Secrets of an Organized Family

One couple shares their surprising strategies for whipping even the most chaotic household into shape.
Family around table

Stephanie Rausse

What if we told you that investing just one hour per week could lead to a better marriage and a happier home? Or that treating your household more like a workplace could be the first step toward conquering life's chaos? Finally, what if we told you that many of the arguments couples have are probably nothing more than by-products of poor time management and stress?

Well, these are all things that we've discovered over ten years of marriage. During that time, we've had our ups and downs, but surprisingly, it was at our lowest point as partners that we discovered the road back to happiness by drawing on our working lives—of all things—for guidance. We're sharing how we did it, and how any family can benefit from the lessons we learned along the way.

Like many couples these days, we found ourselves at sea. We'd become so focused on basic survival—simply striving to get through the week—that we fell out of touch with everything, from small tasks such as cleaning the house and planning meals, to the larger, more important concerns that give our lives meaning, like enjoying our kids and each other.

After the umpteenth argument about something as ridiculous as who was going to pick up the gift for a child's birthday party we were going to that very afternoon, we realized that something had to change. For the sake of our sanity and the health of our marriage, we had to take back control of our schedule, time, and responsibilities. We skipped couples therapy and self-help books because even at our darkest point—when our increasingly fraying tempers led us to bicker several times a day—we recognized that our problems weren't emotional, but practical.

We finally saw the light one snowy winter weekend on a long drive home from an out-of-town trip. With the kids napping in the backseat, we began talking about all the things we had to deal with, get done, and even just think about. There were so many items that needed to be addressed that by the time we'd listed the last one, we couldn't remember the first.

When we used to work together in an office (a public-relations firm), we had a lot to juggle: employees, clients, budgets, and more. But it never felt overwhelming. A big reason was the office's weekly meeting. No matter how busy we were, every Monday we gathered around a table with our colleagues and reviewed the week's to-dos, deciding who would handle what and by when. At the end of that meeting, all the sundry tasks required to keep things on track had been divvied into manageable lists for each member of the team.

On that car ride, we began deciding who would do what, and when. By the time we got home, Caitlin ripped two sheets of paper from her notebook—his and hers to-do lists. We checked in with each other about our respective progress one week later. The results were so life-altering that a broader thought occurred to us: Why not take it a step further? Why not apply other workplace systems and skills to running our household rather than allowing it to run us? So we did.

Meet Every Week

Of everything you can do to make changes, having a meeting with your partner is the easiest to stick to and offers the most rewards. Just consider for a moment how much you can get done in an hour or even 30 minutes: jobs for the week assigned, an action plan for the holidays finished, bills paid, budget for upcoming vacation figured out. Reviewing everything that needs to get done that week (or even month), and actually talking about it will save you from hours of arguments and multiple misunderstandings. If this is your first meeting, be prepared to start with a massive to-do list, one that contains all of the jobs that need to get done for the house and family daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment