I admire list-makers.

The people who enjoy putting their various to-do’s down on paper, who glean satisfaction from checking items off, and who have the diligence to get things done in such a clean and tidy fashion.

I am not so clean, tidy, or diligent with my life.

I make shopping lists when I go to the grocery store to keep myself from coming home without the goods I actually need versus the two-for-$5 bags of sweet potato chips I love, the tasty sounding lemon olive oil in a pretty bottle, and the crunchy cracker mix I eat while I’m still shopping.

I make lists at work of  the little tasks that would fall between the cracks if I didn’t have them written down.

But lists for things I need to get done in my own life? On a day-to-day basis?

Nope, not so much.

I feel constricted by lists, and I get annoyed when they don’t allow for the whimsy and unplanned fun that I get the most satisfaction from. Lists also make me feel stressed out; seeing task after task needing to get done makes me feel defeated and ready for a nap.

But something came over me on Friday morning, and I was a list-making machine. I wrote down all the things I planned to accomplish on Saturday, and felt my excitement growing as I mentally navigated my way through the day. Maybe this is why people love making lists, I thought. Maybe I can be a list person!

A whole slew of errands would take me into the neighborhood where my parents live, so I thought it would be a nice treat to stop by and see them at lunchtime. We used to have brunch together every Sunday, just the three of us, but that tradition trailed off somewhere over the summer. I brought the last of a homemade pumpkin cake to share, and felt so proud that I could incorporate a visit with them into my uncharacteristically list-oriented day.

We sat down for lunch and caught each other up on the basics of what was new and what was coming up. Then a fresh pot of coffee was brewed, the cake was divided, and the conversation found its way to the more meaty bits.

Life has presented some spirit-challenging events for my family over the past six months, and things finally seem to be reaching a place where my parents can catch their breath. We reflected on a few of the recent struggles, and began to articulate what the fresh beginnings emerging from some of the changes might look like. We talked about their newly rekindled love of playing music together, their thoughts about new things to fold into their newly restructured life, and we talked about the delicate art of letting things go. I recounted some recent memories I had of them from when I was in my teens, memories that sent a shock of gratitude through me as I was able to see their generosity and openness through the lens of an adult.


What had originally been “on the list” to be lunch and a visit with my parents turned into a three-hour spree of soul nourishing conversation. After hugs and a goodbye in the living room that lasted 15 minutes, I got back into my car and reassessed my list. I knew it all wasn’t going to get done. And it didn’t matter to me at all.

For better or for worse, this is what makes me not a list person. Tasks and to-do’s will always take the backseat to an unexpected invitation, the inclination to bake something from scratch, or the opportunity to savor another cup of coffee at the kitchen table with my parents.

Ultimately, I think letting our collective “to-do’s” fall to the wayside for a few hours to spend the time reconnecting was all we really  needed to get done, anyways.

Perhaps someday my life will require me to be more diligent with getting things done.

But not today. And, blessedly, not on this past Saturday.

Do you get excited to make lists? Do you follow through with them? How do you prioritize what gets done in your life?

8 thoughts on “Priorities

  1. This is a refreshing perspective. I am shamefully on the other side of the spectrum. I always make lists, and I always get them done.. usually at the cost of things that are important, like lingering in conversation. My very best friend shares your mentality. She is people-oriented and spontaneous. I’ve longed to be the same and in some ways I’ve loosened up, but I still get irritated when she’s 10 minutes late because she “ran into someone.” Like all of life, it’s a process.

    I commend you for your anti-listmaking. You should never make lists and I hope there’s never a time in life that requires you to be more diligent in getting things done. Getting things done is all a cultural illusion anyway! But that’s a talk for another day haha. Thanks for this, Katie. Happy Monday!

    • Being a list-maker is certainly nothing to feel shameful about. If the world were full of only people like me, nothing would ever get done! At the very beginning of my relationship, this was something my boyfriend and I struggled with quite a bit. He is much more organized, like you, and there was irritation when I would show up late, be indecisive with plans, and just be my general willy-nilly self. We’ve worked through all of that by now, but I fully recognize the downfalls of being the way that I am. I’ve had to learn better communication skills, and it’s all still a process of finding balance.

      I really am inspired by organized people like you, Jane. It’s a tremendous skill, and one that us fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants people could learn much from. Happy Monday to you!

  2. Pingback: Letting go of my lists… | Think about it

  3. Chronic list-maker here, and I certainly admire your approach. So many of the unglamorous but necessary tasks (pulling weeds, oil changes, that silly way of cleaning the coffee maker with vinegar…) simply never get done unless I write it down and hold myself accountable. That being said, I often wish I were able to let myself go where the day leads, rather than trying to be in control of it the whole time. Meet you in the middle?

    I’m really enjoying your blog, and I look forward to reading more!

    • Oh, Kate – the unglamorous but necessary tasks are the ones that get me. Scrubbing the tub, bleaching the towels, replacing my windshield wipers… bleckkk! There has got to be a half-way point, and yes, let’s please meet there and throw ourselves a party.

      I’m so happy you’re a reader of my blog. Your writing is always so solid, it’s a huge compliment to have you as a fan. I am really looking forward to keeping up on your running adventures!

  4. Pingback: The One About Humbling Beginnings and Blog Awards «Raw Milk Marathon Raw Milk Marathon

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