7 Simple Ways To Make Life Simpler (Even If Your Life Is a Little Crazy)


“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” ~E.F. Schumacher

I used to live the most complicated life you could imagine.

I tried to be perfect at everything. All the time.

I was constantly proving myself. Trying to climb the corporate ladder while juggling work and family life. I would step into my boss’ shoes whenever she went on leave, no matter how little notice she gave.

I’d extend my hours to ensure I had her work covered, along with my own. That’s right, I’d happily do two jobs at once.

Was I insane?

Looking back, it certainly seemed that way. Whenever anyone would ask how I was, I would answer, “I’m crazy-busy. I can’t stop and talk right now.”

I kept thinking that I just had to work smarter and put in more effort to get over the “hump.” But I never got over the hump.

For a while, I was too busy and overwhelmed to determine how to get out of that mess. I even thought I was having a nervous breakdown, so I went to see my doctor, and she put me on stress leave.

That’s when it hit me—my job was costing my sanity, and my life was too precious for me to be stuck in that vortex.

I had to make some serious changes to make my life simpler, easier, and more enjoyable. Here’s what I figured out.

1. Don’t hide what’s inside.

You might invest a lot of time and energy trying to be the way you “should” be and conforming to all those things that you think people expect of you. If so, you don’t even do it consciously.

But in adhering to what you think other people expect of you, you’re adding a layer of complexity that you don’t need. It’s like you’re trying to be someone else.

Start getting to know who you are and what you value so you can shed the extra layers and live on your own terms.

Life is simpler when you satisfy yourself and meet your own expectations rather than try to satisfy everyone else.

2. Reframe bad situations.

We all have crappy stuff that happens to us. But when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop and reframe.

I don’t mean paste a smile on your face and try to convince yourself everything is rosy. That doesn’t work.

But looking for the silver lining, or finding the opportunities behind the challenges, really improves your outlook.

My workplace became a nightmare, and my doctor put me on stress leave because I was a mess. But that’s what gave me the necessary push to rebuild my life.

Even when I was in the middle of the mess and feeling like my life was falling apart, I kept thinking maybe this is an opportunity; maybe this is just what I need to make a change.

3. Use your understandascope.

One of the biggest complexities in life can come from misunderstanding someone else. It can lead to anger, frustration, and damaged relationships.

Instead, actively work on your ability to discover and view someone else’s perspective, or understandascope. Suspend judgment and get curious about the other person’s perspective.

I did this recently with my ten-year-old daughter who was being disagreeable and downright horrid to everyone. I wanted to pull her into line, but I stopped myself.

I got curious about her behavior, hugged her, and asked what was wrong. She explained that everyone loved her sister more than they loved her.

Once I understood her perspective, life became much simpler. Instead of telling her off and upsetting her, I could discuss her feelings and provide reassurance.

4. De-clutter your mind.

Don’t you just hate when your mind gets chaotic?

Like when it races around at 3:00AM going faster and faster and faster. Or when you try to remember all that stuff you’ve got to do, and you think your brain might just burst.

The way to prevent that is to actively practice being calm for a few minutes every day. It de-clutters and slows your mind for a few minutes.

Whether you meditate, practice mindfulness, daydream, or do yoga, the effect is to calm your mind and increase focus. Miraculously, the effects of practicing calm for a few minutes gives clarity and makes life easier all day.

5. Re-evaluate your relationships.

Consciously re-evaluate your relationships, one by one. Ask how the relationship enhances your life, how it serves you, and what you gain from it.

This sounds calculating and manipulative, but it’s not. The healthiest relationships are ones where both parties are giving and receiving what they need in terms of happiness, support, and development.

Whenever I realize that a relationship is not serving me well, I reduce contact with that person. Of course, I don’t do this just because a friend is going through a rough patch and needs support.

I look at the full life of the relationship and establish if it’s healthy and beneficial for both of us. If not, I reduce contact and let the relationship drop away.

6. Reconsider your corporate climb.

Someone once told me that they’d found themselves climbing the corporate ladder, and then he realized it was against the wrong building. In other words, he was moving in the wrong direction.

If you find yourself climbing the corporate ladder and wondering if it’s all worth it, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. Moving up isn’t necessarily bad; just be sure it’s what you truly want.

Will it give you the satisfaction, joy, and life balance you want? Will it fuel your passions and get you leaping out of bed each morning, eager to get to work?

If the answer is not a loud “Hell, yeah!” then it’s worth looking at your options and evaluating what you want from life and how you can get it.

7. Live your best life yet.

Life is limited, but we take the time we have for granted. We get complacent.

People who have a short time to live or have a serious health issue often find immense clarity and drive. They know what’s truly important to them.

