: July 10, 2023 Posted by: Maureen Comments: 0

By Maureen Santini © All Rights Reserved

The fastest, simplest, free, and foolproof way to write your life story is one decade at a time. Start with the day you were born and write everything you recall. Keep going from there.

This is the essence of the decade-by-decade method advocated by my website. It is a nearly effortless way to capture the facts and details of your life in short order. Because my mission is to encourage everyone to write their stories, the step-by-step template provided by this website is free.

How to Write Your Life Story

If you are 60 years old and write about one decade each week, you will be done in a matter of weeks. Add two additional weeks for a chapter to sum it all up and a chapter to preserve your knowledge about family history. Or you can write at your own pace.

Why bother to write at all if you aren’t rich or famous?

Write because your life story is your legacy, because you alone know your entire story, and because your story will be lost to the ages if you don’t. 

You do not have to start from scratch. I’ve created a method that is as easy as possible – a series of 11 blog posts, each designed to accumulate basic information while triggering your memory for highlights at each stage of life. These decade-by-decade posts guide you from start to finish.

The following posts show you exactly what to expect and how to proceed. Click on each post for a quick glance to see for yourself how foolproof this process is. You will quickly accumulate many pages of priceless information.

Your First Decade – Ages 0 to 9

The first-decade post walks you through how to begin writing your personal history. Writing about the day you were born is a memory trigger that unleashes your recollections with a series of writing prompts.

Here’s an excerpt: “Begin by writing down everything you know about the day you were born: your full name at birth, the name of the hospital or birthplace, the date and time of birth, the city and state, the names of your parents.

“Fill in basic blanks: birth weight, the color of hair and eyes, birthmarks, nationality, citizenship, parents’ citizenship, birth order, names and ages of siblings, religion, street address, and type of residence.”

From there, you will proceed naturally to preschool, kindergarten, grades one through four, and family life.

Most of you have all this information at your fingertips. You will quickly amass many pages.

Your Second Decade – Ages 10 to 19

In most cases, your second decade began around fifth grade and ended after high school. Here again, you will record as much as you recall about your life during that time using the prompts in the post as a guide.

Always start with basic facts that anchor the decade. These include your home address, the members of your household, names of your schools, important teachers, classmates, activities, and events.

Your Third Decade – Ages 20 to 29

For most, the third decade is a time of profound change. You may have attended college or vocational school. You may have served in the military, worked at a variety of jobs, or begun a career. In many cases, these were times for major decision-making. Write everything you recall using the prompts to guide you.

Your Fourth Decade – Ages 30 to 39

For many, the fourth decade is a time of marriage, child-raising and settling into a job. Others continue trying out a variety of jobs and seeking their purpose. Still others shed carefree lifestyles of youth and take on various personal responsibilities. Write in depth about your thirties.

Your Fifth Decade – Ages 40 to 49

Many people remember their forties as a time of balancing multiple interests, such as finances, teenagers, aging parents, and work-life balance, to name a few.

Write about the challenges and rewards you confronted in these or other areas during this decade. Also describe major events and activities involving you and your spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, and others.

Your Sixth Decade – Ages 50 to 59

Your fifties, in many cases, were a continuation of fulfilling responsibilities incurred in earlier decades. But people also were coping with looming empty nests, work changes, retirement planning, and multi-generational care giving.

Describe your life during this decade using the sixth-decade post as a guide. Consider yourself a historian of your own life but also of a way of life. Future readers may be living in quite different times.

Your Seventh Decade – Ages 60 to 69

If you retired, write about the ways your life changed and how you transitioned to a different lifestyle. Mention if you began working part-time, started traveling, switched to a different field, started volunteer work, spent more time with grandchildren, or simply found time to relax and enjoy a more leisurely pace of life.

Your Eighth Decade – Ages 70 to 79

At this point, most people are retired and living lives of relative leisure though a growing number are still working. The eighth decade often represents a turning point in terms of lifestyle, activities, outlook and even happiness.

The best way to start writing about each decade is to capture the basics, such as the addresses of all your residences and the names of others in your household. Record the names of places that you frequented, such as churches, restaurants, museums, and parks. Describe your social life, such as activities with friends and family members. Name the people you spent the most time with.

Your Ninth Decade and Beyond – 80+

Lifestyle, beliefs, activities, health, and relationships can change from decade to decade – often drastically. Write about the highlights of this decade, including major activities and people you spent time with frequently, as well as your overall health and well-being.

For the sake of convenience, all ages after 80 are addressed in this post. Write about your eighties as in previous decades. If you are in your nineties or beyond, write down the same categories of information about those years. At this point, there is no need to wait until the end of a decade. You can always update the information in the future.

Your Family History

Knowledge about individuals can vanish quickly without a concerted effort to preserve it. Once information is lost, it is often lost permanently, as many families tragically discover.

A large part of your library of knowledge relates to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Chances are few of them wrote about their lives for posterity. Take this opportunity to preserve information that you possess about members of your family tree.

Summary of Your Life Story

Proceed to the summary chapter when you’ve “aged out” of the decade posts. Some of you will “age out” after the fifth decade, or the sixth, or the seventh, depending on your age. Wherever you are on the timeline of life, sum up. You can always update the summary in the future.

After systematically writing about each decade of your life, which amounts to an ongoing review in itself, this chapter should be nearly effortless.

Simple, Fast, Foolproof

The point of this article is to show you that writing your life story is easily do-able.

Put as much or as little effort into this project as you like. Simply write what you recall off the top of your head or delve deeper. It’s up to you.

All that matters is that you pass down the basic facts of your life and times to future generations. It’s your lasting legacy to your descendants.

Surprising Benefits 0f Writing Your Story

There are additional reasons to go through this process. A life review often has surprising benefits, according to academic researchers.

Reflecting on your past and creating a narrative of what your life has meant is a powerful method of creating a sense that your life mattered, according to Dr. Dhruv Khullar.

His article, “When the future is running out, narrating the past helps to prepare,” appeared in The Washington Post on July 14, 2019.

Few activities will create more lasting value for yourself and future generations than writing your life story for posterity.

Write solo or encourage your peers and family members to join you by writing their stories as well.

Give this process a try. You’ll be glad you did. Share this post to encourage others to compile their stories. Sign up for email updates.

Note: this post has been updated from the original.

Maureen Santini is a writer, researcher, and former journalist who spent many years attempting to piece together a family history without the benefit of first-hand accounts of the lives of her ancestors. She created passdownyourstory.com to encourage people to write their life stories for posterity.