The importance of recording your life's events

If the thought of keeping a personal and family history sounds boring or overwhelming, think again. You may already keep a family photo album and calendar, so count those as your family record.

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  • I have a journal that sits on my nightstand. Sometimes when I glance at it, I sigh. I think about all the weeks that I’ve neglected to jot anything down. But it shouldn’t be that way; we shouldn’t feel the need to record every little event that occurs in our busy lives. Keeping records is important, but it should be simple — not a source of guilt or anxiety.

  • Why is record keeping a big deal, anyway?

    • Records provide information for your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. If you’re like me and can’t remember what you did last week, recording the details of your recent job transfer, the full names of your grandparents or the facts about your mother’s cancer could someday prove very helpful.

    • Journaling is a healthy way to express your emotions and organize your thoughts. Plus, it’s interesting to look back and see how you’ve changed. But resist the temptation to toss your teenage journal. My 14 and 15-year-old musings are super embarrassing. Rather than throw them away, though, I have them hidden and hope my kids will never find them.

    • Writing things down can help you feel organized. Jotting down the dates, cities and landmarks your family visited during your last family vacation will help you label photos later on, or provide details for a future school report.

  • Many of us have our own systems for keeping records. Using your computer to journal or catalog events is very efficient. I’m more old-fashioned and like to use pens, notebooks and calendars. Here are some easy ways to keep records:

  • Write in a journal

  • Again, keeping a journal can feel overwhelming. Resist feeling that you have to record a lengthy life history. Instead, jot down random thoughts or descriptions of events every now and then. Or, if you enjoy writing daily, pull out your journal before bedtime and pencil in a sentence or two.

  • Keep a monthly calendar

  • Calendars can be lifesavers. Record events to keep you on track now, and hang on to your calendar at year’s end to refer back for exact dates. If you need to know what day you visited the doctor last spring or when your father-in-law’s birthday is, you’ll have the information on hand.

  • Create a scrapbook or family album

  • I love the thought of keeping a family history via a scrapbook. Keep in mind that it’s important to add captions to the photos. The captions are a form of journaling and the names, dates and places could someday be significant.

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  • Keep a notebook of your kids’ funny sayings

  • Whether they’re 3 or 13, kids come up with real humdingers. Don’t depend on your memory alone to record the hilarious things your kids say.

  • Keep a notebook of your personal health issues

  • It’s easy enough to stash a small notebook in your bathroom with dates and descriptions of the goings on of your body. From the mundane (“replaced old contacts”) to the significant (“felt a weird lump today”), it helps to write things down. Those dates and details may come in handy later on.

  • My dad used to say, “The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind.” Start the habit of writing things down. However, don’t worry if you haven’t kept records in the past. Start now, and find your own system to conveniently record the important doings in your life. Teach your kids to do the same.

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Megan Gladwell, a freelance writer and sometimes teacher, lives in beautiful Northern California with her husband and four children.


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