COLM O'REGAN: Here's the problem with a to-do list...

I CROSSED it off with a flourish. No, a vehemence. This heat-seeking bullet point had been following me across multiple list-notebooks, bits of paper and random thoughts for too long.

Sorting out receipts may not seem like a moment that will bring pure joy. Indeed, it can bring some pain as I work out that some things are not tax deductible. Underpants don’t pass the Revenue’s “exclusive and wholly” expense test as I would have been wearing them anyway. Though they are holey.

But if you’ve been muttering to yourself “must do them receipts now” as a mantra for weeks on end, through births, deaths and marriages you will appreciate what it’s like to not have to do that again.

It’s like a very low-key version of the moment you wake up and realise you don’t need to do the Leaving Cert. One of the problems with TO-DO lists is that the moment by you think of something you need to do is rarely the moment when you are in a position to record it. Some of you as you read this now will be screaming: “There’s this App you can download and it...”

Save your breath. I’ve tried them and they don’t work for me. Because I am a bad person. The TODO app I need either does the task for me or reads my mind as soon as I have the thought, takes out a wipeable marker and writes it on the our big new fridge-magnet todo thingy.

It arrived, as a lot of things do now from China. The packages from China have been more and more numerous. Our address nestled in amongst all the Chinese characters is the only thing I can understand from the envelope. I’m assuming the characters translate as: “Here is some more cheap plastic stuff to satisfy your relentless, destructive and sometimes futile appetite for cheap plastic stuff.”

But at least from now until the planet’s destruction, we have a TODO system that works. And it’s all because of that most pleasing of technologies - the fridge magnet.

You may have once sneered at fridge magnets in your time. Maybe you went on holidays to somewhere you thought was going to be unspoiled. You were hoping to see natives in their colourfully woven cloaks greet you and tell you you were the first foreigner they’d met. Instead they had the gall to try and make a living and sell you souvenir fridge magnets during your holiday.

Well let me tell you a fact about fridge magnets. They stick to the fridge. And you’re always going to be passing the fridge. A fridge is a vertical surface.

Vertical surfaces that become useful in a small house is practically like building an extension.

If I were redoing this house I’d make all the walls metal. And make everything else magnetic. And every single loose thing would be stuck to them. Receipts, socks, babies, anything that needed to be just placed somewhere off the floor for two minutes until I had a chance to think.

I look with pure envy on the two children. They have nothing on their To-do list. But I can’t remind them of this.

The parenting manuals are very clear on the need to not put a child to bed with a lullaby bemoaning how you’ve a million and one things to do. Although “Twinkle Twinkle little star/You don’t know how lucky you are. Up above the world so bright/While I’m down here neck-deep in shite” has a nice ring to it.

But do To-do lists are quite existential. I may fantasise about having nothing to do but what happens when we get to the end of the list? What do we do then? Is that when you die? Is that the last thing on the list? Crossed off tactfully and respectfully by the undertaker. I’ll leave that maudlin thought for now. Something has just caught my eye on the fridge. There’s a ‘do’ to be done.


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