Losing stuff

My mother tells a funny story about her father and his glasses.

She says that he would push them up on top of his head when he didn’t need them, and then go around looking for them later while they were still perched up there.

On second thought, that’s not really a very funny story.

I hate losing things.

They say that losing things is a sign of advancing age. I’m here to tell you that isn’t necessarily true. I’ve been losing things for years, long before the frost in my locks was put there by Mother Nature.

I’ve always tried to keep my life simple, you know … like me. The less complicated the better. I’m not one of these people who thrives on a multi-tasking, chaotic environment in which you arrange the refinancing of your home with a financial institution on the telephone, with a pencil in one hand correcting a child’s homework and a spoon in the other stirring the evening meal.

There are people who can do that, but I’m not one of them. My biggest challenge is called Just Keeping Track of Important Stuff.

The initial part of that challenge is to discern what actually constitutes Important Stuff. If you are the family’s keeper-tracker-of-stuff, you probably open the mail, maintain a shopping list, procure supplies and oversee a general drop zone called My Desk, onto which gets dumped all manner of things from rubber frogs to letters sent home from school. The question is — is it Important Stuff?

There are the obvious things like birth certificates, immunization records, college transcripts, tax records and bank statements that are no-brainers. It’s the gray areas that give me trouble — those things that don’t demand immediate attention but might come in handy or need attention later. You can get buried under it.

The second part of the challenge is to have some sort of coherent filing system to categorize and maintain your Important Stuff — like those basketball tickets I promise I never laid eyes on. If I’d had a file titled “Basketball Tickets,” there would have been no problem, but you can’t have a file for everything.

I have files, but it would be a stretch to call them a coherent system. My theory is that as long as I don’t get too much stuff in there, I can rifle through the whole thing in a few days if I can’t find something.

Not very impressive, I know, but it works for me. Usually.

Anyone who has ever engaged in a family search for Lost Important Stuff knows this is among the most disheartening, depressing and disjointed of human activities. There’s that little jingle — “Go back, go back, go back to where you were” — that is supposed to jog your memory, but if you sing it too many times, people tend to throw things at you.

I’ve lost things before, and I’m sure I will again. But of all the things I ever lost, I miss my mind the most.

  • Contact Francis Shrum by e-mail at letters.kfws @hearstsc.com
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