My memory behaves a lot like a Magic 8 Ball these days. My thoughts stay on the surface of my mind briefly and then retreat into the background and are difficult to summon again. This is common with aging, but it is something to be fought. There is too much at stake. I look for ways to adapt and compensate for memory loss. I have developed some systems for keeping track of paperwork, things, and time. They all involve the same items:
- a calendar
- a tickler file
- file folders labeled with the months of the year
The calendar represents the present, orienting me in time. The tickler file represents the future, helping me keep track of upcoming events and needed actions. The labeled monthly file folders keep track of the recent past…here is where I find proof of a paid bill or correspondence.
I assume a calendar needs no explanation, that it is a common household item and maybe you even carry a small one with you. A tickler file contains dividers numbered 1 – 31 for the days in a month, and also dividers for the months in a year. It can be a purchased item or you can improvise with manila file folders labeled accordingly. The remaining, separate file folders should also be self-explanatory.
Here is how I use my set up to deal with the mail. When I bring the mail in, I sort it for magazines and catalogs I want to read. Then I look for junk mail which I discard. When I open a credit card bill, I look for the date the payment is due. I want to mail it well before the due date in order to avoid additional fees for lateness. I allow one week for the payment to arrive in the mail. I note the mailing date on my calendar and place the bill in the tickler file behind the number for that date. Once I have paid the bill, I place it in the file folder for the month in which it was paid. (Many people would pay it online, but I find that more difficult to remember and I don’t fully trust that my account would not be hacked. The way I do it gives me a paper trail I can use if it’s ever needed.) I might also find in the mail an announcement of an event I want to attend, so I note it on my calendar and place that in the tickler file for the date when tickets must be ordered.
This same system helps me act in a timely manner about other things like getting my car registered and inspected, sending out birthday cards, and keeping track of gifts I purchase for holiday giving. For instance, I place a note on a scrap of paper in the November section of the tickler file to remind me that I put some gift items in a bureau drawer in an unused room. This has spared me finding them months later.