Sally Brampton – A list for life

Sally Brampton tackles her list habit


Sally Brampton – A list for life

Anybody else out there a lister? Not an A- or a B-lister but every damn letter in the alphabet right down to ‘take trousers to dry cleaners to get zip mended’. I found a list the other day headed ‘spk Phillip’. Who the hell is Phillip?

Then there are the lists of lists. The kitchen table is strewn with them, which simply adds another item to the list: ‘must tidy the kitchen table’. I even add items to the list at the end of the day that weren’t on it in the first place – just so I can immediately cross them off again. Anybody catching me at it would think I was mad. If it weren’t so sad it would be hilarious.

Then there’s the cute little device on my laptop that looks like a Post-it note, cleverly designed to remind me to do all the things I’ve already reminded myself to do on scraps of paper strewn around the kitchen. My entire screen is covered with a patchwork of urgent Post-it notes, which probably take up more gigabytes than the rest of my computer put together.

Then there are the three email accounts (why? Don’t ask me) that require their own list (handily available on the laptop Post-it notes) to remind me to reply to so-and-so or pay URGENT attention to the message that went right to the top of the list a week ago, but is now lurking somewhere at the bottom of the pile. Let’s not forget (hey, another item for the list) the iPhone, filled with a list of must-be-answered-at-once text messages or people will think I’m the rudest person in the world (which, according to my iPhone, I am).

There’s Facebook, filled with a guilt-inducing list of people who want to be my friend (most of whom I’ve never heard of, but that does nothing to alleviate the guilt) and then, of course, there’s Twitter, which I rarely use because I’m far too busy making lists. So much angst, so little time, but it’s the guilt thing, really, that keeps me making lists. What if I forget to return a phone call? What if there’s no butter in the fridge? The world will surely come to an end.

It’s either guilt or imminent senility, but the irony is that I have a very good memory so it must be guilt, which we women are so good at, because list-making seems to be an almost entirely female activity. I have an ex who not only didn’t make lists, he didn’t even have a diary. How he got anywhere at the right time and on the right day (or even remembered where he should be or why he was there) I shall never know, but he always seemed to manage it.

Mind you, if he ever went near a supermarket he’d return with a bag of absolutely-non-essentials – but I think that’s probably a male thing because every woman I know complains about it and shopping lists are not only sensible, they are compulsory. In the end, I started hiding my lists, rather like other women sneak new clothes into the house, because the raised eyebrows were too much to bear. It did occur to me that resorting to secrecy (not to mention guilt) was the action of an addict. Bravely, I tried going cold turkey, but that was a disaster. A friend still reminds me of the time I forgot her birthday. So if anybody out there has a list of tips about how to stop making endless lists, please send it in and I’ll pin it somewhere useful. Like on my forehead.

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