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Desperate Households

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Make Your Home Run Smoothly

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer Kathy Peel went from what she describes as a “domestically challenged” newlywed to an organizational pro who was dubbed “America’s Family Manager” by Oprah.

When she first married, she didn’t know anything about cooking, cleaning, rearing children, or managing a family. Now she helps others tackle these areas through TV segments on HGTV and The Discovery Channel, as well as shows like The Early Show and Good Morning America.

What triggered her transformation? After a few years of chaos and frantic school mornings she reached a point of exasperation. She was chronically late getting her child to kindergarten, and even resorted to installing a radar detector on her car to dodge speed traps along the way.

“That year, I said, ‘God, help me, because I’m doing my child a disservice,’” Peel said.

God met her at that point of desperation and turned her life around. Now, with three children grown and living on their own, she is sharing what she has learned with others.

Her new book, Desperate Households, offers good news for frazzled moms and dads – you can create a home that runs smoothly. Her secret: run your family the way you would run a business.

She doesn’t imply that households should be cold, corporate environments, but many business practices can be helpful for managing families. Here are a few of her suggestions.

Designate a Family Manager

“Every home needs a family manager,” Peel says. “It is the overseer of all the operations in the home.”

She explains that home maintenance breaks down into seven areas that must all be managed efficiently: food, family and friends, finances, special events, time and scheduling, and self-management.

“Every couple needs to sit down and decide who is going to be the overseer of these departments,” Peel says. “In the Peel family household, I am the family manager. We call my husband the Chairman of the Board, because in God’s economy, the buck really stops with him.”

Determine Your Management Style

After determining who will be the family manager, she says, that person must find their own style of management.

“All of us have to look at how did God hardwire me?” Peel says. “We have to figure out what is it that motivates me? What drains me?”

The goal, Peel says, is to perfect what you are good at and seek other solutions for your areas of weakness.

“Typically, I find that on the whole, God made us really good at two of those departments that I mentioned,” she says.

Establish a Control Central

There should be one central location where you keep a family calendar along with phone numbers, an ongoing grocery list, a place for messages, and other things the family uses often. This makes it easier to keep track of family members’ schedules and appointments.

It also provides a convenient place for children to place their school papers or permission forms that need to be signed by a parent.

Educate Your Family

In many families, one spouse feels like they are doing all the work, Peel says. Often, this is not because the rest of the family purposely resists pitching in, but because they do not truly understand the amount of work involved in running a home.

To help families with this, she has developed a document titled, “Who’s Responsible for What,” which families may download for free at her Web site,

Download this document and call a family meeting to discuss the chores that need to be done daily or weekly, she says. When family members realize how much is involved in maintaining a healthy home, they will realize the work is too much for one person to do alone.

Work as a Team

Once the family has read over the many areas and duties involved in managing the home, divide the work among family members. Each member should be expected to contribute.

“Also, talk as a family about your own definition of clean and organized because that’s different for every family,” she says. “Those who God has created to be messy, need to learn to get along with and be sensitive to those He has created to be neat-niks and vice versa.”


Just as your family needs to talk about your definitions of clean and orderly, you should also discuss and agree on the rules of the house. Peel suggests developing a manual of “Standard Operating Procedures,” a notebook where the expectations for each area of home maintenance are recorded.

Solicit opinions from each family member about what they would like to see in certain areas of the house. Are there areas that must remain clutter-free? Are there a few areas where clutter is okay? How often will be the floors be mopped and the bed linens changed? 

Recording these expectations, along with the consequences for not meeting them, not only gives everyone a chance to have input in the process, but it also reduces the likelihood that the family manager will be “nagging” the other members to do their part.

As children age, rules and responsibilities will change. Reevaluate your standard operating procedures from time to time to see if you need to make changes.

Remember Your Purpose

Just as most businesses have a mission statement, Peel says families should also agree on their goals. Identifying the highest priorities will help you make decisions about what is truly important to you as a family. For instance, she says, if eating meals together most nights of the week is important to you, you may decide to limit night-time activities to spend time together as a family.

Keep your ultimate mission in mind at all times. The true goal for family managers is to provide the best environment possible for each family member to grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“The highest calling of every husband, every wife, every child, is to help each other do the will of God. Unless you have some modicum of order and sanitation, it’s hard to do that,” Peel says.

Stay in Touch with the Boss

No family or family manager will ever be perfect, but with God’s help our homes can be warm inviting places where family members grow into all that God wants them to be.

Remember, you are not running your home on your own. Spending time with God daily is a must for you to be filled with His love and wisdom to manage your family.

“He cares about the details of our lives,” Peel says. “I know that because in the gospel of Matthew He says the hairs on my head are numbered. That means He has to recount every day because I lose hair every day.”

If He cares about details like that, she says, then He also cares when we find ourselves behind in washing the laundry, lost amidst the clutter of our living rooms, or too rushed to eat meals together or spend time with our spouse.

“He is there ready to give us wisdom on how to make that happen and the strength to pull it off,” she says.

For more on family management and tips to make your home run smoothly, check out Desperate Households, or visit


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Belinda Elliott is the Daily Life Producer for In this role, she manages the Family and Entertainment sections of the Web site. She earned a master's degree in Journalism from Regent University in 2003. In her spare time she enjoys good friends, good books, and movie nights with her husband. Read more of Belinda's articles.

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