How to Succeed at Homemaking Without Really Trying: Make a List

Welcome to Part 2 of How to Succeed at Homemaking Without Really Trying! For part 1, you can go here.

Today, I'm going to talk about a strategy to help you get your mind in gear. I use this for cleaning, packing, organizing, cooking, and grocery shopping, and it has saved my life. It's three short words... are you ready?

I love these things

Make a list. It doesn't have to be long, fancy, or full of detail. Just make one. Most people respond really well to the sense of accomplishment and organization that comes with a list that's neatly crossed-off for the day.

Below the cut, I've shared with you some sample lists and ideas for how to incorporate lists into your daily life. Feel like you don't have time to make lists? You'd be surprised! Sometimes all my lists for a day take only five minutes, and I can write them while I drink my morning coffee.

I used to just jot all my lists down on the backs of envelopes and receipts as I thought of things. That's fine, but it's not super organized and if your list gets lost, you might be in trouble. So now I use Google documents to organize my lists online. I work on the computer all day, so if I think of something that needs to be added to a list, I add it right when I think of it.

1. Cleaning

I try to only list a couple of things per day that MUST be cleaned. If I list more, I get a bit overwhelmed. This includes things that are messy and things that just need maintenance or daily/weekly cleaning. I check the list several times throughout the day to remind myself of what I need to do, and I combine this with last week's suggestion to clean in quick bursts.

As a sample, here's my list for today. Some of these are daily chores and some are once-in-a-while chores.

  • Wash dishes for 15 minutes
  • Sort mail: throw away junk and organize bills
  • Do one load of laundry
  • Wipe down counters and stovetop
My overall cleaning to-do list is much longer but I know that this is what I really have time for this afternoon. Wednesdays are not a day with a lot of free time for me.

2. Chores and Errands

This list functions on exactly the same principles as the cleaning list. I choose what chores and errands need to be done out of a larger mental list/backlog. Today's list is/was:
  • Pay bills
  • Cancel a hotel reservation that we decided we didn't need
  • Grind almond flour and coconut flour
  • Write a blog post 
3. Grocery Shopping

The grocery list is my favorite list. I happen to love grocery shopping, and I try to plan our meals out ahead of time so that I know exactly what we need and don't need for a week. By the end of the week, if I've done my job, we have exactly enough food and none left over. I budget a set dollar amount per week and try to keep my list within that limit by keeping up on what the average prices are for the things I want, shopping sales, negotiating (at the farmers market and with small local vendors), and using coupons.

It's harder to give you an example here, because it changes from week to week and meal to meal, but keep your eyes peeled because I'm going to be writing a post just about grocery lists shortly. 

4. Other

There are several things that fall under the "other" category, so rather than make individual categories for each, I'm just going to put them all here. This usually means preparation for a one-time event, such as a trip, a party, or a project.

A list for a trip is usually a combination of "things to pack," "things to clean," and "things to buy." It really helps me keep from forgetting things and freaking out an hour into a trip because I forgot to pack our toothbrushes or something. 

A list for a party generally includes "things to clean," "things to buy," "things to make," and any special categories that have to do with the theme of the party. Depending on the party I might want some special decorations, paper plates and napkins, a new mix CD or playlist for mood music, or gifts, games, and favors. 

A project list generally includes the steps required to begin and complete a project, and any materials or instructions I need. 

Does all this list-making actually qualify for "without really trying"? 

If you aren't a list-maker by nature, this might sound like a lot of work for something that's supposed to be quick and easy. But I've learned over time that a little preparation can save a lot of headache later on. By taking five or ten minutes a day to maintain and update my lists, even if I only do it in my head, I am making sure that I don't forget things, overlook things, or let things get past their expiration or due date. 

Lists and Rewards

If you don't find crossing items off your list to be a good enough motivator for writing one and sticking to it, consider coming up with other rewards. Perhaps if you complete your grocery shopping list, you will allow yourself to buy a treat with any money you saved. Maybe every time you complete a whole day's errand list, you treat yourself to a cup of coffee or a guilt-free half-hour browsing the Internet and reading your favorite blogs. You know what makes you happy. Use it!

Do you already keep lists? What kinds of lists do you use, and what sort of rewards do you give yourself?


  1. This is great! List-making is so important for me. I can never remember to get everything done that I need to without it. And I love that the things on your lists are manageable baby-steps, like the 15 minutes of dish washing. I totally do that too. On some days, when things are overwhelming, I just say, "Wash 10 dishes, and that's it!" even if it means the sink is still full when I'm done.

    I like keeping track of my to-dos on an app on my phone, so it's always with me. Although, scratching off a task written with a pad and pencil can be much more satisfying! :)

  2. yesterday I made a list for groceries and on the other side a list of all the errands I need to get done. Then I left the list at my first stop, the bank, and didn't figure that out until about an hour later. I then had to come back home and make out my grocery list again and go back out to get the groceries. So annoying, I should have gone with what I usually do, email myself my grocery list. What a day.

  3. That's the other big reason I like to use Google Documents to organize my lists. I can lose the hard copies but not the electronic ones!



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