John’s eyes popped when I walked into the house carrying his camo hunting jacket. “How did you find it so fast?” he asked. It had only been five minutes since he asked me if I could go find it in the garage. “How do you keep track of things like this?”
I laughed. My storage system sort of parallels my mental storage system – long and short term storage.
I don’t recall what I came into this room for…but I do remember my address from when I was in kindergarten, my teacher’s name, and all the words to most of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs. By the same token, I might not be able to find today’s newspaper, or the birthday card I just got for my aunt, but I can easily walk out to the garage and retrieve just about anything we have stored out there in long term storage.
A few days ago I wrote about how the cabinets and closets in my house prove the second law of thermodynamics, so why is it so easy to find things that are stored in the garage? The secret of my long-term storage memory is our numbered box system.
I don’t remember where I first heard about this storage method, but I’ve been doing it for about 30 years.
Back when I first started, I scoured supermarkets and begged for apple boxes. I wanted lots of boxes that were about the same size and shape, so they could be neatly and easily stacked. I numbered each box with a fat felt pen, and then made a corresponding index card describing what went into that box.
Box #1 had our Christmas decorations Box #25 had old record albums. Box #15 had my children’s special baby clothes. etc etc.
Over the years most of the boxes have disintegrated, and been replaced by computer paper boxes. The index cards have been rewritten as the contents of the boxes changed. But it’s still pretty easy to run out to the garage and find out where I stored all the report cards and science projects from my children’s elementary school days, or even John’s camo hunting jacket.