'Tail thyself' and other memory tips

Yesterday I lost track of what I was doing (research suggests distraction tends to influence memory as we get older) and "… well, here's the story.

I inadvertently put frozen blueberries in our coffee grinder. It was early morning, and I went to the freezer where we keep our coffee beans (and our frozen summer berries). I was distracted by something intriguing my husband was saying (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) and pulled out the wrong Ziploc bag and poured what looked like coffee beans into the grinder, pushed the button and, voila, blueberry coffee. I was smiling at myself (just a little) as I cleaned up all that messiness. I should mention, by the way, the lingering blueberry flavor in our coffee was actually rather tasty.

This kind of stuff has been happening to me a lot lately. But I refuse to believe I'm becoming a memory-challenged, wherever-did-I-put-it person. I might say that if I found I was talking on my cell phone while complaining I'd lost it. I came across that illustration, better conveyed than I just did, in an article by Dominque Browning, author of "Slow Love" (I've not read that book; it sounds intriguing, don't you think?). But I digress.

Did you know there are people called "findologists"? Michael Solomon is one. He, too, has written a book, cleverly titled "How to Find Lost Objects." He suggests "tail thyself." I take that to mean that if I misplaced my gloves I would mentally retrace exactly where I had been in the preceding hours, and the location of my gloves would become apparent. There are times, however, when you rethink the possible location and pinpoint the lost item — then you initiate a fruitless series of searches and still don't find what you're looking for. There's a phrase for that too, "look once, look well."

I'm staying with the glove example because I cannot find mine and I'm retracing where I was early last spring when I last wore them. Although, when I think about how long ago that was, it seems like a stretch (They are stretchy gloves, by the way, and they're black — in case you happen to see them.).

Maybe I should just opt for going gloveless, letting "natural consequence," i.e. cold hands, prompt me to target a secure spot for my gloves in the future so I would never misplace them again (If my husband were looking over my shoulder as I typed that last phrase he would be rolling his eyes and stifling a big laugh).

It used to be keys I would misplace, but now there's a designated hook near the back door. Last week, when I was flustered that my keys were not on the protruding hook, my hardly-ever-misplaces-anything spouse suggested painting it bright red. And that reminds me "…

I might just opt to get a new pair of gloves — maybe red so I would be less likely to misplace them. Yes, red — definitely. It's so much more youthful than black.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 541-776-7371, ext. 210.

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