Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – Why You Need a List

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


I love lists. I used to love them more. And you know what? I used to be a lot more organized and a lot more efficient. Coincidence? I think not.

I cannot stress enough that you need a list – probably several of them. I don’t care if you keep them on paper or electronically. I do both, but for me nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing off a to-do item with paper and pen. (Great repurposing of half-used spiral notebooks that come home at the end of the school year every August.)

Especially is you tend to dilly-dally and procrastinate, you need a list. If you tend to wander the world of blogs, get hung up on Facebook, read your latest book all the way through in one sitting, or watch all 20 hours of the televised Olympic events – each day, you need a list.

Why? Because a list keeps you going. It keeps you focused. It reminds you of what you’ve done and what needs to be done. A list frees up part of your brain space – once it’s on the list, you don’t have to remember to do it, the list remembers for you. And if you do something productive that’s not on your list, be sure to add it so you can have the thrill of crossing it off.

Here are some lists you may need.

  • A daily to-do
  • Dreams and goals
  • Areas that need to be decluttered
  • Items that you have decided to sell (especially important as a reminder if you want to sell something seasonal or holiday-themed at the ideal time)
  • Tasks that need to be done around the house – quick projects and the big ones
  • Items that need to be returned to a certain person or a specific location (keeps your front or back door area from becoming a storage facility)
  • Things that need research, including whether or not something is worth selling
  • Books or movies you want to read / watch.
  • Ares that need to be decluttered

I mentioned the last one already? Well let me mention it again. Even a person as decluttered as I am has areas that need a first, second, or even third swing. My areas include my desk, the art closet (which is becoming my personal nemesis), the shelves in Clara’s closet, the shelves in Audra’s closet, linen closet, storage area under the stairs (Dan’s domain, but it still needs decluttering so it’s on my list), and numerous areas in the garage.

Even though I declutter almost daily and have for more than two years, there are areas that need (or need again) concentrated attention. Some, like the linen closet, I may discover need more of a tidying than an actual decluttering. Other areas, like the cupboard under the stairs, need some serious attention. (Will we find Harry Potter in there?)

And I will get to them, all of them, one item at a time, because my list will make sure of it.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter unnecessary items on bedside cabinets, chests of drawers or dressing tables.

Today’s Declutter Item

Choosing which craft items to declutter was one thing actually getting them out of the house is a whole other ball game. I am working on it though. The best thing about these is I now have a little extra money in my paypal account.

Sizzix cutting dies sold on ebay

Something to be grateful for today

Getting more things done yesterday than I expected. I was exhausted but pleased.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Mini-mission: done! (Although it’s only Tuesday morning for me here). We had wasps in our bedroom so the landlords were coming by. I cleaned up the lone nightstand, and it now has one lamp and three glass coke bottles (that my boyfriend loves as decorations). Our bedroom is a decluttered zone of awesomeness, although the attached closet is a little too full for my tastes. I cleaned out the “misc” basket on the end table downstairs as well. It still has a flashlight and bottle of hand sanitizer that I’m not sure where to put, but it no longer has hairties (in the bathroom two feet away now), ethernet cords (in a small box behind the tv and modem now – we have an electronics corner), and water balloons (why we had these I do not know)

    I like Colleens lists that she makes every week for us to declutter 🙂
    Speaking of lists, I have 5 task lists next to me at work, so if I get bored with one, I can move to another (all have the same due date). The people I work with were shocked with my organization and list making skills. In just a few weeks I accomplished what three people tried to do last summer (in 8 weeks). Lists are incredibly useful and I used a LOT of them to get everything organized.

    Personal mini-mission for me – drag out the mini shampoos and whatnot to get used up. I have too many of them, and while I’ll keep a few empties for travel and swimming purposes, I only need about 4 (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and misc – sunscreen, spare shampoo, or whatever else I may need) and I have probably a dozen. Time for that to change.

    • Kudos to you getting all that work done that three people couldn’t in 8 weeks! Cheering for you, you list demon!

