the lure of the list

Lists.  Obligations. Hobbies. Bucket List.

Do you really need them?  Are they helping you move forward in your life?  Helping you to achieve your goals and dreams?  Or are they holding you back; weighing you down with things that you must do.


The To Do List.  Almost every organisational book, every guide to planning is an instruction manual for the to do list in one incarnation or another.  Don’t get me wrong,  I have a to do list, I even have a book that I write my to do lists in.  I could probably write one of those instruction manuals.  But sometimes that list is a killer.  Just looking at it makes me want to fire up the laptop and play candy crush saga for the rest of the day.

Are there things on that list because you think they ought to be on there but you know you are never going to do, at least not today.  Things like dust the top of the wardrobe, write to your great aunt.  They sit there and stare at you and make you feel guilty.

If you are not going to do them don’t put them on the list.  Declutter it.

If you are going to do it one day but not today have a second list, I call mine the 25 hours in a day list.  The things that I have to do at some point but not right now.  That list gets decluttered once a month.  If I haven’t done it in a month I am not going to do it.

Obligations.  How many do you have.  Are they real obligations or have you convinced yourself that they are?  There are somethings you have said you will do so you must.  But what are you saying yes to and why?  Out of a sense of duty, love, reciprocation.  They are all valid reasons but you should balance them out.  If every obligation is out of a sense of duty you will start to resent them.  My obligations include a fundraising charity I currently chair.  I do that out of love and fun.  I really enjoy it, I share the work with friends and though it can be stressful and hard work the payoff is well worth it.  I also run our church Sunday School.  Initially that was out of duty.  My children made up a sizeable proportion of the Sunday School.  It only seemed fair that I contributed.  My children have long grown out of Sunday School but I still do it, partly out of duty (I think every church should have a Sunday School) and partly love .  Another is the Durham Local Food Network.  I helped set up both the Network and the subsequent Directory out of frustration!

Hobbies.  Oh these are real time sucks and clutter generators.  Whether you fish, knit, make paper airplanes or nurture bonsai trees will have kit.  Lots of kit.  Because you have the kit you will begin to feel obligated to use it.  Cast your mind back to when you first discovered your hobby.  When you had no kit.  When you went fishing with one 15ft salmon rod, one reel and a small box of flies.  You were ready to go in seconds and you went out a lot.  Now a fishing trip requires almost an entire day to sort out the best rod and reels.  The right flies for the water, the right waders and net and then the right bag to put it all in.  How often do you go fishing now?

Bucket List. I am all for having a list of things that you would like to do before you die.  But unless you are genuinely terminally ill are you using your bucket list to avoid living your real life.  Are you too busy accumulating experiences to experience the everyday?

Lists are a tool designed to help us.  Yet it is all too easy to allow them to become clutter themselves.  Filling our lives with things we do or feel we need to do but don’t.  Don’t be lured by the appeal of the list.  Make sure you stay in control and not the other way around.

the list

Sunday is menu planning day.  It makes the rest of the week so much easier and I feel good as if I have ticked off a task but don’t feel as if I have actually done any work.

Menu planning means:

  • no more staring at the fridge or pantry wondering what to eat and serving up baked potatoes or spag bol for the millionth time
  • no more panic (and expensive) runs to the shops because you have “nothing to eat”
  • eating down your supplies, “shopping from home”
  • you have time to try out new recipes and experiment
  • buying less food because you only buy what you need
  • appropriate meals for appropriate days (essential if you have a family of teenagers with activities in the evenings)

What’s not to like?

First check your freezer/fridge/pantry.  Always shop from home first.  What have you got that needs using up.  Make a list and bear that in mind when you get to the meal planning stage.


Then take you diary.  Yup, your diary.  See the final point above.  You do not want to plan to eat souffle on a night when you are going to have to pick up one child from a music lesson and your husband gets home late from a trip.  That is a baked potato or casserole type of night.  On the other hand if you have a free day and have a great recipe that requires all day marinading or is a bit fiddly, that’s a great time to try it out.


Now choose a couple of cookery books, or fire up your computer and head for your favourite recipe sites and blogs. This is the fun part.  This week I wanted to use up some chicken thighs and lamb shanks.  I also have a lovely pork joint which we were going to have today until I realised we were going out (see even I get it wrong!).  With that in mind I flicked through the books above and decided upon:

  • Green chicken curry (use up the thighs)
  • mozzarella Focaccia (busy day need something easy)
  • Tangia (free day so can make fiddly marinade)
  • Lime and chilli pasta (going out to drinks party so need quick light food beforehand also children can make theirs fresh later on)
  • Chicken with chilli and lemon (a bit like the previous night so may adapt on the day but liked the recipe)
  • Jerk Pork

There are only six meals because we are going out on Saturday and I’ll let the girls chose what they want on the day.


As soon as you chose a recipe write next to it the book and the page number (you will forget I promise, I speak from bitter experience) AND check ingredients to see what you need to buy.


Then construct the shopping list. We also have a blackboard in the kitchen for anyone to write down things that have run out.  So next I add on these. Finally I add on any extras.  For example I have just seen this recipe for Tropical Ice Box Pie  which I am going to try out this week so I need some extra ingredients for that.


I don’t shop in supermarkets so I group items by shop but if you are a supermarket shopper group the items by the order in which they appear in the shop.  That way you don’t have to go back and forth and you only go down the aisles you need  and helps stop opportunistic buying of stuff you don’t need and is just going to add to the clutter you don’t want.


Finally pin your list somewhere where you can see it!

You may have noticed what I was writing on.  You could do it online on your phone but as you can see from here, I struggle with that.  I keep all our used envelopes, flyers, letters anything with a blank page and clip them together for shopping lists, messages etc.  I’ll keep the spare square above for next week’s menus.

Now that’s all done I think I may go out and admire my garden before it starts to rain again.