The Lost Art of Memorization

Woman thinking. What—if anything—is worth memorizing?
Image by house of legacy from Pixabay

Since the beginning of time, man has accumulated information. Historical finds have documented this fact with discoveries in art, writing, the printed word, and song. Due to limited literacy, most societies have relied at least somewhat on oral tradition and memorization to capture and retain the important. Recently, the advent of the Internet, handheld computers, and cloud-based storage has resulted in the “outsourcing” of memory… loading pertinent knowledge to external sources for retrieval on demand. With the ability to quickly and easily access almost anything online, it seems logical to ask what—if anything—is worth memorizing?

Admittedly, it is unrealistic to memorize everything. However, there are times when having the ability to easily pull a fact from memory is both quicker and more productive than looking something up. In addition, in the unexpected event of restricted access to stored information, (e.g. theft, power failure, hard-drive damage, loss of a phone, hacked account, etc.), there are certain pieces of data that it would be helpful to know.

Whether for convenience, preparedness, or pleasure, here is my list of things that are worth committing to memory…

Things Worth Memorizing

Important Numbers

  • Social Security number
  • A major credit card number, CCV (security code) and expiration date
  • Debit card number and pin
  • Your license plate number
  • Passwords you frequently use/change
  • Combination for locker/bicycle lock/garage door
  • Alarm code
  • Home and cell phone numbers for yourself and key family members
  • Nearby pharmacy number
  • Your attorney’s phone number
  • Passport number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Wifi password for your home and office

Basic Facts

About You

  • Your address and those of close family members
  • Address of key locations
  • Family birthdays
  • Anniversary date
  • Your blood type (and that of your spouse & children)
  • Current medications and dosages

Citizenship

Inspiration

  • Meaningful scripture verses or spiritual sayings
  • Favorite poem
  • A good joke 🙂

A guy walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “What’s the quickest way to get to Chicago?”
The Bartender says, “Are you walking or driving?”
The guy says, “I’m driving.”
The Bartender says, “That’s the quickest way.” ~ Milt Abel

*     *     *     *     *

Memorization can be difficult, but music, rhymes and acronyms are all helpful tricks… just think of how many commercial jingles you know!

Have you found it helpful to memorize certain things? Do you have something to add to this list?

34 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Memorization”

  1. This is such an interesting list of things to memorize. You’re so right that with the availability of “Googling it” or simply having this information stored on our “smart” devices, we have less incentive to commit some of these things to memory. I’d freely admit that I have possibly half of the items on your suggested list memorized. The other half, I’ll continue to use my “cheat sheets,” although you’ve made a compelling argument to change that. Thanks for the great food for thought and awesome list of suggestions.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…3 Useful Ideas to Help Increase Your HappinessMy Profile

    1. I got myself memorizing things after writing this. I have definitely gotten lazy about holding things in memory, even when it would make my life quicker and easier if I did. Isn’t it true that the audience we sometimes write for is ourselves? So funny…

  2. Oh goodness – yes. We used to memorize everything. Now I’m useless at phone numbers, and yet, my long term memory remembers my 7th grade boyfriend’s phone number! It is a beautiful, beautiful lost art.
    In certain ways, if you learn instead of memorize, then you LEARN to MEMORIZE better, like with vocabulary words and SAT stuff. I learned that too late in the game. I was already a junior in high school.
    Tamara recently posted…How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part II: It Starts.My Profile

    1. I agree about the learning. Cramming things into my brain for the test was a surefire way to make sure I wouldn’t retain it. I also think that maybe memorizing is a bit like using a muscle… the more we do it, the better we get. I still have all the childhood phone numbers memorized, but not my mother’s current one. After writing this, I’ve put myself to work!

    1. I need to memorize my kids’ social security numbers. It is just a smart thing to do. I’ve pretty much written this post to hold myself accountable. Yesterday, as I was watering plants, I decided to see if I could learn the alphabet backwards. Funny how when I write, I get myself thinking!

  3. You bring up a good point that important facts should be remember. I would add to also remember where the important papers are in your home. S.S. Card, will, current and complete extensive list of passwords, etc… I would also add emergency numbers like emergency energy company number, security system pin, 911, etc…
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…6 Myths Home Cleaning BustedMy Profile

    1. Yes, poison control is another good number to have memorized, as it isn’t the same as 911. Great additions to the list, Sabrina! Always good to know where the important stuff is, in case you need to grab it and go.

