I love lists. I know that sounds nerdy. Don’t judge—I can’t help it. I love the clarity and focus that they bring. I love how once you write something it feels like you’ve just freed brain cells to perform more important happiness-inducing tasks than trying to remember what you need to get from the grocery store. I love the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that crossing something off a list brings even if I purposely wrote it AFTER I had already expressly performed said task just for that little thrill.
I remember once hearing about someone that had collected random lists that they found on the street—snippets of grocery lists, things to do and remember and had published what they found. I tried to find this recently but couldn’t but I remember being so intrigued and curious about reading what’s on someone else’s list.
Research shows that making, keeping and using lists helps improve things like anxiety, creativity and memory. See! Science is backing me up!
I was recently reminded of the power of a list when I realized that I had a series of nagging nuisances in daily life that I kept thinking to myself, “I should do something about that.” Until one day when I sat myself down for 5 minutes to write out an “Annoyance List” (i.e. a list of “random things that were bugging me repeatedly for seconds each day”). Even though they weren’t the biggest deal ever, I wanted to be free of the repeated psychic annoyance.
One thing that made the list was how crazy messy our laundry room cabinet had gotten so that when I wanted to retrieve a lint roller or a tape measure, I had trouble finding it because it was getting so junky in there. Other things included: a shoelace on my running shoes that needed replacing because my dumb dog chewed it which bugged me each time I wanted to exercise because its as ever-so-slightly too short to tie properly, a stool in our entryway that never got used because it was wobbly, the fact that my dog’s leash was always sitting in a different spot so that it felt like I was always hunting for it before each walk, and a few other things.
The fixes were so simple that all it took was stopping for a few minutes with my list to figure out what they should be. Behold the power of a list! Here are lists that will help you keep those adorable little hurricanes alive and not lose your sanity in the process.
And yes, this is a list of lists. *Cue the soundtrack to Inception.*
1. Kids Wish List
Just the act of writing down the latest thing that your child can’t live without helps curtail a lot of whining. Somehow them knowing that you have it safely on a list (I keep mine on my phone) helps them feel assured.
2. Morning Checklist
This works best for kids who can read for themselves but I love being able to say “do your checklist” rather than “eat your breakfast, get your socks, pack your lunch, remember your water bottle, brush your teeth, don’t forget a jacket, etc…” every single morning.
3. Afterschool Checklist
Same idea but for after school. A few ideas are: do homework, unpack lunch containers, give any papers from school, pack up library books or other things that need to go back to school, etc…
4. Diaper Bag Essentials
Especially helpful to have an easy way to remind yourself when you need to add more diapers or wipes.
5. Sports Game Day Essentials
On a busy morning when we’re trying to make it to a game on time, it feels like there are a million things to remember. In baseball, there are so many different items that go on your body (hat, cleats, belt, socks, uniform) and then so many others to bring (bat, glove, water bottle, sunglasses, etc…). It’s crazy but having one list you can refer to and maybe even lay out the night before is great.
Bonus for having an extra section for things needed for the family members who are spectators (water, snacks, sun protection, something to keep the siblings occupied and comfortable seating to name a few ideas) are great.
6. Traveling With Your Kid Packing List
After always forgetting something, I finally made a master list that I referred to. I still forget stuff—but much less. Let me know if you want to see mine and I can make it available.
7. Traveling Without Your Family Packing & Checklist
Ditto but includes stuff that needs to get taken care of while you’re away.
8. Favorite Places to Go
A list of your best parks, museums and activities with kids will help you when you’re wondering what to do on the weekend. Bonus if you mark ones that are free or super cheap.
9. Restaurants to Try
We enjoy trying new places so I like having a running list of restaurants to try out.
10. Movies to Watch
Great for trying to head off an argument about which movie to watch on family movie night and also movies you didn’t see in the theater.
11. Happy Family Memories
I just ordered a blank journal to start writing these down as a way to remember small moments that don’t get captured in photos or my aging brain’s memory. I recently read how much it boosts happiness to remember happy things from the past and I wanted to try to do this more.
12. Master Grocery List
I was inspired by a beautiful illustrated master grocery list. I tried but stopped because I couldn’t get it to look very Pinteresty. But I need to make my own less perfect but serviceable version.
13. Weekly Meal Plan
It is possible to meal plan in 15 minutes or less and will save you tons of money and stress.
14. Vacations You Want to Take
Planning and anticipating a good thing like a vacation is almost as fun as taking it. Even fantasy vacation planning could be fun and who knows where it might lead?
15. Chores Your Kid Is Responsible For
Put those kids to work.
16. Rainy Day Activities
It’s great to have ideas and projects at your fingertips for those indoor days!
17. Favorite Delivery Places
What are your three go-to delivery places you can use in a pinch that fit your family loves? Have those on hand as well as ones to try on the nights when you can’t cook. I’ve found that this is handy when we have houseguests to be able to pass on to them.
18. Books To Read
Great to inspire what to put on hold at the library or birthday/holiday gift lists. I love asking fellow parents what their kids are reading to get new ideas.
19. Summer Plans
For school-aged kids, this is a WHOLE ORDEAL. I’ve already started it and it feels like a huge project. This could be a whole separate post actually.
20. Things That Need to Get Done Before Screentime
We only allow our boys limited time on Saturday and Sunday for screens. Because otherwise, they would happily be on them all the time. It’s what works for us but no shame if you do something different. But since it’s rather limited, they are VERY motivated for this and chores/things that need to be done that would otherwise incite a lot of sighing and whining suddenly are cheerily done with a lot of efficiency. It’s pretty much my favorite thing ever.
So I’ve started making a list of their chores, tidying up, picking up after the dog, etc… that needs to get done before screens and it’s the best. This might be very specific to our family but it’s one of my favorite parenting hacks. You’ve never seen more motivated kids than the ones that have the promise of an hour on the iPad dangled before them like a huge carrot.
21. Essential Contact Info
I hate filling out forms but it’s just a fact of parenthood that at some point you’re going to need to register your kid for camps, sports, classes and school and you’re going to have to give the same 5-7 pieces of information over and over. For school registrations, I remember filling out the same freaking information on 4 different forms.
I , of course, know our phone numbers and address by heart. On a good day, I know my kid’s birthdays. I wish I was joking. But having the pediatrician’s phone number and address, dentist’s phone number and address, insurance plan number and three emergency contact numbers are just not things I have committed to memory. But they are all things that you’re going to have to write on hundreds of slips of paper as a parent. So, rather than having to open each contact one up each time, I created one list on my phone where they all hang out and I can just refer to them in one spot.
Do you love lists too? What’s a sanity-inducing list that you keep?