The Freedom of Routines

Photo by Kanko*

You know how it happens, the very week that I make a grand post about how I clean my house

I was busy. And tired.

And I didn’t do any house cleaning this week.

I usually do it all in a two-hour burst on Mondays to get it out of the way for the week. (I’ve tried to spread it out during the week like other people, but I like to get it over with.)

By Wednesday this week, those things were still on my list: dust, sweep, mop, vacuum, and clean the bathrooms. But wait, it’s not Wednesday, it’s already Thursday! It’s Thursday night! And I’m going to be gone all day Friday, so it’s practically the weekend! And that’s just two days away from my next regularly scheduled house-cleaning appointment.

So what’s a girl to do?

I removed them from my to-do list, completely guilt-free.

It’s not skipping; it’s deliberate project management.

The good news is that things don’t look too bad. My regular housekeeping routine is done most of the time, and I am going to be the only one who notices what didn’t get done this week. Since the laundry and dishes were taken care of and things stayed picked up, everyone remains satisfied.

And I can jump into my weekend plans without feeling behind.

There is freedom in routines. Freedom to know how you are going to purposefully use your day instead of mindlessly drifting from one useless activity to the next one. Freedom to do things easily without worry.

And there is freedom when you abandon your routine for something better, because routines serve you, not the other way around.

(I’ve been thinking a lot about routines lately as I am realizing that most of my teaching moments in my day is about instilling routines into my children. I’m passing down routines and habits, both good and bad, that are going to stay with them for  a long time, so I what do I want those routines to be?)

Do you feel like routines bring freedom, or do you struggle with having a plan?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I feel like I’m serving my routines. I feel like they can be a bit of a ball and chain sometimes, in fact. When I’m at work I’m always making a mental list of what I need to do when I get home and in what order it should be done to be most efficient. I used to enjoy cooking, but lately it’s become more of a downer because I feel I HAVE to do it (which obviously I do). Unless something will make me so blissfully happy, it is hard to walk away from my house cleaning chores without feeling very guilty. My last blog post was a big nut-job rant on how I don’t know how to prioritize and what exactly is “good enough”. Luckily the only person observing my madness is my husband and my cat. I only WISH my cat could learn how to clean house!

    Jessica´s last post…What is "Good Enough"?

  2. I am wishy-washy when it comes to routines. As much as I want to have a rigid routine, I struggle with wanting to follow it. What I have done is allowed myself to finish my routine on my terms. Yes, I must get x,y,and z done today. But whether it’s 6 am or 6 pm when they get completed doesn’t matter. I used to feel as though I had to get everything done on my to do list before I could do anything else and it would stress me out. In fact, I’ve put things off for a few days as well and guess what? The house didn’t implode! Life’s too short to worry and stress over things that can wait.

  3. I have to many children to have a real plan of my own…or at least that’s my story and I am sticking to it. I usually fly by the seat of my pants and it works out ok, most of the time. PS On big house cleaning….Monday I organized my entire kitchen…it was an awesome task but so nice to have done.

    Tina´s last post…Got Cascarones?

  4. I go back and forth too on routines. Sometimes I feel they are not flexible enough and sometimes I feel like I get so much more done when I do have a plan. I think I work better with a plan and routine, but I get upset when I can’t finish what I had on my list. I applaud you for letting it go guiltlessly. I need to work on that part! Have a great weekend!

  5. First of all, I have to ask myself what does routine mean? To me it means habit instilled. And if I don’t make my habit too complicated then I am more likely to follow through with it. For example, When I wash my hand, I automatically put soap on my hand and rub and then rinse. It was a habit/routine and not a hard one to follow through. Now I may not dry my hands {that’s also a habit/routine, but a bad one} after I washed them but I always soap them. I am glad you wiped out the guilt from your week’s missed routines and I agree with you about that routines are there to serve us and not the other way around. I also look at routines as instruction menus that comes with appliances. I may not necessary follow them to the T to use my appliances but I know they are there if I need to do so. To sum it up, Routines to me are reminders of good {or bad} habits instilled. If I occasionally forgot to use soap on my hands, it is not the end of the world; If I missed this week’s routines, they will still be there next week. But family opportunities? That won’t wait. Like they say, there’s life besides housework. So Rachel, I’d say, have yourself a wonderful weekend with your family! :) Btw, how is your back room coming along?

