Things you won’t do again lists

I keep lists, lots of lists, and my friend Brittany thinks this habit is “adorable” and “precious.” She recently sent me a link to author Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s website (a link that is NOT safe for work) about a list Amy has decided to keep.

In opposition to a bucket list (a list of things you wish to do before you kick the bucket), Amy has also started a list of things she doesn’t want to do. The name of her list rhymes with bucket but begins with the letter F. If you didn’t click on the link above, just think about it for a second and you’ll eventually figure out why I’m not naming it outright on our family-friendly website.

Brittany is well aware of the fact that I already have a list such as this, though mine is lacking Amy’s naming creativity and is simply called: “Things I won’t do again.” This list is as important to me and the way I live my life as is my list of things I want to do. Often, expressing what you won’t do leads to very positive results.

For example, when I was in my 20s, I abandoned my car in the middle of the street to engage in an intense yelling match with a woman over a parking space. There was a lot of nonsensical screaming about how I felt entitled to a spot that this woman stole from me — and, well, the police became involved. I wasn’t protesting against human trafficking or genocide or something actually horrific, I was on the verge of being arrested over a small piece of pavement in front of a CVS Pharmacy. Hours later, when I had calmed down, the embarrassment of the situation led me to write “I will never fight with anyone over a stupid parking space again” at the top of a new list. In DC, where parking can be a nightmare, this life rule has led me to be calmer when hunting for parking, kept me out of jail, and also out of physical harm.

Most of the items on my “Things I won’t do again” list actually have to do with being an unclutterer, which is why I’m mentioning Amy’s list, my list, and my awesome friend Brittany. Here are a handful of them:

  • I will not go more than a week without doing the laundry (except in cases of a structural impediment, like being without power, or when on vacation).
  • I will not throw my clothes on the floor and I will not put wet clothes or towels in the hamper.
  • I will not keep a gift out of guilt.
  • I will never abandon a pan on the stove for hours with food still in it that needs to be disposed or refrigerated.

This list is especially good at motivating me to stay on top of my responsibilities. In the evenings, when the siren call of the television and comfy couch are singing my name, I’ll first take care of chores before kicking up my feet and relaxing. I’ll say to myself, “I don’t go more than a week without doing the laundry,” and then put a load of clothes in the washing machine.

Do you have a “Things I won’t do again” list, or a more creatively named one like Amy? If you think it could motivate you to change your behavior in a positive way, maybe this strategy could work for you. It has certainly helped me to maintain an uncluttered life.

47 Comments for “Things you won’t do again lists”

  1. posted by Sue on

    I love this idea! I’m a fan of lists, but it never occurred to me to make a list of reminders of things never to do again.

  2. posted by Sarah on

    I like it! I don’t have a list like this though in my head there are those kinds of ideas-my most current one would be, I won’t start on a new creative project, without putting the things from the last one away’. This would be closely followed by ‘I won’t let the back room get in the mess it was in before I sorted it out(again)again!’
    Perhaps I should start writing them down. Another one is I won’t let my email inbox get to over 100 unopened emails again’-and after reading about the man who receives far more than that a day I feel it should be easy. Off to read the link now as not at work! As this is the forst time I have commented her just want to say thanks for all the great ideas shared.

  3. posted by Amy on

    Top thing on my list of things NOT TO DO is to not give free rent in my head to people who have been less than kind to me. It’s a small number, fortunately.
    Top thing on my list of things TO DO is to count my blessings instead.

    The basic housekeeping stuff has never been much of an issue for me. My Grandmother was a great teacher!

  4. posted by s on

    @Amy, could you teach me the basic housekeeping stuff? Schedule, products, methods…

  5. posted by PB on

    This is great! It reminds me of a book I recently paged through at the library called “101 Things Not to See Before You Die” by Catherine Price. Funny, and insightful!

  6. posted by Julia on

    A friend of mine did exactly this, although informally. He said he carried two buckets – one of s..tuff he wanted to do, the other of stuff he never wanted to do again (this was 20 years before the movie.)

    It would be a good idea to sit down and think about this. I guess “never marry again” would be at the top of mine – but there are certainly additional things I need to consider.

  7. posted by Matt on

    My father has a pretty good motto in regard to gifts, “Once you give someone a gift, it is up to them as to what they want to do with it.”

    While this may seem like a simple statement, so many people keep things just because someone else gave it to them, even if they didn’t want anything to do with that gift.

    If you think along the lines of, “this is mine now and I can do what I want with it,” that should help remove some of the remorse if you regift that item to someone who would enjoy it more or just sell it to get money for something else you do want.

