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Abstract illustration of messaging apps in orange, brown and grey Illustration: Inkee Wang for Polygon

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Discord is my most important household management tool

The messaging has become so much more because it’s right there

Before my fiancé and I go on our weekly food expedition, we make sure that the grocery list channel in our Discord server is updated.

Every week, we make a list of meals in one channel (aptly called #meallist), sometimes with links to recipes. Then, before our grocery trip, we list all the ingredients in the grocery list channel. The way we used to do this involved us bickering over the same written piece of paper as we figured out what we needed and who was looking for what. Now, with access to the same digital list, we divide and conquer the work at the store. Adding items we’ve run out of during the week is as simple as opening the app up, typing it out, and hitting send.

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Discord was created as a way for gamers to facilitate online play with chat and voice talk. In the last few years, and at an accelerated pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform has expanded into more of a generalized space, for both socializing and everyday life. In our particular case, Discord has become an integral part of our household.

Funneling more of our daily life on to Discord made sense: we had the app open most of the time, since it was a place where we already passed along messages and memes throughout the day. The messaging platform was versatile enough that it naturally evolved into an indispensable household management tool.

As someone who needs to-do lists to function, Discord became a way to create a structured organizational system that still allowed for flexibility and customization. New channels mean new lists, and each channel can be organized in a different category folder. We have channels for everything, from chores around the house to miscellaneous large things to buy. Once a chore is done, we can simply react with an emoji to indicate that it’s finished.

But it’s not just work — we also use Discord to keep lists of movies we want to watch. We have one dedicated to pictures that one of us took and the other wants a copy of, one dedicated solely to updates about our cat, and another for links that we personally need to save for later. Discord makes it easy to add new channels, so whenever a new need rises (for instance, like my newfound list of “anime to watch”), we can simply add another channel or category. We communicate in-person, of course, but it’s helpful to write down things immediately instead of spouting it out loud and expecting the other to remember a grocery item or chore to do.

Just as families have gravitated to the workplace chat system Slack for household management, Discord seems uniquely suited for our more banal needs. Unlike Slack, which deletes messages after a certain point, the free version of Discord comes with unlimited messaging capabilities, letting us scroll back to find anything. You can make categories for channels, something that my inner organization fiend adores. But more importantly, Slack still carries the connotations of work and all that comes with it; Discord is a tool we use in our leisure time.

These days, people face a greater threat of burnout than ever before, and the pandemic has forced many to work where they play, Discord has become a kind of savehaven for downtime and fun instead of work and the need for productivity. Our household server is actually our only shared server, since we use Discord for different communities centered around our separate hobbies and interests. In a way, we’re gamifying our household to-do list, making it less overwhelming than a mountain of chores and groceries to do. Discord allows us to streamline the humdrum of housework — which in pandemic lockdown days can often seem hugely daunting — and therefore minimizes miscommunication.

Overall, we still primarily use Discord for its intended functions (i.e. talking with large groups of friends that we don’t share a living space with) but an app without an ambition to help us keep our life on track has become an important part of how we get through the week. That can mean grocery shopping, choosing our Friday night movie, or just sending updates on what new, warm place the cat is currently laying on. It’s all there.