The end of August is the New Year’s Day of summer.

Even before I had children, and I’m guessing even after they are all done with school, the end of August will trigger thoughts of fresh starts.

It’s a great time to consider what I’m doing at home (or anywhere) and evaluate the whys. I used to always trip over the idea of a very organized routine. I’d print out time sheets and fill up a shiny new binder with high intentions of Finally Getting My Life Together. Especially in the areas of meals and household chores. I thought I wanted to be one of those people who did their laundry starting every Thursday at 10:30 am. I’ve heard people like that exist.

But then something would come up at Thursday at 10 am and suddenly, my binder and I would have a fight (I always won) – and I’d secretly feel guilty for not following my own rules.

Here are my own, non-scientific definitions of routine and rhythm:

Routine: something cheerleaders did when I was in high school to 90s dance music. It had predetermined, robotic movements and it was either correct or incorrect, and it was obvious if you messed up. Routine focuses on rules and doesn’t like to be changed.

Rhythm: a frame of mind that suggests more of an art. If you have rhythm, then whatever you decide to do with intention fits in the dance. Rhythm feels like choice and nuance and paying attention to your surroundings. Rhythm is alive and open to adjustments based on the circumstance. Rhythm focuses on needs.

At home, I can guilt myself over not having perfectly planned healthy meals, a chore chart, or daily assigned house cleaning. Nothing is wrong with that, but it’s possible to survive beautifully in a house where the laundry doesn’t get done on the same day every week. Imagine that.

Routine isn’t the bad guy. I use routine when I brush my teeth/floss/rinse in that order. I don’t even have to think about it and it serves me well. Routine has its place. And it looks different in every life.


The week is easier for me when I have at least two predetermined meals planned. I always try to be prepared for Pizza Friday and Taco Tuesday — for my own sanity. I see my two planned meals a week as more of a rhythm than a routine, because I can always change it if I want. Where I get into trouble with pre-planning my meals is when things change and I get all worked up over changing my precious plan. Suddenly it turns into a routine that’s the boss of me.

Sometimes when I struggle with feeling guilty about something at home, I realize I’m trying to force a strict routine instead of falling into a healthy, welcoming rhythm.

Where do you use rhythm and routine in your everyday life?

 “…Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

  • Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    As a cheerleader from the 70’s (egad) I won’t take offense at your definition of routine lol. Like you I prefer to live life in a rhythm that has regular elements but allows for spontaneity. I love The Message version of Matthew 11:28-30. I have never read that before. I am calmed by the thoughts of God’s rhythms of grace…He is forgiving with us so we need to be forgiving of ourselves if we don’t perform a flawless routine everyday. The routines I enjoy each day are spending time with the Lord (though each day the time and length may vary) and walking my dogs to get out into God’s creation. Thanks for a beautiful post this morning.


  • Janet

    My part-time work schedule is my routine and the rest of the time throughout my week is rhythm. It just works for me.

  • Mary Caldwell

    This is a tricky area. I just had an invite to go to lunch today. I really wanedt to go and maybe I should have, but Wednesday is my writing day. My mom watches my kids and I work all day. I have committed to working on this day, so I said no.
    I do believe there will be a time that rhythm can take precedence over routine. But at this time of my life the routine is important.

    • The Nester

      yep, I think you made a great choice! Sometimes a routine can protect us and help us keep to our goals.

  • kells

    Go ahead white girl! PREACH! *waves floral hanky*
    I Love the difference between rhythm and routine…also to end the title “cus Music is my LIFE!” (ok it had nothing to do with the post…but that song is still SO good after all these years)

    • The Nester

      Jump to the rhythm jump jump to the rhythm jump

  • Marti Tidwell

    So lovely…

  • Karie

    Funny, I use schedule and routine where you used routine and rhythm, but I agree. I tried having a schedule and a time for everything but realized after I had my first child it would drive me crazy. Having a routine where things got done everyday (eating, sleeping, a little cleaning, a little laundry) but not always at the same time, worked wonders for me. I found that if I could do things in order it helped, but if I didn’t that was ok too.

