To Do List:1- Stop making Lists!

I love lists. I love being organized. But it’s gotten to the point where I feel smothered under a pile of scraps of paper with all the things I’m supposed to do…and never get done.

Let me tell you just how many lists we’re talking about.


Kitchen: one shopping list, one menu list, one recipes-to-try list= 3 lists

Dining room/living room: one list of meal plans for Brian, one list of house hold projects for Brian, one list of wedding gifts, one list of addresses for thank you cards for the wedding gifts = 4 lists

Bedroom: two camping packing lists, 4 lists in the nightstand drawer = 6 lists

Guest bedroom: six sticky note lists, one weekly cleaning list, one to do list, one calender, 5 sticky note lists in the desk drawer, one notebook with probably a hundred daily to do lists = 114 lists, approx.

Pretty much, the only place in our apartment where I’m safe from the barrage of Things-I-Should-Do is in the bathroom.

Each line on each list is one pang of guilt. I didn’t sweep the kitchen yesterday, I’m not going to dust today, we didn’t hang the valance last weekend, I haven’t written that blog post yet, I meant to have half of my thank you cards mailed by October, and now I’ll probably be lucky if it’s done by Christmas.

Not everything is time consuming, not everything is important. I know that, but I still feel like everything should be a priority. I feel like I should have more crossed off at the end of each day. I feel like I should have made progress by now.

It got to the point where I felt so overwhelmed and guilty that everyday around 4 p.m, I curled into a ball on my bed and cried. I cried because I can’t do it all, and I really want to. I cried because everyone wants something from me, and I don’t have anything to give. I cried because I’ll probably never accomplish half of the things I want to, and people will be let down, and it will be my fault. I cried because the more time I take to recharge and relax, means the more hurried and stressed I’ll be when I come back.

Jesus admonished a stressed-out and overwhelmed Martha:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42)

I thought and prayed over this verse, and I finally told Brian that I feeling overwhelmed, and a little depressed. He asked me lots of questions, all beginning with, “Do you feel like…How does it make you feel when…” in true psychiatrist style. But actually it really helped me to pin-point my problem: prioritizing and delegating. After we’d established that, Brian had me gather all my lists from throughout the house and combine them into one big list, not including the 100 daily to-do lists. It took up three pages of notebook paper! Seeing all the tasks together in one place was at once overwhelming and soothing, since I didn’t have to try to remember where they were written down anymore.

 Like the engineer he is, Brian had me put them into an excel document and number each according to priority, 1 being past due. This was hard. It took me a while, but I realized how much weight I’d been giving to less important things, and re-evaluate things I’d been neglecting. Brian also encouraged to delegate to him anything that he was capable of doing. When I only assigned him installing the valance, he was actually offended, and insisted he could do the laundry, vacuuming, taking out the trash and newspapers, and washing dishes. And he did!

Am I a blessed wife or what?! I’m so grateful that God used my husband to help me get my priorities straightened out. I know it will be a struggle still to stay focused, but with practice and His help, I can stop worrying about many things, and choose the one thing that is needed. 

Have you struggled with being overwhelmed? How do you prioritize?

  • Emily, you think that people expect much more from yourself than they do! I honestly don't care if I ever get a thank you note from your wedding (I know some people do), but I wouldn't even think of it, if you didn't mention it! We still have boxes and undone stuff and I just decide that I don't need to feel guilty. School is more important than a dirty coffee cup (for me and for you). I'm glad Bri was able to help you figure some of that out, but give yourself grace, sweetie! You have undergone some major MAJOR life changes in the last 6 months and that needs to be recognized too. Just clean the floor when it really starts to bother you and don't worry about it until then!

    Love you lots!

  • What an amazing husband you have! That has been one of the joys of married life for me, having someone to help carry the burden of life…and show me when i'm carrying unnecessary burden!
    i'm glad that you feel encouraged.

  • Thank you for sharing your learning experience. This is such a hard lesson to learn, and I am so glad that God gave Brian the grace to fill in the gaps where your weaknesses are so you can attack the problem together, as a team. Love you and miss you both!

  • "I cried because everyone wants something from me, and I don't have anything to give. I cried because I'll probably never accomplish half of the things I want to, and people will be let down, and it will be my fault. I cried because the more time I take to recharge and relax, means the more hurried and stressed I'll be when I come back."

    Were you reaching into my brain and stealing my thoughts here? I have these EXACT thoughts more often than I would like to admit even to myself. It is HARD to just let things go. REALLY hard. I am only thankful that I am not a list person. I couldn't handle the guilt if I actually saw everything that I didn't get done each day.

    I think I've mentioned to you before that I didn't get my wedding gift thank you notes out. I held a lot of guilt over that for a long time and then I realized that the people who gave me my gifts were my friends. I sent the thank you notes to those I knew would care and verbally thanked everyone else…showing them how much I loved what they'd given me. If people were bothered by that, they never mentioned it…and since they are all still talking to me, I think I am forgiven. (I did better with my baby gifts though…I think everyone got a thank you note for those! :-D).

    I often have to remind myself that the world would still go on turning if I weren't in it. People would find a way to pick up the slack. But I want to have control over it. It is hard for me to give stuff up and LET other people help. I'm getting better, but it has taken a lot of time…and will continue.

    Just remember to breathe. And if you get overwhelmed, CALL ME! Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. I'm ALWAYS up for a change of scenery :-D.

  • Hi I am a new follower from blog hop and I had to comment on this one. I had a very overwhelming week and mine had to do with to do list that would start one day and spill over to the next day making the next day to do list even longer. I had so many things to do and so many people pulling me in all directions I finally locked myself in the bathroom for a me break to regroup. I can understand completely where your coming from and I was very touched to read that I am not the only one that makes list on top of list only to make another list to finish up the other ones. Have a great Friday I look forward to reading more.

  • you sound just like me, and I found "Things" an amazing little but robust todo list software and app for Mac or iPad haha check it out my millions of lists are now all organized in one wonderful app lol, which was one check off my to do list just to get organized, whether I ever get to them only God knows 🙂 but now I don't have think about them or ask my 2 yr old where she has put mommys list.