Monday, January 5, 2009


I am a compulsive list maker.

I cannot function through a day without making and consulting several lists. I am not sure when this habit began, but I’m pretty sure that it was prior to the loss of my memory, which coincided with the birth of my last child. Now that my capacity to remember things on my own is gone, I rely on my lists from the moment I awake until I fall into an exhausted sleep at the end of the day.

One of the problems with my lists now that I have no memory is that I tend to lose them. I spend an inordinate amount of time searching for lost lists and making new ones once I resign to the fact that the old ones are gone. My daughter, who has a fetish for throwing things in the garbage, probably finds great joy in watching me search for lists that she has deposited in a grimy refried beans can.

Despite the obstacles I face in my list-making endeavors, I still rely on them to keep my life in some semblance of organization. In the morning, I make a list of what I need to accomplish during the day. Many times, I list things as simple as “shower” and “feed the kids.” It’s not that I would forget to do these things if I didn’t write them down; rather, I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I cross items off the list once they are accomplished. As any mother of young children will testify, taking a shower can be a major accomplishment.

At the end of the day, I use the list as a measure of my success. If I can still find the list by the time the kids are in bed, I feel extremely successful. If at least half the list is crossed off, it has been an exceptional day. I rarely cross everything off the list. I purposefully put more on the list than I could ever accomplish in a day so that I have a bit of a challenge. The remaining items are transferred to tomorrow’s list.

Aside from the daily lists and grocery lists, I have also taken to making a variety of other lists throughout the years. I have learned that if we go on an overnight trip, I must painstakingly list every single item that we need to take and cross it off as it is placed in the vehicle. Otherwise, crucial items such as a favorite blankie, diapers, or my own socks are sure to be forgotten in the rush.

When I go to town, I no longer just take a list of the items I need to purchase. I make a list of the items I need to take, a list of the places I need to go and a sub-list of what I need to do at each place, and a list of what I need to return home with.

Of course, the invention of sticky notes was a pivotal moment in my life. Now I can strategically place my lists at various points throughout my home. Unfortunately, they sometimes end up on the bottom of my shoe after a child borrows them from my desk.

My list-making may seem neurotic until you consider my sister, who purchases colored pens in order to color-code her lists.

I’m not sure if list-making is a genetic issue, but I do know one thing: the end of today’s list says “blog,” and I’m just a few words from crossing it off.


Brother in Christ said...

Your lists now have sub-lists??!!


Rhonda said...

I think that writing lists may be genetic. I write daily lists that sound pretty much like yours, especially when I go to town to on a trip; my lists have everything that I need to take or do. My daughter Kasey also writes lists.

From your Mom's cousin,

Mieke said...

I understand this completely, it's exactly what I do. When my children come home from school they often ask me what I did today, and then it feels like I did do nothing, except for the 1001 little things I forgot about. But when I see my lists I feel alot more appreciation for myself. And I also make sub-lists...

Jenni said...

I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who does these things. And, yes, I have bought special colored pens for color coding lists and such. I never get around to doing that. Maybe it's because I never put it on the list?

Lately I've been writing my lists on the pages of my planner. The planner is easier to spot and harder to lose. However, sometime around mid December I grew frustrated with the number of things in my planner that were not just my lists. I didn't look at my planner for about three weeks and my life went sliding into hell. Okay, that may be a bit harsh, but the house got messy faster and stayed that way longer and there were a lot of things forgotten. I started using my planner again yesterday, and already I feel so much better.

Jen said...

Erin I'm with ya! My doc told me while I was pregnant with child #5 that my brain would return after birth....he lied! Not only did the majority of my brain leave during pregnancy the rest of it must have been lonely and has also left.

Although I don't do daily mom always made me lists and every single thing HAD to be accomplished by the time she came home from work....I do lists just like yours to go to town. I also have lists of presents given to all gift recipients at Christmas so I don't duplicate in following years. I have lists going back to 1995.

I do use color coded pens for the calender tho. Each person has their own color so I can see at a glance who has what going on and on what date.

There has got to be a medical diagnosis for our condition...I think I've heard CRS in the past...Can't Remember Sh*t....I wonder if you can draw disability for it LOL!

Michelle said...

I do the lists/sublists for running errands too. Otherwise I will get halfway home and realize I forgot an entire stop. I also do detailed lists for trips, along with lists of what to do before leaving for a trip. The sad thing is, I don't even have any kids (yet) to blame my lack of memory on!!

Kath said...

I am a list maker too. I would never accomplish anything if I didnt have a list to refer back to for all the interruption of my day!

My hubs-to-be made a list of all the things needed to be done and times to be where before our wedding. We still have the list.

Jenny said...

I'm sometimes the same way. I love lists. My favorite "pad of paper" is the back of used envelopes.

I've also taking to making a spreadsheet in MSWorks to make my todo lists. More on a weekly basis. There is a column of things that HAVE to be done every week (vacuum, dust, menues, newspaper column I write). Then when I've completed it, I "drag" it to a "done" column. I even have boxes at the top that tells me how many items I have done and how many I still have left to do.

Somewhere I found too much time on my hands to produce such a list.

Anonymous said...

I love your writing skills. Always right on and too close to home.
So, these lists, they work huh?
I never tried them but then again, maybe that's why my life is so choatic. My husband says it's just poor time management skills. I'm sorry to tell him but...he's absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

Except for the part about my daughter throwing my lists in the garbage, I could have written this post! Sometimes it seems as if my lists OWN me.

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