Paper Checklists Are Saving My Marriage Right Now

For the first time since before the pandemic, we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people. I married a man who is a wonderful host and who loves to cook. I love to host and cook too, so we are both very excited to have a full house again this year. (We’re, like, THIS EXCITED to have everyone coming, in fact!!)

And, we both want to be relaxed, and enjoy ourselves not only for the holiday, but for the busy days running up to the holiday.

How do we host big dinners and overnight guests with good teamwork beforehand, and less chaos when everyone is (finally!! 😸) here?*

Paper checklists.

Actually, this is a hybrid process.

Several weeks before Thanksgiving, we plan on paper. Electronic devices are too distracting for us, so when we plan, I get out a notebook and pens, and we get some refreshing beverages, sit down at the kitchen table, and we start talking:

  • What do we have to do to get the house ready?

  • What do we want to have on hand as people come in from out of town - soup, sandwiches, casserole? Who is coming in, on which days? Who needs rides from the airport or train station? Who wants almond milk in the fridge?

  • What do we want to cook and eat for Thanksgiving dinner?

  • What can be prepared and frozen ahead, what do we need to make on the day of, what do we need the oven for, when can one thing come out of the oven and another thing go in, what can we heat on the stove, what can we order from the bakery, and when do we need to pick that up?

Then I take the decisions we’ve made and create a menu list, and a digital time-line and checklist.**

Then I print the menu list, and the time-line and checklist, and stick those on the fridge.

When it’s on paper, we can both grab it, make notes, and change things up.

The most important thing our paper checklist does, is this: it lives on the refrigerator door, and we see that list EVERY day.

We see that paper checklist every day, without having to navigate an app.

For me, if a time-sensitive checklist like this is buried inside my phone or laptop, I literally won’t see it, and I will remember it too late.

And we can’t have that!

printed time-line checklist with handwritten notes and arrows


Beauty and the Beast - Be Our Guest (2008). Available at: (Accessed: 15 November 2022).


* Less chaos; not no chaos. I’m hoping for less chaos than the year the basement flooded on Christmas day; but no guarantees, right?

** fwiw I use Dynalist because it lets me make folders for various groups of checklists

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