40 things to do before I turn 40

I guess I may need a few more candles.
I guess I may need a few more candles. Photo by Faramarz Hashemi

I celebrated my 39th birthday last week and now I’m really looking forward to my 40th and the start of a brand new decade.

My 20s was about making two big life choices and having my first baby. My 30s was all about having four more babies and having a lot of the assumptions I’d held from my teens and 20s corrected for me.

I was hoping to do something special in my 40th year, and then my mother-in-law pointed out that in fact this is my 40th year!

So I decided to think of 40 things I’d really like to do (and could reasonably achieve) this coming year. Things that would be fun, or challenging, that I might have thought of doing but always put off. Things that I’ll be glad I’d done when it comes times to blow out the candles again next year.

All enthused, I grabbed paper and a pen…..and could only think of five things! How boring am I?

“Bridge Climb?” offered my 10 year old, cheekily. I’d just turned down my mother’s offer of a guided climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To me it seems like a lot of expense and effort to get an admittedly gorgeous view of the harbour city, which is equally gorgeous from any angle. Maybe another time.

“Write your children’s book,” said my husband. Ok, that’s six.

“Go on a cruise, said my eight year old. ” I’d love to but that’s more of a five-year-plan kind of goal right now.

It was harder than I thought to come up with a list. But the next day I had it. I’m going to need help with some of these, but I think this challenge will be really fun and with some creative approaches hopefully I’ll cross off a couple of major things I’ve always wanted to do.

Here it is:

My list of 40 things I want to do before my 40th birthday next October. 

(Updated with a status as I’m working through the list)

1. Make a large donation to charity DONE

2. Host a dinner party DONE (We’ve got lots of young kids, and our so do some of our friends, so I’m counting all the extra BBQs we hosted instead)


4. Make a carrot cake from scratch

5. Co-host a retreat for mothers DONE

6. Write a letter to Pope Francis DONE


8. Start wearing my scapular again  DONE

9 Spend a weekend with my eldest daughter DONE

10. Spend a weekend with my husband

11. Write a children’s picture book

12. Makeover my wardrobe DONE

13. Go to the Sydney Observatory at night to look at the stars

14. Grow more vegetables and herbs (I’m currently inspired by our first home-grown snow peas) DONE

15 -17. Set aside a day to do something with, or for, each of my god daughters (I’ve got three so that’s three things)

18. Paint an artwork I’d be happy to put on the wall. It will have to be very abstract! DONE

19.Try for a monthly date night with my husband (we tried this last year and missed a lot) DONE 🙂

20. Make more podcasts DONE

21. Get a new hairstyle DONE

22. Ride in a hot air balloon

23. Invite the neighbours over more often DONE

24. Go to monthly confession and reconciliation GOING WELL!

25. Have family portraits taken DONE

26. Take the kids to the speedway or a monster truck event

27. Invite our parish priest to dinner

28. Get a big trampoline

29. Create a better prayer space in the house DONE

30. Start going to at least one weekday Mass regularly DONE

31-34. Arrange to meet up with some old friends DONE

35. Take the kids to visit Canberra DONE

36. Learn to juggle DONE

37. Watch Anne of Green Gables and The Sound of Music with my older children DONE

38. Buy a dining table that will comfortably seat all seven of us DONE

39. Upgrade my blog DONE

40. Throw a birthday party! DONE

I’m breaking my own rule here of not writing myself long to-do lists, but this is different.

** UPDATE: Why not make your own list? I’ve written a follow-up post describing how I came up with mine and how I made sure it reflected my values and helped me move towards my biggest and most cherished life goals.

See my checklist of 8 simple questions to ask  when setting a 12 month goal.

 PS. This worked so well I’ll making 12 month goals more regularly. We can support each other if you want!  Subscribe by email using the box in the footer section below and you won’t miss a post.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Nonie says:

    Dear Marilyn,
    Just stumbled upon your blog and this writeup. It’s really awesome! It resonates with me.
    I’ll be turning 40 in a couple of years time. I’ll be borrowing a leaf from you and make a list of my own .
    Thank you for this. It’s something I needed to see this morning. I’m also keen to listen to your podcast.


  2. Annemarie says:

    Some suggestions: Learn to play the ukelele; have a conversation with a person living on the streets; volunteer as a dog walker for the RSPCA (you can do this with 15-17); visit a mosque; visit a nursing home; go for a leisurely walk in the (pouring) rain (with a smile); spend the first ten minutes of every day laughing; write a letter to someone in prison; give blood; sit and listen to a struggling busker for five minutes (then give them a big applause and a fiver); go busking with your newly learnt ukelele skills.


    1. Love these suggestions Annemarie!


  3. Jacqui says:

    read a book that you have always wanted to, participate in an ocean swim – just a short one! explore a new place with the kids – somewhere you have never been – anyway just a few little ideas I really love your 40 things before your 40, I might steal the idea before my 40th year 🙂 Thanks for sharing


    1. Thanks for the ideas Jacqui – and go for it! It’s such a long list that it makes you get cracking. I’ve already done one thing just yesterday – getting a beautiful dining setting through Gumtree. I’ll post a photo when it’s set up.


  4. mum2eight says:

    Well I thought I left a comment but it doesn’t seem to be showing up. I thought your 40th thing could be to meet another blogger or someone that you have meet online but not in real life. I have meet a couple of bloggers when I have travelled but living in Sydney, there would probably be someone you could organise to meet for an afternoon somewhere.


    1. Good idea, I have met a few, most recently Sue Elvis of Stories of an Unschooling Family and Laura McAlister from Catholic Cravings. Both very talented, but I guess we’re a pretty creative bunch!


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