Reflections of a Reluctant List Maker

Humor, List Making, OrganizationI need a notebook for my science project.

My mom answered, “put it on THE LIST.”

“We’re out of peanut butter!”

“Put it on THE LIST, “ my mother responded.

My mother’s LIST.

My mother was a great fan of list-making.

Both a hobby and an art form, she raised a simple tool for organization to a sacred practice, bringing us all closer to God.

Yes, attend Sunday School and church was on always on THE LIST.

THE LIST held the answer to just about every need a child could mention. THE LIST  ensured birthday gifts were bought and the laundry got done.

My mother’s LIST was always scribbled on 4×4 white notepaper. I was certain her handwriting was some mysterious grown-up language. I never could read it.

My mother lived by THE LIST, which was clamped to our harvest gold side-by-side fridge with a magnet. I did not inherit my mother’s organizational DNA.

THE LIST was filled with items to buy, errands to run, and events to attend. Pre-dating the revolutionary sticky note, her list was sacred, and she always managed to keep up with it. I’m pretty sure Mom would have bought large amounts of stock in sticky notes if they had been around in 1975.

The power of THE LIST.

My mother’s list had power.

She never left the house without THE LIST.

Do I hear an “Amen” from the compulsive list makers in the house?

The wonder of THE LIST.

Like many children watching the strange ways of adults, I simply didn’t understand the value of keeping a list.

I was often frustrated with my mother’s sacred LIST. “I’m never going to drive my kids nuts, forcing them to put every detail on a list,” I foolishly vowed in my teen years. “When I leave this house, that is going to be the end of THE LIST!”

I wish I hadn’t said that. Hence the reflections of a reluctant list maker.

Let me tell you, those were childish words I’ve eaten many times over, served up with a heaping helping of humble pie. Somehow I survived the college years, giving a nod to a calendar in lieu of THE LIST. In my twenties, I prided myself on the ability to keep my list in my head, remembering appointments and deadlines with razor-sharp precision.

Most of the time.

Those days are long gone.

When my mother’s LIST became my list.

Babies came and I entered the parenting years where brainpower for details weakened with sleepless nights and crying babies.

Yet still I resisted list keeping.

Once my children outnumbered the adults in my house, I began to see the light.

A humorous look at list making and organization.

I marched into the nearest Staples and bought a life-time supply of sticky notes in every color available. In that life-changing moment, I did not yet know I had missed the prime list-making-brain-development years.

My mother had a gift for list making honed from an early age. Waiting until my 30’s, I struggled to reach the barely-get-by skill of list making.

My chaos-bent brain matter had hardened to a chronic state of  reluctant list making. Some people think in straight lines and bullet points.

Here’s a few items on my current to-do list:

A humorous look at list making and organization.

Now here’s the way I naturally think:

A humorous look at list making and organization.List making is a learned (somewhat) skill that I force myself to practice. In fact, just this morning my daughter complained, “Mom, we’re out of milk.”

Guess what I said?

“Put it on THE LIST!”

Are you a list maker? Share your reflections in the comments.

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  1. My life would fall to pure shambles without “the list.” This is so cute Ginger:) I walk into Staples full of promise and excitement to get organized. I spend probably a little too much money and then get lucky to implement 50% of my plans of grandeur. Must be a creative thing;) Keep it up!

    • Ginger Harrington

      Oh yes, I’ve done that. Good intentions, good intentions… Thankfully, we’ve made a little progress along the way. Great to be back blogging after a crazy schedule and fabulous writer’s conference. Loved seeing you in person!

  2. I Am a compulsive list-maker. I love the joy (nay, THRILL!!) of crossing something off THE LIST! I have been known to add tasks already completed to THE LIST so that I can then cross them out and feel the wondrous sense of accomplishment! Recently I have switched to using a Bullet Journal. It is a place to keep ALL LISTS (books to read, scripture to journal, groceries to get, goals, landscaping ideas, birthdays and special occasions). It has simplified my life and it is compact enough that I can carry it in my purse!

    An overly organized lover of THE LIST!

    • Ginger Harrington

      I love that feeling of getting it all done. It’s just been so long since I’ve completed my list, I’ve forgotten what that feels like…teeheee. The idea of keeping lots of lists might just send me over the edge, and yet I love the idea of the bullet journal. Could be revolutionary for a reluctant list maker. So glad you’ve joined the conversation today, Rachel. You’ve inspired me!

