Photo: The Office (US)
Photo: The Office (US)


This couple run their house like an office. And it’s terrifying

A couple have started their “agile” household by implementing a strict task-management system. Please, no, says Caroline O’Donoghue

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

My house is a shit-hole. Maybe your house is a shit-hole, too. The fact that it’s a shit-hole used to be hyperbole – “Look at all those plates in the sink! This place is a shit-hole!” – but now it’s literal. My house is a hole that my puppy shits in and it’s all I can do to grab a paper towel.

I’m busy, and my boyfriend is busy, and it figures that when we can strong-arm our mutually busy schedules into spending some actual time together that we want to spend it hanging out, rather than cleaning. Our house gets shittier and every couple of months we have a fight about it. There is ammunition: he brings up the gunk my make-up leaves in the bathroom; I counter with the talcum powder he leaves everywhere. Arguments start with gentle utterings of the words “Babe, next time, could you maybe…” and end with “Well, why don’t you live somewhere else, then?”

I assume this is also the deal in your house. Which is why, like me, you were probably drawn to this story about the American couple who run their household like an office manager runs a tech start-up. The couple in question, Lilian and Gary, use Trello to organise their chores, have daily “stand-ups” and weekly progress meetings.

I had four very distinct phases when reading this blog:

Stage one: Are these people for real?

Trello, for those of you lucky humans who have never had to use it, is a project-management tool where you can assign tasks to different people on your team, and also determine how urgent the task is.

There’s nothing wrong with Trello, except that I have never heard anyone talk about Trello without referring to it as “fucking Trello”. Nobody likes being told what to do. Nobody likes little email notifications informing them that there is a new task on Trello. Nobody likes tasks, period. And yet a couple of seemingly very nice people have decided they will run their household via Trello.

Stage two: Oh my God, these people are for real.

Reading Lilian’s blog, it becomes clear that they are absolutely 100 per cent on this. They have decided to blend their love of task management and their love of each other into a lifestyle, and I guess the rest of us just have to be cool with it.

“The first step was to actually plan our household like a project,” writes Lilian. “We needed to define our respective roles, and decided I was more detail-orientated when it came to tasks, whereas Gary is good at follow-through.” Of course he is.

Stage three: Not only are these people for real, they have also discovered the secret to a happy life.

“In our experience, we found most household arguments would occur because of the assumption someone would complete a certain task, or because things would get left undone.”

Some quick household maths: four is the number of towels that are currently hanging on door frames in my flat. Ten is the number of conversations my boyfriend and I have had about getting a cleaner. There are six individual shoes that our dog has snatched and hidden, somewhere, in the flat. There are three toilet rolls that have also been shredded by the dog, and have not been cleaned up properly, so there are shreds of wet paper everywhere.

 I have never heard anyone talk about Trello without referring to it as “fucking Trello”

Lil and Gary don’t have this problem. If this were Lil and Gary’s home, there would be no wet towels, no shredded toilet rolls, no awkward conversations about hiring a cleaner, no fights that trade off who is doing the most or least work in maintaining our shitty home. Everyone would know exactly what to expect of one another. Communication would be clear and direct, and we wouldn’t silently note our household shortcomings and leave them to bubble over when we were frustrated.

Have Lil and Gary solved the riddle of eternal happiness? Are Lil and Gary gods on earth? Is there a river Lil and Gary can dip me in, and afterwards I emerge changed and with a full Trello board?

Stage four: Mmmmmaybe not.

A generation ago, things were worse, but they were at least simple to understand: men did work outside the house; women did work inside the house. It was a straightforward deal, at least in principle. Since the dismantling of that treaty, no one’s been able to find a solution for housekeeping – if you’re both work, who does the chores? If you’re both tired, who’s responsibility is it to vacuum?

Lilian and Gary have found an answer to a riddle that’s taken a few decades to puzzle out.

But it is their solution. And while it’s nice to briefly consider that we could all be a Lilian and Gary, I don’t think I could run a home like an office manager runs a tech start-up. I would only start passive-aggressively asking my boyfriend to check his Trello board, rather than passive-aggressively asking him to do the dishes.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep my gross house, and Lil and Gary can keep their Trello boards. “Nephew!” as Ebenezer Scrooge once said to Fred. “Keep Trello in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”



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Photo: The Office (US)
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