The List-Making Gene: It’s In My Blood.

I come from a long line of list-makers.

My dad was a formidable list-maker. His lefty scribbles were often found throughout our house, in every room, on napkins and little sheets paper, from the bathrooms to his workshop downstairs. We would find them taped and tacked everywhere. My grandparents were list-makers too, as were their parents (according to my dad).

I believe the list-making gene runs deep into my ancestry. In fact, my beloved Grandmother Betty was one of the finest list-makers of them all. Her lists were epic, and of course her penmanship was tight, small and perfect — the way all children were taught to write in Catholic school.

She even made crossing off the items from her lists look elegant — such a perfectly straight line. List-making is simply in my blood. It’s part of who I am.

Make One A Day To Keep Insanity At Bay

Every morning I wake up, get a piece of paper and my favorite pen (yes, I have a favorite pen), and make my list. It’s old-school, but it’s my process. It doesn’t matter that everything on my list is stuff I wrote down yesterday or stuff I will do with or without my list. Making my list gives me purpose right out of the gate.

Making my list comes from a deep-rooted insecurity about being forgetful. I absolutely abhor forgetting things. List-making baffles those who do not engage in such a practice. They simply don’t understand why it’s important to write Empty the dishwasher or Drink more water on a piece of paper.

Why would anyone need to write that down? Well, the only way to explain it is… that’s just what list-makers do. We write everything down. What non-list-makers fail to understand is that we wouldn’t get one thing done without our lists. A list a day keeps insanity at bay.

My daily list contains stuff like: make a list (always!), run, vacuum/mop kitchen floor, make beds, clean out purse, do laundry. There are, of course, some more specific things as well, such as dentist appointment, groceries, call mom, make soup, watch calories.

I also like to add a few questions to my daily list. For example, Rake leaves today? or Oil change? or Strip beds? to name but a few. The questions on my list give me a sense of leeway, a choice in the matter if you will — items that are okay to not get to. Items that are time-permitting.

My daily list contains all the things I would do with or without a list, plus a few extras. I revel in crossing things off my list as they get done. It’s a pathetic feeling of accomplishment — but a feeling of accomplishment nonetheless. And, oh the joy of doing something unplanned, something not on the list!

In my world, said thing will quickly be added to the daily list if only so that it can be crossed off immediately. The more I can cross off, the better my day unfolds.

Different Types

What other kinds of lists do I keep? Well, here’s a list:

  1. Grocery lists. These are a joke, but I make them anyway. I never really follow them.
  2. Shopping lists. These come in handy. Shopping for stuff like cleaning supplies and socks must be accompanied by a list. Otherwise, how would I remember to buy the Lavender Pine Sol?
  3. Lists for specific rooms in my house. For example, my bedroom might have a list as follows: clean under bed, closet, paint bathroom, drawers, sort through books to donate, get rid of magazines, go through jewelry, organize shoes, etc.  
  4. My Karaoke playlist. This list is kept in the event that I’m ever called to sing.
  5. Blog and poem ideas.
  6. Restaurants I would like to try.
  7. My workout routine, and what I plan to eat for the day.
  8. The Christmas list. This is the Big Daddy of lists, and I begin writing it around August. Aside from gifts for specific people, this list contains recipe ideas, crafts I’ll never get to, house-decorating suggestions that never materialize, and events.

The Master

And then there’s the Grand Dame of them all — the Master List. My master list contains things like: remodel the whole house, run a half-marathon and write a novel.

The master list can still contain items that are specific, but it’s mostly filled with vague, faraway things… things burning in the back of my mind that may or may not ever happen, but boy I better write them down, lest I forget. I mean, I don’t want to forget about remodeling my whole house, do I?

If I ever lost my master list, it would be like losing an arm, and that’s the truth. How else would I remember anything? The Master List is closely guarded, and a few times a year (when two or three things are miraculously crossed off) it is re-written on a fresh piece of paper.

Without It, I Am Lost

Making a list gives my day purpose. It allows me to procrastinate a bit, that’s for sure, but it also helps me get things done. It’s quite gratifying to cross things off as they are completed. I use a thick, orange marker for all cross-outs. Why? Because that’s just what I do.

I realize that by writing this little piece, I am shedding light on what is clearly a bit of my OCD behavior, but I don’t care. The truth is, my list-making habit is a bit of an illness, but it’s okay, and I’m okay with it because it helps me function. It’s just who I am, and I know many, many people who can certainly relate.

I also like to put X’s on my calendar to cross out days. Why do I do this? Well, my dad did it, and it’s in my blood. Lists rule, and I get shit done, plain and simple. In fact, work on next article was on my list this morning. And now look — it’s done! In fact, it’s orange marker cross-off done.


KimberlyValzania02Kimberly Valzania practices mindful gratefulness. She feels creatively driven to write about and share her personal experience and opinion on weight loss, fitness, life changes, adventures in parenting, day-to-day triumphs (and failures), and the truth-seeking struggle of simply being human. She believes that life is indeed a journey, and that precious moments appear (like magic) when you surrender, hold hands, and fling yourself into the great, wide, open. You can read more at her website.


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