Confessions of a List Maker



I am a compulsive list maker. I come from a long line of list makers on both sides of my family. The list making gene is both a blessing and a curse. While my friends enviously label me as the “organized” mom, they don’t see the dark side of my compulsion. That’s right, the dark side.

I spend too much energy tilting at windmills trying to find the perfect list making method. Small spiral notebooks, index cards, legal pads, lined note pads – I’ve used them all with varying degrees of success and satisfaction. Right now I’m in an index card phase. For a while I used colored gel pens to make my lists, but I always seem to return to the simple mechanical pencil. Currently my pencil of choice is the Paper Mate clear point.


I have short terms lists, long term lists, and on-going lists. One of my favorite memories of my dad is how he kept his daily to-do list in his front shirt pocket on a small folded piece of paper. Every night he’d make a left-handed check next to the things he accomplished and neatly rewrite his list for the next day. But it is my mom (and her dad) who I blame for my tangled web of multiple lists. She took list making from a hobby to an art form.

I have a Publix list, a Trader Joe’s list, and a Target list in my purse at all times. I want to be prepared in case I find myself with a free lunch hour. I have a daily to-do list that includes errands to run and phone calls to make. Long-term lists are saved on my computer like packing lists for our annual beach trip and for summer camp. Why reinvent the wheel every year? I keep a running list of birthday and Christmas gifts that I purchase during the year and stash in a closet, otherwise I would surely forget by December the gifts that were purchased in March.

The most freeing list is the one on my nightstand. When my thoughts are swirling and I can’t sleep, I empty my head by jotting down what’s on my mind. It’s amazing how well this works.

Then there are the crazy lists I keep for no real reason. Like the list of every book I’ve read since 1998 and every trip I’ve taken going back farther than that.

I marvel, slightly enviously, at people who function effectively without lists. How do they remember everything they need at the grocery store without going down the aisles with a pen in hand?

Sometimes my lists are a source of frustration, reminding me of what I haven’t done instead of giving me a sense of accomplishment for what I scratched off that day. Over the last few years, I’ve become much more skilled at realistically mapping my time. This summer our daughters went to sleep away camp for the month of July. My head was exploding with things that I wanted to do while they were gone – fun things like catching up with friends and mundane things like projects around the house that I never seem to get to when they are home. I printed out a blank calendar for the month of July, first adding obligations like work and appointments. I looked at the blank squares remaining and filled them in with projects I wanted to accomplish – starting with the hardest and ending with the easiest. By the time camp was over, I scratched off almost my entire list. For once, instead of focusing on what I failed to do, I felt happy with my progress.

So are you a list-maker, too? What’s your current method of choice? Do tell!


8 Responses to Confessions of a List Maker

  1. Heather Iseminger August 19, 2016 at 6:18 am #

    Love the memory of your dad…precious. And I love lists. If it’s on the list, I stop worrying about it. Strange but true…

    • Elizabeth Warren August 19, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks Heather! 🙂

  2. Sarah August 19, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    I think I’ll try that night stand thing. I could use a way to empty my noggin and get some sleep!

    • Elizabeth Warren August 19, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      I swear it works. It lets you stop worrying because you know you will remember it the next day!

  3. Kristi Corley
    Kristi Corley August 19, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    I ALWAYS have handwritten notes. Slowly I’ve started putting my grocery list on my phone, but then I get frustrated when I continually have to power it on, put in my password, UGH! Pencil and paper. Much easier! 🙂

    And YES I am a mechanical pencil kind of gal.

    • Elizabeth Warren August 19, 2016 at 11:09 am #

      Yes – as much as I use my phone for almost everything, I need a grocery list I can scratch off as I go!

  4. Stephanie August 29, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    If you could see my desk right now!!!! I have LISTS about LISTS!!! Without them though, I would;t know how to function! My brain would probably melt! I go through so many pens and notebooks that I can hear our garbage men sighing as they come down our road! haha!

    Keep list making mamas & closing those brain boxes!

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth August 30, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

      I seriously could not function otherwise. A friend of mine told me she read this post and thought – wow I never make lists. God bless her. She’s a genius!

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