I have talked about happiness before. I’ve never talked about making lists before. But lists make me happy. It’s a genetic trait I think. My Mum always has a list on the go, at least one, on the back of old greetings cards held together with a bulldog clip. I can’t remember a time before “pop it on the list”.
List writing is deeply cathartic. From writing a list of things you need to do, or groceries to remember, or what’s happening next week to writing a list of life goals. No list is too big or too small. Sometimes my most important lists are scrawled on the back of a crumpled receipt or on a napkin whilst written on the go. Other times, the list is thoroughly thought out with each entry in some sort of discernible order. Sometimes I’m so anally retentive about my list that I can’t bear to cross it out. Those lists get the box treatment. Just a little box alongside every line for a tick. Nothing says progress like a line of ticks.
I do absolutely realise how ridiculous I sound. I mean, next level list making CRAZY. But lists make me feel somewhat more organized about life. Is this me turning in to a full blown mother, or just my own mother?
The difference is my Mum’s list is a bit of a free for all. It might start off as a shopping list, and then have jobs added to it, and then someone will come along and cross some parts of it and add a new category elsewhere. All on the back of a piece of card the size of a Christmas card from last year. For the most part Mum isn’t too precious about the list. Although occasionally even she can’t take the illegible squiggles, crossings off and random arrows and will sit and rewrite it out. I on the other hand, am quite particular.
For a start, writing the list is a ceremony in itself. I make a cup of tea (Earl Grey, with milk not lemon because I’m common like that), and I use one of my favourite pens. I can’t abide a cheap biro, a Bic is do-able as long as it’s one of the gel ink ones. The perfect list writing pen is a fine liner though. My sister and her outrageously neat, tiny handwriting started that particular obsession. I’ve always had rather loopy handwriting, but in quite a high school kind of way, and I always aspired to have arty handwriting. Tastefully loopy, you know? Anyway, fine liners control the loops somewhat, elevating them from juvenile to interesting. There’s a reason why biro’s are always the freebies and fine liners have to be paid for. They’re a grown up pen for grown up writing.
Next, I have to make sure I have quality paper. It turns out that my Mum was on to something. Greetings cards – or at least the one’s her friends send – are lovely to write on. And I’m sure this is a very Pinterest friendly, Kirstie Allsopp-y faux-recycling thing to do. But actually it’s just to smugly use every last inch of the Marks and Spencer greeting card, avoiding the charity symbol on the back of course. Without paying the price of an M&S notebook. The heavy duty bull dog clip is entirely optional. One day if I have more money than sense, or if nobody sends me cards anymore, I’ll buy a Smythson book entirely for writing lists in. But at a couple of hundred quid (easily), I’d need a lot of money and zero sense.
Seriously, this is turning into an ode to lists. But if you’re a list maker then you’ll already know. And it’s funny because I haven’t always been such a fan. My life BL (that’s before lists), was a little ad hoc. I don’t want to call myself disorganised exactly. But one of my University lecturers told me I had the mind of a butterfly and never settled. To be fair to him, he was dead on. I didn’t write lists back then, and not a lot got done. Something happened, I’m not sure exactly when but I think it coincided with the arrival of Finn, and then that was it. I was a list writer. Literally overnight I went from endearingly never remembering anything, to worryingly forgetting everything but being in charge of a small human. Responsibility made me do it. Motherhood turned me into my mother.