Remembering stuff. Or not.

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Chapter 10 of the I Hate to Housekeep Book is all about remembering things. Information. Data. Stuff. How to remember things that, presumably, you’d really prefer to forget, because they aren’t that interesting, really, but the fact is, you’re a grownup, so you’d better remember it. Like, you’re the one who’s supposed to buy lightbulbs and milk and cat litter, and there’ll be hell to pay if you forget, so you’d better do it.

So this chapter is filled with amusing little tricks for remembering stuff. And it’s a fun read. But it’s not really so useful in this day and age, where, you know, if you want to remember something, you can send yourself an email or a text message or write a iNote or, if you’re feeling all analog, attach a Post-It note to the windshield of your car.

Some of the things in this chapter are things I wish I did, because they strike me as cool sounding. For example, I wish I wrote notes to myself on the mirror using a bar of soap. But I don’t do that. I’ve got stuff to remember, and I’ve got bars of soap, but somehow, it’s never seemed like that was the particular method that would most help me. Perhaps if the thing I needed to remember was “FLOSS TEETH.” Then writing on the bathroom mirror in soap (or lipstick, another handy writing implement) might make sense. But then I’d have to clean the mirror, and it’s annoying enough without adding lipstick to the problem, because removing lipstick from anything is a real nuisance.

Fortunately I don’t need to be reminded to floss my teeth. I need to be reminded that I have to show up at a board meeting at 5.30. So I put it in my calendar, and, generally speaking, I then worry so much about what has to be organized in time for the board meeting, there is zero chance of my forgetting to show up. I show up, and I show up, and I show up. I always pick up the kid at school on time, even when it’s a half day at school and most people seem to’ve been unaware, discovering it at the moment they’re waving bye-bye to the kids at the school playground at 8.35 in the morning — when the teachers say, “See you at 12.50!” and everyone gets that unmistakable look on their face…. those are people who didn’t write on their bathroom mirrors or send themselves emails about the school calendar.

There is stuff I forget, to be sure. I don’t want anyone to think I’m some kind of paragon of virtue. I can’t ever remember how many pints are in a gallon, for example. Anything to do with measuring, once we’re beyond “three teaspoons equals one tablespoon” — I’m out. So I have to look things up all the time. However, I have a few reference books I keep around for this kind of thing. The Joy of Cooking tells me all the kitchen equivalents stuff, and is always correct. For anything else, there is the internet. Or my husband.

Bracken devotes a lot of time to how to remember things that I guess we’re supposed to remember, but I don’t care to, like the order of the planets, or the names of all the Presidents of the United States. This is stuff normal people learned in elementary school, I gather; somehow, none of it entered my brain, ever. I’m always astonished when I meet someone who can name all the planets; what normal, average person, would want to know that? Well, I guess a lot of them do. But not me. On the other hand, I can recite all the words to “American Pie,” so, ok, fine. We all pick what matters to us, and that’s what we remember. In my case, I’ve memorized song lyrics, movie dialogue, and the perfect recipe for a loaf of white sandwich bread. That’s good enough for me. And it would probably be enough for Peg Bracken, because she kept this chapter pretty short.

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