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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published September 22 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Crossing items off the ‘to-do’ list

Hello my name is Melissa and I have a long list of things to do today.

I am especially busy this week because I am solo parenting while my husband is gone for work. The shared tasks are now all my tasks.

So instead of trying to get everything done, I need to divide my list up and create a new list: the “have to get done or the children will starve” list OR the “I want to do this just to feel better.”

My husband is one of those people who is great at doing things … if they are on the list. We have been married so long I get mad when he forgets to do things – as I though he could read my imaginary list in my head. He likes checking things off, and he also likes the clear communication when things are written down.

Well, he isn’t here to get things done and I am in a time crunch so I am going to have to divide my list and get things done that are a priority first.

Putting things in order of priority is really important because it allows you to bring things into perspective. Here are a few things to help you get the list in tip top shape.

1. Focus on the tasks that only you can do. For me, it is writing my blog posts and columns. I am the only one that can do that. However if you think you are the only one who can make dinner, that is probably not true.

2. Focus on the tasks that you need to complete so that others can move on. You may be an important piece of the puzzle and by you not doing something, it could create a mess. This could be work-related or home-related, such as signing a permission form for a field trip and your child can’t go on the field trip without the signature.

3. Look at what can be outsourced. Can my boys mow the lawn instead of me? Can they water the flowers…unload the dishwasher…take the dog for a walk? Of course they can. Get your family on board to help get your list done. For your outsourced tasks, make sure that the list is as detailed as the person reading it needs it to be. I assume that my son will know to water the flowers every single day, especially on days when they are wilting. This in fact is not the case, he will walk right by them as they are not on his list.

4. Look at what is just a pie in the sky dream. For me, I really want to get my windows washed. It isn’t happening today – or ever. Washing my windows is on my “want to” list. This task will wait for a day when we are all home. The kids take the screens out and rinse them with a hose and set them up to dry. My husband washes the outside windows and I wash the inside ones. It is an afternoon of family bonding. Not really. But my kids do know how to wash screens!

5. Look for shortcuts. I “have to” buy groceries. But I can order them online and have them delivered when I come home. Or go back up to number three and have it outsourced, as I can send my kids to the store as they are good shoppers – if they have a detailed list to work from.

Start working on that list. Get it focused down to what you have to do today. The stuff you want to do can wait another day.

As a bonus, add things to your list that you already did to make you feel even better. I am putting down brushed my teeth! Go me! And better yet, now I can cross off “write column.”


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo and her website can be found at www.mssimplicity.com/