How to declutter your to-do list

declutter your to-do list

This week I saw an exasperated Facebook post outlining someone’s to-do list. It’s a familiar trope, the mental load, the expectations put on women. I feel for you sisters, really I do, but it’s time for you to declutter your to-do list yourself. Let’s face it, nobody is going to do it for you.

Life is a constant experiment. Try breaking the rules and see what happens.

Declutter your to-do list

1. Stop making or buying gifts for the kids’ teachers, sports coaches and carers

Now before you start clutching your pearls I know that these people add value to our lives, that they work hard, and that they matter. But nobody went to their grave wishing they’d remembered to sign the card for the teacher who went on maternity leave. Or lamenting that they forgot the box of Roses for the piano instructor some decades earlier. And let’s face it, these professionals get paid. (Cue pearl-clutching.) 

I am friends with teachers who donate their scented Christmas candles to the op shop because they don’t like the smell. Or they give away their chocolates because they went vegan. So all our rushing around purchasing and wrapping gifts may not even be appreciated. 

And even if it is, said teacher is not going to be surveying their gift intake at the end of the year to figure out who gave and who didn’t.  And even if said teacher was to do such a ridiculous stocktake and find your input lacking – so what? The world won’t end. Take a deep breath and make yourself a cuppa instead or rushing out to Kmart. Declutter your to-do list, sister.

2. Take school procedures with a grain of salt

There is a policy at my children’s primary school that if you drop off your kid after the bell goes, you are expected to come into the office. You sign a slip and take the slip to the child’s teacher. This means parking the car and sometimes also tracking down the class elsewhere if they are not in their usual room. It’s so bothersome that I’d rather skip the doctor’s appointment (or whatever made them late) altogether and cross fingers that the rash goes away on its own. (and usually it does) 

But then I had another idea. What if… I just open the car door and point child towards the school gate saying “off you go, have a great day” and let them find their way to class. I did it, and almost did a burnout of joy as I drove off with an additional 15 minutes under my belt. According to my kid’s recap, he was welcomed into the classroom and business as usual ensued. The sky didn’t fall in. Heck, the school didn’t even call me. 

On a related issue, the school admin app I use, emails me if my child isn’t there at roll call. I guess it’s in case they are at the local Maccas with a fag in their mouth when they should be in class. Fair enough, but assuming you know your little darling wasn’t doing that, rest easy. I have wilfully ignored the automated message and neglected to log in and explain the absence. Again, nothing happens. And I have gained 10 minutes of time and 5cm of headspace. (yep, I measured it) Another decluttering win.

3. Same for council rules

We registered our dog with the local council when we adopted her. Fast forward one year and a renewal notice was received. Some time afterwards hubby asked me whether I had remembered to pay it. I said no, did you? He shook his head and we both shrugged our shoulders and resumed drinking wine and watching Netflix. This was years ago and we have no regrets. 

I must add that our dog is a big old lazy greyhound. She sleeps 20 hours a day and has no desire to escape, bite a child or whatever the hell else the registration is supposed to insure against. She’s an illegal alien but we’re all happy. Declutter your to-do list like I did, and break some rules.

4. Only do housework if you can see a result

A couple of years ago I saw a headline that Shannon Lush the doyenne of the cleaning world had something important to say. She told us we should be washing our pillowcases every two days due to the bacteria and skin cells which inhabit these neglected pieces of fabric. Thanks Shazza. 

My cynicism reared up, wondering what she was trying to sell. I thought “yes Shannon but what are the consequences if I don’t?” You guessed it – nada. My family’s pillowcases would be considered criminal by many but we are not drowning in skin cells or regret or anything else. Washing anything that regularly is on my to-don’t list.

5. What is ironing?

I have a friend who irons bedsheets. So you can only imagine what else she is laboriously removing creases from. Baby singlets, underwear, tea towels, the list goes on. I must preface this by saying nobody in my house wears business shirts, but I have a tried and true method of not looking like I stumbled out of a dumpster. 1. Wash clothes. 2. Shake each item before hanging with the heaviest part of the garment (waistband etc) at the bottom. 3. Wear it again. 

Any remaining creases disappear with a bit of body warmth. I was in a caravan park laundry with my primary-school aged son some years ago and there was an ironing board and iron in the room. My son asked what it was, and I was proud. Declutter your to-do list by eschewing ironing. It’s a domestic shackle we can lose.

So next time you feel obliged to do something ponder briefly whether there are consequences for not going it. If in doubt, ask yourself “will I care about this in 10 years”? Or even in my case “do I care about this now?” Declutter your to-do list. Simplify things. Have a to-don’t list. Quit drowning in martyrdom and dip your toe in the water of anarchy. It feels good.

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