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How to Keep It Simple in Complicated Times

By Marcia Smalley July 27, 2023 Lifestyle

We’re living in complicated times. World events are spiraling, technology is developing at warp speed, and uncertainty is the norm. We’re bombarded with information, deluged with news, overwhelmed by decisions.

Life can be exciting. And it can be exhausting.

Navigating these times can be challenging for even the most seasoned souls. I know I find myself waxing nostalgic for simpler days.

One of my favorite mantras is When things are out of control, control what you can. In my case, I do a load of laundry.

It’s not the love of a good spin cycle that motivates me. Rather I’m seeking something small, something mundane. Something that gives me the satisfaction of completion and the illusion of control. And a feeling that all is in order in the world.

I think that kind of yearning is human nature. There’s comfort in ritual. There’s solace in the simplest tasks. And bringing a little order to life calms our nervous systems and returns us to our center.

The list of ways to nurture simplicity is as varied and unique as each person. While I might begin in my laundry room, you might run from yours in horror.

Here are a few ideas for keeping things simple to get your wheels turning… and to help you hop off the hamster wheel that is Life.

Summon Your Senses

When you need to get back to basics, rely on all your senses. Choose tasks and activities that wake them up.

  • Look out your windows (even better, open them first).
  • Wear your happiest color(s).
  • Pour your favorite beverage; open a favorite book; play a favorite tune; light a favorite candle.
  • Arrange a bouquet.
  • Plant your garden. Or weed it.
  • Soak in the tub.
  • Watch the sun set. Or rise.
  • Focus on your breath.

Move at Your Own Pace. But Move!

I recently had a conversation with a group of friends about exercise and aging. Most of us are leaning into the notion that by now our bodies know what they need. None of us are committed to the punishing workouts and strenuous training routines of our youth.

All of us agree that even the simplest movements serve us. Movement can keep you in the moment, so:

  • Stretch each morning.
  • Walk in nature.
  • Count your steps.
  • Stand up every hour. Or more.
  • Practice balancing.
  • Dance in your kitchen. In all your rooms!

Take a Break or Create

Sometimes the easiest way to keep things simple is to merely unplug. Cutting back on distractions and taking a step back can make a difference.

Or we can lose track of time (and of those situations that stir us up) by diving into something creative. And remember, complicated is not required.

  • Take a digital sunset (no technology after a certain time of day).
  • Sit with the silence.
  • Turn off notifications on your devices.
  • Mono-task, not multi-task.
  • Pick up a pen. Or a paint brush.
  • Re-organize a bookshelf. Or rearrange a room.
  • Try a new recipe. Then savor its rewards.

There’s not always much we can do to influence the ups and downs of life happening all around us. We can only ride the waves.

But the actions we do take will set a tone. If simpler feels more peaceful, why not go with that? I’ll be right there with you.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What practices do you have for embracing simplicity? How do they restore you and make a difference in your life?

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Judith Louise

Wonderful article. For a number of years I have risen at 4.30am to enjoy the stillness, the serenity, and the freshness of the air in each season. I avoid the rush of the morning so as to circumvent a stressful beginning to the day. No hurried breakfast, clear-headed planning and feeling more balanced and right with my self. This has helped to deal with my husband chronic, life-threatening illness as well have cope following the total destruction of our home by bush fire in 2019. At 4.30am my breath is calmed by the stillness.


I agree. I’m up at 4:30 if work day (2 days/week) and 5;30 other days for my yoga/meditation/prayer routine with curtains open. Sets me right.

Marcia Smalley

Early mornings are a perfect time for simple stillness. Thanks for reading, Judith!


”Bush fire”— you must be an Aussie, Judith. Aren’t we lucky to be able to rise at 4.30am & be able to enjoy the morning air, which in many northern hemisphere countries would be freezing?
I wish you & your husband a good future.


As a woman working seriously towards letting go of perfection and my “to do” lists I very much appreciated your article! It supports me and my new way of thinking.

Marcia Smalley

I’m happy my article resonated with you, Laura. Thanks for reading. Perfection is a tough task-master. All the best as you loosen its reins!

Gaili @upperhandspiano

Thanks for this! I find that gratitude journaling helps me to focus on what is good and working well in my life. Also decluttering a small space or drawer, reading or watering the garden are great simple activities. I also find that doing a chore like washing dishes or laundry helps me to simplify, and the sense of accomplishment that follows makes me feel good.

Thank you for reading! Love your simple activities…I so agree.

A Shively

Thanks Marcia for a well-observed and inspiring article. In the midst of cllimate chaos, AI looming over my work and another 60-something birthday coming up, my simple reset is to have afternoon tea every day around 5.30 pm. Tea made and small teatime treat lined up, I settle down with a favourite Jane Austen, Bronte or Trollope novel, many times read, or a volume of memoirs and letters. 20 minutes of this clears and steadies my outlook, so that I can re-engage with ‘real life’. Thanks again.

Marcia Smalley

Thank you for reading! I love your ritual. Peace~Marcia


Love this. Thank you!! I do laundry too as a go-to way of putting the world in order.


I find doing ironing helps. There’s just something about fresh smelling, nicely pressed clothes being an achievement. I think it’s because it’s such a methodical task, I do pillowcases first, then shirts, then t-shirts and finally trousers. In the background I play classical Spanish guitar music on my iPad.

Marcia Smalley

Sounds calming, Linda. Thanks for reading!


I used to iron when I needed to reset my mind. It was relaxing. I should try using it that way again.

Marcia Smalley

Thanks for reading, Karen. Cheers to the laundry room :)


I clean:) I never thought of cleaning the house as having control and sense of accomplishment in a chaotic world before, but it makes sense! Thanks for the article and encouragement that I’m okay!

Marcia Smalley

Thanks, Karen. Cheers to all of our clean laundry :)

The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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