Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,
Why can’t I remember why I came into this room? I know I had a reason.
Staring Blankly



Dear Staring,

Well, you did not come into this room to stare at the wall and wonder why you’re here; you know that much.

But it’s not just you. It happens to everyone. And according to recent studies, it’s not because you’re getting old. (I’m not saying you’re not getting old; I’m just saying it’s not related.)

Apparently, according to experts, memory loss actually comes from passing through the doorway to another room. It probably comes from a time where doorways were shorter and people frequently banged their heads on the way into rooms. I have a similar issue whenever I bang my head on the way down to the basement. I can never remember why I went down. It also doesn’t help that we have piles of things I have to slip on and step over on the basement stairs, because our stairs are a storage area for things we’re supposed to remember to bring down, which we don’t, because the basement stairs makes us forget things.

But it turns out it doesn’t just happen if you slam into the top of the doorway. It’s actually called “The Doorway Effect,” and it explains why you sometimes walk into the kitchen with the intention of doing the dishes, and then you take a snack and sit down. It also explains why your kids forget to shut off lights when they leave a room. And why people stand in doorways in your way with a puzzled expression on their faces while you yell things like, “In or out! I’m not paying to air condition the neighborhood!” And also why waiters keep forgetting your order.

Okay, so it’s not every doorway and it’s not every time. It’s not like at your chasunah when they announce you and your spouse, “For the very first time! Not including pictures,” and you run into the room, and under all those arches, and you’re like, “WHY am I here, again?” and then people grab you and start dancing, and you’re like, “Oh, I guess I’m at someone’s wedding.”

But it does ruin your train of thought. For example, let’s take the following monologue you have with yourself every time you’re getting ready to leave your house:

“I have to leave. I need my keys.”

“Where are they?”

“I think they’re in the kitchen.”

“Well, go into the kitchen.”

“Okay, why did I come into the kitchen?”

“Ooh, bananas!”

“No, really. Why am I here? What’s the last thing I remember telling myself to do?”

“I got it! It was, “Go into the kitchen!””

“Great. What about before that?”

“No idea. Bananas?”

You basically have no shot. Unless the keys are standing there waving a flag, you’re not going to remember them.

This is a huge benefit of open-floor plans, where your living room, dining room, kitchen, study and home office and playroom are all in the same large area. No doorways! That, and you don’t have situations where you and your spouse go into the kitchen to get the next course and leave your guests in the dining room to feel awkward and make conversation with your five-year-old. Instead, they can look over into the kitchen area and see you making platters with your hands.

On the other hand, open-floor plans aren’t great if you live in an area with earthquakes, because experts advise that you stand in a doorway. (“Why am I in this doorway? And why is the ground shaking?”)

So what do we do now that we know about the doorway effect?


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