Surviving Seniorhood With Sharpies – Part 1, by St. Funogas

While much of the following is geared towards us older folks who can no longer remember the day of the week nor find it on the calendar without reading glasses, much of it also applies to young geezers and anyone else trying to get their life and/or their preps more organized.

I wish I were making this all up or just trying to be helpful, but most of these are things that I do to make my day-to-day psychological survival possible by avoiding little frustrations caused from not seeing, or remembering, what this or that thing is, or what’s in the box or bucket, and where the heck did I put that info after I went to all the trouble to figure it out?

Hopefully some of the ideas in this article will help you, inspire you to come up with some of your own, and maybe brighten your day a little at the same time.

Every year I go through a lot of Sharpies, those pointy permanent markers that come in almost as many colors as that big box of crayons you dreamed about as a kid. I used to have a great memory, but then Late Onset Mental Retardation (LOMR) set in a few years back and now I can’t even remember my phone number. Here are some of the ways I put Sharpies to good use while waiting for medical science to find a cure for LOMR and general cognitive decline.

Food Storage Buckets – We wouldn’t dream of actually writing anything on our precious food-storage buckets after they set us back 8 bucks apiece! And certainly not with something permanent like a Sharpie. Being a person who enjoys thinking outside the bucket, I write on mine with Sharpies. The two times since Twinkies were 12¢ a package when I needed to change what was in the bucket, I took a piece of white duct tape and made a new label to cover the Sharpie writing. The buckets look so much more professional with the writing right on the bucket. You can always put that tacky piece of tape over the name of the old contents if you ever change what’s inside. On the other hand, roving hordes have been known to pass up pantries with ugly tape labels in favor of better-organized larders with increased eye appeal, so I’m going to have to rethink this one.

Refrigerator – Like me, you’re probably cleaning the dust bunnies from under the refrigerator every month like the owner’s manual recommends so the cooling coils can work more efficiently. So this is for that friend of yours who isn’t. You know the one I’m talking about. Tell your friend they keep the coils on the bottom now and not on the backside of the fridge like in the olden days. He’ll swear he looked on the back and not seeing any, thought the miracles of modern science had done way with them and that’s why he hadn’t cleaned them. Every time you’re down on your hands and knees in front of the fridge trying to figure out what socket size that is, you usually get it on the third try. That’s excellent because it usually takes me four just to figure out it’s metric, then another three to find the correct one. Instead of torturing your well-traveled geriatrified knees by taking 20 minutes to accomplish the task, write the socket size on the face of the plastic coil protector where the only one to see it will be that mouse the cat keeps missing.

The mouse won’t notice because his English-reading skills are almost as bad as today’s students in the ECLB (every child left behind) teaching programs. Pass this along to your friend so that next month cleaning out the dust bunnies will be much easier and by knowing the socket size from the get-go he, and you, will have fourteen extra minutes of your life each month to do something more useful. Over a three-year period, this will amount to 8.4 hours, giving you enough time to read Patriots for that sixth or seventh time (who’s counting?), although you may forget the drift of the plot by reading it only 14 minutes per month.

le Recipe – You’ve been using the same waffle recipe since the late Cretaceous because it’s the one that’s been handed down in your family ever since Wally Waffle won the Nobel Prize for inventing the iron which immortalized not only his name, but also those boots which are used for extinguishing rapidly-combusting, smoke-belching, overcooked waffles. I realize you have your recipe memorized but just in case you develop LOMR like me, go ahead with your Sharpie and write the recipe right on top of the waffle iron. Once you realize this is the best idea you’ve had in the past three months, aside from that one about never again voting in a presidential election, go ahead and take the leap and write it permanently with that $11 metal engraver you bought on Amazon last month.

Tire Pressure – As soon as we win the lottery, you and I are both going to replace those riding-mower tires which, no matter how much Slime we dump in, keep losing air between mowings. Take your Sharpie and write the tire pressure right on the rim. You can never remember it because the back and front have different pressures. Last time you got it backwards and the back tires ended up with enough pressure to level the chicken coop if they exploded and the front tires were so gooshy the right bead popped off the rim after that sudden hard left turn when a new groundhog popped up to see what the commotion was all about. When writing the tire pressure with your Sharpie, be sure to write it right next to the valve and 180° opposite that for those times when you’re putting the air in from the topside.

