House meetings

Every Sunday night my freshman year of college, our resident advisor would hold floor meetings. She would review what was on the schedule for the coming week, we would plan activities, and, inevitably, someone would forget about a bag of microwave popcorn and the smell of burning kernels would accompany our discussions.

When we moved out of the dorms, my housemates and I kept up the tradition, but without the scent of burning popcorn. We would talk about things that needed to get done around the house, how much everyone owed for shared bills, if we had people coming in from out-of-town, if we were leaving town, or if we had big tests on the schedule and needed the house to be quiet for studying and sleeping.

By the time I got married, I had been having house meetings every Sunday night for almost a decade. Another decade later, and my husband and I continue to sit down for 15 or 20 minutes once a week and discuss the business of our house and our lives. We finalize grocery lists, talk about anticipated work loads, look at our weekly schedules, decide who is going to run errands, and whatever else needs discussing. These meetings keep us sane and keep our lives running smoothly.

If you’ve never held a house meeting, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Keep things low key. These meetings should be helpful, not stressful. Make a list of what you want to cover, but be willing to let the topics flow naturally. It’s not a Congressional hearing, it’s just a time for everyone in the house to communicate.
  • Make the meetings routine. Set a date and time for your weekly meetings and stick to the schedule. People won’t forget about the meetings when they’re a regular part of life.
  • Cover whatever you need to cover. People are different, and what you need to discuss each week will be based on who lives with you. The point is to help make life easier and for the house to run more smoothly, so discuss whatever subjects you need to make this happen.

Does your house and/or family hold house meetings? Would a meeting help life be less stressful under your roof? If you have weekly meetings in your home, what topics are addressed during your discussions?

36 Comments for “House meetings”

  1. posted by Mickey on

    Holy crap that would have been a good idea all throughout University and last year when we had Uni girls living with us!

  2. posted by Mary C. on

    What a great idea! Maybe this would help with the Sunday blues, too.

  3. posted by BevAnn on

    I WISH I could get this to happen in my household. Maybe I could make this a 2nd Quarter 2011 Resolution! 🙂

    The declutter and remodel resolution for the 1st Quarter is well under way, with 3 rooms decluttered and painted – so introducing another new resolution at this point would probably not be a good idea, since my DH and DS’s are not so thrilled all my resolutions are requiring THEM to work! LOL

    But yeah, it sounds like a really good idea, thanks for sharing!

  4. posted by Mags on

    We have a “5 minutes” time each evening to share stuff like this. The idea is stuff is saved up for that period: if some niggle in the morning is forgotten about by the time we have the 5 minute session then it clearly wasn’t that important after all!

  5. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    This is a great idea for all households, but as you have older children, it also is a great idea. Getting everyone’s input on family routines and situations, discussing solutions and implementation, it is a great tool for unifying the family, keeping it in sync, and the house can usually benefit in the process as well!
    Great reminder!

  6. posted by [email protected] on

    We have house meetings! Hurrah! Other people call them this also – not just us – I did wonder if we were a little odd…
    We even have an agenda which is distributed before the meeting!
    It works brilliantly, it means we know what each other is doing, and it gets diarised and popped on the calendar. It makes meal planning all that much easier and I love a bit of meal planning 🙂
    We both end up with a to-do list normally also.
    Yay for House Meetings! Jo (simplybeingmum – family life simply done)

  7. posted by Kari on

    I forgot all about these meetings in the dorms–we had floor meetings once a week as well.

    I guess we do do this, though I never thought about it that way. We typically go out for coffee on Saturday or Sunday mornings and while there, make a list of what needs to be done each week, what work schedules are like, menus for the week, who’s going to cook which night, etc. It just feels so much better to begin the week focused.

  8. posted by Laurel on

    We started doing family meetings a few months ago, and it’s been very helpful. Because of varying activities, we don’t have a set time for it, but fit it in sometime over each weekend. I get the family calendar and we go over it together, noting the activities ahead and adding anything that’s been forgotten. The big thing (for me) is dinner planning. Our two children (ages 10 and 13) are each responsible for selecting (and then preparing) the main course for one dinner each week. I ask for ideas and input for the other dinners as well, and we decide which night each child is preparing dinner, so by the end of the meeting we have a schedule and can work on the grocery shopping list.