  3. Bingo! is the word that popped into my random mind as I saw your naturally thinking diagram. I actually find in these semi retired years I need a list more than even because my landscape of thought is so wide open. My mom kept a list in a type of wallet where she stuffed samples of colors and paints aand a few coupons. My daughter has it now. Have a good day!

    • Ginger Harrington

      That sounds like list meets scrapbook. What a great idea. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks like this. I like to say it is evidence of brilliant creativity, but that may be stretching it a bit. So fun to have you join the conversation today.

  4. I’m a chronic list maker. Live by it. I’ve learned through studying the Enneagram that Type 3’s are the Achievement oriented folks. We make lists. We get great feelings of accomplishment when we can check something off the list. We are often guilty of putting things on the list that we have already done just so we can check it off. GUILTY! Take the test on line and see what your Type might be. It might explain your difficulty with lists. LOL!

    • Ginger Harrington

      Maybe I’m not as reluctant as I let on… I have put things on my list that are already done just to check it off too. Hmm…. It’s interesting to consider personality type and list making. Thanks for joining us today, Carol. So great to see you at BRMCWC last week!

  5. It’s funny that I should happen on your blog when you wrote about list-making. I just wrote in my May What We Learned Post about discovering that if my to-do list is TOO long, I get paralyzed!

    And, I’m totally guilty of adding tasks already accomplished to the list so that I can have the joy of crossing them off.

    • Ginger Harrington

      I am right with you on the long list–paralyzing pressure. Yet it feels so good to check things off. Balance is the best strategy I think. So glad to cross paths with you today.

  6. This is so funny. I am such a list maker but have your brain chemistry for them, too. Love the illustrations =)

    May your lists be fun and efficient =)

  7. I’m obsessed with lists. Your mother is my kind of woman ;). My husband is always wanting me to go online with my lists but there is something special for me about using pen and paper. I love your thought about your mom’s list having power. Such truth in that statement!

    • Ginger Harrington

      Yes, even though I joke about my reluctance to make lists, I really do believe there is power in a list. I’m glad to meet another Pen and Paper junkie! Thanks for visiting today, Candace.

  8. I love this! I am definitely a list-maker! And I love your diagram of how you naturally think- I so relate to that and I think that is why I rely on lists as a way of bringing order to the chaos!

    • Ginger Harrington

      Yes, lists are a life-saving necessity for those that think like wet spaghetti or a really bad hair day–everything going all directions! Thanks for joining in the conversation about lists today, Carly. Have a terrific day!

  9. I completed the survey.
    I have seen you twice now at Ebenezer UMC, and enjoyed both presentations. Can’t wait until you are able to come back!

    • Ginger Harrington

      Thanks so much for taking the survey. I love speaking at Ebenezer. What a great group of women you have at your church. It feels like coming home when I get to hang out with you guys. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for reading, Teresa!

  10. I am SUCH a compulsive list maker. I live every day by my lists. ha. Sometimes it’s a good thing; sometimes it’s bad. My mother was a list-maker too so I guess I learned it from her. I have lists for everything and it really helps me stay organized and accomplish the things I want to get done.

  11. Oh, I’m the opposite! I LOVE making lists. (I just don’t always enjoy DOING the lists.)

    • Ginger Harrington

      I’ve learned, but it has not been a natural thing! Yes, you’re right–the doing is a different matter. I love the days when I’m excited about doing all the things on my list. When I take pleasure in the little ordinary things, I can get there. Except that I still don’t like folding laundry… Thanks for joining us today.

  12. I love lists, mostly because I love crossing things off. Sometimes I put really easy or stupid things on my list, just so I can cross them off. Or I add something I already did, because it would have gone there if I’d remembered to put in on, and I cross it off immediately. Oh, and be careful what you say you’ll never do when you’re young. I vowed that I would never yell at my kids in the parking lot of the grocery store, but I soon was able to cross that off my list!

    • Ginger Harrington

      I know, right about those “I’ll never” statements! They will come back to haunt you. Thought you might have fun with this post. Thanks for joining the fun today.

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