  • tina

    My husband and I are both much more spur-of-the-moment rather than planning out our time. It is something both of us hates (planning out our time). I could never be the person who cleans on Monday, does laundry on Tuesday, etc., etc., etc. It works best for us to do things each day. I do laundry as needed. Meals are a bit more planned though because I do work outside the house several days a week. So meal planning is a big help to me. Also I hate grocery shopping so I find that if I have an idea of meals for that week, I can go to the store ONCE a week and have the items I need. I do find that we eat healthier if I have things somewhat planned out.

  • Julie Sunne

    Great post, Nester! My mind goes to Routines as rules and Rhythm as grace. Perhaps not a true analogy, but maybe not a bad way to think of it. And I am a recovering (partially) rule follower.

  • heather m

    Hmmm… some of my craves routine, but I always disappoint myself when I fail to keep my own schedule! I like the thought of rhythm better because I just don’t think I am made for binders and lists and perfectly planned meals either! And that’s ok! Thanks for the wonderful food for thought today!

  • Liz Curtis Higgs

    You didn’t hear me, Myquillyn, but I was saying, “Yes, yes, YES!” at the end of every paragraph. So well written, so wise, beautiful sister.

  • Shelly Miller

    Love this! You know I’ve thought about this in regard to Sabbath-keeping as well. I think when we approach Sabbath as a rhythm to life instead of a routine to follow there is definitely more freedom in our rest. Sharing this with the Sabbath Society this week. So glad you joined us.

    • The Nester

      Shelly, you are always so wise, I always appreciate your thoughts, especially in regards to Sabbath xoxo

  • Shannon

    This was fantastic. I was just thinking last week about why I struggle with routine and I think you summed it up so much better than I did in my own head. I just want things to flow around here in a natural cadence, no marching band orders. Thank you!

    • The Nester

      “flow in a natural cadence” I really like that Shannon!

  • Ginny

    This is my inner struggle DAILY, especially with meals and cleaning. I always feel guilty, and every time I come up with a list or chart I chuck it before it gets started. I do admit I’m trying to help my kids learn about daily routines and rhythyms. They need a little structure so everything flows, but I don’t want to constrict them either. I needed this today!! I love this verse. Another one that melts my heart is “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him-though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” Acts 17:27-28

  • natasha

    Love this.

  • Lisa

    Yes! I think with routine idyll can leap to idol in a heartbeat. Mostly rhythm with some necessary routine mixed in seems to be my peaceful place :)

  • LeeAnn Taylor

    Routine vs. rhythm. Love how you put that.

    I am a “type A” person, but I’m growing out of it (hee hee) and am learning to embrace more rhythm than the structure I think I “should” have. When I don’t do things according to the “shoulds” in my mind, I start experiencing guilt…never helpful. Emily’s “Grace for the Good Girl” helped me see that living up to the “perfect” wife/mom/woman in my head is not only not feasible, it’s not healthy.

    Thank you for putting words to the concept for me. Here’s to embracing my rhythm!

  • kimmie

    Household binder. Bill Paying binder. I think they’re going to school disguised as a Math binder and a World History binder. Checklists and I just don’t get along. I substitute teach from time to time so I’ve learned to flow. As long as my floors are vac’d enough that it doesn’t bug me and everyone has clean undies, I’m good.

    • The Nester

      your binders are going to school, SOO funny!!

      • kimmie

        Dividers, are going, too! Hahaha!

  • Charlotte Hammer

    OK. Loved the visual of the difference between routine and rhythm. Rhythm sounds so lyrical and flowy. Only, the dance moves that I’m likely to erupt with look more like Elaine’s from Seinfeld.

