Getting Things Done: Make a List and Check It Twice

Sometimes we assume we’ll remember things like menus and household tasks because they are repeated over and over. Depending on your personality and level of organization at home, you might remember a great deal of those repetitive duties. But why not clear the space in your brain by having a written list?

Anything you do daily, weekly or even monthly should have a written routine. Don’t worry, you don’t have to write down “brush teeth” or anything like that. You’ll save yourself some time and clutter by NOT writing down the things you naturally do every day as a part of your normal life. Let’s hope you don’t forget to brush your teeth if you don’t write it down!

Besides meals and groceries, your household can benefit from other lists: laundry days for family members, cell phone numbers of siblings and in-town relatives, assigned days when children help with meals, and of course lists of chores. You’d be surprised at how much it helps to have a list of the steps for tasks.

Instead of telling a child “clean the kitchen,” give them a list with the steps broken down: empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, wipe off the table, etc. Lists with specific assignments help the child to know what is expected and what constitutes “clean.” They also know that the end is in sight and how much more there is to do.

How about keeping a running list of your family’s favorites? This will be invaluable and timesaving when birthdays and gift-giving occasions come around. Keeping track of their favorite meals, candy, restaurants, colors and more can simplify shopping and help them feel special.

For “public” lists you can use a marker board on the wall or refrigerator, or even inside a cabinet door, as long as everyone knows to check the board regularly. That’s where family members can write grocery items, things to remember, math facts they’re memorizing, messages to each other and reminders of appointments.

One of our sons writes down where he’s gone and when he’ll come back so he doesn’t receive a frantic call of “Where are you?” when he’s gone on a mowing job.

If you feel a little resistant to lists, it could be that you’ve made them too complicated in the past.

I’m a fan of simple, easy and fast. Any “system” that requires too many steps and forms and techniques and color-coding and the kitchen sink won’t work for busy families.

Keep it simple but DO write it down.

Written lists are a secret weapon for good time and home management. If your system of to-do’s works for one area of life, figure out a way to bring that system over to the other areas of your life. A little planning ahead and the use of lists to declutter your brain will free your mind for relationships and other important things.

Quick! Think of a household task that is not working well for you right now. Make a list of ways to create a system for that task because it’s not going to go away. You might as well deal with it as efficiently as possible—and a list can help you do that!


  1. I’ve struggled with grocery shopping recently…not only that we’re always out of something but also trying to stay in a budget. I started developing lists for a month’s worth of shopping. One is for Sam’s, which includes everything we will use for a month. I’m making a master list on click and pull so I can order it, pick it up and be out of there! My other list is for all the things we don’t buy from Sam’s. Same thought process there — go buy it all at the first of the month and then I have it in the pantry. The only thing left is the weekly milk and fresh produce. It’s taken a couple of months to develop these because you just can’t think of everything at once. I have ongoing “monthly” lists on my frig to add things to as I think of them. Then I have an ongoing list of incidentals that aren’t necessarily things you buy monthly but you just need — like a turkey for Thanksgiving 🙂 I heard you at the THSC convention this summer, Charlotte, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for all the encouragement!

  2. Great post!! I’m a list addict ~ I have lists for what lists I need to make.

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