    One thing I have learned over time is that no matter how much you insist not to, people will always give you gifts. But it is up to you what to do with them.

  8. posted by OogieM on

    Phrasing things as I won’t never works as well as phrasing them in a positive manner.

    I think there was even research proving that we can;t process a negative statement as accurately as a positive one.

    So instead of a never do list I’d much rather see a positive list.

    For example “I will not throw my clothes on the floor and I will not put wet clothes or towels in the hamper.” Should be phrased as: I put my dry dirty clothes in the hamper as soon as I take them off. Wet clothes are hung to dry before going into the hamper.

    So no, I do not have any will not do lists. I do have lists of behaviors and things to change that are phrased in a positive manner.

  9. posted by Marinda on

    I never engage with door to door sales people or people handing out religious material. I thank them for their effort and close the door. It was a Mormon missionary couple that taught me that lesson.

    I don’t go to bed with dishes in the sink. Roaches taught me that.

    I don’t go crazy when I miss something on the television, it’s just not worth getting worked up over it and with Netflix/hulu/tivo/reruns I will catch it again.

    Lately, two family members have been impolite to me about gifts I have given them, and I have been lowkey about this, basically “I’m sorry the gift didn’t work out” and then change the subject. My MIL went so far as to request this item and then complain about it. After its given, it is theirs to do as they wish, even complain about it. But I don’t have to listen to those complaints more than once and I can still think that it’s rude.

  10. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    I adore Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Her _Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life_ remains a favorite.

    I have a Da**it List (concept totally swiped from @Havi over at the Fluent Self), only without the asterisks. This includes musts, won’ts, and never agains. Much of mine revolves around my work (e.g., “My workspace must have natural light, and preferably a view, da**it” and “I will not ever take on a thesis/dissertation editing project again, da**it”), but there are some personal things on there, too (e.g., “I will not allow negative people to suck up my rare free time, da**it”). It’s all about building those velvet ropes and keeping the suck out of my life.

  11. posted by Annie on

    At first I thought “nah,” but then I realized that I actually have a mental version of that list in my head. Perhaps it would be freeing to write it down?

  12. posted by WilliamB on

    (serious question, joking tone) I’m almost afraid to ask … how do you keep track of all your lists?

  13. posted by Kirstine Vergara on

    This is what I should have – a not to do again list. Lists run my life and although I always update my to-do list, I still end up neglecting some of them. 🙁

    Anyway, one of the top items in my not-to-do-again list is stop making to-do lists that I won’t really do. :0

  14. posted by barb in Edmonton on

    I can remember saying to myself years ago as I left a McDonald’s “restaurant” … I will never eat a Big Mac again.

    That was just the first step toward better eating.

  15. posted by Franklin on

    I’ve got to agree with OogieM here: I don’t have enough time in my life to concentrate on what not to do. And as we know, uncluttering physical, material objects is great, but uncluttering your time can be an even more powerful tool! After all, money and resources (from an individual standpoint) can be almost unlimited; time, on the other hand, is quite finite for us. We’ve got to make the most of it. Maybe that’ll be something to put on my to-do list: use time well.

  16. posted by GayleRN on

    I have two mental lists, which are actually just categories that I mentally assign things or situations to. One is the Scarlett O’Hara agenda which means that I’ll think about it tomorrow. The other is the Rhett Butler agenda which means that Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d**n. Occasionally I will even make these assignments out loud which will vastly amuses women over a certain age. The older I get the more stuff gets assigned to the Rhett Butler agenda.

  17. posted by Britany on

    I love to run, but something I’ve never had any ambition to do is run a marathon. I am entirely content with my daily 3-5 mile run, and occasion race in a 5,8 or 10K, but I will never run a marathon.

  18. posted by Amy on

    Dear s, you’re kidding, right? The stuff she wrote about not putting wet towels in the hamper, I mean, really, how lazy can a person be? That sort of housekeeping is expected of rebellious, passive-aggresive teenagers, of whom you’re not the boss of and you’re not going to get compliance no matter what because they have to be free of all these BS rules and whatever!

  19. posted by s on

    @Amy – sorry I misunderstood your first post. I agree that folks need to think about the consequences of their laziness…

  20. posted by camellia tree on

    I put reminders like these on my calendars for the things I always forget. I need Sunday- the whole entire day- to be free of plans/places I need to be. I spend the day cleaning and generally getting things in order for the week ahead. When I don’t do this my happiness generally drops off pretty quickly as the week goes on. So I have it written on my yahoo calendar “DAY OFF DO NOT MAKE PLANS”. Yes, it would be better if I didn’t need the reminder. But I do.

