The Master List Binder I Use for Everything from Taxes to Grocery Shopping

published Jun 18, 2023
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Mickleson Masters Lists binder on table.
Credit: Steph Mickelson

On my family’s third trip of the summer, as I stood staring at empty suitcases trying to remember what everyone needed to take, I thought, “There has to be a better way.” I’m a sucker for organization, so when I saw @thelaminimalist say that she created a packing list to make packing faster and less stressful, I was all in… but then I took it a step further.

You know how there are tasks that you tend to do over and over again, and every time, they’re just as stressful as the last time? Or the information that you’re always having to look up no matter how many times you’ve searched for it before? Or those once-a-year things that pop up and you can’t remember what you did last year? Enter the Master List Binder!

What Is a Master List Binder?

A Master List Binder is a centralized place to keep all of the lists, information, and materials that you keep going back to. 

My version, the Mickelson Master List Binder, holds the following:

  • Packing lists for myself, my husband, and our three kids
  • Daily schedules for summer and the school year
  • Activity list of fun things for the kids to do
  • Cleaning schedule
  • Holiday meal plans (including things I take to the in-laws’)
  • List of meals to cook
  • Grocery shopping list
  • Tax document checklist
  • Mortgage application material checklist

I keep a hard copy in a cupboard for easy access, and the pages are all in protective sleeves so I can change them out if necessary. I also have a Google doc that I update periodically. 

How a Master List Works

Much like a command center, the Master List Binder helps to keep the household running smoothly. When it’s time to pack for a trip, I bring it out, write the number of days I need to pack for at the top, and just run down the list. 

I only grocery shop once a month, so the master grocery list gets hung on the refrigerator, and I highlight things as I run out throughout the month (this is a work in progress!). When tax time rolls around, instead of scrambling to remember everything I need to gather, I simply print out the list, tape it to a folder, and check things off as they come. 

How to Start Your Own Master List Binder

The best thing about a Master List Binder is that it’s fully customizable. Everyone’s will be different, but here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Think of things that stress you out. Would a list make it easier to prepare for?
  2. Think of things that are repetitive. Holiday meals, sports seasons, taxes, car or home maintenance tasks. All of these things happen every year, so why not write down everything you need once and refer back to it?
  3. Tweak as you go. I’m on my third month of doing one grocery shop, and I’ve revised and added to the master grocery list each month. It’s not written in stone, it’s written in a Google doc that I can edit!
  4. Be on the lookout for other ways to optimize your systems. Would cleaning certain things on certain days help the house run more smoothly? Would a standard meal plan make the evenings easier? Once you get started, other things will pop up that you can add.

The Benefits of the Binder

While setting up all of the lists takes some time initially, it has been such a time-saver. There’s enough going on every day that taking a few things off the mental to-do list can have a huge impact. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of things I want to add — namely, a monthly cleaning list of bigger tasks (like changing air conditioning filters and resealing the deck). Good thing there’s plenty of room in the binder.