Beginnings: To-Do Lists

When I first started thinking about blogging, I planned to write in such a way that responded to some of the other blogs I follow, blogs that deal exclusively with homemaking (especially in the Christian conception of caring for the home). These blogger-women give examples of their daily to-do lists, update followers on their pregnancies, and recount housekeeping dilemmas.  The more I follow these blogs and read these women’s stories, I’m compelled by the sense of assuredness that permeates their writing. They deeply associate the work that they do in the home with a kind of spiritual work, one that reunites them to the simplicity of selfless service and compassion. This work is also tremendously detail-oriented, concerned with perfecting the little things which make the “whole” that much more special.

Sometimes they will post a brief list of the things they’ve done in a day (one format of this is the Woman’s Daybook), filling in their followers on what they’re listening to, what they’re making for dinner, and what they’re reading. Reading through these posts, I couldn’t help but feel that their days were somewhat empty, maybe even too concerned with moments and tasks that were quotidian, mundane.

But this is one instance where I’m slowly changing my mind. What if our to-do lists were executed with the sense that our actions are Kingdom oriented, that God truly is “in the pots and pans”?

What if doing the dishes (my job in our home) was a chance for me to imagine a stripping away of my own pretentiousness, getting back to a clean start?

What if I consistently viewed cooking as a creative outlet as well as a time of service?

I can’t disagree with the fact that my to-do list is infused with purpose when I “re-envision” each task as a form of sacrament—a way to connect to God and others.

Turns out, this isn’t a new thing. In the nineteenth-century, women often made extensive to-do lists that they conceived of as a way of “bringing the kingdom.” Each task could be instilled with virtue and purpose, no matter how menial. As Jane Tompkins explains in her book, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, these women felt that the precise execution of these other-oriented tasks could quicken the coming of the Kingdom of God.

I should qualify here that I (personally) don’t get apocalyptic when I write up a to-do list, but I do want the events of my day (grad school, home, or work related) to be true, good, and purposeful.