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By now you have figured out that I am a big fan of routines, scaffolding, done-for-me checklists, and the like. This is because I am a terrible decision-maker when under pressure, and you know what? There’s a lot of pressure about!

Honestly, if life were all white-sand beaches, Paris Fashion Week and Idris Elba, well, me and my nervous system would have an easy time figuring out the self-caring thing to do in any situation.

But we live on Earth, aka Planet of Disaster, where you need 86 spare keys and a spot of backup for pretty much everything else, too.

Thus, routines.

Here is my favorite new routine this year: The Self-Care Inventory Day. I’ve been doing something similar for ages, but this is a clever improvement from Sabrina Hersi Issa, via the podcast Call Your Girlfriend.

As Sabrina does it, Self-Care Inventory Day falls once a month on the same day. Sabrina does hers the day her birthday falls on, but you could do yours on the first Thursday, or anything you like.

This is not a staycation weekend to handle everything on your list and empty your mending basket, too. (Although the self-care staycation weekend is an excellent idea, come to think of it, and I’m going to put one of those in the calendar when I finish typing this sentence.)

Nope, all we’re doing here is taking a couple of hours to assess the state of our domain, and address some basic needs.

Now, I am not going to hoodwink you. Sabrina Hersi Issa is a Force of Nature! I could not possibly hope to accomplish a fraction of what this woman addresses in her Inventory. (I also have one day job in contrast to Sabrina’s five or six.) So she obviously has a time turner, and can include things I leave out.

What I’ve taken from Sabrina is the idea of a dedicated time for DOING stuff, not simply checking its status. So far, two hours a month has been tolerable. Hopefully you will agree, because this is the kind of stuff that could otherwise stay at the bottom of our list all year.

What Is Self-Care Inventory Day?

How to do it:

  1. Pick a day for your inventory, and schedule it to repeat monthly. (You can put it in your calendar right now, if you like.) Block out two hours, or whatever time you’re able to spend.
  2. Make yourself a checklist. There’s a sample below you can use as a starting point.
  3. When it’s time, review your inventory. See what’s on fire (maybe nothing, in future, but the first time around there will probably be some sparks). Handle the hot items now, or make appointments to have them taken care of.
  4. Take note of what’s in great shape, and congratulate yourself for already taking care of business as you make checkmarks.
  5. Everything else is somewhere in the middle:  not a disaster, but could use attention. Do whatever you can in the time you have left: tidy up financial transactions, clean out your bag, cancel an unused credit card. If all else is equal, choose things that can be completed during the session.
  6. When the time’s up, know that next month you’ll get to what’s left. Or more of it, anyway.

What’s On Your List?

Here are some suggestions for your checklist. Customize at will. This is just a place to start, not the only key to heaven.

  • Ask: Do I need prescriptions renewed? (contacts, medications)
  • Do I need appointments for exams? (eyes, teeth, pelvic, mammogram, colon, annual physical)
  • Do I need appointments for regular maintenance? (nails, hair, teeth)
  • How’s my water filter? My dryer vent? That complicated trap arrangement in the dishwasher that I don’t like to think about but surely needs cleaning?
  • Is it time to replace batteries on my alarms?
  • Is the earthquake/emergency kit in good shape?
  • Does my bag need restocking? Is there enough Advil and lip balm and other little necessities of comfort?
  • Download and review statements.
  • Set up credit card or recurring bill payments.
  • Run a free credit check on yourself. Close accounts you don’t use.
  • Ask: Do I need to make spending or savings changes? Consolidate accounts? Diversify some other thing?
  • Get your checkbook up to date.
  • Take all the receipts out of your wallet; keep the ones you need and toss the rest.

For my list, I’ve concentrated on the practical and mundane, because managing the checkbook is the kind of place where things can get away from me. But you may wish to include more spiritual concerns, as Sabrina does. Whatever you need to be well provisioned for your stay here on the planet! And in only two hours a month.

Please let us know what’s on your list in the comments below. And you can read or listen to more on the Self-Care Inventory Day here:

Call Your Girlfriend Episode #126: Level Up 2018!


