Blessed are the List Makers

As I have confessed many times before, I like lists.  Correction:  I adore them.

I’m not alone, either.  TopTenz provides top ten lists ranging from the bizarre to the mundane.  Paul Simon gave us possible ways to exit a failing relationship in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (okay, in total he only provided 5).   And, there is now the popular Bucket List.   Long or short, lists simplify and organise.  They scratch an itch or tick a box.  And list making is good for the brain, helping us cope in an age of information overload.  Let’s face it, without lists we would feel muddled and purposeless.  Am I overstating it?  I think not.  To anyone who makes lists, there is a joy in crossing off completed tasks, overturning stones, packing suitcases, shopping for groceries, etc. etc.

Unlike a millennium ago when some lists were chiselled into stone, Roger and I opted for a three-page Excel spreadsheet of projects at Crockern.  Some items were all encompassing representing seven or eight steps in a single line.  Avoiding a fine level of detail permitted us to avoid the weight of a seemingly unending list of things to do.  Sanity preserved.  Enthusiasm easily ignited.  And our master project list remains a three pager, growing and contracting with each new renovation hurdle.

One of our first projects at Crockern was to install a wood burner and since accomplishing that undertaking, we left refinishing the wooden floor in that same room for a later date.  Despite the seeming ease of the project, the floor would have been trampled upon as we worked on other projects in further reaches of the house, so it was tabled for four years.  This is part of the wisdom behind list making:  Don’t do something to have to re-do it later.

With the back part of the house now completed, we’re investigating the centre of the house.  With all there is to do in this area of the house, we’ve turned our attention to the simple and inexpensive:  Project Floor Refinishing.  In October, I was in the US for a week and before I left, Roger and I examined this particular floor, which Roger felt like tackling in my absence.  Before heading for the airport, we moved furniture and looked at a few spots along the skirting board that were rotten.

Closer examination revealed the skirting board was “attached” with concrete along the interior stonewalls.  Never a great idea.  Over decades, moisture from the outside wicked through the stones and onto the wood.  Whole sections of floorboards were damaged.  After moving furniture, Roger and I pulled up the skirting board and removed each floorboard to assess the next steps.

List twitching alert!

As I was leaving Roger with floorboards to mend and concrete to chip off the walls, I said, “You know, we should really pull the ceiling down and repair that while the floors are up.”  It is in precisely this manner, with such casually tossed sentences, that our projects grow from manageable weekend efforts to full on disruptions that roll into months, giving birth to new project lists.

My own list making is well practiced and instinctive, kicking in whenever my mind becomes too crowded.  Since short-term working memory can only hold around seven items, lists are essential aides and this project is a good example.  Armed with a fresh piece of paper and a pen, I quickly write a title at the top of the page.  Then I underline it for emphasis.  Following are bulleted items that must be considered and acted upon.  For those of us possessing a certain disposition, this is a productive use of paper, pen and twenty minutes.  It is a soothing, no cost and anxiety-reducing step that prepares me for the project ahead.  Hanging on the refrigerator, a list becomes a reminder of what we need to do.  I will admit, too, sometimes I add an item, which has already been done, just in order to enhance the sense of accomplishment.  I am certain I am not alone in this behaviour.

With the finished floorboards in the barn (yes, this step was added to the list after it was done) and the ceiling pulled down (this step, too, was added ATF), we are pondering our best approach to replace the ceiling.  Naturally, a new ceiling gives us the opportunity to address lighting in this part of the house.  The removed floor also allows us tend to a much needed extra electrical outlet.  But before we can get started, there is a granite wall to address.  It was painted at some point in its history with exterior weather shield paint on the inside and outside.  Arguably, a way to use up left over paint.  Unfortunately, in the long run, this sort of paint traps moisture and creates some damp issues.  I suspect the painting culprit did not make a list or anticipate how challenging this paint removal would be on the inside of a house.

Getting the paint off the wall has now become a research project with a host of challenges.  To the list adverse, this particular hiccup may seem tragic, but to those of us who are ready to off-load all the ideas bouncing around inside our heads, making way for clarity of the next steps, I say hand over a pen, fresh paper and let me record the first item:  “Make List”.


Floor boards up and the base is level and dry. Whew!


The paint problem.


This wall is about 12 square metres of painted stone and an endless list of options about our next step.


23 comments on “Blessed are the List Makers

  1. Carol Charlton says:

    And what happens when Toad loses his list???

  2. RobP says:

    They do say that a list is a project manager’s greatest tool. It will be interesting to see if it is still a 3 pager this time next year (presumably with new so far unthought-of-of of items!)

  3. jllevitan says:

    I agree! Lists are great for reducing stress. I feel a sense of control when I make a list of all the stuff that needs to get done. Love the idea of adding stuff that is already done. It is so important to have that sense of accomplishment.

  4. I love lists. Trying to tie Mud down to the serious business of making a list of what Santa is going to bring the Mudlets’ – actually THREE lists plus an extra smaller one for Eldest Mudlets’ boyfriend – but he keeps putting the task off. Going to make the lists myself I think and then add to/amend as necessary. Then got the food one to do, Christmas card one, garden replenishment one …….. 😀

  5. john says:

    I “removed” masonry paint from an external concrete block wall a few years ago. I used paint stripper, wire brushes, jet wash and an electric needle gun. I t was a similar area and it took many days. The needle gun was the last thing I tried and it was the best thing but very aggressive to the blocks but it managed to get 99% of the paint off. Are you going to repaint the wall, if so do you need to remove all the paint to allow the wall to breath.

    • Thanks for this John. To date, we have explored scraping, stripper, wire brushes attached to drills and are in the midst of hunting down an affordable way to use a soda blaster. I recently learned of this method (thanks to Grand Designs) and it is non-toxic which has a huge appeal for an inside the house job. Appears to have a range of mess attached, so we may go with the very slow approach but less of a scatter of debris. I will update the blog as we get moving along on this one. And we are not planning to repaint the wall as we do need it to breath. Of course, we have no idea the state of the rendering which is hiding behind the paint. The project may grow…..

  6. Jay Czarnecki says:

    Can I recommend “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.

  7. Sue M says:

    When preparing to move to another country (crazy-making as you know), it was only a notebook with headings on each page, Visa, Apartment rental, Movers, that kept me sane for two months–and I still have it, of course. I have my weekend lists as well, which have to include things like Nap, Concert, Read book, Movie, Hike, Massage and Meditate, as well as the more mundane Laundry/Linens, Grocery Shop, again, a sanity measure. And, after years of list-making, have accepted that my daily or weekly tasks are really two days, or two weeks worth of work. But a
    always hopeful!

    • There’s a good chance you are one of the leaders for list making! I still have my list from the last two moves. Saved having to recreate it! Especially, those sections on address changes. My list for today includes “build a fire”, which I’ve done. Now I need to bring in more wood. Will quickly add that, in order to cross it off.

  8. hilary charlie and thomas says:

    I saw this and thought of you-

  9. I’m forever making lists. I think I have three separate notebooks for them… My intention was to keep one for a specific ‘theme’ (DIY, camping, food, etc.) but that definition is lost and I’m frequently reaching for whichever one is nearest. I even have a small whiteboard on one wall with a list of things to do around the home. 🙂

    A friend of mine keeps a box full of memories and mementos – I wonder if we should be preserving our lists in the same way?

    • What a wonderful idea to preserve lists as a series of memories. I admit, one of my thrills with list making is after crossing off all the accomplishments is to then throw the list away and start a new list. I suspect throwing out the completed list will trump saving anything for prosperity.

  10. So, Crockern is a listed building, right? RH

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