Time Capsule

This records my personal memories, thoughts, and other miscellany.

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Location: Colorado, United States

My wife Sue and I are retired and have lived in the same house for over 30 years. Our local family consists of son Mason, daughter Katrina, son-in-law Dan, granddaughter Natalia, and grandson Joel, all living in the same metropolitan area where we live.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

About Being Organized

Sue and I are “list-makers.” We are “catalogers.” We are “planners.” We are “organizers.” We’re not really obsessive-compulsive, but we do not enjoy chaos.

When I was working in an office, with lots of paperwork to accomplish, reading materials to study, projects to work on, and deadlines to meet, I found myself becoming stressed because I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume. Reading matter, even important things, sometimes got shuffled to the background way too long. I always met my work deadlines, but I could never seem to get to a point of planning ahead and getting the jump on projects or other coming demands.

Finally, I decided to take a one-day class in time management. That may have been the best-spent workday of my career. In about six hours, I learned several techniques that made the rest of my working life so much easier and less stressful. Making and prioritizing “to-do” lists were the keys to getting me out from under the heavy burden. I took a day back at the office (or maybe two) to create lists of things that needed to be done and to organize the lists into time categories, such as Immediate, Today, This Week, This Month, This Year, and Future Years. The different lists were in different colors for easy recognition and to help with the organization and prioritizing. Although this was accomplished in the days before we had computers in the office (done with paper and colored pens and markers), it was extremely effective for me. I soon found that I was no longer behind in my reading, I was getting projects done ahead of time, I was not forgetting anything that needed to be done (not just the most important items), and I was much more relaxed. I was actually accomplishing much more work than I had ever in the past.

This process worked so well at the office that I applied it to my home life. List-making became second-nature to me. I think I almost drove Sue crazy with all my lists, but we both eventually came to rely on some of them. We currently keep shopping lists going continuously – for groceries and household items; we virtually never fail to buy the things we are needing when we go shopping. We have a travel list that we use to remind ourselves of everything we need to take on a trip, whether it’s a one-day jaunt, or a trip of several weeks. We no longer have any concern that we forgot something in our bags or that we left something undone at the house. We have a monthly household work list – things that need to be done to keep the house and yard maintained on a year-round basis. The furnace filter gets cleaned regularly, the smoke detectors are checked, even the fire extinguishers get some attention each year. When we get busy on several projects simultaneously, I create daily lists – what needs to get done on each project each day (if possible). If something doesn’t get done, we just reschedule it, but we don’t forget to do something important because of the lists. What the lists do for us is to remove the problem of constantly thinking about what has to get done, which can lead to insomnia and stress. If it’s on the list, it’s off our minds, and we get more done, because we don’t spend energy trying to remember it and worrying about it.

We catalog collections. We have collections of several types – turtle figurines, gnomes, bells, Fostoria dishes, wizard figurines, Mickey Mouse items, games, movies, jigsaw puzzles, and music CDs, as well as a few other small collections. The only collection not cataloged at all is the music CDs group; these are stored alphabetically in the CD cases, and that meets our needs. We began collecting turtles in 1966, created our catalog of them in 1981, and keep it up to date as new items are added. It is now on computer, rather than on index cards, and the descriptions and photos of all the items are in a well-organized notebook. The bells, wizards, and Mickey Mouse items are also photographed and in a notebook, and Sue has begun working on adding her gnome photos and descriptions to the collections notebook. I keep the movie catalog on a free downloaded software package on my PC. Sue probably will complete the Fostoria catalog this week. Our game collection is (sort of) “cataloged” online on BoardGameGeek. In 2005, I traded or gave away about 150 boardgames and card games, and our collection now consists of about 90 games. The jigsaw puzzles number about 50, all Springbok brand, I believe. Sue even has a short catalog of her tablecloths, with descriptions and measurements (to accommodate different sizes of the dining room table, as well as smaller tables in the house).

Sue and I are pretty good planners. I prefer to have a plan for any significant event or activity, with such items as who, what, when, where, and sometimes how, specified in advance. We actually can do things spontaneously, but we plan major events, to be sure nothing important is forgotten. We assisted our daughter and her fiancé at the time with their wedding planning, and the wedding and related activities (such as managing lodging and transportation for out-of-state family guests, the reception, and a luncheon we prepared on the day following the wedding) went virtually perfectly. We plan trips and give itineraries to family, friends, and neighbors, so we can be reached in an emergency. We plan menus well in advance for family lunches and picnics. We even planned our retirement well. Having good plans and following them remove a lot of stress from the events.

We keep our lives and home pretty well organized. We both know where things are in the house. Our tools are always put back in the same places, we never lose remote controls, and things that are boxed and put away in the attic are generally labeled well. All our home seasonal decorations are stored in plastic storage boxes, by holiday season.

Lists, catalogs, plans, and organization make our lives easier, simpler, and less stressful. They make retirement a pleasure.

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