You could write the required pressure on your truck rims too even though you’ve been putting 32 psi in all your vehicle tires since you bought that old beater Ranchero in high school in 1967. But if you’re that far gone that you can’t recall the 32 psi, I don’t think the Sharpie will help and you should probably stay off the roads and eat more Brussels sprouts with a turmeric chaser until your temporal lobes get back up to speed.

Since you’re at the mower anyway writing the tire pressure on the rims, put the cap back on your Sharpie and take a seat at the steering wheel. You need the rest anyway after all that hard work. While you’re sitting there, try not to ponder the state of the union over the next 12 months. We’re on a rollercoaster, just reaching the pinnacle of that first hill before Joe Biden takes over and sends the country down the tubes quicker than that roller coaster will reach the bottom of the hill with everyone screaming their heads off and barfing their guts out. It’s just an analogy but the screaming our heads off and barfing our guts out will be for real. Once you recover from that vision and you’re rested-up from writing the air pressure on the rims, on the portion of the mower hood just under the steering wheel, write the things you always forget to do before you start mowing. This will save you from having to restart the mower five times which is really hard on the battery. Write on five separate lines, “Gas Up, Check Oil, Water Bottle, Tire Pressure, Ear Muffs.” Then go cut the lawn. It’s really looking haggard and the neighbors are starting to talk.

Forehead “I” – This one is in jest:  It really comes in handy as you get older and is a real time and face saver. When people ask me, generally with a higher volume and coarser tone than ordinary, things like, “WHY did you do that? WHAT were you thinking?!” I point to the “I” on my forehead and reply, “See that? It stands for ‘Idiot,’ that’s why.” You know you’re not really an idiot because you lost your whetstone three and a half years ago so you really are the sharpest knife in the drawer. Anyway, with the “I” on your forehead, people will cut you come slack, quit yelling so much, and your quality of life will improve immensely.  You’ll probably want to start with a dry-erase marker first instead of going straight for the Sharpie just to be sure you really do have LOMR and not just having a bad day/week/month/year/decade/life.

If your health insurance doesn’t cover LOMR testing, your spouse will be more than happy to diagnose you. They probably already have.

Once you’re certain you’re hopelessly in the beginning stages of LOMR, go ahead with the Sharpie. I recommend a light-brown colored Sharpie with the “I” written in cursive or some stylized font so that strangers and mere acquaintances will think it’s just a birthmark. If they find out what the “I” stands for at the same time they discover you’re a prepper, they’ll no doubt be whispering to their friends behind your back, “This explains SO much…”

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)


        1. Yeah, both. Something in that realm from a man I admire:
          Sabbaths – 1993, I
          by Wendell Berry

          No, no, there is no going back.
          Less and less you are
          that possibility you were.
          More and more you have become
          those lives and deaths
          that have belonged to you.

          (Excerpted from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems. Read the full poem here.)

          Carry on

    1. Sharpie and other “permanent ” markers wipe off with a little alcohol. Also, for my rechargeable batteries & gear I make a paper label identifying the article, place clear packing tape on it, and place on the item. On top of the packing tape I put last charged or inspected w/ sharpie. Each new charge or check, I put a little alcohol on a rag, wipe the old date, rewrite the new.

  1. ROTFLMAO and my Dog looks on curiously….

    Can I steal this line and variants thereof please:

    I don’t think the Sharpie will help and you should probably stay off the roads and eat more Brussels sprouts with a turmeric chaser until your temporal lobes get back up to speed.