    I also have a list of people I consider to be “energy theives”. This has helped me a lot in terms of minimizing their energy drain.

    Generally, I do have experiences from time to time where I say to myself, “never again”, and sometimes I write these things down to remind myself. Once or twice a year I write up a list of goals, and yes, there are some negatives on the goal list (“do not go out more than twice a week”, etc.).

    As someone who is afflicted with the disease that is people-pleasing, negative statements written down can be very effective in minimizing the effects of this terrible disease.

  21. posted by Alix on

    I think keeping a “don’t” list is a lovely respite from so many “to dos”!

    And for some reason I’m getting a big kick out of the idea that this blog’s calm, uncluttered editor almost got arrested once over a parking space. Hee hee!

  22. posted by Patch on

    See now? This is what I love about de-cluttering: it’s not just for unwanted Stuff, but for Toxic People and Wrong-For-Me Activities as well.

    It also works for designining your Dream Job / Dream Life: what you do & don’t want, and then adding or getting rid of whatever it takes to make that happen.

  23. posted by Ted Trembinski on

    I find the “Things to not do” is much more effective for me, compared to the “Things to do”. As in, it’s much easier to say “I will not eat chocolate unless it is given as a gift from someone else” than to say “I will eat better”. Your example of “Not putting dirty laundry anywhere but the hamper” has been effective for me too.

  24. posted by Aaron on

    I have such a list, and if I put it in writing I would of course have to exclude the illegal and the most embarrassing poorly conceived acts of debauchery. In addition to the mundane like “be rude to phone customer service reps,” I also have a host of things that just made me feel dirty, things that went right on the list with little internal deliberation. One of those is “consent to a full body scan at an airport.” Another, “be a dog of the military.”

  25. posted by camellia tree on

    Ted reminded me of my ultimate negative list…the list at the back of my food log with all of my diet don’ts. Ah how I wish I could follow this list. Just for entertainment, here are a few: don’t go out to eat; don’t drink alcohol; never drink a calorie; no bagels, chocolate stores, crackers, cookies, bread, cold cereal, or potatoes. Ha ha.

  26. posted by lazycow on

    Oh Erin, right there with you on the screaming match over a parking spot. The man I was arguing with actually took a Kung Fu fighting stance and was ready to kick my car door in! That was 20 years ago and I’ve never done anything like it since.

  27. posted by Chloe on

    I would probably use this list for more mundane things that I forget and then cause me to waste time and money. For example, “If you haven’t washed your car in 12 months don’t expect it to be sparkling from a quick trip through the service station automatic wash!.” and “Don’t go to Ikea”.

  28. posted by Malcolm on

    Good idea to have a mental *ucket list, probably the best thing is to write it down as “things I do not ever want to do again” and then re-word it into a positive form.

    We have a deal in my household: after any experience which one of us does not ever want to repeat, the phrase used is “just remind me, NEVER to do that again”….

    But Chloe – the list is going to be enormous if you put every thing on it which causes a waste of time and money! How can that work?

  29. posted by panig on

    I think this idea will really work for me. Negativity can be more effective than positivity because a negative message can be more direct and clear. Lists with statements such as ” I won’t stay up late” will be more effective for me than the statement ” I will go to bed early”. The positive statement will raise a lot of why’s ans how’s. The negative statement, “I won’t stay up late” is straight forward.

  30. posted by Sara on

    I’m with Britany, except instead of not wanting to run a marathon, I do not ever want to climb Mount Everest. No, thank you. I also never want to open my own restaurant. I think there’s something freeing about leaving these things off my life list or bucket list or whatever list because I KNOW that I don’t want to do them. Ever.

  31. posted by suzjazz on

    I will never again make friends with an alcoholic. I have had to ditch several over the years because they were major energy drainers. I will never gain back the 27 lbs. it has taken me 1.5 years to lose. I will never play piano or keyboard at a commercial gig (i. e. not jazz) no matter how much I need the money.

  32. posted by Chloe on

    Good point Malcolm. I will stick to the things that I repeatedly do then regret. Like buy non-stretch jeans.

  33. posted by Clarice on

    I don’t get it…is it a ‘Nantucket’ list…?! ;0)

  34. posted by Franklin on

    I’m thinking of adding a “never going to buy a sailboat and try to cross the Pacific with it” clause to my do-not-do list.

  35. posted by Menopausal Entrepreneur on

    Oh this is such a good idea and a great post! Timely too because I just wrote about the bucket list on my blog. Okay, what things won’t I do again? On the top of my list is telling people about the latest book I’m writing. Lots of copycats out there!! Which leads me to the next item: I will be more careful of who I let into my personal circle.

