Alternatives to lists and reminders

My memory is terrible. To cope with this, I used to write myself many lists and pages of reminders. Then, I had so many lists and reminders that I had to make a list of the lists to remind me what was on each list. It was a little ridiculous.

Another problem was that I didn’t always have easy access to my lists, especially when we were moving houses. I saved my lists in a notebook and the notebook was packed in a box. I started keeping my lists on the computer and then the computer was packed in a box.

I decided to get some information off of my lists and put it where I needed it. Not only has this reduced the number of lists I have, other people can do certain jobs without asking me for information.

Rotating mattresses

Some mattresses need to be rotated or flipped every few months; others do not. I was losing track of which mattresses needed to be in which positions at which times. Additionally, every time we moved, we would have to look on “the list” to see which position the mattresses should be in.

To solve this problem, I took a Sharpie and wrote right on the mattress the first letters of each month. (A M J = April, May, June). These letters should be on the top of the mattress under the pillows for the duration of these months. At the end of June, the mattress gets flipped/rotated until “J A S” (July, August, September) is at the head of the bed. For mattresses that are only rotated twice per year, I wrote “Jan-Jun” and “Jul-Dec” on the ends.

Now, everyone in the family knows how and when to rotate or flip the mattresses that require flipping.

Off-season linen storage

All my off-season sheets and blankets, as well as any less frequently used guest linens, are stored in vacuum-sealed boxes. From one year to the next, I could never remember how to fold the blankets so that they fit nicely into the vacuum-seal boxes. One fall, I carefully removed a nicely folded blanket and slowly unfolded it. Then, I took a sheet of paper approximately the same dimensions as the blanket, (A4 or 8 ½ x 11) and folded it the same way I had folded the blanket. I leave the piece of paper in the vacuum seal box so I always know where it is. Every spring I use the folded paper as a guide to remind myself how to fold the blankets quickly and easily.

Disassemble and reassemble

Being a military family, we move frequently, but not frequently enough that I remember how to disassemble and reassemble all of our furniture and equipment. The following are things I’ve done to help me remember what to do:

  • Save assembly instructions and copy them to online storage (like Evernote) to be able to access them on my smartphone in case the paper copy is not accessible.
  • Write matching numbers on bits of furniture that go together.
  • Write directly on the equipment what size of socket or hex key is required.

These tricks have reduced the stress on my memory as well as reduced the number of lists and reminders that I keep. What tips and tricks do you use to save time and energy? Feel welcome to share your solutions with other readers in the comments.

17 Comments for “Alternatives to lists and reminders”

  1. posted by Sara on

    This is such a practical tip. I personally have wasted much time in my life by re-accessing (or unsuccessfully trying to re-access) information that I had already spent time on due to initially reading instructions and figuring out how something goes. I’ve also wasted much money and time by forgetting that certain objects go with certain objects (such as a piece of electronics and its cord or other attachments) and what goes with which. Labeling objects upon acquiring them, in a way that will still be understood when memory fails us, will eliminate those losses for those of us who don’t have perfect recall.

  2. posted by Gypsy Packer on

    I label chargers and other electronic objects, place them in compartments of hanging jewelry organizers, and hang them at the end of the closet pole. I can see easily where each object is located. No more ghastly junk box!

    Grunge clothes for the Dirty Job are Ranger Rolled (see YouTube) and stacked in milk crates.

  3. posted by Christina M. on

    Military wife here. Zipper closure bags of every size are my friends. When things were taken apart I would place all the screws and parts in a sipper storage bag and tape them to a identifiable piece of the furniture or whatever it was that was being taken apart. This occurred after the overseas move in which all the shelf pins and hardware disappeared into an unmarked moving box and we had to wait weeks until we found the hardware again to assemble the shelves which we desperately needed for putting our stuff away.

    Like you, I have become less squeamish about writing instructions for things directly onto the object with sharpies or labels. I’ll write replacement part numbers on things now too. And I write sheet sizes (T, D, Q, K ) small but, on all four corners of sheets.

    I really like your idea for the socket size or hex key required on things.

