A Lovely Life List

This isn’t a bucket list. These aren’t things I need to cross off before I die. Will I ever accomplish everything here? Probably not, but that’s not the goal. This list exists simply as a collection of things I would like to do in my lifetime. If writing them down helps me focus, and in turn helps me achieve some of them, the list has served its purpose.

A life list should never make you feel guilty for not accomplishing something! It should serve as a compass, opening you up to experiences that you may have discounted otherwise. I started this list in 2010, inspired by Maggie. My hope is that by sharing this publicly, I will hold myself accountable and achieve more than I would otherwise. I tend to do well with public lists.

I come back and edit this post as I cross things off, and I fully expect this list to change as time goes on.



Just Plain Fun

  • Make a dollhouse for Eleanor
  • Finish a paint-by-numbers painting
  • Wear a ridiculous hat to an event
  • Dress up with friends for a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Experience weightlessness
  • Beat the classic Super Mario Bros. game
  • Learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube
  • Wear a sequined dress to a party
  • Have the Thriller dance in my repertoire




  • Only wear lovely undergarments
  • Ruthlessly edit my closet down to only my favorite things
  • Find my perfect shade of lipstick
  • Sew a dress for myself that I would actually wear
  • Wear perfume regularly again


Professional / Career

  • Publish a book
  • Be a keynote speaker
  • Have a monthly column in a magazine
  • Start a charitable creative movement (like a chain letter but more fulfilling)
  • Do/create something worthy of being nominated as a MacArthur Fellow
  • Meet Martha Stewart
  • Meet Jonathan Adler
  • Redesign Making it Lovely
  • Sell my designs through a nationwide store
  • Art direct a photo shoot
  • Name paint colors
  • Design wallpaper
  • Judge a design competition
  • Create a proper portfolio for myself
  • Decorate someone else’s home from top to bottom
  • Make enough money to support my family
  • Make an appearance in five forms of media (book, magazine, television, radio, internet)
  • Have my home featured in a Domino-like magazine or book


  • Take a photo every day for a year
  • Start a family tradition
  • Choose a good cookbook and cook every recipe in it
  • Give only handmade gifts for a year

137 Responses to “A Lovely Life List”

  1. Rebecca S. November 7, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    This is a great life list, very inspiring! I’m working on my own as well!

  2. Kerry November 7, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    This is a fantastic list (and idea)! It reminds me of my best friend and I making lists of predictions of our futures to be read years down the line. We have one that’s 8 years old now ready to be read! I also like how you described this as more of a compass than anything :)

  3. Timmi November 7, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    I think your list is great! Some are fun and easily attainable while others may seem far-fetched but attainable. All worth doing in a lifetime to make that last breath easy knowing of all the memories you have made. Good luck! Hope everyone is feeling better

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:10 am #

      We’re on what, week four of everyone being sick? Hopefully we’ll all be better soon. I think we’re on the mend (finally).

  4. Alison November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Great list! Lots of fun things, plenty of things that will challenge you…and as a reader, plenty of things that I know I will get to benefit from :)

    I was also inspired by Maggie to write a list last year (and I call mine my Lovely Life List, too!), and right now I am in the middle of living out a couple of my dreams. Fun stuff! That Maggie, she’s a real peach.

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      It’s a good name for a list. ;) I’m so glad Maggie has given so many of us the kick in the pants needed to make our own lists!

  5. Holly November 7, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    It gets even more fun when the kids get to help you add to the list!

    FWIW, Paris is totally worth it & while you are there go to the giant Paris flea market & visit Chenonceau while pretending you are the heroine of a Harlequin Romance Novel; living with electricity is underrated (I was without for 5 days last week, not fun); and definitely take the family on the extended vacation. I did this last summer with my kids, touring the eastern half of the US by car, and it was awesome!

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      We were without electricity for four or five days not long ago, but it wasn’t by choice. I’d like to do it knowing what I’m getting into ahead of time.

      And I’m so looking forward to crossing some things off with the kids. A lot of things will have to wait until they’re a little older, but the waiting is fun too.

  6. Giulia November 7, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Lovely, lovely, lovely! Great to see the small things and the big ambitious things! You write about learning to swim…do you know basic swimming or none at all?

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      I can’t swim at all. I might be able to make it to the edge of a pool, but I’d drown in open water.

  7. Theresa November 7, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    I’ll give you a Disney trip if you will be my mentor :)

  8. erin November 7, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I love posts like this that give you and your blog depth. Plus, it must be nice to have a post where people can only be supportive instead of potentially snarky in their opinions. I love the breakdown of categories, a great reminder that life and its goals are multifaceted!

  9. Laurie November 7, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    This list is great. Such inspiration for someone feeling directionless lately. I also like how you’ve organized for a well-rounded set.
    I would love if you could tackle some steps to editing down the wardrobe in your blog, because I can’t seem to do it. I asked my mother, the most ruthless person I know to help, and still haven’t made any headway.