  4. Wow, I don’t have many of those numbers memorized, but it would be interesting to see how many I could remember if I had to.

    I do remember one joke, which I heard nearly 30 years ago:

    A piece of string walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, “Get out, we don’t serve strings here.”

    The piece of string leaves, twists himself up and fluffs himself up on one end. He goes back into the bar.

    The bartender says, “Hey, aren’t you that piece of string that was just in here?”

    “No, I’m a frayed knot.”
    Janet Barclay recently posted…How to promote a business on a budgetMy Profile

    1. LOL, Janet! See, isn’t that fun that you can just pull that joke out? I think a few jokes, poems, poignant song lyrics, etc. are always good for a lull in conversation. Thanks for sharing:)

    1. I’m sure there is some science behind that, Jill. I don’t memorize easily, so I often rely on tricks and songs. Repetition, as well, tends to help. Names can be difficult, even when I clearly recognize the face. This one can be stressful, because you can’t just easily look a person’s face up!

  5. I’m not familiar with the 5 tomatoes phrase?? Maybe something that lapsed from my memory? :/
    I’m actually fairly good at memorizing or at least using tricks to help me remember. But I’ll be honest, in this digital age I commit things to memory much better if I take pen to paper over typing on a screen.

    1. I think there is research that writing with a pen on paper makes a greater impression on our brains than typing into a digital device. Good for students to know! Hmm… maybe I should post that:)

  6. What a great idea to share! It’s true that we lack memory muscle because there is little we must memorize. However, I’d like to add one more thing – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables. It’s just a little something that we need to all know.

  7. My one and only memorized joke: A skeleton walks into a bar and says, “Hey bartender, I’ll have a beer…and a mop.” I remember it because it’s short, and my husband told it to me on one of our first dates. Clearly, I could stand to expand my repertoire.

    This post is really thought-provoking, as I’ve often fretted about how our kids don’t really have a need to memorize much (nor do they have to wait for an answer to any question). Perhaps a new family activity is born!

    1. That is a hilarious joke! I’m enjoying hearing the jokes readers have memorized:) I also wonder what the impact will be on the next generation, who doesn’t memorize much (other than for school exams.) Each generation is different, but given the strong oral traditions throughout history, I feel we may be on the verge of losing something important.

  8. I read an article a year or two ago about how we’re losing our skills of memorization since we just look everything up on our phones these days. I’ve been writing down my grocery list, leaving it at home and then going shopping without my list as a memory exercise. It’s been tough, but my memory is getting better since I’ve been exercising it .
    Susan recently posted…How to Package Brownies for ShippingMy Profile

    1. I think that article was right, Susan. I used to be able to remember more easily. I’ve started committing more to memory recently, simply because I’ve rediscovered how convenient and expedient it is. I also don’t like having to look at a screen all day!

    1. Yes, when you need to pull out an account number, it is so nice to just know it! It is somehow empowering as well… to feel that I am in possession of the information that is important to me:)

    1. I think it does… it seems to me something like exercising a muscle. I believe there have been studies done which show that working your brain helps you as you age, so there must be some link between use and health. Regardless, it feels great to know things without having to pull out my phone!

    1. That’s a great addition – a strong speech. I’ve never heard of that book, but I would enjoy it. I completely agree that memorizing things can be fun, and makes you feel good about yourself:)

  9. I do think that people are taking less time these days to memorize things (myself included) as it is easy to store info in one’s phone or online and then retrieve it. But in situations where there is no data or WiFi (such as an emergency), people often are stuck!I like the 5280 feet = 1 mile (think of the phrase ‘5 Tomatoes’) – I have not hear this before, good tip!
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted…21 Things to do in Edinburgh Scotland: The HighlightsMy Profile

    1. There was a time years ago when all of the power in the Northeast went out. It was wild, and you really couldn’t access anything. Also, after 9/11, the cell service was out. It’s a good idea to have a printed back-up of the important stuff, but also kind of nice to have a few things stored in our head so we don’t need to rely on technology!

  10. What a good idea Seana! I might actually challenge myself to do some of this. I still try to challenge myself to remember scripture!
    Don’t even get me started on passwords though! I would lose my mind trying to keep up with those! 🙂

    1. I work on scripture too… and I’ve been working on this list myself since posting it. Kind of empowering, actually, to know my driver’s license and passport numbers!

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