    Our Lives´s last post…Tackle it Tuesday – Spice Cabinet

  6. Michelle says:

    What do you do with your children while you are doing your 2 hours of cleaning on Monday? Do you do 2 hours straight or spread the 2 hours over the day? I have a VERY active 13 month old and am experimenting with different routines/times to clean, still mostly during her naps these days, but I was just curious about what you do. I can usually do everything during her naps spread over the course of the week, except for vacuuming, which I can’t do until my husband is around, because my daughter is afraid of the vacuum.

    • Sometimes the kids play with each other, and I go as quick as I can to work straight through. If the kids are actively involved with me (like when I give my daughter the feather duster and some instructions) then it takes longer, about three hours. I take breaks between jobs and take care of them or set them up with their next activity.

      I try to save precious nap time for something I can do while sitting quietly like reading a book or spending time on the computer, which is really hard to do when they’re awake. I find if I’m up busy and working around the house, they feel like I’m still with them, even if I’m not involved in what they’re doing.

  7. I agree with you it is so nice to have the ability to take a day off here and there. I don’t have a routine right now because we just moved but when everything is in its place and you keep up everyday you can skip a day are so and not have to worry! Hope you have a wonderful weekend :-)

  8. Oh, I forgot to answer your questions. Sensible routines brings freedom, complicated routines brings struggles. ~ Jenny

    Our Lives´s last post…Tackle it Tuesday – Spice Cabinet

  9. I love this post. I got very sick suddenly yesterday and wasn’t able to get to 2 routine housekeeping items on my list.

    Instead of being upset about it, I was able to rest easy in the fact that my routines enable me to know that I wasn’t behind in my cleaning and missing one day wasn’t going to be a big deal.

    Jenny is right: simple routines bring freedom, complicated ones bring struggles.

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…How This Blogger Stays Organized: meet Jules from Pancakes & French Fries

  10. Can I answer, “BOTH”?! I like a routine…but am so bad about sticking to them. I can’t seem to get a grip on my home and it’s very frustrating. But you wrote in this post that you take 2 hours every Monday to just “get it over with”…and I’m thinking that I need to adopt that attitude. Because I am not good at spreading it out over time, either. And really…two hours once a week?…not bad. Thanks for sharing this…it’s given me HOPE!!!

    • When I tried to spread it out during the week, I would usually do jobs at the beginning of the week, but I always skipped jobs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I could not get motivated on those days.

      The two hours doesn’t include picking up or laundry or dishes, which I consider to be daily life maintenance instead focused cleaning time.

  11. I did no house cleaning this week, until today. We have had a lazy week and that’s ok. Sometimes I want a very detailed plan but most of the time my routines have become such a habit that the house does not have to be cleaned every day. Just a quick pick up

  12. I have a few routines that I stick to, but the rest no matter how hard I try, they fall apart. So I have been trying to go with the flow and work on what I can when I can.

  13. I do far better when I follow my routines. But I’m not real good at sticking to them, or I follow my bad routines a lot more easily.

    I’m slowly learning (and unlearning) how to make my day run a lot more smoothly and use every minute efficiently, but still have time for me.

  14. I love the freedom of routines and I also love to through routines out the window so often. Then I get frustrated and hop back on! (I guess that in and of itself is a routine ;-)

    Since we homeschool and work for ourselves our routine is completely up to us which can be a good and a challenging thing.

  15. I walk the line between really REALLY needing routines and really REALLY needing flexibility. Honestly, I wish I were solidly one or the other. I love my freedom, but I have this internal voice that is often so huffy and put-out with me and my unwillingness to stick to the plan. And when I am sticking to the plan rather quite nicely, the free spirit within gets exasperated.

    Where I have the biggest struggle is embracing freedom from routine is when I need to compromise my routines for the purpose of ministering to others. For example, we love to have people over for dinner and conversation, but we also love to have our girls in bed by 8 PM. I struggle with getting all antsy and twitchy when people stay later than bedtime, but I know in my heart that practicing hospitality should take precedence over my schedule . . .

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…Perspective

  16. I love the idea of routines but implementing them has been hard for me. I know they would keep me on track and help me get a lot more done and make me feel better (probably) but keeping up with them, even if they’re simple, is something I completely resist. Maybe it’s being undisciplined enough or immature, but I can’t for the life of me stick to a routine for too long. Does someone have a solution?

    • Like Jenny said earlier, “Sensible routines bring freedom, complicated ones bring struggles.” You do have routines. You wake up and get dressed and brush your teeth. It’s a simple way of doing things in the same way each time so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. Keep things easy and start small.