      • Thank you snosie 🙂 Organizing is one of my strong suits, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to decluttering. Two closets with neatly stacked boxes may not be a mess, but they are certainly full of clutter. Now, if only I could get other people to follow my lists, things would be easier 😛

  2. I also like having a list of things that I notice I need to replace while cleaning and decluttering. For example, if the towels are looking thread bare, I will write down to look for a new set. I try to wait until I find what I want and wait for it to go on sale. If I am running low on some items in my pantry, I keep a list and buy them if I have extra money leftover from my $50 per week I spend on groceries. It is important not to let the lists control you, but you still be in charge of what you do.

  3. Lists…I’d be lost without them! Along with lists of things to get done, I keep lists of things that I’ve already accomplished. Since the beginning of my decluttering journey two years ago, I’ve been writing down every item after I Freecycle or sell it on Craigslist. The Freecycle list is much longer, with over 110 items so far (woo hoo!!). I love reading down that list and picturing all those things in a great big pile somewhere in my house. It’s highly motivating and helps to keep up the momentum to minimize further.

  4. At last, something I’m already doing right 🙂 I agree with the importance of lists, especially as life gets busier with children or work, and as one gets older and starts having normal but aggravating memory blanks. I also love this statement, Cindy: “And if you do something productive that’s not on your list, be sure to add it so you can have the thrill of crossing it off.” I always wondered if that was cheating a bit, but I reasoned that the job was completed either way, and if it motivated me to do more, it was okay – and now you’ve validated that 🙂

    I agree with Spendwisemom about the replacement lists – works for so many things: her examples were household items and food, and I would add clothing as a major category. It’s much easier to bypass impulse items, and also to remember exactly what you needed when you get to the store. As part of my replacement list I may include such things as a thread sample for colour matching, measurements for anything from windows to buttonholes, or the “old” part such as a watch battery that needs replaced – just tape it to the list and it won’t get lost.

    • I should have specified “old, TINY parts” – it might be awkward trying to tape a light fixture or blender accessory, or similar, to your list 🙂

  5. Yep, I’m a list maker. Can’t live without them. Keeps me on task per importance for one thing. Helps me to remember things. My dad was a list maker. He carried a little folder of 3X5 index cards in his shirt pocket. We used to call it his brain. He had a list of things he was looking for, to-do, etc. I learned early to make lists.

    Happy day! The All Occasion wrapping paper and gift bags are gone as of today. Now to tackle the Christmas stuff. I’ve two containers to sell that held the stuff I got rid of too. I also have another small pile of scrapbook stuff to give to a friend. Just love decluttering it all.

  6. I LOVE lists. And yes I add extra items after the fact for the satisfaction of crossing them off.

    I have never thought of having a dreams and goals list.

  7. I also love LISTS. I love putting pen to paper to “declutter” my mind. My husband says that “I have lists for my lists”. My niece calls it my “too many things to do” list. I always have the last laugh. Because of my lists, everything gets accomplished in a timely fashion.

  8. Also a list lover (and people know..!)
    I have a list for ‘bucket list’ items. I have tadadlists for ‘things I love’ (great as a reminder when you’re feeling down), as well as ‘things I want to do (ie: adventure sports). I then have a shopping list sitting on the bench, which I add ‘almost out’ items to – and then buy when they are out, or I know I’m about to use the last of it. I have a notebook I always carry – it has lists (and journal entries etc when I need that), it has measurements of my new apartment etc etc, as well as price lists for items when I was ‘pre-shopping’ (really helped find the best price). I make lists per day at work, with tasks/activities for the day (if it’s busy, otherwise, I wander through blogs, which of course are listed in my bookmarks) Sigh… for the love of lists!

  9. I love lists too. And like Cindy mentioned I add the extra things I do along the way and cross them off just for the satisfaction of seeing how much I have accomplished.
    I have two places where I keep my list note books. One is on a shelf in the pantry on which I continuously update my grocery shopping list. The other I keep in theside table drawer beside where I sit in the living room. My spot on the sofa is operation central for me. It is where I do all my blogging, where I have breakfast, morning and afternoon tea, and often dinner, it is where I watch TV in the evening, where I make most of my phone calls, and where I sit to chat with Cindy on Skype once a month. So naturally my to-do list is kept close by. Last night I wrote today’s todo list before going to bed because I knew I had a lot to do and being as forgetful as I often am I didn’t want to miss anything or waste time by doing things our of logical order. Mind you it is 7am and already there is a load of washing in the machine that wasn’t mentioned on the list. Better add that. When I woke this morning I was making a metal list of what I am going to pack into my backpack to go to Queensland next week, which now reminds me to send a parcel, better add that to the list as well. Crikey! I had better stop thinking about this or once again I won’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done.

