A Well-Run Household

Today, I have a guest post from humorist Kevin Cummings, who graciously is allowing me to poke, stab, put him under a microscope, and otherwise enhance his discomfort in an upcoming interview at bethestory.com, all to promote his new book, Happily Domesticated.

(So you can see what he gets out of it. The pleasure I get out of it should be equally as obvious.)

This piece was originally published on November 9, 2007, and I reprint it here, because I so thoroughly sympathize. (God yes do I sympathize!) (With the fact that no one listens to him either, not with the cat.) You can catch the audio version here.


A Well-Run Household

You see them on TV all the time; houses which are nicer, cleaner, and more attractive than yours the same way a runway model is more appealing than any member of the 1972 East German Women’s Swim Team. The camera lovingly pans around showing scenes of impossible beauty like an elegant kitchen filled with matching dish ware, a living room in which the furniture does not appear to have been purchased at a trailer-park tag sale, and (most incredibly of all) a bathroom in which the towels not only coordinate but are hung neatly on gleaming towel bars instead of being heaped on the floor. When you see a house like that you’ve just to ask yourself, What do those homeowners have that I don’t have?

The answer is simple.

A small army of production personnel including three professional designers and an uptight director known in the television industry as “Hansel the Fussy.” Before the cameras are even permitted on the property, the house is completely remade from top to bottom.

You’ll never have that, of course, but with a little thought and effort you too can have a well-run, tidy and attractive house. All you have to do is follow my example and—


Pardon me a moment. There’s something here I need to take care of.

A screwdriver? In the junk drawer, I think. What do you need it for? No. Leave the vent cover alone. I’m sure that whatever is stuck in there can wait until I’m done with this.

I apologize. Now, where was I? Oh. Yes. A well-run and efficient household.

The first thing to realize is that a household isn’t much different from a business. You simply need to set the objectives for your household and get all of your family (sometimes called your team) coordinated in their efforts. It’s just a matter of—

What now?

Pardon me again, this won’t take a second.

Stuck how? Uh-huh. Where? I see. What made you think the cat wanted to play in the vent? Well, how did his ball get in there? No. You’re most likely right. I probably wouldn’t believe you. Alright, get the nonstick spray and use it – carefully – around the edges.

Again, I apologize. Although, in a way, I’m glad that happened. It’s a perfect illustration of the fact that dealing with the little trials and challenges of day-to-day living doesn’t need to be unduly stressful if you simply take a deep breath and—

What? Well of course he’s meowing, he’s stuck and he’s probably not too happy about it. Just make sure he’s got enough air to breathe. We wouldn’t want him suffocating up there.

What? His head is out? Good, then he’s free and … Not free? Why not? Because it wasn’t the head-end that was stuck? Would you mind explaining how he came to have his back-end stuck in the vent?

He climbed up from the main floor and only got stuck coming out? Is the spray helping? Well go get it now!

Other homeowners might crumble under the stress of such a situation, but I’m made of sterner stuff than that. Like all good leaders I have a vision of the future; a vision of a beautiful TV-worthy house which is well-kept and—

Can’t you give me five minutes? That’s all I’m asking!

I really do apologize. I don’t know what they’d do without me around here, but sometimes it just drives me to distraction!

I don’t know what all goes into non-stick cooking spray, but we eat it so it can’t be too bad for us. Why? What paint? The bathroom wall! The one I repainted last week! No! Stop and I’ll be there in a minute!

Well is he hurt? You don’t think so. Okay, then he can wait. I just need to finish this one thing and then I’ll be up.

You see what I mean? Try to spend a few minutes trying to enlighten people about how to live their lives and all of a sudden everything conspires against you.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes. The key to success in life is organization and teamwork and dedication and having the right people by your side.


Pardon me again.

The spray is working? That’s good, but I thought I said—

What do you mean “too well”? Grab his front legs! Don’t let him fall! Because it’s about twelve feet down! Do you want me to grease you up and drop you—

What the heck was that?

Is he okay?

Well run downstairs and check!

Seems to be? Good. Now go get the screwdriver, take off the vent … oh. That was the one you took off the first time. Okay. Keep him calm and I’ll be there in a minute.

Aside from a clear vision, the key leadership role in household management is the ability to inspire your employees – ummm – family members to follow you. Demonstrate a deep, personal commitment toward these individuals and show them how much you appreciate their unique strengths and they’ll gladly—


Well, moving is a good thing. It means he’s okay.

Ah— Toward the bedroom? Through the vent. Well stop him!

Okay. If it’s too late, it’s too late. We’ll figure something out in a minute. I don’t know … maybe he’ll come if we put out some tuna. Just give me a minute longer.

Of all of these skills, however, the single most important is the ability to prioritize and to recognize when your team needs you. Part of being a good leader means you have to do everything you can to make the people beneath you—

I’m coming for crying out loud!


Don’t let him take the can with him. He’ll never come out!

No! Not the ax!

Because I don’t want to have to rebuild the wall, that’s why!

Don’t cry— I’m sure we’ll get him out somehow.