Saturday, July 26, 2008

Listmania--Do Not Read If You Have a Low Tolerance for OCD Behaviors

Have I mentioned that I am a compulsive listmaker? I have lists, sublists, and cross-references to other lists. So far it has worked for me--the house is clean, the children thoroughly educated, and I always know what I'm having for dinner. However, I have been spending a lot of my time making, finding, and managing lists, so I decided to make a weekly master list that encompassed everything I need to do in my home throughout the week. This way, I thought, I would have a little more flexibility, and not feel like I have to make my kids skip ballet because I am behind on laundry and I just can't bear to leave that item un-crossed-out. I'll be taking on a few more responsibilities this fall, too, so I need a new routine, one that allows me to keep my act together without necessarily being home all the time. So I set about making my list by, err, making a list of how I was going to do that.

Item One: List everything I do in a week.

It took me a few weeks to do this. Basically, I made my normal lists and compiled them, then gradually added all the little things I had forgotten. For instance, I wipe down the moldings in my living room every other week. It doesn't usually make it on any list; I simply do it while dusting if I notice it needs done. But imagine if I didn't do it at all, in a house full of dust-producing children? It's on the list now--phew! close call.

Item Two: Put list items in a logical order.

This was more difficult. I would like to think that I clean from one corner of the house to another... it's the most logical way. But, really, I clean from most important to least important, from most used rooms to least used rooms. And this prioritization method would offers no help with tasks like writing, laundry, and baking, unimportant little things that make up over half of my weekly list. I can't just throw in my weekly 15-20 loads of laundry while I'm dusting the laundry room. So I experimented with making the list roughly in the order that I do things throughout my week, except--oops--now it looked like the old daily list system that I was trying to abolish, except squished together is a messy kind of way instead of neatly separated by day.

Item Three: Cull daily stuff.

Honestly, if I do it without needing a reminder, why is it on my list? Because I want the gratification of crossing it out. I want a list full of checkouts and ink-marks so I know that I did something today, even if the laundry is all dirty again because my daughter decided to help by cramming five loads of folded clean laundry in the dryer with the contents of the diaper pail (true story). But sacrifices must be made... so daily routines and things like washing dishes were removed from the weekly list. As a side note, I may still have a daily list, but it will be cross-referenced with my weekly list. Which is exactly what I'm trying to get away from...

But if I don't write down every little thing, I have no proof that I didn't sit and watch the Steve Wilkos show all day. I don't know. The daily list issue will have to be tabled for now because I am still on weekly list mode.

Item Two Point One: Put list items in logical order (again).

So, I took the newly culled list (down to three pages front and back--wow! is that all I do? and it takes me all freakin' week? but, wait, there's the daily lists too, take a deep breath...) and I listed first cleaning items in a logical order, then laundry, then errands and phone calls, then writing and web design stuff, then things that don't fit in anywhere. That's roughly the order of priority in my life, if you leave out childcare and husbandcare and miscellaneous relationship maintenance. I tried to list the items within each category in the order that I do them where logical (ironing after washing) or else the order of importance (calling for doctor's appointments before asking friends to come swim with us).

Item Four: Test drive the list.

This has taken two weeks so far, and it's still very much a work in progress. Each week, I re-evaluate and modify the list. My goal is to produce a master list masterpiece that will be the ultimate organizational tool and allow me to take over the world before returning home to a clean house that smells like homemade baklava (evil laughter and rubbing of palms).

In an interesting experiment, I have started marking the days that I do things on my list when I cross them off. I'm not sure how this will help me. Maybe my problem isn't the daily lists themselves, but the way I am asisgning the tasks to each day. Here's what I did this week and when:


  • moved the contents of three bedrooms (one time job THANK HEAVEN)
  • washed, dried, and put back the living room slipcover
  • scrubbed down high chair and wash chair pad
  • cleaned out bird cage
  • stripped, washed, remade all beds
  • washed upstairs bathroom towels and rugs
  • did two other loads of laundry


  • picked up living room and dusted living room
  • picked up and dusted dining room
  • moved homeschool textbooks to laundry room, which will now be the school storage area
  • dusted hall
  • picked up Tyler's room
  • dusted Tyler's room
  • vacuumed all of the above
  • cleaned the bottom shelf of Tyler's closet--it was my stuff; I was hijacking the extra space, but he needs it back now
  • picked up and dusted laundry room
  • organized the homeschool shelves
  • swept and mopped the floors
  • called around about preschools for Malcolm
  • picked up and dusted master bedroom
  • unpacked a box left over from move
  • vacuumed master bedroom
  • picked up and dusted nursery
  • decluttered the toy box
  • vacuumed nursery
  • bought and sent gift card for a relative's birthday on the internet
  • washed, dried, and put away five loads of laundry
  • called to RSVP for a friend's party
  • registered my car


  • scrubbed upstairs shower, sink, counters, and toilet
  • wiped upstairs bathroom walls and moldings
  • organized hair things
  • scrubbed upstairs bathroom floors
  • shined upstairs bathroom mirrors, glass, and fixtures
  • same for downstairs bathroom, except for hair things
  • organized stepsons' hair products and various toiletries in downstairs bathroom
  • four loads of laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away


  • cleared landing of stuff--it's where everyone dumps things they are too lazy to carry up or down the stairs
  • swept and mopped the tile half of the stairs. They are half tile and half carpet... hard to explain
  • scrubbed kitchen counters and stove
  • cleaned out refrigerator
  • swept and mopped kitchen floors
  • scrubbed sink
  • polished refrigerator, glass, and fixtures
  • one load of laundry, didn't fold or put away
  • got car washed
  • went grocery shopping
  • sent in college transcript request, which required printing papers at the library because my printer is broken, then driving to the PO because I was out of stamps (sigh) how overcomplicated
  • friends came over and went swimming
  • one writing job done--a paying one :-)


  • picked up and dusted family room
  • vacuumed family room
  • washed family room walls and moldings
  • did two more loads of laundry, didn't fold or put away


  • worked on homeschool newsletter
  • got email that writing job needs serious revisions, put it off
  • called numerous people about homeschool newsletter stuff
  • one load of laundry
  • finally folded all that laundry I've been saving since Wednesday, but didn't get it put away
  • went to grocery store


  • husband decided to let me sleep in until 7:30; meanwhile, he also decided to let my daughter 'clean' the laundry room, which meant destroying several loads of laundry
  • three loads of laundry
  • washed and remade children's beds
  • wrapped present for friend, helped kids make a birthday card, went to his birthday party
  • went to Target for new keyboard for Tyler
  • got about halfway through making next week's big weekly list
  • continued working on newsletter
  • noted amount of incomplete tasks from last week:41. Plus, there's still the revisions to make.
  • contemplated whether I am just a total slacker, or if my life has truly grown beyond my ability to deal with it. Questioned my decision to stay home. Questioned my decision to homeschool. Questioned whether I want to start taking college classes. Questioned my ability to question my ability. Decided to make those daily lists after all because the weekly list implies that I do much less than I actually do.

I'm still test-driving this weekly list idea. Interestingly, I seem to accomplish quite the most on Mondays and then taper down to very low productivity at the end of the week. If this is because I am just more motivated, then I should come up with a way to increase morale after Wednesday. My gut feeling, however, is that I do the fastest tasks first and leave the more time-consuming stuff for later. I need to somehow squeeze in those last 41 items; they were all worthy pursuits. Yet I need my social life, in fact I need MORE social stuff, not LESS, so I don't want to cut anything there. Maybe I could cut back on daily tasks like cooking? but we do like eat. Hmmm.

I'll let you know when I figure it out.