  • jenni

    Instead of a Meal Plan where there is a meal assigned to every day, I have a List of Choices. I have 10-ish dinner and 5-ish breakfast and lunch choices that I am prepared to make/cook, or have the ingredients on hand so someone else can make/cook them.

    Then if we have a crazy busy evening, I can whip up something quick. If we have time to linger over dinner prep, we can make a more intense recipe. I love your meanings of routine vs. rhythm. I am definitely a rhythm person and feel more at peace when life is in rhythm rather than fighting against the pre-determined routine.

  • Laura

    I love routines as anchors for the flow of rhythm.

  • Shawna

    I just LOVE the beautifully eloquent way you shared what Rhythm means for you – isn’t it amazing how using a slightly different word brings about such a different feeling for us in life? I do love how that brings opportunity and new perspective to even the most simple of challenges.

    I wrote recently about cultivating a ritual of intention in my own life – So many times I’ve gotten caught up in ‘jellyfish mode’ – going wherever the current of life takes me, and struggle with feeling grounded, centered, and as if I have even the littlest bit of control in my life.

    I completely relate to what you said about attempting to come up with a strict schedule and then completely bombing it – I totally did that myself, thinking it would bring a sense of ‘routine’ – but it never does for me! For me, things have started to shift when I finally stepped back to reflect on some really important things I need to honor and follow through on in my own life, to keep a healthy rhythm, to properly care for myself and my family. It’s not always easy, and I’m certainly still on and off with it even now, but I know that when I purpose to work in harmony with that rhythm, it makes all the difference in my outlook, my energy, and I feel so deeply cared for going into the week ahead.

    I can’t get enough of the way you share the beauty and truth unfolding in your life – as always, this has been such an encouragement – thank you!!

  • FancyNancy

    Hahaha! Well, I do laundry every Monday morning until it’s all done. Because I hate having to do a little bit every day. That’s like slowly pulling the Bandaid off, hair by hair. But that one chore aside, I appreciate the way you described that routine can be the boss and I would definitely be frustrated my precious plans were being altered. I have been thinking a lot about routines and housework and yesterday realized I don’t mind laundry because I get it done. I have a designated time for it, if it doesn’t get done then the kids don’t have clothes/uniforms for school. And because I do it every Monday morning (sorting and pretreating begin Sunday night), it doesn’t get piled up and out of control. So, I should try to making my other chores built into my rhythm. And if it doesn’t get done one week, no big deal. The bathtub has gone 10-15 days before and nobody died. It’s hard to let go of plans, but I see now that I need to be their boss. Thanks for saying what I need to hear.

  • Cassandra M. Stewart

    I read the scripture from Matthew at the bottom of the post and I could feel the tension easing from my shoulders. It’s going up on my bulletin board next to “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Once again you’ve given me perspective and I thank you for it.


  • Cynthia

    Thanks so much for this perspective. I battle with beating myself up over not being organized enough…but wouldn’t trade my creative side for all of the lists in the world! Starting to come to terms with the fact that these qualities are rare to exist side by side. This made me more okay with it!

  • Kim S

    I agree with you in all the ways, except taco night is Monday ;)

  • Rachel Britton

    I like your definitions of routine and rhythm. I’m currently writing a chapter for my book which is about developing healthy habits of prayer and exercise and although “routine” is part of the definition of a habit, I think “rhythm” fits much more nicely when we are talking about developing the habit of prayer. I will, of course, give you credit and reference this blog post as a source.

  • Ashley

    That was just what I needed to hear today. Thank you for your honesty very refreshing!

  • Marty

    Our oldest child is 28 and lives at home with us…and it’s all good. He has Down Syndrome. I think it’s kind of a “thing” with him, and his FRIENDS who are like him, to need and want routine…and thrive under it. He gets very agitated if we “spring” anything on him. It’s a delicate balance between our schedule not being all loosey-goosey and him freaking out…but still exposing him to and challenging him with new experiences. I’m fairly laid-back, so where my rhythm gets to operate is only after our son is settled into routine. If that makes any sense. I know it sounds like there’s no freedom in our lives, but there really is.

