You can learn a lot about a person from the way they list.
Most people limit their list making to the practical — for grocery-store items, guest lists, packing checklists and other routine to-dos.
But I like to think that I take listing to a whole new level.
I’m constantly chronicling the things I love, the things I loathe, daily tasks and goals for the future.
Over the years I’ve compiled hundreds of lists to organize my thoughts, to catalogue my interests and to archive my life.
I make lists everywhere: On the magnetic notepad on my refrigerator, on napkins at restaurants, on my hand and in my head.
Lists are scrawled in the margins of my travel journals; they clutter up the desktop on my MacBook and often appear in this very column.
Sometimes my lists are incredibly organized — numerical, alphabetical, chronological — but most are completely haphazard and almost entirely illegible.
While checklists are certainly the most sensible form of listing, I prefer to make countdowns. The best brunch places in the city, the worst movies of all time, the most romantic places I’ve ever been, the books I’d bring to a desert island, favourite ice cream flavours and on and on and on.
After watching High Fidelity, I developed a habit of making Top Five lists in every conceivable category. John Cusack’s character’s obsession with listing everything from his favourite records to his most memorable breakups really spoke to my affinity for categorization.
Even while writing this, I’m finding it difficult to resist the urge to compile a list of reasons why lists are so remarkable.
They bring order to our lives in the present and act as a reference point for the future.
Lists offer tiny glimpses into our daily routines, our best intentions and our biggest regrets.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a tear-stained bullet-point list titled Reasons to Never Get Back Together with Your Ex tells you a lot more about that relationship than a photograph ever will.
Our lists not only remind us to pick up milk; they tell the stories of who we are and who we want to be. They are perfunctory, ambitious, heartbreaking, scathing, hilarious and, more often than not, they are wonderfully self-indulgent.