I almost didn’t write this column because I forgot to put it on the list. You know what I mean.
There’s the weekly to-do list, not to be confused with the daily to-do list, or the grocery list, birthday list, errands list, overdue library books list, dry-cleaning list, books I want to read list, housework list, places I have to go list, or the “Criminal Minds” episode list. (With 14 seasons and 314 episodes, I actually made a spreadsheet for that one. Kinda proud of it.)
Hi, my name is Julie and I’m a compulsive list-maker. If pen and paper were drugs and alcohol, I’d be in the gutter.
I’ve made lists forever. The best part is marking through each task/item when it’s done. It’s very satisfying to draw a thick line through an entry like “wash baseboards.”
List-making is actually a lot like cooking, or so I’m told—I haven’t made a meal in 15 years. But I remember the pride that came from placing food on the table and seeing it inhaled in 30 seconds… followed by empty chairs and a sink full of dirty dishes.
OK, maybe that’s not the best analogy. But completing every item on a lengthy list makes me as giddy as losing five pounds, which also hasn’t happened in years.
We’re planning a trip next year and I’m already jotting down destinations and attractions, plus “book plane tickets, get hotel recs from TripAdvisor forums, check foreign exchange rates and make reservations for high tea.”
I also make lists of movies I want to see and the outfits I wear, which prevents me from wearing the same Talbot’s skirt to church every week.
Selling my house in 2018 spawned the mother of all lists. Get carpet samples! Schedule painter! Call Realtor! Stage patio! I was I hog heaven.
I never, ever go in the grocery store without a list because otherwise I’d leave with two gallons of ice cream, fresh flowers and no laundry detergent.
I’m an equal-opportunity list-maker. I jot them on scrap paper, on the whiteboard attached to the refrigerator, in notebooks, on the back of an envelope or one of those foot-long CVS receipts. Once, with no writing surface in sight, I furtively scribbled in the palm of my hand. Yes, I’m six.
I probably make lists on my phone most often, but it’s not as thrilling to thumb a little checkmark next to “buy wasp spray” as it is crossing it out with the stroke of a pen.
For awhile I kept a running grocery list on our whiteboard and snapped a photo of that every Saturday, but again, this denies me the pleasure of crossing out each entry.
Everyone has some kind of compulsion: Checking their phones, twirling a lock of hair, logging onto FOX news every 15 minutes. A friend rinses her face each night with exactly six splashes of water, never five or seven. A runner friend logged his miles and time every day for 35 years. Barack Obama famously ate seven salted almonds every afternoon. (He later said that was a joke. I don’t get it.)
Most of us make lists—but why?
Making a list means we have a plan. Having a plan raises us above chaos. Psychologists say it’s a way to establish order in an increasingly disordered world. It helps us have a sense of control. By making lists, we can function better. We feel more focused and grounded.
And here I thought I was just scrawling “B&J Chunky Monkey” on the back of a lottery ticket.