    Love this post!

  • Ann

    Love times a thousand!

  • Rebecca_FeltBallRug

    What great definitions of Routine and Rhythm. And I completely agree with what your saying and have been guilty about trying to follow to much of a routine lately when my life moves better to the rhythms.

    Your example of pre-planned dinners really sparked a note with me as I used to dream about how when I grew up I would spend Sunday pre-planning a menu for the rest of the week so I could pre-grocery shop for everything and then have this perfect, countryside life where everything fell into place (maybe I was an odd child:)). But, I have learned as I grow older and wiser that this will always remain a dream and is probably a good thing! Because if it were to be reality I would probably be pretty bored.

    Let yourself move with the rhythm, this is going to be my motto for the week. Thanks!

  • Agnes

    Gotta say, I’m loving the randomness of the comments on this article!!! LOL!! :) I always used to read the organizing blogs that recommended laundry on Tuesday’s or whatever, and loved the idea, but truthfully it never suited me and I probably never once kept to this type of schedule. My ROUTINE (enforced on me) is my job, and church commitments. Otherwise, I clean when things are dirty, do laundry when my basket is full, I keep my fridge and cupboards stocked with food I like so I have everything I need to make a recipe on whatever day for whatever I feel like eating at that time, and so on. I think we all find our natural rhythms when left to our own devices, don’t we? Problems start when we enforce others’ rhythms or routines on ourselves! Other than that, I do love me a good LIST, I’m famous among my sisters for having had a ‘list of lists’ when I was a teenager. ;)

  • gina

    Love the ebb and flow of my life. Confession: I do try to get a load in of laundry, then I feel less guilty reading interesting blogs! Thank you.

  • Marsha

    Thank you for this. So encouraging on this day as I look around my home and am overwhelmed with my responsibilities.
    …rhythms of grace…

  • Nancy Ruegg

    As my husband and I begin a new stage of life, retirement, I am in need of discovering a new rhythm for my life. The tightly-orchestrated routine I danced for years is no longer necessary. Your post has opened my eyes to the possibilities of establishing “a healthy, welcoming rhythm” instead of a routine. And thank you, Myquillen, for sharing Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message. Those words, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” spoke encouragement and comfort to my heart.

  • Beth Williams

    My routine is reading the Bible daily & work of course. The rest of life is rhythm. It flows–sometimes big waves crash over head, but I try not to let that bother me.

    After a while routine can be come a rhythm for me= (The rhythm is gonna get ya) Just dance to the music/rhythm of life.

    Blessings :)

  • Grace

    I think you’re conflating routine and schedule. Routine is doing things in a particular order or on a particular day; schedule adds specific times to do specific things which are done in a particular order on a particular day. Regardless, it is encouraging to hear someone remind me that it’s okay to do things differently than I originally planned.

    My entire family thrives on routine. Schedule, not so much. It doesn’t matter what time we start our day, what matters is that we do things in the accustomed order. My small children do not think it funny to mix up the events of the day or even what days we do particular things. When we do mix things up, they become anxious, fractious, and insecure. They don’t care if we start the day at 7am or 10am, but they do want predictability.

    This is not to say that we do not also have rhythm in our daily life. I keep definitions of activities broad enough that if we need to do one chore before another it doesn’t mess with their sense of routine. For example, every morning we have a period of time between when my husband leaves for work and we start school that is dedicated to “chores.” (He doesn’t leave at the same time every day.) This includes menu planning for the rest of the day, laundry (5 days a week), a quick house tidy etc. These can be done in any order, but are all completed before we go on to our next activity. I do have target start/stop times, but it won’t throw off our day if it takes us longer or shorter than usual.

  • Alison Lehr

    love love love how you define rhythm ♡♥