  10. I love lists too!

    Note to self: make a new list about how much I love lists.

  11. I truly believe that I would be lost without my lists! It has helped me for years, keeps me sane, saves time and hopefully keeps me a little organized too. Keeping a running list for groceries can help cut down on the grocery bill too (if you stick to that list). It certainly helps when I am making trips into town and have several stops to make, I don’t like to waste time backtracking. There are times that those lists, that have been so thoughtfully put together, have come up missing or left at home when I needed them most, but that has not happened that often.

  12. Love lists, tried to do them online but it just doesn’t work for me – so my little Filofax goes everywhere I do…

  13. I, too, am a list maker. My family accuses me of having lists to keep track of my lists (which I don’t see as a bad thing). 😉 I also add things to the list that I’ve done and didn’t include. There’s nothing more inspiring to carry on again tomorrow than seeing a lllllloooonnnnnngggggg list of things with all or most of the things crossed off.

    • Hi Lucy and welcome to 365 Less Things. I love your enthusiasm for lists. I had a pretty long list of things to do today and life happened where a friend needed me more than I needed to get through the list. However I managed with a little determination in the end to accomplish nearly everything I wanted to do and just transferred the things I missed to tomorrows list.

  14. I adore lists too and I have various kinds of lists .Sometimes I like them to be neatly written, linear, and numbered but at other times – and for different things I like the “list ” to be non linear- and placed randomly on the paper .For example if I’m organising food for a family lunch my list will consist of circles on the page with words inside the circles . Sometimes I will just have words written randomly on the page and a mixture of print and cursive and for some reason this makes it easier to “see” . Whatever the style of the list – I still love the feeling of crossing things off!

    • Wow, that is quite varied – is it like you set out on a page where dishes will be on a table? I do have a list made in 4 quadrants – cheap and pricey on one quadrant, easy and hard on the other, and then normal linear lists within each.

      • Hi Snosie ,-sort of- last year when I was doing quite an elaborate lunch (minus helpful daughter who was overseas) I had different coloured circles – just to make it easy to see and each circle represented one menu item e.g.” cold meat platter “in big letters and the individual meats listed underneath but inside the circle. I started at the top of the pagewith anti-pasto , nibbles etc and by the bottom of the page I had the sweets etc .So I had rows of circles . I actually enjoyed representing everything visually – it was easy to see what I was doing and whether I had enough(I had PLENTY) and since I am not a natural born caterer if I had to read a list on a sheet of paper I would been totally overwhelmed .I think I must have got the idea from doing a version of “mind maps ” years ago.

        • not sure if I explained that very well -each circle represented a platter or a plate of food.

          • oh and one more thing -I like your quadrants- I would probably want to put squiggly frilly bits around the edges !

          • Hahaha frilly bits more than ok (cause I mean it’s just decorating the functional!) It helps me chip away at my house improvement without feeling like I can’t do anything when I’m short on $$

  15. Oh my, it seems, I am the only list-hater around. I really can’t stand them. they make me anxious, as I see all my tasks at once and it’s never that I forget about anything if I do something late, it’s always me actively procrastinating. A to-do-list just brings me down even more. I tend to never do what is on a list, so they have been one of the first things to declutter in my house. I rather get just a little bit done and be happy about that than having a list of endless tasks.

  16. I love lists. Lists are becoming “the norm” in medical and veterinary practices to ensure that nothing important is forgotten. I make lists for work and lists for home. I was inspired by reading the book “The checklist manifesto” which details the importance of lists in crucial situations. (Hope it wasn’t inappropriate to mention a book?).

    • nope, books are a ok (and often lead other commenters to go off and seek the book, and read it!)

  17. yes yes yes.

