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What is the best tool to use as an aid to recalling and organizing memories?
May 9, 2011 9:54 PM   Subscribe

According to the answers to this AskMe, there are a lot of us geezers who get fuzzy on our pasts as our pasts get longer.

I'm in my mid 40s and I've never been good at remembering the timeline of specific events in my own past. Friends, jobs, cities, relationships, school... it's all there in the brain, but it kind of melts together as far as which year was which.

My life is not interesting to anyone but me, but still, I'd like to get it down for my own satisfaction. I've tried writing things out in notebooks, but memories come out piecemeal and there's no way to insert new rememberings--one thing will lead to another and the flipping of pages doesn't really work. I tried a TiddlyWiki but I couldn't see everything at once and it seemed, oddly enough, scatterbrained. I tried Excel and I couldn't find good ways to overlap things that overlapped. Mind-mapping sofware seemed right for mapping an idea, but not a timeline.

Is there any system or software well-suited as an aid to recalling and organizing memories? Ideally it would be something like a timeline that could expand and contract as memories are recalled and then recorded.
posted by quarterframer to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
This question I asked a while back may be of some help.
posted by hermitosis at 9:57 PM on May 9, 2011


I use Momento on my iPhone, which works as a passive diary by aggregating all of your personal feeds (Facebook, twitter, etc).
posted by samthemander at 9:59 PM on May 9, 2011


If you are only in your 40's can you not ask your family & friends who may remember better than yourself? In my case I was able to enlist the help of my "exe's".

I really like lists and have compiled lists of (for example): my ham radios, boats, places, etc. Also start a random blog, you can organize it by date later. Jot things down as they occur to you. I use a voice memo on my phone too.
posted by lungtaworld at 4:32 AM on May 10, 2011


Notwithstanding your lack of success with writing to date, I'd still recommend it as the only reliable means of keeping track. Write. You'll get better at it. Make your own tools that match your own style. There isn't an app for everything. Sometimes you just have to invent your own system. You already know what you want it to do, why you want to do it, and how to evaluate its quality. No one is going to run the keyboard for you. 10 minutes a day and an hour a month to read what you wrote seems like a small investment.
posted by FauxScot at 4:53 AM on May 10, 2011


I have a private Google map annotated with nostalgic events, places, people and dates: "First time I had sex! (with Daniel B., 1986)" This has been nice for a 50,000 ft. view of a life which has taken me to three continents, many roles, and various eras of personality. More recently I've been keeping simple text files on my phone titled, for instance, "Kids and their Parents," since these are the circles I now travel in, with entries like: "Naomi - mom Laura, dad Pell, brothers Mars and Jack." I also take pictures with my phone of things that interest me (gifts, event fliers, etc.) and download these monthly to see if I want to act on anything. Or I tag them for searchability later.

I've also toyed with the idea of Highrise for keeping track of important things with family and friends ("Mom's thyroid biopsy next Wed" "Rose furious with work management") so that the next time I plan on seeing them I can refresh my memory. I haven't taken this step yet, though. Too much input, having to be near a computer, etc. but I can see its use in this aging introvert's life.

Other than that, I keep a few running text files with situation-specific information I need. I have one for medical concerns, symptoms, diagnoses, and medications. Gift list with presents I've considered and given to people. Work history (though I depend on LinkedIn to bundle that in a more functional place). For all of these I just start at the top with my most recent information and it becomes a retroactive view.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:29 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've tried writing things out in notebooks, but memories come out piecemeal and there's no way to insert new rememberings--one thing will lead to another and the flipping of pages doesn't really work.
Given this, I would use a three-ring binder and pre-punched paper. Whenever you're starting a new memory, start a new page, and give it a useful heading - something descriptive plus the closest you can come to a date ... for example, "Senior Prom, June 2002" or "The Incident at the Lake, Late Summer 1943". When you're done writing, insert it into the three-ring binder at the appropriate place.
Ideally it would be something like a timeline that could expand and contract as memories are recalled and then recorded.
I've seen timeline software, and some of it's pretty good, but I've never found anything exactly like what I want.

Again, a low-tech solution might be your best bet here. One option would be to create your own timeline on paper, and simply create a new one whenever the old one starts to get too cluttered. This has the advantage of making you write things out again, which is time-consuming, but might prompt new memories and will very likely have the side benefit of helping you remember the events you've recorded, and their order, a lot better.

Another option is index cards - write an event and a date on each card. Then you can splay them out on the kitchen table, tape them up along your bedroom wall, or just hold them in your hands and flip through them. It's easy to insert new dates, and there are all kinds of creative ways to "zoom" in when you have a time frame with a lot of dates in it (for example, if you put them up on your wall, you could make a little cloud descending from the main timeline whenever you have a particularly memorable winter).
posted by kristi at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2011


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