Editor's Note: This article is the second in a series of articles by Kym Wright on marriage's "little kindnesses."  

We were packing for a cruise: eight children, two adults. We had shopped for off-season summer clothes, buying shorts, tops, sundresses and swimsuits at clearance prices. Each child had their own printed list of things to take on the cruise: sunscreen, toothbrush, flip-flops, and so forth, broken down into different categories, for ease of packing.

By nature I am an organizer. I see things in a different way than others do. What is the shortest route between two points? How can we do this task the quickest and most efficient way? And what is the easiest way to get ten people packed and on the cruise ship? These are my guiding lights.

So, I make lists. I’m not fastidious, I’ve just learned the value of planning ahead. One of my favorite mottos is, “Think once and write it down.” If an activity is to be repeated, then I think through the steps involved, the supplies needed, and any other pertinent information. Then I write it all down, so I don’t have to spend – or waste – time going through the thought process again, and again. For our family, daily and weekly chores are listed on charts. Menu plans are made in advance and printed on the Master Grocery List, so we can grocery shop easier and more specifically. We even have laminated directions for cleaning a bathroom, including the supplies necessary and the most logical sequence of cleaning so steps don’t have to be repeated. For example, cleaning from top to bottom, or once the dust flies from the shelves, the floor will need to be vacuumed another time.

When we pack for vacation, I simply print the lists I’ve made on the computer – one specific to the females in our family (hair and feminine supplies), and the other for males (computerized gadgets, deodorant). This makes life easier and more manageable for all of us. And it teaches our children how to think in an organized fashion. How to organize thoughts, processes, essay answers in school, and life.

For our long-awaited cruise vacation, Spouse was helping the children pack. Excited, the kids ran to get everything he called out. List in hand, Spouse turned to me and asked, “Do you have a packing list for me?”

And I was taken back to his early career days. Traveling internationally for business, each time, he waited until the last minute to pack. I’ve overnighted his passport to his hotel in New York. He’s made do with hotel shampoo, toothbrushes, and razors. Underwear has been washed out and hung to dry for the next day.  

So, I offered to make him a list. He hedged. He mumbled. He wasn’t too thrilled. Not easily put off, I made a list of the things he’d forgotten on previous trips, added the things he normally packed and researched for any other items I might have missed. Included on this list were items for pleasure, to magazines and books to read, VHS movies to take along to watch. Covered with clear contact paper, this became his lifeline. And we bought duplicates of his toiletries and contact supplies, and left these in his overnight bag. No more worries whether he had his contact case with him, and wetting solution. Life was in order and he could travel with relative ease.  

Now, these thirty years later, he was convinced of the value of my thinking ahead, pre-planning, and organized thoughts. And he also wanted a cruise packing list, which I quickly printed from the computer.

Spouse and I have learned to appreciate each other’s personalities, gifts, and abilities. What he’s not, I try to cover. What I am not gifted in, he works hard to fill in the gaps. Together we make a decent whole.

It has taken years of the dance to fine-tune our lives and appreciation for each other. One time during a move from The South to The Frozen North, he nearly made fun of my list-making, and said in a mocking tone, “Oh, I embrace that about you.” I gently reminded him that I could do many other things with my time than make this move – of his choosing – easier on everyone by making lists: for packing the household items, for packing clothes to wear during the transition, for things we would need to set up in the new house, such as electric, gas, and water. He changed his tune, and his words, to, “I appreciate that you invest yourself in our lives this way.” Different phrase, different meaning.

How are you and your Spouse different? What traits about him bug you? Can you find any good to that quality? Does it fill a void in your life or relationship? Can you build good things on it?

Being honest about our inborn temperament and coming to a true appreciation of our differences makes a solid marriage. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Published January 17, 2008


After 30 years of marriage, Mark & Kym Wright now have eight children. She is a national speaker, author and writer. You can visit her website at:
www.KymWright.com Her online publication is The Mother’s Heart magazine.