Image: Detail from List of Color Symbols, Harmen ter Borch, c. 1659, Rijksmuseum

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • Max, believe me, I am listening to your main point. However, I want to say as an Art History undergrad, I love the illustrations that you choose for your articles. Fabulous.

    • Oh this is so lovely to hear! It is SUCH a fun thing to search out the perfect illustration. Long live the Rijksmuseum!

  • What a great idea! Especially for a serial procrastinator. First thing on my list will be…make a list!

  • With white legal note pads scattered around the house, I’m pretty good at making lists, not so good at getting to/or crossing off what’s written down on them. I like the idea of picking a date to start with. Thx!!

    • Right?! So good to just have a way to start…

  • Dear Max, I love you and your articles 🙂

  • This sounds like a great idea. Then things on your list actual get done, instead of becoming longer lists.

  • Just B R I L L I A N T ! Now I have an idea how to tackle all of those things that piled up and didn’t get done when I used my Strikplaner (which I loved…but felt there was room for improvement…and this is one of those places). I am going to try this…thanks!

  • Oh gosh, all of my September is needing a “state of the domain” assessment, which is usual for these months of busyness. Such a list like; body awareness in exercise, psych for self-care, easy meal times, get outside! And as always, what to knit and what audio book?
    Thanks for the promotion of lists.

  • Funny you should mention that… I am deep into getting my affairs in order after my husband’s death last month. I’m through the first round of form-filling-out and awaiting status reports from insurance & ESOP, our 40-year-old retaining wall won’t make it through next winter, the interior of the house needs painting, and some items I sold out-of-state have been paid for but not shipped. So. I made a list in my Bullet Journal this morning, phone calls were made to the insurance company, retiree benefits specialist, old classmate landscaper, specialty store shipper, and painter. Got one painting estimate, requested a second. Some satisfaction has been achieved, the estate attorney visited and (another) form signed, status reports requested, and just now I re-poked the shipper. I am Getting Things Done and checked off my BJ list. Self-care at its most basic. As a reward I get to have supper with the grandkids, read them stories and tuck them into bed tonight. Because I’m the Meemaw that Takes Care of Herself First. Now.

    • You are an inspiration <3

    • Barbara I have been a person rep for the estate of two people and it was like a second job, without retaining walls or painting. Sounds like you are taking care of your business and yourself. Wishing you grandkid hugs and relaxing knitting.

    • Sounds to me like you are in remarkably good shape after only a month since your husband’s death. Many people are still catatonic (and I don’t mean that in a critical way, just what I’ve observed as a minister). It’s a very hard and HUGE loss, so please give yourself a pat on the back and carry on. Hugs to those grandkids!

      • Thanks, Judy.

  • Another of your article’s well worth the reading, and a great example of why we (I!) need reminding of the plain good sense things that can easily simplify and destress daily life.
    For years I have been meaning to organise a session at a lawyers for myself, my partner of 35 years and my sister (paralysed the last six years and now unable to sign documents), to have wills updated and organise powers of attorney and enduring guardianships. This happened yesterday – my feeling of relief when we left after the two hour meeting was wonderful!

    • Omigosh!!! HUGE high fives for you! Big big big thing to check off the list.

  • Max – thank you thank you thank you for making the stuff that I know I should be doing on a regular basis and giving me a really easy way to just do it. I am consolidating all of my post-its of the little reminders I write myself into one area right now so I can look at all of the things I should do. And then to pause and think about the real basics – genius!! Thank you!

  • Hi Max. Reading you for the first time and really liking it! Is there a way to sign up for your weekly emails? Are you available only through MDK?

    • Hi K! I think Kay G sent you a note about this, but I don’t see the comment here. My website is at And there’s a subscribe link near the top of page <3

  • I like your idea to use the birthday as a reminder for doing self care issues. Already have a check list for household chores but a once a month home facial and review of fitness plan would be good for me. A few minutes with Ross Poldark would be the highlight.

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