    Trying to laugh quietly as my beloved is sleeping 🙂

    May the Grace of God and His Peace go to you and yours

    1. Hi Michael, go ahead and use any lines that will make a bad situation better.

      For some reason that line about “since you bought that old beater Ranchero in high school in 1967” made me laugh the hardest. Probably since they are one of the ugliest vehicles ever invented IMO and I’d be too embarrassed to ride in one. Even if I had been stuck in the Mojave for 16 hours without a ride and no water, a Ranchero is the only vehicle I would have waved to keep going if one ever stopped to pick me up back in my hitchhiking days. Perhaps the other reason is that I’ve never been able to resolve the inner turmoil: Is it a car that went under an overpass that was too low and half the roof was left behind? Is it a truck that accidentally went into the masher at the junk yard previous to heading to the recycler and was then sold to the grandchildren of those guys who bought Edsels? Is it from Earth? Are people who buy these things mentally stable? I still have no answers after all these years.

      1. Hey Saint, agreed that particular vintage vehicle had is issues with acute homliness, but I submit that the all time ugly award goes to the early-mid 60s vintage Dodge pickup.
        Not to belittle our intrepid uglo-americans, just definitely the class champs!

  2. GOOD MORNING to you St. Funogas! I moved my hot chocolate away so I couldn’t burn myself while doubled over in chuckles! I thought of my drawer full of fine and medium point Sharpies… I have finally moved to the fat tip marker, so I can see what I wrote.

    Looking forward to next installment.

    1. Hi Animal House, I use fat tip makers too, but only in red, and only for the really important stuff. Like over the wood stove, “Firewood in That Big Pile Outside,” “Fire extinguisher in Kitchen,” “Fire hose in Well House,” and “Don’t Play with Matches!” On my table saw, “Fingers Don’t Grow Back!” “Tourniquet in That White Box With the Red Cross on It.”

      Like Bette Giggler said, “LOMR isn’t for sissies!” I bet she used Sharpies too.

      1. As amusing as your article is, StF, I find this comment ever more tickling: On my table saw, “Fingers Don’t Grow Back!” “Tourniquet in That White Box With the Red Cross on It.”

        You are, to me, the SB Dave Barry.

        Carry on

  3. As soon as I saw the by-line, I stopped. I put DOWN my coffee. Then I stepped AWAY from my coffee, so my not-yet-senior but still hard-worn brain didn’t absentmindedly pick the cup back up and result in me dousing the rug via nasal spray two sentences later. (That was the cleverest decision I’m gonna make all day.)

    Now then, the buckets. Once, you said that TEOTWAWKI is going to be a great adventure, so now I’m guessing you didn’t mean adventurous like playing a guessing game with yourself in your own pantry. Hmmmm. My buckets are currently labeled with numbered sticky notes (which keep getting knocked off as the toddler uses the buckets for her own extensive personal nightstand) that correspond to a scrawled list that is currently possibly on the kitchen counter underneath six inches of math homeworks and recipes I swear I’m gonna try someday. Maybe, I should dig out that list and try the sharpie thing. If I can find any sharpies. Come to think of it, the 6yo’s fingers have been blue for a few days now, so I bet he might have some ideas if he can be convinced to “remember.”

    I’ve found dry-erase markers are useful as well. Beyond the obvious lists and charts on whiteboards and page-protected sheets, I can jot the day’s top three priorities directly on the laminate countertop and not risk losing a paper list in the piles (or have it get carried off and scribbled on). Someone else I know writes on top of her washing machine if there is a garment inside that needs to be checked for stains before drying, if the load needs an extra rinse, and so on.

    Thanks for the tips and the laughs! Looking forward to part two (and hoping that that isn’t the end)…

    1. Hey Bear, sorry to hear your nasal passages didn’t get a good cleaning this week. Like Animal House, I’ve found that hot chocolate (with some instant coffee and peppermint mint flavoring added) is a far less painful than straight coffee for nasal cleaning, but you have to let it cool down first.

      I never thought of dry-erase markers right on the countertop, it sounds way cheaper than the 2 packs of 3 x 5 cards I go through every month. Thanks for the tip!

    2. Oh, Bear. You and StF make quite a team. We all can use a break from stolen elections, possible martial law, which handgun stops a Raggedy Ann doll the best, and proper canning techniques.

      What a gift you both bring us as winter clamps its jaws upon the land.