    It is also the time when we (are supposed to — need to be better about this!) pay the kids their allowance and then mark with a dollar sign on the calendar indicating that they are paid up. If it’s been a while we can look back to see how many weeks they are owed. We thank them for being contributing members of the family. Then we have a 15 minute clean-up time. We set a timer, crank the radio (kids pick the station), and everyone cleans or declutters (each person chooses what they want to do) for 15 minutes. We are done when the timer goes off. The 10 year old complained when we started this, but I noticed he’s not complaining anymore.

  9. posted by momoboys on

    Great post! I teach premarriage classes and this is part of my tried-and-true suggestions. It’s amazing how simple, scheduled communication between family members can ease the pressures and minimize the “crises” of a busy week. I agree with the one who mentioned including the kids, too. Never too early to help them understand how a healthy family functions well, and allow for their contributions to the process!

  10. posted by nj progressive on

    My spouse and I do a weekly catch-up on Friday evening. We share accomplishments and frustrations in our work with one another, and talk about the coming week. It’s a night to slow down. We often use weekends as a time for big-batch cooking, recipes that will give us multiple dinners or something to have for weekday lunches (lasagne, roast chicken with veggies, chili, chicken soup, etc.), so we use Friday dinner time conversation to toss out ideas about what to do, and plan menus for the coming week. Saturday morning we make the grocery list, and the weekend chores and errands list.

    Both of us have an elderly parent in poor health, so sometimes we’re running in different directions to spend time at a nursing home or hospital, and we can’t get to the big batch cooking (because there’s cleaning to do, which takes priority).

  11. posted by Andrea @ Behind Closed Drawers on

    This is a good idea. I guess my husband and I have sort of been doing it informally whenever we talk budget, but I can’t say it’s been weekly.

    Granted, with no kids in the picture yet, it’s not too hard to just discuss whatever we need to, whenever we need to. I’m sure that will change one day, ha!

    We did recently learn to discuss all the upcoming expected gift expenses. It makes him a lot happier to know in advance that I feel it is important to contribute to the various wedding and baby showers that are happening, as well as whose birthday is coming up that we need to shop for. He feels more prepared for the cost when he knows the importance in advance! Definitely a tip I’d recommend to others.

  12. posted by Summer S on

    My husband and I have weekly “board meetings” where we discuss the business end of everything related to the family. Since we consider ourselves partners, the K & S Partnership conducts weekly meetings to review how we’re doing on the budget, discuss and distribute tasks (“I’ll contact the tree service, you follow up on the insurance claim”), talk about progress towards goals, and review the calendar. We started doing this a couple of years ago, our approach is to go out for bagels on Sunday mornings and meet away from the house, and it has been HUGELY helpful. How many times have you been out for a nice dinner date with your spouse and you start talking finances or chores that need to be done? This weekly meeting eliminates that – we each save up topics we want to discuss with the other (we each have a “Board Agenda” file we toss things into) until our next board meeting so we don’t have to interrupt dinner or time together to deal with family business.

    We also periodically hold family meetings with the kids, the structure and agenda of which we usually have put together during a board meeting. These are also on Sundays, right after dinner, and we talk about potential vacation plans, recycling efforts, celebrate each other’s successes, and let everyone have time to bring up anything they wish to address.

    I wholeheartedly endorse house meetings, family meetings, board meetings, or whatever you choose to call it. They go a LONG way toward keeping a household running smoothly!

  13. posted by EWF on

    We have family meetings weekly, and end by telling our kids how much money they have earned during the week by doing extra chores, with clapping (and dogs wagging tails). It makes them love the meeting and be more motivated to perform the chores. They love the “public” recognition.

  14. posted by Jenna on

    Love this idea! We currently discuss informally the meal planning for the week so that I can make the grocery list, but otherwise we talk about other things as they come up. I like the idea of catching up on everything else as well, to talk about who will prepare each meal, what chores need to be done that week, where we are at with our monthly budget, etc. That way we’ll know in advance what is happening that week, and we won’t have to worry about forgetting something later on, etc.

  15. posted by Tracy on

    Sounds like an awesome idea.. Hubby and I don’t need this right now as it’s just us two and we already have a great working system. But I think it will be amazingly useful when we have kids. Babies are so chaotic! 😉

  16. posted by CM on

    We don’t — we just take a few minutes each day to discuss things as they come up. I can see how it would be useful, and it might be nice to confine “household business” discussions to certain times. But for me I think saving up issues for a house meeting would just add to my to-do list, because I’d have to keep track of all those issues until it was officially time to discuss them.