Thinking yourself unwell is a fairly challenging mindset to adopt; instead, embrace the idea of making the next six months the best period of your life to date. Use this as a lens to review every decision and establish what’s included in this best period of your life.

What would make the next six months the best of your life? Work out what that would look like, and then set about ensuring those things happen.

It truly is as simple as that.

If It’s To Be, It’s Up To Me

It would be nice if your Fairy Godmother could appear, wave her magic wand, and make your life perfect.

She could wave away complexity, give you the perfect job, and rearrange your life so that it satisfies your every whim.

Want to know why you’ll never actually see your Fairy Godmother?

It’s because she’s inside you.

It’s true. Her wand and her fairy dust are your direction and determination.

They’re your ability to work out what you want and how to get it.

You want to live a simpler life? Then establish what’s important, and eliminate as much of the rest as possible.

It truly is that magically simple.

So, what things are important to you?

Simplify image via Shutterstock

About Cate Scolnik

Cate Scolnik is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and occasionally hanging out on Facebook. Download her free Cheat Sheet to Get Your Kids from “No” to “Yes” in Three Simple Steps and reduce your yelling today.

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  • I really like these tips and that they can be implemented so easily. It’s always easier to make changes when you start small.

  • Laura J Tong

    Cate, so much great advice in this one post. I love “Suspend judgment and get curious about the other person’s perspective” – curious is such a good way to put it. And you ‘undastanascope’ is fabulous. Thanks for sharing these strategies.

  • Hi Laura,
    I’m so glad you liked it! I find getting curious helps me a lot. I also love the Understandascope, but can’t take credit for it entirely. If you Google “Leunig understandascope” you’ll see the cartoon. Leunig is this fabulous Australian cartoonist who is sometimes deep, sometimes sad, and sometimes funny. He’s amazing.

  • Hi Leslie,
    Thanks for your comment. You’re right, starting small takes away the overwhelm that making changes can bring. I’m glad you found the post useful.

  • What a great post! I too loved the ‘understandascope’ reference, and now will definitely look up Leunig as I hadn’t heard of him. “want to live a simpler life? Then establish what’s important…”. Lovely summary. Tanya @twowisechicks

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Thank you so much for sharing these awesome strategies, Cate. I know I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to please everyone around me, so I will continue to live my life on my terms.

    My dad passed away three years ago, and my mom told me to finish my senior year, by going back to school. I wasn’t ready, since it was bad timing. I politely told her to back off, and I can finish college when the time was right. I remember going to my college adviser’s office, wanting to know if it was too late to finish school. Thankfully, it wasn’t too late. I recently discovered that I will be graduating next spring.

  • Hi LaTrice,
    Wow, you’re an inspiration. You’ve been courageous enough to look after yourself during difficult times, and now you’re well on your way to living your best life.
    Congratulations on graduating!

  • Hi Tanya,
    I’m glad you liked the post and hope you enjoy discovering Leunig. Thanks for commenting.

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  • Ann Davis

    Cate, I great post to de-clutter the mind. I like #5-re-evaluating the relationships. Some relationship not worth keeping.

  • John

    Excellent post, Cate. After reading it, I now have a new and better way of asking people to look at their problems differently. I prefer how you say, “reframe bad situations.” Thank you!

  • Hi, Cate! Great to see you at Tiny Buddha again.

    You’ve got a talent for delivering a real punch with your advice in simple, doable terms. Every time I read your anecdotes, I pick up something new.

    I enjoyed the “understandascope.” It’s a handy tip — when you take the time to share someone else’s reality. Understanding takes effort and practice. But it sure pays off and makes life easier.

    Thanks for simplifying my day, Cate. I’m off to tweet and share!

  • Ashley Trexler

    Repeat to self, “Don’t be complacent.” Thanks, Cate, for a wonderful post…as always!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Thank you, Cate for your kind words.

  • Thanks for your comment, Ashley. Glad you liked it.

  • Hi Anne,
    Thanks for your kind words, and for sharing the post. I’m glad you found something new to try out, too.

  • Hi John,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, life really is what we see and think, and we can change an entire situation by reframing it. It’s almost magical!

  • Hi Anne,
    Yes, if we’re able to end unhealthy relationships it can make a big difference, can’t it? Thanks for commenting.

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  • Susan Mary Malone

    Thanks for this, Cate! I experienced the “wondering if it’s all worth it” a while back. Yep, time to refocus my life, which I did.
    Great points! Off to tweet.

  • Hi Susan, glad you liked the post. Thanks for commenting.

  • Wonderful post, and several of these points are just what I needed to hear today. Thanks!

  • Great post. 🙂

  • lacy.escalan
  • Glad you liked it, Dave.

  • Thanks for you comment, Justine.

  • You’re welcome!

  • It’s best when there is a balance