The tyranny of the to-do list

The house needs vacuuming. Laundry needs folding. The two dogs need to be brushed. The garden – such as it is – needs weeding. The attic needs clearing out and organizing. As does the hall closet. There’s so much to be done around here, I don’t know where to begin.

I’m lucky to be married to a hard-working, helpful husband who does more than his share of the work around here. But the weather has been uncooperative of late, and our schedules have been so busy, that the chores and tasks keep piling up. When that happens, I tend to feel overwhelmed. And when I’m overwhelmed, I can’t think straight.

Sound familiar?

With or without multiple sclerosis, life’s to-do lists can be daunting. For many with MS, physical limitations add to the frustration: It’s hard enough to keep up with everything that needs doing when your body cooperates, and even harder when your body balks at doing the work.

I think it’s important not to give up. We need to keep active, do what we can, keep chipping away at the to-do list, remain optimistic that some day we will be all caught up.

But it’s also important to be realistic. I’m not going to vacuum, fold the laundry, groom the dogs, weed the garden, and clean the attic and the closets this weekend. It’s just not happening. So I need to prioritize and pick a handful of projects that ARE do-able over the next few days. The others? Well, they’ll just have to wait.

Most important of all is maintaining perspective. In the grand scheme of things, how much does weeding the garden this weekend matter? What will happen if I never get around to it? And is vacuuming the house more important than, say, hanging out with my kids or taking a nice bike ride? Is cleaning the attic more important than sitting down for a glass of wine with my husband?

I think not.

I’m not relinquishing my responsibilities around here. But I am acknowledging that if I don’t get around to everything on my to-do list this weekend, it won’t be the end of the world.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having MS, it’s that life is too short to be uptight about the small stuff.

How about you? Do you stress out about everything you think you need to get done? Has that changed since you were diagnosed with MS?
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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is

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  • Tamara   Jun 21, 2013 2:52 PM
    aside from some carpal tunnel and a minor leg tremor, my greatest symptoms are pretty much of the executive function and fatigue variety, so even when I'm able bodied, just the multitasking can be a challenge. I keep lists to stay focused (including reminders to eat a meal or drink water, even). The hardest part is that people can't see what it feels like to struggle while doing a physical task like laundry while having a conversation with TV on in the background and someone asking me, suddenly, to recall something. Does not compute! When I tell my teens to write down whatever they need to ask or tell me, they roll their eyes. They are used to super mom with a brain like a database. Sometimes I explain that "my hourglass is spinning," and they understand then that I need a "reboot."
  • Sharon McLean   Jun 21, 2013 8:29 PM
    So true, everything you wrote, I've had diagnosis of MS since 2001, my biggest symptom even from before then has been fatigue, everyday apart from the last few months I have had excruciating Trigeminal Neuralgia to one degree or another, that has literally robbed me of any energy I did not have,if that's possible,in other words have been mostly exhausted for a long time
    I would love to be able to do my own house cleaning my way & get depressed with the collection of "stuff " that forever gets larger
  • Karen Karas   Jun 22, 2013 10:09 AM
    I've had MS since mid-2005. I was home a few months but insisted on going back to work in December and have continued through today. My commuter train ride is close to two hours a day + full 8 hrs M-F. I am fortunate to work at home 2 days a week during summer mos. I have a large workload, and honestly when the weekends come, I hibernate to get some rest for the upcoming week. I wash my clothes to have them ready...i try to cook dinner on one weekend night..but honestly, my husband carries most of the load, without complaint..God bless him. He just retired this Jan. and I will be eligible for early retirement the end of this year, so I'm holding on. I have the better Ins. plan, so I will be able to keep it Faith and our pets, give me joy and something to look forward to when I am home.. Stay well, everyone..
  • Kristin Bennett   Jun 22, 2013 9:27 PM
    Hi there! I was diagnosed with MS in 2001 too :-) I just found a tool called Trello that is awesome for organizing to-do lists...I'm kind of a groupie for it already, and combined with for things I want to have on my list to establish as habits (laundry/dishes etc.) I can keep track of doing those things too. I thought it might help others since it is helping me so much!

    Kristin - Founder of
  • Arlene   Jun 23, 2013 3:47 PM
    Learning to delegate in a nice way, is key. I can't do half of what I used to consider routine...laundry etc. My husband's parents have been married 70 years, we learn from them how to take care of eachother, they are 93 and 96, we are 59 and 62, married 35 years. So, I, too, am blessed with a wonderful husband, and very wonderful friends, who help me get in and out of cars, or whatever...don't even have to ask. MS is a dreadful hand to be dealt, but everyone tells me to consentrate on the things I do, not the things I can't do.
  • Avatar
    THERESAF  Jun 24, 2013 6:11 AM
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    THERESAF  Jun 24, 2013 6:26 AM
  • mistydiane506  Jun 27, 2013 8:08 PM
    my floors need mopping,the clothes needs washing and all my kids do is ask me ''what's for dinner'' not '' what do i need help with''.But i guess thats what keeps me going strong.Knowing someone still needs me.