  17. posted by dsnk on

    My husband and I had gotten away from our weekly Sunday evening meeting session, where we review the upcoming week’s schedules and what needs to be done, as well as check in on finance and house stuff. We just started up again last night, and it was so nice starting the week on the same page. And then how great to pull up my daily dose of Unclutterer dose to find this post–a nice affirmation.

  18. posted by Keter on

    I wonder if having a schedule like this would relieve the problem I have: every time I say “we need to have a business meeting” my husband groans and acts like I’m doing something awful to him, so as a result, I have become shy about addressing issues. Yes, they do involve things he needs to do…because he doesn’t do anything other than his own (non-household-maintenance) projects unless I make a specific task out of them. As a result, needed projects are left half done or undone despite repeated promises and attempts to get him to work on them by trying to get him to work with me, and I almost can’t stand to be in my own house any longer. (I’ve had the house longer than the husband, so this is a really bad thing.)

  19. posted by Kerri on

    My church supports a program (though more like a family habit than a program) called Family Home Evening, which is pretty much the family getting together one night a week (our church schedules are always clear on Monday nights, no meetings or activities on Mondays worldwide) to have fun together and also have a lesson as well. It’s a great time to ask the kids how they’re doing and check on scheduling and things, to have some family bonding time, and can be a good place to start important discussions with your kids. There isn’t a set format or anything, and the families decide everything, like if there is a lesson, what the lesson is on, what the activity is for the evening, and things like that, though there are various resources available for lessons and activity planning. I really like having a regular night that everyone attends where we can be together as a family, and really interact with each other, and also take care of important business like upcoming meetings, activities, birthdays, and various things. My husband and I also take time for just each other every night when we read scriptures together and discuss the important things of the day, and the needs of our kids and each other. I highly recommend family time and couple time.

  20. posted by Kaz in Oz on

    We try to do this on Sunday nights, but it falls down when we have church commitments. Mondays has been out of the question too as I usually work Monday evening. WIll get back on track once we have moved, as no more shiftwork (sundays will be even more heavily occupied though). Maybe Friday nights will work for us.
    Trying to refocus on our family. Will definitely add the financials in as well as the socials, church and school commitments.

  21. posted by Karen Newbie on

    I wish I’d heard about this 21 years and 3 kids ago when I got married. I’m going to try to figure a way to make this happen without it coming across like I’m being a dictator. To date, I’m the only one who manages the kids’ schedules, the finances, the chores, the school responsibilities, the sports, the groceries…. I wonder if the expectations wouldn’t be so solely on my shoulders if I weren’t an at-home parent.

  22. posted by Sky on

    A very good idea to keep everyone in the family on track. We kinda did this when my sons were growing up every night at the dinner table. We each told how our day went and what tomorrow would bring.

  23. posted by Malcolm on

    Until a few years ago my wife and I ran our family farm, and for that shared business we had regular family meetings (including the children occasionally, but now they are grown up and have left home. It was a great occasion for general communication about household things as well, because it is just about impossible to separate the business from the household when you are a farmer. Now that we have retired from farming we no longer seem to have those regular sessions, but I think after reading this, we might revive them!

  24. posted by best online backup service on

    Sounds like an awesome idea.. Hubby and I don’t need this right now as it’s just us two and we already have a great working system. But I think it will be amazingly useful when we have kids. Babies are so chaotic

  25. posted by Nina on

    Great idea – will start doing that with my husband this week.

  26. posted by Anita on

    For a family with older kids, or for anyone living with roommates/housemates, I think this is a great idea.

    For a couple, however, scheduling weekly meetings seems like overkill to me. Like CM, I discuss household things with the boyfriend as they come up, and that’s working just fine. I guess it helps that we have other mini-systems working for us: a grocery list on the fridge so we write down whatever it is and whoever goes shopping that day/week takes it with them; we get paid the same days and we take 5 minutes on each pay day to get our joint finances sorted out; we have dinner together most nights, and talk about whatever needs talking about; we walk to work together so we can plan the rest of the day if we need to.

  27. posted by cjhaab on

    Great tips from everyone. I like Laurel’s idea about writing the $ on the calendar to mark that allowances are up to date. Wish I’d thought of that when my girls were still at home.

