I opened the drawer in my bathroom and saw six of my favorite soaps lined up. For about two months, every time I shopped at Trader Joe’s I bought one until I had enough soap for the year. Seeing my lavender soaps lined up in the back of the drawer was comforting. I knew I had one less item to add to my marketing list for the rest of 2015. I’d sampled numerous lavender soaps before I found the one I like best at Trader Joe’s.


In general, I don’t stockpile extra supplies in my home. Instead, I try to keep on hand one extra of every item I use regularly. Sometimes I get sick with no warning, and I don’t want to run out of staples. There’s almost always extra cat litter, cat food, sugar, coffee, and other important items tucked away at the backs of closets, on shelves, or in drawers. I live in a modest-size apartment and don’t have space to stockpile. My system of one extra eases my anxiety and avoids any real or imagined crisis. This system has worked so well that I’ve only asked friends to bring me groceries three times in the last twenty years: twice when I had the flu, and once after sinus surgery. When I was working off-off Broadway in 1981 as a stage manager, a set designer told me I had to “systematize” things. I’ve taken his advice to heart and used it to ease some of the challenges of chronic illness. Systems can make life much easier.


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