How do very busy smart people keep their brains organized?

I’m serious. How does one separate, process and categorize all the bits and bytes of information with which we all are bombarded every moment of the day – not to mention all the old stuff that’s already in there?

Things happen every day that I should know about. People do things, and discover things and share things that are interesting, enlightening or maybe just plain fun. I should know about these things and keep them in my head.

But how do I organize all the new stuff with the old stuff that’s already there?

It must be easier for the young. After all, their brains generally are in better condition physically and they haven’t lived as long as some of us, so they just don’t know all the years of stuff that we who are older have stashed in our heads.

It stands to reason that if a brain has been in use for just 20 years, it has far more capacity (read: available space) than a brain that has been acquiring knowledge for 50 years.

I feel like I’m hearing and learning lots of current buzz that goes on around us, but I just can’t always keep it organized in my head. I don’t mean that I’m forgetful, or ignorant. But how do I stash it?

I used to be pretty good at keeping things straight. I could shop without a grocery list, I could name all the state capitals, I knew who sang “that” song.

I had my kids’ pants, shirt and shoe sizes memorized – along with the birthdays of extended family members. I understood the difference between “spring forward” and “fall back” and whether I’d be late or early if I forgot either.

Thanks to various mnemonic devices, I could recite the correct order of the animal kingdom, piano scales, and how to spell “arithmetic” when I was just 6. I knew how to tune a ukulele.

And a lot of that knowledge – some of it rather trivial – is still vibrant in my head.

There is just too much stuff up there that prevents me from naturally recalling things I need to know now.

Do I really need to hang on to that “arithmetic” thing? Can’t I just forget that our family moved into our new house in the suburbs on June 30, 1970? Is there any reason I should recall the phone number we had when I was 4?

These days, if I am going to get through a day, I must make and keep lists.

The problem with this is there are lists and notes everywhere, and it’s hard to keep them organized. There are lists on sticky notes, on the fridge, stuck on the bathroom mirror, floating around the kitchen counter.

I have lists on my smart phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. I have created electronic reminders and I send emails to myself. Some of these are important, like my list of passwords (because it’s not safe to have just one, I have 7 or 8). Less important is a list of books I must read and movies I should see. But then, there are important notes for that novel I’m going to write and a movie my sons and I want to make. And the family history!

Maybe I should make a list of my lists.

In the meantime, while everyone is de-cluttering and reorganizing closets, garages and kitchens this spring, I need to de-clutter my brain and organize it.

Does anyone know how to find the Cerebral Container Store? If you know where it is, please tell me and I’ll make a note of it.