    Hubby and I usually talk about schedules and upcoming chores at Friday supper or Saturday breakfast, while we sychronize calendars and divvy up some of the chores and errands. Both of us do better when we have written lists and reminders on the calendar. We use Google calendar so we can both see the whole picture from both home and work and it’s very helpful. I copy it down into my purse calendar and use that as my daily to-do list most of the time, along with added shopping lists.

    Daily or several X/day copying back and forth from the purse calendar and Google is ny big key to staying on top of everything.

  28. posted by cjhaab on

    Oops, should’ve been spelled “my” big key.

  29. posted by lottielot on

    hmm, I have tried this in the past and met with huge resistance from my dh (but the kids were very keen!). My dh works long hours and is out a lot in the evenings, so I think it would be really handy if only to keep track of him. As it is I pretty much have to rugby tackle him sometimes just to get the information out of him as to what his movements are for the next week, drives me crazy…He also has a tendency to tell me things when I don’t have my calendar to hand, so then I forget as it’s not written down. Perhaps getting a family calendar would be a good first step?

  30. posted by BeverlyD on

    At my house, we do a couple of things: first, I print out a calendar each month and give it to my husband with my work schedule and appointments on it. That way he knows already when I’m going to be on call and when I’m to work on a weekend (I’m a Nurse Practitioner). His schedule is far less predictable so he can’t do the same for me. Then,sometime during the weekend when we have a free half hour, one of us will ask, what does the coming week look like for you? Then we will discuss whatever is going on. We do NOT call these meetings. My husband’s life revolves around meetings, 24/7/365, and to add one more would be cruel and unusual punishment. These are “couple conversations”. The only other family member is age 4, and when he’s older we will include him, but for now it’s just us.

  31. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    We have one car between two adults – talking to each other about what activities are on our schedules is a must.

  32. posted by jl on

    It’s not my intention to troll, but I’m amazed of how thrilled everyone here is about the idea of meeting with and talking to members of your own family.

    I just cannot imagine how you can run a household (with two small kids in my case) without talking to each other? I don’t have to schedule talking to my wife or kids, we just do it, every evening, because we’re a family. What’s the fuzz?

  33. posted by Regimus on

    Like the above commenter, I’m also not out to troll.

    “Family Meetings” for me only happened when something was wrong (which really translated to: Reg, this is how you screwed up this time, so you should probably just start crying now to save us all some time. 98% of the time.) really, really wrong. So now I even look at the idea of having a family meeting (or anything of that ilk) and it’s an instant anxiety attack for me. Granted, this is from someone who can’t even sit at the kitchen to have dinner comfortably at their parents’ anymore because that is, of course, where all the “meetings” (read: lectures) happened.

    So, what might be helpful would be suggestions for something of that nature for those of us with a psychological inability to respond positively to anything remotely phrased as a “family meeting” or “/talking/”. Because I really, really hate going into something that might be something completely innocuous or maybe even positive already ready to burst into tears because my anxiety levels have ramped up so high.

    And that was total TMI, but, well there it is. Please tell me that I’m not the only one.

  34. posted by Scarlett Ross on

    Our mixed family shares a home and 4 different work schedules. We have brief family meetings whenever we happen to be all together (which isn’t often with our schedules). The only big meetings occur twice a year when we talk about long-term planning and financial goals. These big picture topics are less likely to get the time / attention they deserve in a quick chat over dinner for us.

    I use a family meeting to congratulate, to appreciate, to negotiate and to reconnect as a group rather than just as a couple. Kids benefit from knowing that there is a time to sit back and look at how things are going and make choices rather than simply going with the flow.

  35. posted by Mags on

    The reason we switched to this is precisely because talking “as we went along” created more problems than it solved!

    I’d provide TMI throughout the day, with a result that I was drowning my actual priorities out in a stream of minor stuff. By saving it till we get “5 minutes” to sit and chat – often over dinner, sometimes after – only the stuff that actually matters comes up.

    Regimus – we just call it “5 minutes”. It can be as short as that or an hour long if there’s lots of stuff to cover.

  36. posted by Jasmine on

    Man, I wish my uni was that responsible when I lived in the dorms three years ago. We could never keep to a schedule and actually have productive meetings like that.

    At any rate, this does seem like a good idea. I may start doing this with my sister, so our living together can be better planned out and organized.

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