Making lists


We enjoyed Bee Wilson’s  piece in the LRB * that started like this:

Lists make us feel better.  They take the uncertainty and messiness of life and spray it with a sense of purpose.  On low days, I sometimes write to-do lists of tasks I have already done and put ticks next to  them, just to give myself the illusion of resolve. We cross days off on a calendar, and imagine that July was something we positively achieved, rather than an unstoppable wave of time that scooped us up and spat us out into the next month. We portion our lives into guest lists and blacklists, list of friends and followers. We  make shopping lists and bucket lists and reading lists; wishlists of DVDs we may one day watch or seeds we hope to plant and catalogues of countries we have visited or books we have read. To go to a shop armed with a scrap of paper that says ‘eggs, milk, pears’ is to believe that you have a script and are the one in charge, even if you end up getting apples instead because the pears look bad.


Are you a list person?

*Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream – a review of Jonathan Meades’ An encyclopedia of myself  (LRB 38 no. 14, 14 July 2016)





17 thoughts on “Making lists

  1. I’m definitely a list person. I become upset when I lose my shopping list and have even been back to the supermarket looking for it. (I did find one lost list under the apples counter, and it made my day!)

  2. I love lists too. There’s such a sense of satisfaction in crossing off something achieved or bought. The article inspires me to make more inventive lists in future. I don’t think i would hunt one down though, Dorothy!

  3. Yup, lists definitely fit in here. I remember someone would ask me what I did today and I couldn’t come up with an answer. So I sat down a wrote a list of the things I did and was quite blown away with my productivity.

    1. On the other hand, at my work we used to have to fill in a timesheet at the end of the day with all our activities totalled in five minute blocks. Often you’d have been busy all day but when it came to adding up the five minute blocks they fell well short of the working day. Funny thing how time vanishes.

      1. What can you do in a five minute block of time? That sounds a lot like a make work project. Time too scrutinized does not make the pot boil.

  4. Yes and no. I hate the restrictions lists imply — no room for spontaneity or whimsy — but, in the final analysis, and speaking as a prognosticating and inherently lazy so-and-so, they do imply some order and control. I suppose it all depends who’s doing the ordering …

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