      • Vanessa says:

        Thank you for your encouragement Rachel. Out of necessity I will have to redo my routines again. I’ll strive to keep them simple.

  17. I don’t really have a solid “routine” in terms of housework right now, but I do usually start the day with a clear idea of what it is that I hope to accomplish (beyond the basics of meals, naptimes, and making beds.) Maybe it’s because my 2 year old is so active and consequently that my life is often a series of interruptions that it seems hard to have a series of events that I would hope to finish in a certain amount of time and in a certain sequence. Rather, I usually start with one room in mind, and stay in that room most of the day in terms of cleaning and decluttering. Otherwise, I just get distracted picking up little things here and there in every room and never feeling like one room is entirely clean.

    I do agree, though, that habits and routines are important to instill in children, especially young ones. I am reading “Laying Down the Rails,” right now which talks about all kinds of habits that we can teach – it’s challenging and convicting!

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Favorite Frugal Recipes: Homemade Bagels

  18. I am not even going out and I have crossed out a few things-to-do off my list! :-) sounds good, once in a while we need a break from routine and rules. Have a great outing!

    Zengirl: Happy Heart and Mind´s last post…Simplifying your financial life

  19. I wrote a post about a month ago with a list of just se7en things I thought I needed to do that week. ( It was very freeing to see it in writing because nothing on it was that important and yet I kept feeling like a failure because I hadn’t done anything on the list each day… I was doing everything else in the world!!! Blogging it was great I couldn’t lose it or forget anything on it!!! And finally I am getting to each thing on the list in its own sweet time – nearly done in fact but without the stress and without losing all my perspective!!! Just by sticking to the basics a few things on list have gotten done on the side. Lists are just that – reminders, not whips!!!

  20. Routines have been so freeing to me! I learned a few good ones from the FlyLady the first few years of my marriage. Those routines have kept me sane and helped me to be a better mom–I know it!

  21. Your blog is so refreshing! I have enjoyed reading about routines this morning and felt the nudge to respond. I struggle too with routines, but I am sure it is no coincidence that I started a new schedule this week to see if it would work better for me and for my family. Up at 5 a.m. and to bed by 10 p.m. So far, the mornings are relatively productive, but truthfully the afternoons are “foggy” at this point because I am so tired by then. I think I’ll have to schedule a nap! Is that allowed in a routine? :)

    Your blog is lovely!

    Susan´s last post…Good Intentions

  22. I like making lists…and then not really sticking to them. Having just moved I’m trying to figure out if I’ll have a new ‘cleaning routine’ with so much less space and less stuff to clean.

    I have to say, though, I think I’m going to like this laminate floor stuff…easy clean!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Drinking Wine From a Dixie Cup

  23. I love reading your post, and with kids aged 11, 8, 2 and 10 months, I’m only now able to say that routines don’t do it for me…
    All my life my Mum would tell me how my life would change when I had kids. That I’d become a morning person. That I’d do the washing one day and the floors another. That I could let my ‘art’ things go and totally focus on the kids, putting art aside until they were at least 2.
    Lots of things that I now realise were her plans, but now with so many years under my belt, I realise will maybe never be mine.
    Sometimes I try to get it together – I did the folding on a Monday night for many weeks – but then the kids’ sleeping habits change and it’s all up in the air again.
    But my thing is that it simply doesn’t stress me.
    Please don’t think that I live in a TOTAL dump, I am houseproud in many ways, and I like to think my house is fairly clean, and I do have a list of houseworky projects that’s a mile long, but the routine of life just doesn’t balance with the opportunities of my life. And that’s ok.
    I so admire those with routine. And I know my kids need some routine. But I love it that they are ok when plans change.
    But thanks for sharing your routines in this blog. I learn something everytime I visit and although I might not use that learning at the same time each week, there’s almost definitely an opportunity for each new method around the corner.
    Exciting – you bet. Routine – never!

  24. Like many Mums, I don’t actually have time to do everything that’s on my list. That means that the amount of “to-dos” can get overwhelming.

    I’ve recently adopted several new routines after reading a great book called ‘Time Management for Manic Mums’. Having routines has helped me fit everything in AND quite procrastinating about jobs that seem too big to get started on.

    However, the very best thing about my new routines is that they take a load off my mind. Instead of feeling crowded in by my tasks and responsibilities, I know that each one has its place on the calendar and I can focus on what I’m doing in the present.

    So even though routines are prescriptive, they’ve liberated me!