If you want to recall nine or ten grocery items, say
lettuce toilet paper butter cereal hamburger
milk sugar potatoes tea
put them in rooms in your home.
“In the first place” put the lettuce in the entrance hall and picture it there, in the middle of the floor where you’ll step on it. Get a good visual impression.
“In the second place ” – whatever’s the next room, the kitchen maybe – put the toilet paper, maybe in the refrigerator with the door open.
“In the third place – maybe in the living room across the hall – put the butter, unwrapped on the seat of your expensive upholstered chair.
Let’s see how this is going. Shut your eyes. What did you put in your entrance hall? Can you see it there? What’s in the kitchen? What’s in the living room?
You get the point. You’re connecting — also called linking — each new item with a place already firmly placed in your memory bank (in this case the rooms of your home). You make a good bond between them. You exaggerate. You visualize. You associate. And any other memory device you already know about. I’ll bet the potatoes end up in the toilet.
That’s it, in a nutshell.
All the techniques you already use or know about are likely to be involved in of the method of places – which goes back at least as far as ancient Greek orators who didn’t have teleprompters and pictured each main point of their speeches, odes or whatever, sequentially in the rooms of their houses and then retrieved them, safe and sound, as they went along. It was a fine art by the 1600s when Matteo Ricci developed a memory palace of more than a thousand places — and was part of the education of the young Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising.
Variations of the Method of Places
The Grid method
It’s neater and portable. You can make links between the items, too, as you go along, if you feel like it. Always start in the same square. I suggest the upper left square, then snake to the right, then down one and to the left, then down again and to the right. If you have more items, use a second grid.
I’ll post a couple of more variations of the Method of Places next time