      Carry on

      1. [looks down] [scuffs boot in the dirt] Aww gee mister, cut it out, yer makin’ me blush!

        Seriously, I’m shocked to even be placed in the same category as The SB Bard himself, St. Pun-o-gas, but I’m so glad to have brought some levity to your day. 🙂 When we can’t laugh at ourselves, then things will look grim indeed.

  4. Couple in their nineties   are both having problems remembering things. During a check-up, the doctor tells them that they’re physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember   ..
    Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair ‘Want anything while I’m in the kitchen?’ he asks.  

    ‘Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?’  


    ‘Don’t you think you should write it down so you can remember it?’ she asks.  

    ‘No, I can remember it.’  

    ‘Well, I’d like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so as not to forget it?’  

    He says, ‘I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries’  

    ‘I’d also like whipped cream. I’m certain you’ll forget that, write it down?’ she asks.  

    Irritated, he says, ‘I don’t need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream – I got it, for goodness sake!’  

    Then he toddles into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, the old man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment.
    ‘Where’s my toast?’ 

  5. St Funogas,

    Oh my gosh!! I haven’t laughed this hard in quite a while!! I have ALL the Sharpies! All the colors and even the fatty ones.

    I also have the refrigerator with the coil on the back. (Now the date for the new one is expected January 5th) I ordered it in May. I think I’m going to sharpie the side of this refrigerator with all the broken promised dates that they told me the new fridge would be here!!

    Thank you for making my day!!

    Have a Rockin great day!

  6. That’s the spirit!


    I keep felt-markers in my med kits to write injection amounts/times on victim(s) forehead.

    On those occasions the victims survive my ministrations (it could happen…), their every glance into a mirror is a certified reminder to send birthday cards and solstice gifts [hint, hint].

    1. “I keep felt-markers in my med kits to write injection amounts/times on victim(s) forehead.”

      I watched the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor and for the past 19 years I thought I was supposed to use lipstick for that like Kate Bakesale did during the opening salvos of the attack. Should I donate all that lipstick in my preps to Goodwill or does it have other post-SHTF uses? Perhaps as a barter item for that next compound to the east who have run out of Sharpies?

      1. The lipstick is a perfectly legal alternative to traffic light changers (like emergency vehicles use) and it works even better.

        You keep a tube in your vehicle and when you roll up on a red light, you flip down your visor mirror and brandish the lipstick authoritatively. Murphy’s Law says that as soon as you open it, the light will immediately turn green, thereby never giving the opportunity to actually apply the stuff. (I don’t think the light will know whether you ever really meant to.) During my growing-up years, I observed this tactic working very well for my mother!

  7. Late Mental Onset Retardation or LMOR. Hmm, is that the medical term that is being used now? Hmm, and here I thought all along that I suffered from CRS ( can’t remember sh– ). well, it’s nice to learn something new everyday, if I can remember that far down the road.

    1. Hey Alfie, the term CRS caused too much confusion around the homestead here so we went to LOMR. CRS strictly refers to the guy for forgot to empty the composting toilet bucket.

  8. You win the Internet today. Congratulations.

    The engraving on the waffle iron got me thinking…there are so many things we try to keep in “new” condition rather than “useful” condition. Humor aside, this article is an eye opener. Makes me think of the little helpful hints permanently marked on other devices, such as “THIS END TOWARD ENEMY” that are occasionally helpful and bad to ignore.

  9. I’m there, used Sharpies for ammunition and food storage. They looked good as I wrote them but…

    I had to stop and started using the Brother label maker that JWR recommended. It works great!

    Wonderful article, much needed for many of us.

    God Bless

  10. A bit of isopropanol and a bit of rubbing will take the Sharpie off most surfaces. Sometimes the Sharpie will penetrate overtime, but typically you can get enough removed to let one write back over top without looking too ugly. And the isopropanol is mild enough that it won’t damage most surfaces (Although I’d be wary of anything painted and test a small area if its something special/valuable/critical)

    Acetone will really take away the Sharpie and is better for glass/metal, but can damage too many plastics/materials as well as paints and coatings, so need to be careful.

