What are your time markers for remembering when things occurred?

The other day I was trying to remember how long ago we got our Roomba. I was able to recall which apartment we were living in at the time, which places it somewhere between the fall of 2015 and the summer of 2018. Since I went away to college 20 years ago, I haven’t lived in any one place for more than 3 years, so if I can remember where I lived when something occurred, that narrows it down a lot. Now that we’ve bought a house and are planning to stay there hopefully more than 3 years, I’m going to have to figure out something else.

I can narrow down earlier events even better if I can remember what grade I was in. And for the 8 years I lived in Boston during and after college, I can sometimes pinpoint time of year based on my memory of whether I was wearing a coat or sandals. But the climate of southern California, where I grew up and where I live now, doesn’t offer enough seasonal variation to help much with that.

So what are the clues that come to mind for you when you’re trying to remember when something happened?

I use things like “which apartment were we in?”, “which pet(s) did we have at that point?”, what job one of us held at that point, and so on. I can remember when I had appendicitis (1977) by which teacher I had at that time.

It’s not foolproof, I still have trouble with merging events, such as thinking I’d seen a TV movie with my father that did not air until several weeks after he died.

It used to be your basic “piece of cake” to remember down to the season, if not the month or week. That all went away years ago so that now it’s a wonder if I can even place the decade!

One of the by-products of aging. Not a good one.

I’ve moved around a lot, so remembering what apartment I was living in helps narrow it down. I can also pin things down by remembering how old my kids were at the time, and then doing the math.

By who the girl I was with at the time it happened. I’ve had a few, some even overlapped and that’s a reminder as well.

Ex-military, so my entire life from 1979 to 2011 is divided into three or four year chunks between job changes and, often, geographic moves. This makes it really easy for me to remember events in my life.

Due to having a really good memory as well as various “interesting” events that happened during childhood I was able to recall the year and time of year of many events in our family. So I was often relied upon to pinpoint family events.

Things started getting odd when I was getting asked when certain things happened that occurred before I was born. They knew that I might have overheard talk about these things and stored them into my memory bank for later recall.

So one of my time makers is the pre/post birth one.

In later years, “interesting” events became far less common. Moving once in a great while, changing jobs, etc. So there’s a lot more blur there.

I graduated from high school twenty years ago.

I also graduated from college twenty years ago.

I also got married for the first time twenty years ago.

Basically, anything that happened more than twenty years ago happened exactly twenty years ago.

I keep track by not keeping track.

Since I lived in one place, except for sabbaticals for 47 years, it is hard to date anything by that. My signposts are things like when I graduated college, finished grad school, got married, when our kids were born, when they finished college, when they got married, when their kids were born, went to college, etc. Since they now range in age from 14 to 27 (and none show any signs of getting married or having kids) these markers are going to disappear. But then so will I.

I was talking with my 11-year-old granddaughter when she said she’d like to see her former neighbor, “Betty”, who was a toddler when the family moved away. I asked her how old Betty would be now, and the granddaughter said “Well, she was born the same day Trump was elected.” So for my granddaughter, the world is divided into “Before Trump” and “After Trump”. Scary.

Moves and stuff kids did, starting with them being born.

Life events, like most people have posted. I just have to remember them in the correct order!

I have an interesting way of finding out how somebody relates to me: I ask them how old they were when President Kennedy was assassinated!


I use oldies to remember where I was during my childhood. That’s because by the time I graduated high school, I had lived at 12 different addresses and changed schools 11 times. But if I hear a song from that era, I can instantly conjure up a vivid memory of where I was living at the time. Then I look up the song in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits and check when it was released and when it was at its highest point on the charts.

In 2003-2014, I was such a fanatical Dallas Cowboys fan that I could often date my memories according to the Cowboys game/season before/during/after the event took place.

Nowadays, sadly, I date my memories by my failed relationships. “2016 was the year I missed out on Jenny…2017 was when I had that bad breakup…2019 and 2020 were when I had the even-worse breakups.”

I’m satisfied with narrowing it down to, “Not too long ago.” or, “That was a long time ago.”

This, exactly. I regularly use relationships, and their stages, to pinpoint when something happened.

More generally, I’ve always had an excellent memory when it comes to dates. I can still give a very accurate time period for events that took place 30 years ago. Not quite to the day but almost. People are always astonished when I say something like “This picture was taken in mid-October 1989” but it’s not very useful, more like a circus trick. I don’t know how I do it. I just remember way too many dates.

I wish I could do that. I’m lucky to get something within 5 years.

I remember visiting my in-laws once and my FIL was talking about something in the past. Like 15 years in the past. Had to do with food. FIL was not sure what he ate at this occasion.

MIL yells from upstairs “It was a Friday and you had liver and onions”.

My Wife, myself and my FIL sat in stunned silence for a moment.

Liver and onions though, would be something I would remember :face_vomiting:

I just visualize the year. I have number form synesthesia and all dates fall on a specific part of the timeline.

That is cool.

Me, I’ve given up. I just tell the story of something that happened and my wife corrects me. She has an atomic clock in her head.

Hey, here’s some free advice: If you were born in '64, then when someone mentions “The SlimeBoyz played at CBGB in 1975”, well, that’s 5th grade for you. 1982= 12th grade, or senior year.

Also works for '44, '54… you get the idea. But a friend who was born a month before me didn’t get it.

It’s not consistent exactly. Generally it’s whatever salient life events happened that bracket something.

For the first 24 years of my life, it’s where I was in school. The next 26 or so are mostly bracketed by where I was working/going to grad school, with more marker posts set by other life events- marriage, birth of children, deaths of loved ones, 9/11, start of the pandemic, etc…

So if you were to ask me when I got my current pickup truck, I’d remember that it was when I worked for employer C, and right before I went to New Orleans to work for a month. I can tie that back to being exactly a year after Katrina, so I know that I got my truck in August of 2006.