Celebrating the Need for a Maintenance List (or, Being Responsible)
I have a very intricate to-do list.
It’s separated into multiple lists in the same database, each with their own project subdivision. The metadata on these task items also indicate a context, and the software I use allows me to filter tasks (the software refers to this as a ‘perspective’) by context and project. This allows me to really slice up my list and shorten it only to what can be accomplished during my work time, rather than be threatened by all of the things I can’t do at the moment. The metadata also contains an indication of how often a task should reoccur (and also an indication of whether recurrence is based on a particular day of the week, or relative to the last time the item was completed).
I distinctly remember, a few months ago, that I needed to add a recurring item to my list… which was “order new Sonicare toothbrush head on Amazon.” I had moved from categorizing primarily on context to categorizing by project (since the idea of a context is fleeting in this mobile everything world).
This item was not an errand, really, nor was it a creative task, or a task related to work. So, I created a new catch-all for these sorts of tasks and I called it ”maintenance.”
Over the course of the next few months, this list ballooned. I found myself adding to it item upon item. Things like:
- Take out the trash (recurs weekly on Tuesdays)
- Wipe down bathrooms (recurs every 1 week relative to completion date)
- Flip mattress (recurs every 6 months relative to completion)
- Test smoke detectors (monthly on the first day)
It was the catch-all project I didn’t know that I needed. A bucket for the things in my life that I need to do just to keep my head above water and make sure everything is functional. After I realized this was becoming my primary list, I started wondering if it had always been that way.
Did I always need so much maintenance? When I was a kid, a lot of it was taken care of by my parents. And when I moved out as a young 20-something, I didn’t care so much about taking out the trash or wiping bathrooms with regularity.
So, no, I didn’t always need this much maintenance. The list has grown as I’ve gotten older. And the older I get, the more it will grow, I suspect. The last time I was this high maintenance, I was too young to understand the idea of lists. The next time I’ll be that high maintenance, I’ll most likely be too old to care about lists anymore.
But that this list now exists means I’m at a new era in my life. Creating it is an admission that there are layers to my life that I maybe haven’t looked at carefully enough.
But I celebrate this list, too. After all, I want my son to have a father who can keep his shit together. And the maintenance keeps me healthy and sane.
I can finally give myself the structure that I’ve always craved.
I’m 33 today but I can’t help wondering how I’ll feel about the maintenance list when I’m 43.