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#133 Getting Organized

messyroomWhen last we met I was in the throes of family chaos—Christmas at Ground Zero. As I said we did recover to a certain extent. The event became a reference point that no one wanted to be repeated. I won’t say that we got instantly better but I had drawn a line in the sand—go this far but no farther. Truth to be told we never did become one of those families where every person did his or her chores without any fuss. Does that really happen anywhere? Anyway, the house was often a disaster. (A neat household is definitely something I enjoy about the empty nest.) (But I would still rather have the mess.)

Still with the benefit of hindsight I think there were a lot of things we could have done to make the practical side of family life easier. I would give us a high score on creativity, sharing feelings, having a lot of fun and a pretty high level of drama. We were and we remain a colorful family. But pristine white laundry, sparkling windows, daily homemade nutritious meals—not so much. More importantly Bob and I as parents often felt over-whelmed by the enormous number of tasks that we had to accomplish just to keep the whole place running. Even after the children were all in school we had car pools, athletic events, practices, concerts, plays, rehearsals and church activities to name a few. Having gone through all of that I have given a lot of thought to ways in which young families with children can be better organized than we were.

What does it mean to be organized? It means that we can maintain the necessities of life in a planned and orderly manner. It means that we can set goals and accomplish them in timely ways. It usually means that we work with others to achieve agreed upon objectives. Human beings are highly social so being organized usually means that we function in various organizations—large and small. We belong to churches and clubs. We attend schools and live in towns and cities. Most of us work in organizations—some small and some behemoths with budget larger than many countries. Most important for this discussion we live mainly in families.

We all know that some organizations work more effectively than others. The whole field of organizational behavior has made a study of the principles that exist in successful organizations. My husband has spent much of his career teaching and consulting with organizations to enable them to use these principles to increase productivity, profit margin and worker satisfaction. So why not take the principles used in thriving organizations and apply them to the family—the original and most basic of all earthly organizations?
So let’s spend the next few weeks looking at the principles that characterize flourishing organizations and apply them to the family. I can think of one benefit right off the bat! It helps us “take our feelings out of it.” That family saying came out of an episode when our son Matt was struggling with 8th grade math! He was crying and upset because it was so frustrating to him. Bob said that he would help him but first he had to “take his feelings out of it.” That meant that they would approach it as a problem with a rational solution and not a “feeling” event.

Okay. Next week—organizational behavior in the family!

Messy room photo available from Shutterstock

#133 Getting Organized

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2015). #133 Getting Organized. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jan 2015
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