My husband is not a list maker. When—if—he manages to scrawl a column of words, that’s about as far as he gets. More often than not, he’ll get up to go do something and then never look at the list again. Or, if it’s a shopping list, there’s a good chance he’ll leave it at home (like he did on Saturday). Even when he remembers to take the list with him, he often forgets to refer to it, which means he is notorious for forgetting key items.
I have tried to help. “Cross the stuff off as you go, hon,” I’d coach. “It’s not hard. At least make sure you read over the entire list before entering the checkout line, okay?”
When my suggestions didn’t do the trick, I took to reading my lists out loud before he’d leave home. “It says fresh ginger,” I’d say, “but I only need a little. Just two or three inches worth.” Or, “The generic seltzer water. And don’t get something flavored by mistake, hear?”
“I know, I know!” he’d huff impatiently, trying to snatch the paper.
“Call me before you leave town,” I’d shout as he hustled out the door. “So I can make sure you have everything!”
To be completely fair, he does do a pretty good job most of the time (as long as he remembers to read the freaking list). It’s just that he’s not … list-inclined.
There is one exception to his I-don’t-do-lists rule. Whenever I get hit—usually on a Saturday morning at breakfast or late at night before bed—with a wave of there-is-so-much-to-do anxiety and launch into an involved tale of all the ways the world is crashing down on my head right this very minute, he’ll listen for approximately 17 seconds (about how long it takes him to judge the severity of my meltdown) before cutting me off.
“Just write it down,” he’ll say. “Make me a list.”
And so I do, and then he does all the things. (Except for the ones he skips. But I’ve learned to compensate for his sub-par list-reading skills by bulking up the list with extra items. That way I don’t get as peeved when he skips a few.*)
I, on the other hand, am a voracious list maker. I make grocery lists, to-do lists, wines-I-like lists, books-I’ve-read lists, food-I’ve-served-company lists, ideas-for-gifts lists, what-to-write lists, and so on. Lists keep me focused, rooted, and productive. They are my coping method for managing the crazy town that is my brain and the chaos that is my house and the whirlwind that is my husband. In other words, lists are my cheap therapy.
My list habit means that I’m always jotting things on bits of scrap paper and then leaving them lay. This drives my husband crazy. He can’t stand all my fluttery reminders cluttering up the surfaces. He’s been hounding me to get a notebook for years. But I don’t want a notebook; I like the transience of scrap paper and the fun of throwing it away when it has served its purpose. Then just a few weeks ago I hit upon a method that makes both of us happy. It goes like this:
On Monday I make my typical to-do list. This list usually includes a section of studies and chores for each of the children, so I can keep track of them, plus my own agenda. Throughout the day, I cross tasks off and add new ones. I also use the list to record phone numbers, recipes, and other random bits of pertinent information.
On Tuesday morning, I start a fresh list, place it on top of Monday’s list, and staple the two together. Then Wednesday’s new list gets stapled a-top the old, and then Thursday’s, Friday’s, and so on. By the end of the week, I have a fat packet of accomplishments. I review the lists and copy over anything that’s still relevant to a new list before discarding the whole pack of scraps (or, confession, letting the packet lay on my desk for another few days).
So that’s my brilliant new method. Aren’t you impressed?
*When my husband read my bulking-up-the-list technique, his eyes grew round. “I don’t…Are you…? What in …,” he stuttered. His shock quickly turned to indignation—You are so bad!—and then laughter, “Are you sure you want me to know this?”