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:41 am #

      I’m good at culling things. I’ll document it the next time I whittle things down.

  10. NicoleD November 7, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    What a fabulous list! I can see you getting through a good chunk of this :)

  11. agirlandaboy November 7, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    That’s quite the list! With ambition like you have, it’s going to be a wonderful life of accomplishing indeed. :)

  12. Kara November 7, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Love this list. I’ve got a mental list, but you have inspired me to write it down. Learning to swim is on mine too, as well as, being able to solve a rubix cube.

  13. Dianne November 7, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    OMG your list is wonderful. I am more than willing to stop by for some of that homemade cheesecake. ;)


  14. Debbie Cotton November 7, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    You’ve completely inspired me!!!

  15. Eileen November 7, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Inspiring, especially for the end of the year!

  16. Katie November 7, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Inspring. I’ve been thinking about the things I want to do and I’ve been thinking about making a list. This just may be the motivation I need.

  17. Krysta November 7, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Thanks for posting this! I created a life list a long while ago and have managed to do a few of the really fun things, but have been meaning to really re-examine my list and modify it to my present-day self. Your post has really motivated me, and I love that you have broken yours into different categories!

  18. Dottie November 7, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    What a beautiful beautiful list with great range and wonderful bits that are such a great reflection of who you are as a person.

    I’ve had a list for awhile but I’ve been very naughty in never putting it public. So, I’m going to. Thank you for the nudge!

    My favorite might be the handmade gifts for a year. Wow! So thoughful and smart! I might have to take that one for me, if you don’t mind!

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:43 am #

      Go for it. Nothing on the list is exclusively mine — I’m happy to see anybody steal items they want to do for themselves too!

  19. shana November 7, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    great list!

    we went site seeing on vespas once. it was my husband’s first time in rome, and i thought it would be fun since i know rome pretty well. we rented two and away we went. despite giving him clear directions we lost each other in about 10 minutes. i had the map, the phrase book and am almost fluent in italian. he had nothing but his good looks and a vague recollection of where we were headed. a half hour later we found one another – and i gave him the map and phrase book. about 3 hours later, it happened again. 2 stressful hours later we found each other at the spanish steps, where we we headed. and i would TOTALLY do it again!

  20. Brandi November 7, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Very inspiring! I love making lists also.

  21. Sarah November 7, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I couldn’t keep houseplants alive until I read one thing: when you water, make sure it runs out the bottom of the plant. Wait a week, repeat. No trickles of water here and there…just one good soak at a time, then wait until the soil feels dry again. Now, I have houseplants that have been with me for 5+ years.

  22. Katie November 7, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I just moved into a new home. Clean slate. Boxes everywhere. Feel free to use my home to cross of your “decorate someone’s house” goal.

  23. Miss B. November 7, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Okay, so is it weird that I have fencing on my life list as well? I jest, BUT I did get tremendously teary-eyed reading your family list–celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary had me in full-on no mascara mode. I love your list, it is very charming (just like you).

    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:45 am #

      The family section is the part that made me most teary-eyed. Repeatedly. I’d think of another thing to add, then cue the waterworks!

  24. Kristina November 7, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    You can always visit the Leaning Tower of Niles in the interim. I have certainly rocked that cheesy photo!


    • Making it Lovely November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      I know — I’ve thought about it! I’ll have to go out and get a picture. To tide me over until I eventually have the real thing.

  25. Molly @thewaffler November 7, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year so I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I want to be able to do the same with my husband. We’ve got 39 (hopefully happy and healthy) more years to go.

  26. cora November 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    In my opinion, learning to swim is an essential life skill for everyone. You should definitely get on that. Maybe you, Eleanor, and August can all learn together.

  27. Jen @ Rambling Renovators November 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Such a great list Nicole! I love that you’ve made it public. I get a kick out of seeing what makes people tick, what motivates them, and your love of family, home, and fun really shines through in your list (as it does in your blog). You’ve inspired me to revisit the list I wrote 20 years ago and see what I’ve checked off.

    But I’m little surprised at a few things at your list. I guess I’ll have to come up with a kick-ass project and you’ll have to come up north here to Toronto so we can collaborate ;)

  28. Caitlin @ Hardly Housewives November 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I really love this. I ESPECIALLY love “surprise someone in a big way”… so many ways you could go with that!

    Also, I’ve seen Martha in person…does that count?

  29. Tiffany November 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for this list. You have inspired me. I’m going to create one for myself.

  30. Tara November 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and just copied the names of your categories headings so I can start writing mine.