    I have a book (old school book) that gets used as the to-do-book. and then I have a list with life-time events, like languages I want to learn and countries I want to visit, movies to see and books to read, adventures to do, trips to make, things to feel. Sometimes I add things onto that list just so I wont forget that just in case I experience this I could tick it off again 😉

    I have a little chalkboard wallpaper in my kitchen. I write down all the consumables that are running out – so everytime I go shopping I have the full list. I rarely run out of things (and my friends think its the coolest kitchen, because whenever you get in without shopping – there is always a choice of at least 5 different meals to make)

    then I have lists of decluttered items, sold items (with the accumulated amount of money earned) and items I want to have (but cant afford – dont want to buy yet)

  18. My list is a little elaborate, in a way. Everything I need to do it written on a 3×5 index card and categorized as Community, Health, House, Learning, Organize, Project, Read, Write, and Others. If I promise to do something for someone, or if they ask me for something, I might jot it down on whatever scrap of paper is at hand (or on my hand itself), but as soon as possible, I transfer it to a card, and file it in one of my categories. Each night, I plan the next day by going through the categories and pulling out the three most pressing projects from each. Then I prioritize those, figure out how much time I can spend on them the next day, and I’m set. The satisfaction comes from recycling the card when the project is done (although some cards never get recycled–i.e., housework is never really finished).

  19. I love lists so much that I write them on different pieces of paper and notebooks instead of all together. It irritates me later when I come across them but I love different textures and sizes of paper! But I’m trying to keep them together. Since I discovered 365lessthings I started writing a list of things I recently decluttered and those I’m considering decluttering. Then I score them off with an orange marker when they have gone from my home. The list is getting very long but it’s getting more and more orange and that’s satisfying. I also write lists of things to do, a bucket list, things I want to do to improve my life, ideas for decorating, etc. Occassionally I write everyday things like ‘get fed’ but usually things I might possibly forget. I find list making therapeutic and enjoyable. I just realised recently that it’s a hobby in itself for me! But it’s useful and like others, I find them helpful for getting things done and satisfying to cross off. I love writing anyway and write a journal. I don’t write a list of lists but it’s an idea… 🙂 maybe not.

    Sometimes when I look at a list, I feel bad because there’s so much on it that I haven’t done or achieved but some of the tasks are no longer relevant because my circumstances have changed! 🙂 Somehow I don’t think I will be painting the skirting boards of where I lived seven years ago.

    • Hey LenaC, I am doing the same with my decluttered list, but I not only highlight the decluttered items, I also categorize them. green is for given away for free, yellow if I sold it, and pink when I trashed/recycled it… its a colourful piece of paper.

      I have made a project list, that turned into a procrastinating list over those household projects that I wanted to do when I moved in. I should read some archives again for those. but somehow I dont seem to find the time for these easy little things.

  20. Hahahaha oh my goodness LISTS- LISTS- LISTS- Ok one for my Scrap room, one for the bookshelf, one for all the other fiddly-faddly bits and bobs that are still around, I have had this list ongoing for a while and although I manage to de-clutter here and there I just haven’t been able to get into it all due to home opens. I can guarantee the moment I pull out the stuff my agent will ring and say a ‘prospective’ would like to drop by. The joys of selling a house! I have in the meantime crossed off 34 items from various areas and I have planned to rip through my scrap room on Sunday after the HOME OPEN!!

    As I set out to do this my List will be in hand and I will be happily crossing off what I am ditching, donating, recycling or keeping. The list is long as my Scraproom looks pristine but my huge cupboard is hiding a multitude of sins. Maybe a vampire happened by and ‘Glamoured the room’ hahaha. It is a big job but I have thought long and hard about what I want from this room so I have made all my decisions pre-clear-out so I know exactly what box to put it in when I do it and I shall relish CROSSING IT ALL OFF MY LIST – LISTS!!!! Don’t mean to shout hahaha but I’m gearing myself up to turn into the “TAZZIE DEVIL’ believe me I intend to completely strip the whole thing!!!

    Colleen Do you want photo’s? (Beware it could end up looking like Cyclone Tracy paid a re-visit) hahaha Wish me luck.

    Happy List writing and crossing off everyone 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Dizzy The Tazzie Devil – when I was working on my garage you suggested pulling everything outside and only putting back what I acutally wanted. I didn’t get to do it because the rains arrived but it sure sounded like fun. What about doing that with your cupboard? Or even a shelf at a time? Or do you need to sort like-with-like before you start hiffing stuff out?

