How to Organize a List

posted in: Organizing 2

How to Organize a ListDo you need some help organizing a list for a project at home or at work?

Are you looking for a few ways to make your existing lists a bit more organized?

In this post, I offer a few pointers to help you easily construct a list for your needs.

You can use these tips for pretty much any type of list: be it household, office, personal, or school-related.


Identify a specific subject for your list.

While lists can be incredibly handy, they can very easily get out of a hand.

One overzealous list-making session can generate an extremely long and unwieldy list with unnecessary items.

An easy way to restrict your list creation is to restrict it to a specific subject.

Examples might include, “Packing List for Vacation,” “Grocery List,” and “Office Filing Checklist.”

Besides, the more specific you can be about your list, the easier it will be to build and follow.

Brainstorm list items.

I find the most helpful way to create list items is to simply brainstorm ideas, and then capture them on paper or on-screen. The process is quick and focused; you can set aside a few minutes to generate several ideas one after another. Plus, when you write things down, it is easy to make visible connections with other items.

For instance, let’s say you’re planning on throwing a birthday party for a friend. All you can think of at the moment is buying a birthday cake from the bakery. But once you jot down “cake” on your list, you may be instantly reminded of birthday candles, a lighter, balloon, cups, plates, forks, a knife, coffee, napkins, streamers, and so on. Ta-da! You can then add these items to your list.

After you’ve completed your brainstorm session, put the list aside for a few hours, or even a day or two. Review the list with fresh eyes and freely add or delete items as necessary.

Create list categories.

Okay, now that you’ve got a giant list of items, how do you organize everything? This is where you start piecing together connections between your list items.

Take a glance at your list and look for similarities between items. What do you see? Are there certain items that just naturally go well together? Are there similarities in shape, size, length, weight, amount, type, or function? Start creating broad categories for these similar items.

Once you’ve got your list categories created, you can then begin dropping in list items underneath them, one by one. For example, for your birthday party list, you might come up with the following list categories: decorations, utensils, and food.

Then, you’d organize items into something like the following:


  • Balloons
  • Streamers
  • Candles


  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Knife
  • Forks
  • Napkins
  • Lighter


  • Birthday cake
  • Coffee

Refine your list.

Once you’ve listed items underneath categories, you can take things one step further. How can you turn your list into one that is even more organized and efficient? It’s all about organizing those list items just one more time.

Here’s a couple of list organizing ideas to get you started:

  • Organize items by date and time. Are there certain items that need to be completed sooner, rather than later?
  • Organize items sequentially. Are there certain items that need to be completed first, before completing other items?
  • Organize items alphabetically. This makes it very easy to find and refer to list items.
  • Organize items from the list. If things are getting a bit overwhelming, you may want to remove unnecessary or more detailed items from your list. You may want to consider writing a separate checklist, or sub checklist altogether, to keep things appropriately contained.

How about you? Do you use enjoy creating and using lists? How do you organize your lists? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.

2 Responses

  1. Janet Barclay

    I have recently started organizing my grocery list into sections, i.e. Produce, Meat, Frozen, etc. Now I hardly ever have to backtrack because I missed something!

    • Rashelle

      Isn’t it wonderful how a little bit of pre-organization makes even the simplest of tasks that much easier to complete? 🙂 Thanks for your comment!