  31. Rebecca November 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I love writing lists and am definitely inspired to put the focus on a life list, instead of just a to do list. While reading your list it actually made me think of things I have done already, but haven’t really given credit too. Sometimes people feel like their life has been pretty boring, but if you think about things you’ve done and accomplished you might find that you have lived a pretty fulfilling life! For example I have driven across the US for a month when I was 18, seen X-mas Eve Mass with Pope (John Paul), bought my first house (a fixer-upper)… Writing that kind of list things definitely start adding up and you can think “I have done some pretty great things and am blessed in my life!”

  32. Jen {fuzzy sushi} November 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    This is so inspiring! I always find myself stumped when people ask things like “where do you see yourself in 5 years”? I don’t know! I go with the flow! But, we’ve lived in 2 different countries and 3 different states in just the last 8 years and I don’t know that I’ve experienced *any* of them to the fullest! Time to carpe diem, I think. I’m going to start mulling… Thanks!

  33. Amanda November 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I’m so glad you published this (came over through facebook , and I noticed you said it was hard for you to publish) It’s great you did call it a bucket list, who wants to look at that when they’re older and be like “ohh all the things I didn’t do” when really we should be looking at it and saying “look at all the things I DID in MY LIFE”. Being optimistic is key. :D

    I went and started my own life list, which I called “live life list” one of my favourite fun things on this list is to be a voice in an animated movie/series. I’ve always wanted to ..

    • Amanda November 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      That should say didn’t call it a bucket list.

  34. Caitlin @ The Switchboaords November 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Fencing! Yay! It’s my preferred exercise of choice these days.
    One thing that might impact your enjoyment of it: figure out ahead of time if you’re more interested in sport fencing (electronic, and more focused on just getting a touch) or classical (non-electronic, and more focused on form and style).
    I’ve done classical foil fencing for 3 years now, and I love every minute of it. It’s the only sport that makes working out and getting sweaty fun for me. ;)

  35. Danielle November 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    What a great idea! And what a fun list! Thanks for sharing. I’ll second the fencing fun. I took a class with my husband years ago at a local community college and it was great. Neither of us have kept up with it, but at least I’ve got a photo for evidence. :)

  36. Lori November 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I love your list. I want to make one of my own now too. You should write a book! I would be the first in line to buy:) I just love your style in everything you do.

  37. Katie Mac November 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    “Take Eleanor to American Girl Place to pick a doll and have tea”

    I have been reading your blog for a while and this comment just made me super excited! I work at AG down in Atlanta and I would suggest, especially since it would be Chicago, that the first time you girls go to book an appointment with the personal shopper. The service is free and they help make the experience easier for you.

  38. Chedva November 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I can’t even start to tell you how I love this list. So fun to see the items I can check off and the dreams which I relate too. I think I’ll start my own list. First order will be of course to write it:)

  39. Evelyn November 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    LOVE this idea! Motivates me to make my own.

    As for fencing, very fun! Some great clubs in the Chicago area. If you did rollerskating this will be easy for you!

  40. Erika November 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Love this idea!

  41. Nicole November 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Hey!!!! I could help out with “Teach a craft project to a group of kids” !

    I am a Chicago Public School teacher and we are trying to put together incentive days for our “good” kids. One of the things on our list for them was “Bring someone in to teach them how to do something.” This is in the early planning stages but if you are interested….it could be really really cool!

    • Your mother November 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

      Teacher mom thinks this would be awesome :)

  42. Chrystal November 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    What a great list. So many inspiring ideas. :) I have a list too, but think I need to rearrange it a little and add some more to it. :) Cheers!

  43. Rachel May November 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Such a beautiful list! Thank you for sharing with us:) I think I should probably start a list myself.

    Ever read the book “Dream it, List it, Do it”? You might like it….although you seem to have the life list down pat. It has other ideas, like folding 1,000 paper cranes or skydiving, etc etc. I like it.

  44. casacaudill November 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    What a great list! I have things like this I keep in my head but nothing I’ve ever put down in such a concrete way. The next time I get some free time I may steal this idea for the blog.

    (BTW – looking out over Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower is truly magical. I couldn’t contain my joy.)

  45. Tori November 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Natural childbirth??? Major life accomplishment!!! You’re a trooper : )

  46. Deneise bucko November 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Wow!! I’m impressed your list is long… I love it!!!

  47. Lindsay November 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    I loved this list! My birthday is soon and I’m having a bit of a life direction crisis and it was just nice to see this kind of thing. Inspiring! Your career list was my favorite, such fun things. When you cross the Canadian border us Canadians would love to show you around ;)

  48. em November 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    love this list!

  49. Jeen-Marie November 7, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    What a lovely list.
    Great job and very inspiring!

  50. itziar November 8, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    I love people with illusions is a great list,
    I hope you enjoy and get us much as posible!

    maybe i make my own list

    love your blog so much! I get something good everytime i visit it, thanks!



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