How a to do list saved my sanity

In a mere three weeks of consistently using a to do list app my feeling over overwhelm has lessened significantly and my self esteem has risen exponentially. Since my success both physically and mentally has been so measurable using just a simple app I knew that I needed to share this secret with other moms or anyone for that matter is finding themselves drowning in a never ending list of things to do.

Out of all the difficulties and challenges in becoming a wife and mother, one thing is universally true: you’re never done. — Unknown

Let’s start with the fact that my family of four lives in a three story home. It’s a beautiful house, and everyone loves the uniqueness of the space.

You know what I see?A street near my house.

In my most overwhelmed state, I see 2,000 square feet of space, spread over three stories and two flights of stairs. The mere thought of handling all that space gave me anxiety so bad that I felt like breaking into tears at the mention of cleaning the house but found myself wanting hibernate instead of cleaning up what could be considered the normal amount of mess for a family with two elementary aged school kids.


When I was working in an office, before I became a stay at home mom, finding focus to do my work was easy. My bosses had a list of things and I would do them.

As a mom and wife I’m in charge of making my own list of things to do and while I want to say I’m adult enough to figure that out on my own, in the chaos of life, I find myself wondering around trying to figure out what to do next.

My to-do list helps me focus. It also gives me hope when I am feeling overwhelmed because, I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out, but a list has a beginning, a middle and an end!

When I started to think about my household tasks, I tried my hardest to not reinvent the wheel. Growing up my mom did a lot of the house cleaning and by the time I really could have helped with things we had a cleaning lady come every other week to get the deep cleaning done for us. So in my inexperienced head my first look was to search Pinterest for lists to follow.

I immediately got overwhelmed.

One of the post popular cleaning systems I found is called the FlyLady System. It’s a very detailed system and I know it has value, but as much as people love it, I felt overwhelmed by the extensive lists she has you follow.

To start with a blank page I knew instantly that I would have to break things down into different categories. For me this came in the form of Routines and Zone Cleaning. It’s very similar to the Flylady system but I started with blank lists instead of a premodern list and chose only what I thought would need to go on my list instead of trying to do everything they prescribed to do.


My routine list consists of things that I do daily. These tend to be more surface cleaning or organizing, leaving the deeper cleaning tasks for Zone Cleaning.

The genius of the FlyLady method of organizing your home is to begin with baby steps. Small actions that you put into a routine. By starting small you pay more attention to the action of completing the routine than the routine item itself.

In the Flylady system set up, the first baby step is to make sure every night before you go to bed that your kitchen sink is clean. She calls it “shine your sink”.

I get it.

Coming down to a clean shiny kitchen gives you an amazing feeling. I tried this system multiple times since becoming a mom. I would try to complete the shine my sink step, but somehow I would get tired after dinner and never want to wash the dishes and sink before I headed to bed. The sink is on the first floor and I’m on the second floor after dinner most nights.

Failure on the first step wasn’t a good way to get a routine going.

To start my habits off in a good way this time around, I knew I needed to pick something that I’d be in front of multiple times a day that I could finish quickly if not the first pass by it then the second.

I had to remind myself that the aim at the beginning is to start the habit, not clean the whole house at once.

My house chores started with what she called a “swish & swipe” of the downstairs toilet and bathroom sink.

A “swish & swipe” is a quick clean of the toilet with a swish of dish soap in the bowl and a swipe of the sink daily. It takes less than 30 seconds but has made a dramatic difference in how clean my bathroom stays between deeper cleanings.

This is not meant to be a deep clean. At this point this habit is a maintenance check of the bathroom to minimize the chance for bigger messes. After the routine is set the deeper cleaning tasks come into play.

As I started to think about what things needed to be done daily, I found that things like dishes and laundry and clearing off “hot spots” would have a big effect on how organized my house would stay without taking more than 15 minutes of my time to complete each task.

