Techniques to Improve Memory:
How to Remember a Long List of Items

Watch this video as an alternative to reading the page.

Techniques to improve memory are loads of fun. This particular one can obviously be used for academic tests, work tasks or to remember a shopping list. You can also use it to organize the things you have to do in your day. Click here if you need help with organisation. You could also use it to win a ridiculous bet involving memorising the contents of your fridge.

Learning this exercise helped me understand the basic principles of memory, which are imagination and association. Understanding these fundamentals was great for improving my spelling.

Here’s a random list we are going to memorize:

  • Milk

  • Sugar

  • Eggs

  • Cheese

  • Soup

  • Apples

  • Beef

  • Peas

  • Oranges

  • Coffee

I’m going to make up a little story involving all the items. This will join them all together in my head. Have a look through the story I’ve written below. You’ll see each item on the list above in the story.

Important point: You must make up your own story for the technique to be effective. Please don’t use the story below it’s only an example to show you what I mean. All techniques to improve memory are about creating and visualising information to make it stick in your mind.

You can use this list or one of your own. Also the order of the items is not important. The only things that matter here are imagination and association.

This is the first story that comes to mind:

Imagine a pint of milk growing arms and legs. It then runs over to a bag of sugar and pours its milk into it. The bag of sugar then opens its mouth and screams because all its sugar is being ruined.

The sugar starts jumping around, angrily and full of sugary milk. The sugar is so angry it jumps on to the box of eggs next to him. All the eggs are crushed apart from one that escapes from the corner of the box. The little egg is so scared it runs away and falls off the side of the kitchen worktop. The egg smashes on the floor.

Just then a block of cheese is walking by and slips over on the egg and goes flying into a bowl of soup. It’s a big bowl of soup with a diving board next to it with big red apples jumping in. As they do they’re landing on the cheese’s head. The cheese keeps getting his head pushed under the soup but the stupid apples don’t take any notice.

Then a huge cow comes along and starts eating the apples as they are jumping into the soup. At the back of the cow you can see some mean peas cutting bits of beef off the cow’s rump. The peas then take the beef to their leader the all mighty orange who is at this time enjoying his morning coffee.

The key points:

The main principles of this technique are to make each item distinctive (imagination) and link it to the next one (association). The crazier you can make the story the better. The more distinctive the more it will stick in your mind.

When you make up your story visualise it in your head with as much colour and movement as possible. Practice the story through two or three times. Then test yourself to see how many you can remember. Like I've said before these techniques to improve memory are so effective because they’re a reflection of how memory works.


Hopefully by now you can see how effective this technique is. Try a longer list if that one was too easy or try the next memory technique How to Remember a Large Amount of Information.

If it hasn’t worked for you yet give it another go and remember the important thing is to imagine and picture the story in your mind.

All the techniques to improve memory on this site have tons of practical applications. Try to think about imagination and association being the fundamental principles of memory. Knowing these principles will help improve your spelling. Click here for more Memory Improvement Techniques.

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