers will be very aware that I often write about confined spaces and one of my characters isn’t keen on them – that claustrophobia stems from my head injury – I also write about terrible happenings within cellars. Within my memory palace my negative experiences and memories are placed in the cellar. I certainly don’t avoid visiting and willingly walk down the steps to find out what might be lurking down there but its always good to know that I can walk back up and firmly lock that door behind me!
Over the years it’s taken me to develop and master this system into something that is reliable there have been some funny events that have needed some huge adjustments. As a family we discovered that wrong information that gets stored is immensely difficult to correct – there isn’t an override button I can press that deletes mistakes. It’s caused a laugh at my expense but I am now so very careful what gets kept and what I choose to ignore. Unfortunately it also means some things get forgotten – that what is important to some people may have been neglected by me and that can be an upsetting process for others to comprehend.
If anyone has any questions, please do ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org