Here are my list of routines:

  • Swish & Swipe — This is a 30 second quick clean of the toilets and bathroom sinks OR kitchen sink and counter.
  • Laundry — This reminds me to do a load of laundry in the AM and make sure it gets into the dryer when it’s done.
  • Dishes — I put a load of dishes in and sometimes forget them. My husband doesn’t like a cluttered sink so I knew this had to be on my routines list.
  • Trash — taking the cans out weekly so that the transcan can make it to the curb on Thursday morning is something we can’t forget to do.
  • Other — this section covers “hotspots” around the house as well as updating my grocery list weekly.


When you walk into any room in my house there is a deep cleaning list that is unique to that room. It is a longer, more detailed list that can seem overwhelming if you try to track it in your head, but on a list it becomes an organized list of ten or so items.

For instance, my master bedroom cleaning list, which I complete weekly on Thursdays, consists of:

  1. Change the bedding
  2. Clean the mirror
  3. Clean windows
  4. Clean window sills
  5. Clear the “hot spots”
  6. Dust side shelves
  7. Vacuum the carpet
  8. Wash the comforters
  9. Wipe down the doors
  10. Wipe down the overhead fan

In my head this list seems pretty big, but on a list I already can batch a few things together to make the process fairly painless to complete. I tend to move around the room in a circle or batch things together.

When I clean the windows, I also clean the sills and while I have my cleaning spray out I clean the mirror and the shelves on each side of our bed. Then I attack the doors which have raised and dipped sections on them that collect dust like no other!

All in all this list takes less than an hour to complete.


You know the phrase “Take it easy.”? With a to do list you need to “make it easy”.

Saving my sanity came when I realized that I could make a complicated list into something easy to use. My week day to do list comes out to about 25 items to click off between my routines and my zone cleaning.

As much as I love a good planner or writing notebook, I felt like I was losing my mind trying to organize physical copies of my list. FlyLady uses a “Control Binder” for her lists and for me that seemed too bulky to organize and carry around my house.My to-do list on Todoist App.

The only way for me to handle my to do list is electronically. I already have all my kids appointments on google calendar so I knew that I needed a similar app to eliminate writing out or even printing out a new list each week seems so wasteful of time, energy and paper.

Finding an app to make my to do list easy took a little bit. I tried out all the free options available, but I finally landed on the Todoist app.

My deal breaker option was the need to find a list that would regenerate itself. Clicking and unclicking items manually seemed a bit confusing and complicated. Call me lazy but to make it easy I needed it to be done for me.

The other ways Todoist makes my list easier:

  • “Projects” and “Labels” give me the ability to organize my tasks.
  • Reminders that tell me when things are due and the ability to have things be scheduled daily, weekly, monthly or yearly
  • Syncs with my google calendar
  • Regenerates a task when I complete it.
  • Available on my phone, ipad, and computer so no matter where I am I can get to my todo list.

I highly recommend using an app that is designed for lists. I know some phones have reminder apps on them but most don’t have the features like todoist or similar apps have.


As the weeks have rolled by I find myself using my to do list for way more than house cleaning. I made a list of when my bills are due and put on the schedule when appointments or assignments in the kids school are due. Anything that happens in the future gets put on my list, organized accordingly it doesn’t interfere with my daily tasks.

The part of my to do list that has saved my sanity the most and boosted my self esteem the most is the completion phase of my list. Every time I click something off and it disappears off my “today” view I feel like I’ve accomplished something!

Doing housework is never done really, but feeling like I’m in control of it now has given me so much peace. I know my list will be there tomorrow, but I also know so will my map of how to complete it all.

What’s on your to do list?






16 responses to “How a to do list saved my sanity”

  1. Shirsha Avatar

    I am a huge fan of To-do lists, but I am yet to find a system that works for me to keep a control on everything. I’ve tried Wunderlist and Todoist in the past, but never got around to perfecting a system! 🙁

    1. Patty Gordon Avatar

      I liked Wunderlist too. I think actually using the checklist is harder than setting it up. My morning routine now is to open up my list and check off as many things as possible then the next time I sit down to take a break I check it again. I guess people might say that makes me a slave to it, but really it’s the only way to stay on task since COVID minutes seem to turn into hours if you let them.

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