Nothing is more soothing to me than alphabetizing a disorganized bookshelf or ensuring that all the clothes in my closet are color-coordinated; my version of ASMR is images and videos of pantries becoming perfectly organized on Instagram. I’ve been in therapy long enough to know that this is how I manage my anxiety — when I feel like something in my life is out of control (whether it’s work or even just your typical existential dread), I can always depend on the healing qualities of organization to make me feel like I’m regaining power. And this is why I love my wall calendar.
It started out as a joke. In my mid-20s, a friend passed by a calendar store at a suburban mall and decided to buy me a Kate Middleton one, to poke fun of both my then-secret obsession with the royals and near-compulsive need for everything to be organized. Laughing externally at the joke, and internally feeling ashamed that my lack of cool was so commonly known, I hung the calendar up in my now-former apartment, right there in the kitchen I shared with a roommate. I figured it’d just be a jokey ornament, or something I could occasionally glance at to figure out what day it was en route to making Pop Tarts. I had no idea then that this calendar would change my life.
I ended up detailing my entire schedule on that calendar. Every appointment, every date, every out of town visitor, every meeting — my whole life was on there. It became part of my routine: I’d walk by and check it every day before I headed out the door. I felt in control because of that calendar; the overwhelming dread of a busy schedule seemed much more manageable with everything written down in front of me. So, the following year, I bought myself another Kate Middleton calendar (I’d become accustomed to seeing her face each day) … not as a joke.
The downside to loving a wall calendar, of course, is that it is quite literally a calendar affixed to a stationary wall and thereby not portable. But I had a system: I’d note important events in my phone calendar, and set alerts to remind me when I absolutely needed to do them. I’d also take pictures of the calendar on my phone, so I had it with me wherever I went. I’d write myself emails with notes like “2 p.m. phone interview Wed DON’T FORGET” in the subject line. And of course, anything big that came up during the day would be transferred to my wall calendar later on.
If that all sounds confusing and convoluted — well, it was. When 2015 became 2016, I didn’t buy another calendar. I was already using my phone calendar so much, anyway, and I wanted to be like everyone else I knew who just used their phone to get by. I also felt awkward about having my entire life on the wall for my roommates and guests to see. But after a while, I missed the calming ritual of writing my entire month out, and being able to see the sheer scale of my schedule at a glance. I missed my calendar. I felt adrift.
The act of putting pen to paper was like putting a mental sticky note in my mind; if I write something down, it’s more likely to stick with me than if I type it into my phone. Beyond that, looking at my phone calendar has never been second nature, so during my calendar-less years, keeping up with events became more difficult. I knew about big things, work-related things, but I’d occasionally, unintentionally, miss smaller coffee meetings or phone calls. I tried a day planner for a while, but transferring it from bag to bag just felt like a bother. “Portable” is overrated.
There’s something so soothing, so steadying, about a wall calendar. It never moves; it’s always there, organized, and waiting to prove to me that, no, my schedule isn’t that overwhelming. Everything is broken up into neatly organized boxes, which makes everything feel under control.
That’s why I decided to finally get a calendar again earlier this month, and to take it seriously this time. Instead of the Duchess of Cambridge, I chose a narrow hanging calendar with big boxes for each date and a calming watercolor design for the month. When I got home from the overpriced paper store, I immediately went through my phone calendar and email reminders, and wrote down every event into the calendar, rushing as though I were on an organizational sprint. I texted friends asking them to remind me of their birthdays, and worked on an organization system for scheduling multiple events on different dates. Then, I hung it up on the wall.
Stepping back, looking at the final product of my newly reorganized life, I felt at peace. I could once again merely glance at my wall and know that I have a mid-day appointment and dinner at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, a work thing Wednesday night, and that I was finally meeting my friend’s dog on Thursday evening. It was the same schedule, but it all felt different.