Before I head to the gym I need to remember five items: my wallet, phone, car key, iPod, and lifting gloves. Historically, my success rate in remembering all five items on the first try was approximately zero. I always ended up going back into the house to grab a forgotten item or two.  Often I would get all the way to the gym before realizing I didn't have my iPod or gloves. It was exasperating.

Apparently, remembering five items is too much for my tiny, overextended brain. I spend much of my day in a thick creative fog, watching idea fragments float past my consciousness while I try to assemble them like a puzzle. I can go so deeply into my imagination that I sometimes snap out of it in a public place, such as the mall, and literally check to see if I'm wearing pants. So remembering five different items for the gym is far beyond my practical abilities.

I considered making a list of my five necessary gym items, but I knew a list wouldn't work for me. I find that lists only work when I first make them. After a week, I stop seeing the list. It's as if I need a second list that reminds me to look at my first list. But I did come up with a solution that has worked for the past six months.

My solution is the number five itself. I simply remember that for a trip to the gym I must bring five items. If I only count four items, I know I'm missing one. At that point I just run through the list in my head and I know what else I need. It works like a charm.

The other day I was considering blogging about this little memory trick when I got an email from my brother. We're not twins, but we think so similarly that it is freaky. My brother's email asked what method I use to remember the items I need to buy at the grocery store. My brother's solution is to remember the number of items. That's enough to ensure he comes home with everything he intended to buy. He and I designed the same memory trick at about the same time. Weird.

I'm considering assigning a number to my other standard trips as well. For example, any outdoorsy trips that involve sun also require my hat, sunscreen, and sun glasses. That's three items on top of my wallet, phone, and car keys. Outdoor trips are a six.

I'm assuming your lives are equally complicated. It's a challenge to get your spouse and your kids in the car without one of you making a go-back trip to the house for a forgotten item. As a fix, what if you assigned each family member a number before everyone heads to the car? For example, maybe one kid always needs an iPod, charger, and headphones. That's three items. Your spouse might need sunglasses, phone, purse, and digital camera. That's four. As everyone is getting ready to leave, you make sure everyone knows their number: "Timmy, you're a three. Sally, you're a four."

Try it. You'll be amazed how well it works.

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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
"invented" it myself nearly 20 yrs ago and have been using it ever since; not unlike a checksum. i also like to list the items (even if only mentally) in alphabetical order when i need help remembering *what* on top of *how many*.
Nov 19, 2012
We use that trick to keep track of items when traveling. Every time we get out of the car, parking shuttle, etc, we do the count. The only problem is that some of the items get checked onto the plane, so our number changes depending on which stage of the travel we're in at the time.

9 =
2 suitcases
4 backpacks
2 carseats
1 purse

Occasionally we add in '2 kids'.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
I am a good solid 8.
Nov 19, 2012
For me, I decided (years ago) that I needed to remember just 3 things every time I leave the house: Wallet, Keys, Cellphone. This was an issue often enough, that I put a small sign on my front door that just listed these those three items. I did a pat-down check every time I left the house. This got to be a habit after a few months, and I ditched the sign.

Now, whenever I leave the house, I stop for my quick pat-down to verify that I have wallet, keys, and cellphone. It's very rare that I don't have them... it's more ritual than anything else. But it makes me stop and think about what else I need for where I'm going. I don't even think about those things (like I don't think about clothes and shoes). With those three items out of the equation, I rarely need more than two things for any destination.

(and I have a pocket knife on my keychain, lock picks in my wallet, and other sundries that I wouldn't want to be stuck without).
Nov 19, 2012
My problem is when I get out of the car to go into the gym. My iPhone, wallet and keys are already in my pockets, but I always have to remind myself to bring in 3 things. Earbuds, water, gym ID. So I memorize the number 3. But I still forget the earbuds fairly often.

Another method I often use is the "top of the pocket" technique. Invariably, I would forget to put my earbuds back in my glove compartment after working out, which means they would be in my gym shorts pocket at the bottom of the laundry basket the next time I arrived at the gym. To combat this, I now put them in my pocket but on top of my keys, so I can't help but pull them out when I reach for my keys.

Similarly, when preparing to leave the house, I have to put things right in front of the door, so I will trip on them on the way out. It doesn't matter that there is a much more convenient countertop on the way to the door. If I can walk past without tripping on the item, I won't remember to grab it.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
Cool. Maybe you can "discover" gravity tomorrow?
Nov 19, 2012

[The only problem with this idea is that it's not scalable.

"Ok I'm off, but first let me check to be sure I have all 137 things..."]

How often do you need to take so much stuff that this is a problem? For everyday use the number method should work fine.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
I've been using this number trick for as long as I can remember. Four is my number for work. Wallet, keys, phone, and asthma inhaler. However, I've found that when I have to take something extra, I invariably forget one of my original four. Still, almost every morning as I'm about to open my front door to leave, I do a little count 1, 2, 3, ...4 ... good to go!
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
The only problem with this idea is that it's not scalable.

"Ok I'm off, but first let me check to be sure I have all 137 things..."

Nov 19, 2012
I typically have one bag for when I go to work, one bag for when I go gaming and one bag for when I go to the gym. Everything I need is in the respective bag. Works for me.
Nov 19, 2012
Not an uncommon trick - I use it for several things...
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2012
We must be related as I have been using the number memory trick for years. It seldom fails me.
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