      • Hi Moni,
        HAHAHA you’ll just have to wait and see (personally I just want to make a huge mess just for the fun of it because it will be the last time) heehee. Once I start I will not stop except to take photos I’m quite looking forward to it though!! I’ll just be pulling everything out onto the floor/floors and into the lounge!! Man there is a lot of stuff in there!! SUNDAY is D Day (as in Do it Do it Now to quote Arnie!!)
        🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Dizzy, you know me I always love before and after photos and a post to go along with it if you feel up to it. I can just see you spinning around the room like that crazy Tassie Devil whipping up a storm. I have been whipping up a storm in the garage lately and it is looking good even if I say so myself. I didn’t make a list though I just made up the plan as I went along. There were a few things that I wasn’t planning to declutter but int the end I just wanted less stuff in there so I got ruthless. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to see more stuff out of there but not much of it is mine now so I can’t make the choice of what stays and what goes. I can only encourage those that own it to let it go.

  21. Grace from Brazil

    I am with Sanna, although I don’t hate lists I have a hard time keeping track of them. I do love the challenge Cindy because I often find myself with a free hour and know there are a ton of things I could be doing but forget what are some priorities. So I am going to try to keep a notebook with all the different lists you mentioned. I also have a lot of books that I plan to read before discarding them and it would be good to put them on a list since I have bookshelves in different rooms. So once again Cindy thanks for highlighting an area that I really need to get going on in order to be more focussed when those free moments arrive.

  22. I couldn’t function without my lists. I have a master list with all my projects which I update yearly. I have a vacation list that I began when we first started going to the beach and every year, I tweak it using the notes I made after our current trip to keep it up to date. I have a list that I make before I go to bed – sometimes it is on the kitchen counter because it involves kitchen things, like put meat in crockpot for dinner and take out trash; other times I make it before I go to sleep with things for work and home, including, pick up donuts for office or what I want to wear the next day. I use the computer for my beach and master project list but the day to day lists I write on those free pads of paper you get in the mail from some organization that wants you to donate to them. I keep some of these pad on the kitchen counter and some beside the bed and they are ready to go. I have a white board at work and I make a list of my ongoing projects there. I used to do it so my manager would know where I was on a project but now it is just a memory jogger for me. Love my lists. I don’t know if I really feel relief on the day to day items as I check them off but what I think it does is declutter my brain so I can get to sleep easier. Many times I used to lay abed with all this stuff running around in my head and now, I just write it down and I don’t have to think about it anymore. Certainly a timesaver in the morning so I don’t forget anything.

  23. Oh, forgot about my grocery list on the fridge and my sewing projects list and my travel list and my book list. For years I kept a list by author/title of books I wanted to read and then highlighted when I read them. Lately, that has gotten too cumbersome but my library has computerized and keeps a history of every book I have checked out since it became computerized so I can just review that list to make sure I don’t reread something. Did I say I love my lists? When I was waiting for my transplant, I even made a list of things I wanted to do after I got my new liver. There were 26 things on the list and most of them have been completed. I am a lucky, blessed girl.

    • congrats on the new liver. I think its great that you had the chance to get those 26 things to do again!

  24. I’m not sure where I should be posting this but it’s in reply to Lena. I only highlight everything decluttered but it would be interesting to look back and see how each item was decluttered and how much you were paid for sold items. I don’t sell anything. I will put each list in one book and stop confusing myself. When I started writing the decluttered items list I didn’t know I would end up writing all my decluttered and potentially decluttered items. Putting it in to a book or folder would be better as it will be an ongoing list.

    I have only moved in to my present home in June so I have lots of projects to do too.

    Maggie, that is a positive way to spend your time waiting.

  25. Thanks to everyone who congratulated me on my new liver. I have had it for 15 1/2 years and am truly thankful to the family who loved their son so much, they gave life to others to honor him. To all donor families, ( I don’t know mine), I salute and thank you for your selfless gifts. Happy Weekend everyone.


  1. […] like Cindy at 365 Less Things, feel that To-Do lists are helpful for organization and efficiency. She even suggests having lists […]