Posts Tagged lists

What would Ben Franklin do?

In keeping with the theme of To-Do lists, I can’t help but post this image of Ben Franklin’s daily schedule that has been floating around the web for some time now:

I love its elegant simplicity, but I can’t help but think how much it doesn’t look like the lists I make.  I mean, where is the grocery list, the overdue wedding and baby gifts to send, the after-school club to sign up for, or the laundry detergent? Of course, all those questions were answered when I came across Ben Franklin’s wife’s daily schedule. Mystery solved.

Elsewhere on the web, there are a few sites devoted to the art of the list.  One of my favorites is, Daily Routines, a compendium devoted to the schedules of interesting people.  The blog hasn’t been updated in quite a while because they are working on a book, but if you want to know how Simone de Beauvois, Charles Darwin, and Le Corbusier organized their days, this is your resource, and I am look forward to the book.  Pretty Listed is a Tumblr site that collects images of various lists and schedules.  It appears to be a great idea that hasn’t gained momentum yet, but I would love to see more submissions there.  And finally, I couldn’t resist the beauty of these lists featured on designer, Melissa Easton’s blog, Mrs. Easton.  Take a look.

Anything else?

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To-do lists and other things we write down on scraps of paper.

Janice Lowry, To-Do List, July 5, 2003

Once again, Domaphile has been on a bit of a hiatus due to late summer vacations, hurricanes and the back to school frenzy.  Lately the only kind of writing that is getting done is the utilitarian:  the making of lists, the filling out of forms, and the writing of checks.
I like to dabble in organization.  That is not to say I am actually organized, but I like the trappings of order.  Of course, as a librarian my job is to create order out of chaos, and in libraries there is a structure in place to make that happen.  At home it’s a free-for-all.  I happen to be a compulsive and inveterate list maker with a really specific system that involves a completely redundant combination of my planner and post-it notes. Not just any post-its, but the yellow 2 ⅞ by 4 ⅞ variety. If they stopped making that size, my world would fall apart.  I write almost everything down on said post-its, in no particular order, so my list often reads something like:

  •   marjoram
  • school supplies
  •  terrarium sand
  • moss- Central park?
  • worms!
  •  airplants???,
  • find hat
  • fix camera
  • sitter for 30th
  • red tights
  • elec. bill
  • EKG for cat

When the note gets too full and things get crossed out, I (gasp) re-write it, which I have heard is totally counter-productive to actually being organized.  But there is something about the act of making the list that almost feels like doing the thing itself… until later, when the list is long and the things are never done – that’s when the list can turn on you.

I am fascinated by the way people organize the minutiae of their daily lives.  Do they use planners? Digital apps like Priorities or Tasks or Things? I love me some Google Calendar, but I can’t quite get with the Tasks app.  I’m still wedded to the post-its.  Not long ago, I met with a fellow post-it using librarian friend (Yes, there are at least two of us out there…) and we went to the Morgan Library to see how artists organize their daily lives through the exhibit:  Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.  It’s a small, easily digestible exhibition that gives a glimpse into the daily lives of people known more for sweeping gestures of high art than for stopping by the store on the way home.  I love that Franz Kline’s 1960 grocery list included corn flakes, eggs, bananas and V-8.  And I swooned over painter Adolf Konrad’s packing list for a trip abroad where instead of writing everything down he sketched it out. Complete with a drawing of himself in his underwear:

Adolf Konrad, packing list, December 16, 1963. Adolf Ferdinand Konrad papers, 1962–2002. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibit includes all kinds of lists and enumerations, from Picasso’s handwritten list of recommendations for the Armory show to Arthur Dove’s list of abbreviations for the weather to Eero Saarinen’s most beautiful list of the qualities he found best about his wife.  But my favorites of all were the journals of Janice Lowry,  an artist I wasn’t familiar with until this show .  She intertwined her daily to-do lists with the journals she kept for over 30 years into beautiful collages that celebrate that mundane compulsion to write it all down.  Everything from buying stamps to listing all the people she needed to forgive. She died too young, but her lists are something to aspire to.  If you want to see them for yourself, the Morgan show runs until October 3rd.  Check it out and make a list.  Fall seems to be the season of organization – what do you use to keep it all together?

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