  4. posted by Rita McKenna on

    Good post.
    After Hurricane Sandy I went around with my husband and labeled every turn off in the basement (water, gas, water heater, washing machines, outside faucets) and with a little picture of what turned off looked like. There were way more of these things than I realized!
    On the inside of a number of cabinet doors I have index cards with the contents of the cabinet listed. For my small linen closet I also have an index card listing where other linens are stored.

  5. posted by Mackenzie on

    There’s a post-it inside the cupboard that holds the spices on its bottom shelf, listing which spices we have extra of way up on the top shelf. That way, when we THINK we’ve run out of cinnamon, it tells us there’s more up top so we don’t buy yet another spare jar of cinnamon.

  6. posted by Neil Barnwell on

    When I visit friends or family and want to put something down but worry I’ll forget about it when I leave (e.g. sunglasses), I put my car key on top of it – that way I can’t possibly forget. Same if I’m preparing to go out somewhere and need to take something with me (shopping list, old widget to compare with replacement widget in the shop etc).

  7. posted by KJ on

    For my TV and stereo and anything that connects to them I clip thin lengths of an index card and write something like “TV In Line to DVD Recorder Out.” I bend the strip of paper so the back touches the back and then use scotch tape to tape the length. I am essentially laminating directions directly to the cord. (Just like those annoying UL labels) I do the same thing with chargers, e.g. “mini vac”, “samsung galaxy note” “make up mirror.” This keeps me from having to guess which cord goes to which device.

  8. posted by Pat Reble on

    I use the table beside the front door as a memory jog – anything that needs to leave the house goes on the table – and nothing else does! It’s an “oldie but goodie.”
    Usually multiple lists are counter productive, but I have a very complex work roster that changes every six weeks. I store it on line, and keep paper copies in my work diary and in my satchel, that way I always have a copy to refer to so I don’t mess up!

  9. posted by Christy King on

    Great tips. I love ideas that don’t require lists. I try to combine multiple habits so as to avoid forgetting things or resorting to a list for basic to-dos. By that I mean, things that should be done daily might get associated with brushing my teeth in the morning. Things that get done weekly might be associated with waking up Saturday morning. After a few times, it’s automatic.

  10. posted by Flora on

    My trick for remembering what I have in my pantry: I put a rubber band around the item currently being used if I have a replacement item in my pantry. If the cinnamon container has a rubber band, I know there is an extra cinnamon jar in my pantry.

  11. posted by Saba on

    Where do you get vacuum-storage boxes for linens?

  12. Profile photo of Erin Doland
  13. posted by G. on

    My only contribution is for the grill – I got an already-rusty wrench at a garage sale for the tank connector, and it stays with the grill. No more guessing at size, or where the right one might even be (in the toolbox? basement? garage? laying under other stuff?).

  14. posted by nicky on

    I love tips like these! So useful! One time when I was re organizing the nest of cables behind the TV I labeled each end of each cable with what it went into. So One cable was labelled Tivo at one end and TV at the other – it made moving so much easier! I’m going to incorporate all these tips as well.

  15. posted by M.E.D. on

    I love Flora’s rubberband idea for backups. I am going to incorporate that TODAY!! I think I even know where my rubberbands are. For the cables on the back of the TV, I have taken pictures on my cell phone of the TV, Tivo, DVD, etc and labeled which room that set-up is in. Then I put all those pics in a specially marked folder in my phones picture folder. I always have the pictures close at hand when reconnecting everything.

  16. posted by Threadbndr on

    I lable BOTH ends of the cords for electronics (using the index card trick mentioned above). The power strips for my desk and entertainment center are both located under/behind the unit and there’s nothing more frustration inducing than trying to hook things up by yourself and having to constantly get out from under the desk/bottom shelf to see if this or that whatever is connected correctly now.

    Also multiple ‘copies’ of a few selected frequently used tools are not actually clutter in my book. I have an extra standard and phillips screwdriver (mid sized) in the kitchen ‘necessities’ drawer and several pairs of utility scissors (kitchen, office, laundry and tool box). Point of use ease trumps having duplicates – just don’t go overboard on it.

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