Thanks for the memory Sherlock – I now have a mind palace

January 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Daily Life | 21 Comments
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Sherlock Holmes

If you watched the wonderful Sherlock this week (how can you not be hooked?!), you will have seen him trying to recall the significance of the word H.O.U.N.D as part of an ever-deepening mystery surrounding Baskerville and a disappearance on the moors.

Sherlock recalled memories from his ‘mind palace’ and found the acronym H.O.U.N.D tucked away safely in one of the bedrooms of said palace – a memory he’d stored from the past.

If you read my post ‘I was saved by a raisin’ – the one I struggled through during the crowdsourced section of CyberMummy last year, you’ll know that I battled with some mild forms of OCD – including the inability to recall information – mainly ideas and must-do’s for the coming day.  Because I also had slight obsessions with lists and stopped listing everything, my memory became even more important a tool.

So when Sherlock so dramatically visualised his ‘mind palace’ with lots of crazy waving and gestures, I decided to get myself a palace too.  I have no delusions of grandeur so have settled on a mind house, which just so happens to be a three bed end terrace – just like mine.  Makes sense for it to be a familiar place I decided.

So on Monday night in bed I remembered that I still hadn’t emailed an old contact about rearranging a cancelled lunch.  I sat him on the toilet reading The Guardian.  Come the morning, I went back to my mind house and found him, still sitting there, just where I left him and remembered to email him.

On Tuesday night I put a friends mother up on the shelf in the kitchen with all of my nice little dishes and bottles to remind me about an idea I’d had for a press release (I work in PR) about holidays and holiday habits -my friends mother goes back to the same resort every year.  And lo and behold, I remembered the idea in its entirety when I thought back to where I had put someone.

On Wednesday night I put the host of a networking meeting I was attending the following morning in the kitchen cupboard nestled in with the washing powder and fabric softener – well he is only small.  I wanted to remind myself of the theme for my ‘one minute’ – the bit where you have to stand up and make a good impression about yourself and your business.  And again it worked.

I Googled this technique and found this page about memory recall and mind palaces – I’m not sure if I am going to need specific routes or whether rooms will continue to suffice, we shall see.

The principle is based on the Method of Loci and works on the basis that we are better at remembering locations that anything else.  So by putting thoughts into specific locations, with symbols, icons and images to help us remember chains of information, we make them easier to recall.

“Why don’t you just write it down?!!!” my husband said.  But if you’re almost in the land of nod and are enjoying that heavy feeling that comes when you are finally drifting off to sleep, you simply can’t move as far as a pen and paper or your phone – you just will yourself to remember.  And usually don’t.

Next stop, putting this to the test when in the shower, driving, or swimming with my son – all times when really you shouldn’t be over-thinking anything but always seem to have those little brainwaves.

Only trouble is, if I remember every single one of these good ideas, I’m going to need someone to help me get them all done…



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  1. I really love that idea. I’m afraid I don’t watch Sherlock (sorry!) but I think you’ve done a great job of explaining and applying this idea. Thanks

    • It’s working really well for me – I put two blind salesmen in the bath this morning – blinds as in window coverings – neither has vision problems!

  2. thanks ! sherlock did introduced me how to use a mind palace, by the state of what he’s doing that time.
    Now I could remember everything, yes, everything, even what is the color of my friend’s shoes three days ago .. *well, he ASKED it. haha.*

    • It’s brilliant isn’t it, sounds bonkers but I find it really helps me to recall information.

  3. Tonight’s episode starting soon… Love both series of Sherlock. But I think if I had a mind palace and it became as cluttered as my real house, I’d never find anything!

    • I have to admit I haven’t taken anything out of my mind palace yet, wonder how you do that!

  4. i’ve heard of mind/memory palaces years ago, but it was derren brown for me who gave a very concise instruction on how to use memory palaces in this “tricks of the mind” book.
    highly recommended, if only for his self-aware sense of humour 🙂

    • Thanks for that I’ll check out Derren Brown too!

  5. Brilliant… As much as I love the show I did not realize I could fit that in my life too.

  6. What a brilliant idea. I suck at memory so anything that can help is welcomed! lol! I’m totally going to have to give this a go!

  7. I used this technique in my Psychology A-level exam last year. I used my school, house, and grandmothers house to remember Scholars names (around 75 of them in total). I remembered them when I needed to and passed both exams with an average of 97.5%.

  8. I didn’t realised this was actually a real memory technique.

    I love Sherlock too.

    • It’s definitely worth a try!

  9. Nice – Thanks for sharing this. Sherlock is one of my favourite programs, and I liked it particularly when they included the memory technique, because it is real. I’ve always had recall- sometimes I just see a book I nickname my ‘Argos catalogue’, other times I just completely get lost in my thoughts or see black. If I like a program, I can play it back, maybe change a few things. Imagination etc, and my mind doesn’t always shut down so lots of lucid dreaming! The issue I have is that I have so much stored away from my first memory at 1 that I am incredibly absent minded. Naturally I seem to have created a strange empty space where I’m not sure I even think of anything while its there, but I’m not sure what I’d do without it, probably overload. Some memories just jab at me and then float off somewhere without me looking for them. The mind is a curious thing. In one way, a address book, photo album, map, in another way a theatre or just a place to go to for a while.

  10. Thanks, this is great! I was just researching the mind palace, so thanks. I’m going to use this now…
    And yes, HOOKED on Sherlock is a good word ^^

  11. Hi there – please join my new Sherlock forum – – lots of interesting topics already on the go! Thanks in advance!

  12. this is a perfect methode of remembering things. Today, we had a history exam. I learnt whole second world war this way. I took my approximately 30 minutes and well, I feel like remembering it forever! 😀

    • Well done, hope you get the results you want!

  13. Mentalist & Consultant Joe Riggs here, In my profession we use the actual “Memory Palace” or ‘Method of Loci” constantly. I love your determination. If you really want to see how it is done, check out my recent article “The Memory Palace – From Sherlock Holmes to Building Your Own.” -Joe Riggs

  14. There is a book called “Moon Walking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer that has more information on mind palaces.

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