  36. posted by Franklin on

    @Menopausal Entrepreneur
    The personal circle idea is good. I’m taking that right now to an online level. The Internet is unfortunately accompanied by a lack of privacy, and using online services means that they have your personal data stored. I’d be wary of posting my entire life on a blog or social networking site, simply because the Internet has a way of coming back to bite.
    At any rate, I think my “not-to-do” in this case is “don’t post so much about myself on Facebook. Keep it for the people I actually know.”

    All in all, excellent suggestion.

  37. posted by Barb @ 1SentenceDiary on

    I’m with Alix — getting a big kick out of imagining Erin, the seemingly unflappable unclutterer, in a parking lot screaming match.

    It’s good to know that we’re all human.

  38. posted by Lucy on

    My very first “I don’t do this” rule came long ago after one of those home-gift-plastic-container type parties. It has saved me time and money and I don’t have to make excuses. I just say no. I love having rules or boundaries or whatever they are called nowadays. Talk about simple.

  39. posted by gypsy packer on

    From my quote file, via the famous Anonymous: Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.
    I don’t use a list, just say “H**l No” as the events occur.

  40. posted by cariba on

    I will not ever do a triathlon again. They’re too much of a hassle with too much equipment to deal with when you are wet.

    I will not go to any more of those craft parties women do where we all stamp greeting cards or make beaded bracelets. I am not crafty and I just feel bored, clutzy, and alienated.

  41. posted by ccherry on

    I do not give gifts to every kid in my world. I only give kid gifts if I’m invited to the birthday party. And yes, this even applies to my best friend’s daughter.

  42. posted by Lim on

    I will never ignore prolonged, intense pain coupled with digestive difficulties, no matter how much a trip to the doctor’s office costs, again. Hospitalization costs far more.

    I will never be volunteered again. I haven’t had any affiliation with the church in over a decade and feel no need to help them. I gladly volunteer my time for organizations I want to support and my mother just has to come to terms with that.

    I will never again stay in a class if the teacher just sits in front of the class and reads directly from the text book. First class I will stay after and ask if that is what an average class is like. If it is I will go directly to my advisor and drop as quickly as possible. It is a waste of my time, money, and even a waste of the minimal amount of effort needed to pass to sit through it.

    Most importantly-I will never buy Cumberland Farms brand bbq chips again. I have never had worse heartburn. It felt as if I was breathing fire for hours and nothing helped.

  43. posted by JC on

    I will always ignore those who comment on my parenting when they have no idea what my life is like.

    I will also ignore the pressure of family members to parent differently, especially those who exacerbate the problems.

    I will never chop habanero peppers without wearing gloves again: which leads to I will never touch my skin after chopping said pepper.

    I will not give in to pressure to make time consuming gifts for people I don’t know well (ie. 30 hours of hand embroidery on a baby dress that the baby never wore).

    I will not waste my time/money with a counselor that isn’t a good fit.

  44. posted by claire7676 on

    Good ones…I’m with Malcolm, also. My current list includes:

    -NEVER stay with family for more that 5 nights (we all end up on each other’s nerves).
    -Don’t ever eat beans again (always need meds afterwards).
    -Don’t take 495 W around DC again (being stuck in traffic for 2 hours is no fun).

  45. posted by Michele on

    I think this is a great idea. Perhaps it may be helpful to some to view it as a “lessons learned” list rather than a “negative” list.

    Such as “Do not loan my car to a ‘friend of a friend’ ” (lesson learned!) “Do not sample one of every snack at the State Fair” (groan) “Do not agree to volunteer every time someone asks you to” (must. preserve. sanity.) “Do not ignore ‘minor’ health issues. They only grow up to be *major* health issues.” (lesson learned. more than once.)

    I once started a similar work-related “Things I Won’t Do” list. When supervisors or co-workers have done something that really gets to me, I add it to the list- no names of course, just the idea- for future reference, when I am in their position. For example “I will never run meetings without an agenda” or “I will never ignore team members’ concerns about a professional issue” or “I will never take credit for a subordinate’s work without recognizing his/her contribution” “I will never hire anyone without verifying his/her references and qualifications” That type of thing.

  46. posted by Brittany on

    I love lists, as well. Let it not be said otherwise.

    Right now, I am going to get to work on my List Of Things I Will No Longer Tolerate, as Amy Krouse Rosenthal suggests. It might get long.

  47. posted by Kathy on

    I will never again attend an opening night of any “Harry Potter Movie.”

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