6 Reasons I Love Lists (and the first ever freckle list)

All of my Daddy's shirts have at least one pocket on the chest. He keeps a cross pen and a running list of things to do in his shirt pocket. The Redman he hides in the glovebox.

I have been thinking a lot about lists lately. They are the most ordinary of things.

Today on my list is "buy white thread".

How about a list of lists?.

To-do list
Grocery list
Book list
Birthday list
Christmas list
Bucket list
Packing list
Wish list
Baby name list
Top 10 list

Those are just the basics. Lists can spin off lists of their own. There are even list apps so we can share our love of list-making. Writer and actor BJ Novak, came up with a free app called li.st where you can have fun wasting a lot of time seeing all the lists people are making.

The thing about lists for me is that they are basically a collection and since I am a collector of all sorts of things (white pitchers, old globes, vintage monogrammed linens, great books and new words), lists and I are a perfect match.

What is it about these little bullets that intrigue us? Why do we love them so?

1. Lists help us remember.

Just the act of writing things down helps me. When I leave my list at home, I can close my eyes and see it on the page (mostly). We finally started keeping our family grocery list on a sharable list in the Reminders App on our phones. That way whoever stops at the store on their way home, can knock out the whole list. Also, we play this fun game where we add items while Mama is shopping.

Any list makes me think of Daddy. I wonder what he has scribble down in his pocket today?

2. Lists help us dream and do.

I keep a list called Blue Skies which is meant to help me look far up and away into the big blue skies and write down specific impossibilities. It is a little different than a Bucket list, though those are good too. Blue Skies is more specific to something I am already called to and working on. Every month or so, I jot down names of things I hope to do or people I hope to meet, write to or collaborate with one day. It's funny, but I think they are more likely to happen just for bringing them into view and putting them down in pen and ink.

3. Lists give us order in a disordered world.

Information and opportunities come at us like speeding bullets. But a list can catch those bullets mid-flight. There is just something about asterisks, bullet points or numbers that gives us brevity and brings clarity. When I can bring my swirling day down into 3-5 bullet points, suddenly it seems do-able and it gets done. Also, it becomes clear what needs to happen first.

4. Lists help clear our minds..
When I catch all that is crowding out my creativity out of my head and down on paper, or in a digital list, my head and heart become clear and fresh for bigger and brighter things. When Mike was traveling a ton, he typed up a pre-made checklist so he could just check items off as he packed. He felt less flustered about small items and used that energy to go over his talk or pray for his trip. (He did this after giving a professional talk in a t-shirt and suit jacket, so back to #1.)

5. Lists make us feel good..
Maybe it's just me, but there is a certain satisfaction in crossing things off of my list. I sometimes write something down I already did just so I can cross it off. Done! If nothing else, it helps explain why I haven't gotten to what was really on my list. Maybe what I actually did was more important or maybe I wish I had stuck to my original list. Either way, it helps in my planning next time.

6. Lists tell stories..
Beyond the basic task-keeping, lists are powerful ways to tell our stories. There are lists such as "Things I Learned", "Things I Wish I'd Known" and "Things I Wish I'd Said" (or not said) as the case might be. All tell stories.

Here are a few lists I made recently that go beyond the basics to tell you stories.

My day today in just seven words.

dusty Ponderosas
breakfast with my baby

3 Places I have Lived

  1. Holland
  2. Iran
  3. Texas

5 things I took with me to a cabin in the woods

  1. old cut-up magazines
  2. fresh blackberries
  3. a stack of books
  4. blank pages
  5. coffee beans and half &half

5 things I left behind

  1. paperwork
  2. my watch
  3. my to-do list
  4. a vacuum cleaner
  5. even big kids

If you make similar lists, I would learn something about you that I might not know. Also, you might learn a thing or two about yourself. But really, its fun and insightful at the same time. Kids are great at this.

Not all lists are in writing. Some can be in photos too. Here is a list of ordinary things that made me smile on this summer day. It is a collection I am calling "the freckle list".

The freckle list

  • pick wildflowers. put them in a non-vase.

  • eat dinner outside under the pines.

  • sip sparkling water on the front porch.

  • wear an old straw cowboy hat.

  • read a book on an old quilt. pause and look through binoculars.

I hope you start keeping a short list of things that make you smile, things that if you had freckles, would make them pop out. It is like a combination of of small gratefulnesses and favorite things. I call it a freckle list.

Because sometimes we need sunscreen, we can also make not to-do lists. Last summer I made a Summer Not-to Do List.

What kind of lists are you making?