    1. I’ve used Sharpie to label canning jar lids with the year / contents for years. Now, I reuse the canning jar flats, and not just for dry storage. Let me tell you – the longer sharpie stays on, the longer it’s gonna be there, even on metal. It fades if I scrub it hard enough. Maybe if I try some nail polish remover… nah. Now I use freezer tape to write with the sharpie. We’ll see how that plays out in 5 or 10 years.

    2. Hey Mike, good points. I’ve always used alcohol to remove Sharpie from canning jar lids, but I just did a quick test. Using 91% rubbing alcohol and a worn-out green scratch pad on some lids that were written on in 2014, it took less than 15 seconds to get all the Sharpie off. Using just a paper towel and alcohol, it took a little longer but only 95% of the Sharpie came off. Not enough to cause problems IMO but still readable in good light. I think the 91% vs 70% alcohol makes a difference.

  11. At 73 this article rings true. (74 in January) I use sharpies a lot but for some reason never thought about writing the tire pressure on the rims. If I can remember the next time the tires need air, i’ll record it.

  12. Thanks for the much needed laughs this morning!

    It brings to mind my father’s complaints about “hereafter” moments in his 80s. Say what? Said he’d walk into a room and then say “What was I here after?”

  13. St. Funagas, your with and wisdom are much appreciated. LOMR? We call it some-timers, as opposed to Alzheimer’s. I would say I’m not doing too bad as I can remember what day it is. However, this morning while in the bathroom, I opened the medicine cabinet to get my deodorant. After I opened the cabins though, I stood there trying to to remember why I had opened it. I’m going to the store this afternoon to buy lots of sharpies. Thanks!!!!!

  14. St. Funagas, I love your writing style. Thanks for the much-needed laughs. If I may suggest another application for Sharpies… DH has taken charge of making sure the materials needed for oil changes are available for several vehicles, ours and our adult kids. Of course, we don’t own two of the same vehicle, so he could never remember which filter / oil combination was needed for each one. So he wrote it down in two places: on the front of the shelves where oil & filters are stored, and on the frame of the car under the hood. Now it’s much faster to figure out if we have what we need on-hand or if a trip to the store is in order. Now, if we could just get the rest of our stuff that organized.

      1. Nope, no sneak previews. But if we write stuff down on paper, that paper is gonna get lost. So your Sharpie recommendations are brilliant and a must – even if we aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Perhaps you also cover the best ways to store Sharpies long term?

  15. “This one is in jest: It really comes in handy as you get older and is a real time and face saver. When people ask me, generally with a higher volume and coarser tone than ordinary, things like, “WHY did you do that? WHAT were you thinking?!” I point to the “I” on my forehead and reply, “See that? It stands for ‘Idiot,’ that’s why.”

    The actual Sharpiefying your forehead is in jest but everything else in the paragraph isn’t. I use the “See that? It stands for ‘Idiot,’ that’s why.” line all the time after pulling my hair back and pointing to my forehead. It really does relieve the tension most times so if your self-esteem is up to par, give it a try sometime. For people who have heard it a lot from me, I often just have to say, “Do I still have that ‘I’ on my forehead?” I get to admit I was wrong (again!) in a humorous way without pride getting in the way.

  16. Been doing the tire pressure thing for a few years now, and socket size for the water heater drain plug on my camper. Come to think of it, I think I write almost everything with Sharpies if it is something I only use occasionally. Why worry about resale value? It’s not gong to be my concern if my heirs don’t get top-dollar for something. And it DOES save me a lot of time and frustration until that day.

  17. This was great. 53 and some of this definitely hit home. Just the other day I went downstairs for something and when I got there I yelled up to Mrs. Spotlight “why am I down here?” She didn’t know either….

  18. So good! Thank you! The nice thing about hanging out with people my age is we are all forgetful together. Finishing up a long trip to see extended family. We drove so it was a good long time in the car sharing our mishaps, and great stories about our grandchildren. Fortunately, our sweet grandchildren are oblivious to world affairs. A nice break from Reality!

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