The Key to Free-time is in the Little Steps

Discipline equals freedom

I teach routines. I’m sure you all know it. I hear myself saying over and over that to thrive in your home, create morning and evening routines, and a weekly cleaning routine.
The point is to build that into your life, so it’s done at a regular basis and not waiting all week, and then doing a major deep-clean of the home and being exhausted, and then again, repeat the cycle.
A couple of years ago, Tammy took my course. She really resisted routines, because she is a spontaneous person, and she thought,

“No way! If I embrace routines, then I’m going to be spending all my time doing these routines, and I’m not going to have time for things that I love.”

I encouraged her to try it; just do it for a while and see how it is.
As she went through the course with us, she found that in doing those routines regularly all of that gave her so much more freedom.

She was able to be more spontaneous

Before, people would invite her out: “Hey, we’re going to go hiking for the day. You want to join us?”
She’d look at the laundry pile, and she’d reluctantly reply, “No, I have to catch up on laundry.”
She never got to participate in those spontaneous adventures.
But doing the laundry regularly and having the house picked up meant that she could take off whenever she wanted.
What do the daily routines look like in everyday life?

Morning routine

I used to scramble on school mornings; I’d get up out of bed late, I scrambled to get food in the kids, we’d scrambled to make lunch, we’d rush to try to find shoes and backpacks and coats and get out the door.
The morning was always like that, every single morning until I became intentional:
I got up earlier, and I had plans for breakfast, I had plans for lunch, it was organized, it went smoothly. The kids got out of the door without me yelling at them. It was wonderful.


Doing the dishes in the morning means that when I walk by during the day, I don’t think, “Ugh, I still have to do the dishes.” It’s already done, and I didn’t even think: “Okay, now I need to do this.”
It wasn’t purposeful anymore, because I’ve built it into a routine, and it’s now a habit. I don’t even think about it. I just do it.
I remember hating dishes. I would build it up so big in my mind, and I would grump about it the whole time. I’d stand there washing the dishes and think, “I just can’t stand this,” or  “Why? Why do we have to eat??”
Now it’s fine, I don’t even think about it, I just do it.
What a relief to never have it hanging over my head during the day, I never have to think, “I still need to do the dishes.”
It’s done.
When I go to cook dinner at night, I don’t have to worry about this huge stinking sink full of dishes.
With having routines in place for decluttering, cleaning, and laundry means that nothing builds up, all of it gets done.
Need help cementing those routines? Enter your name and email and I’ll email you my routine building charts:


I know when decluttering comes to mind we think, “Well, I really can’t go through that cupboard, because it’s going to take me five hours and I don’t have five hours.”
That’s okay! How much time do you have?
Do you have 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? Do that every single day, and it will get done.
We don’t have to have a perfect amount of time.
In fact, it’s so much better for us if we don’t spend hours doing it!
Hours doing one thing is going to burn us out, and then it’ll just build back up to what it was before we have the energy to address it again.
Remember small steps, little things every day make the difference in our homes.

Check your email less

I used to sit down to work, and I would go through my email, then my Facebook notifications and then something else and it wouldn’t take long before I’d have 17 tabs open.
I’d go back and forth between all of them, not getting anything accomplished, but feeling very busy.
Now,  I check my email once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I turn my computer off when I’m done working for the day.

Turn off notifications

The only notifications I recommend are text messages and phone calls.
It won’t take long before people realize that if they want to get ahold of you, they need to text or call.
It’s good to set boundaries for yourself and what you are capable of giving to people during the day.
It’s the same with what you allow yourself to do on your phones. You know… scrolling social media.
It’s such a habit to jump on and check Instagram. How many times a day do we pick up our phone?
Discipline yourself to not pick up your phone that often. Do give yourself time to do it. Don’t wholly abstain unless you want to. It’s important to limit rather than going through times of abstaining and then binging on it.
Permit yourself to do it when it works for you.  You can even have a set time during the day where you leave your phone down for a while. It’s a good thing.

After-school routines

After six kids and 23 years of parenting, I’ve finally figured out that I need to have an afterschool routine.
When we get home, we check the backpacks, sign the papers, clean out the lunchboxes, and hang everything up, put it away.
Because if we don’t, then it’s more scrambling in the morning. I never remember to deal with it after dinner. I’m not going to think about it, it has to be done as soon as we walk in the door after school, and that frees us up from all that scrambling the next day.

Dinner routine

Five o’clock comes, I automatically wander into the kitchen and get started on dinner. Because I know it’s a set time, I have to start then to have everything ready by our usual dinner time, and it’s now a habit.
I’m not rushing to figure out what I’m going to do, because I have planned it out (not rigid, but I have several meals I have the ingredients for and the list is on the fridge.)
Remember, discipline equals freedom.
There’s less fast food, less junk food, fewer restaurants because I know what I’m doing and I’m in the habit of making dinner every day.
All my routines give us time to relax in the evening and then to wake up to a clean house.
It feels so good to get up in the morning and not have a messy kitchen!

I did it in my evening routine.

After dinner, we clean up the kitchen, and we do the dishes and turn the dishwasher on. In the morning I can come in and unload the dishwasher, make breakfast, get lunches together, and it’s streamlined.
Everything goes smoothly because of that.
It’s incredible how much a clean kitchen improves my attitude.

Weekend cleaning

It took me a long time before I embraced weekend cleaning. It has been wonderful having a set time on Saturday morning to clean the house.
Once it’s clean, and we can leave for the rest of the weekend, and we can feel good about it.
If we go to the lake, we come home, and the house is clean. It’s a wonderful way to walk into the house and relax and not be bombarded with all the things that we didn’t do earlier.
We take one room per person, bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining room, and then the kids have to clean their rooms.
Once we have our chosen room, we do all the chores in that room: clean the sink, scrub the bathtub, sweep/mop the floor, clean the mirror/windows, etc.
It usually takes us about two hours to do that on a Saturday morning, which leaves the rest of the weekend with a beautiful, clean home and plenty of time to relax and get out and enjoy the weekend there.
Discipline does equal freedom. Small steps make the changes you long for.
So don’t be afraid of embracing discipline if you’re spontaneous like Tammy.
The discipline of decluttering and cleaning is going to give you more time to be spontaneous, and it’s lovely. 
The Key to Free-time is in the Little Steps (1)

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. purpleslob on 06/16/2022 at 9:12 pm

    I just went to get some ice cream. There were 2 plates, a slotted spoon, a pot, and 2 cookie sheets in the sink. I did all but the 2 cookie sheets. Don’t ask me why I didn’t do them…
    But I did the others, cleaned out the clogged drains, and washed out the sinks. Progress, not perfection!! DIN DIN, Do it now!! Sure is better than waiting till later!!

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