While people are often eager to tell you that your 40s will be your best decade ever—a time when your career, finances, and relationships have reached their natural apex—what most people aren’t so forthcoming about is the undeniable toll the great balancing act of being 40 can take. You may be proud of your accomplishments, but with a seemingly never-ending to-do list, it’s no surprise that the challenges of this pivotal decade often feel like they outweigh its merits.
“Life after 40 is often characterized in context of family relationships and work. Often, people after 40 are negotiating raising children and/or navigating a change in relationship with parents who may need more attention and care as they age. One may also be deeply engaged in their career, working to either maintain or supersede their accomplishments to date,” says psychologist Dr. Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, Ph.D., founder of New York-based life coaching practice Brathwaite Consulting.
But even if you have a precariously full plate, there are plenty of ways to de-stress, firm your schedule, and generally make things easier for yourself. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 40 genius ways to simplify your life once you turn 40, all guaranteed to ensure this is your best decade yet.
1. Create a capsule wardrobe.
When you’re ready to simplify your life over 40, one of the easiest places to start is in your closet. Research from ClosetMaid suggests that the average woman has more than 103 items in her closet, meaning it’s high time most of us pared down. So, how should we start? A capsule wardrobe is quite possibly the best tool for simplifying things.
“The goal is versatility,” says Patrick Kenger, founder of Pivot Men’s Image Consulting. “When I work with clients to build a capsule wardrobe, I try to find them items that they can dress up or dress down, with neutral colors that pair easily. A capsule wardrobe ensures that all your items work well for you, you’ll spend less time doing laundry, and your closet will feel a little cleaner.”
As for how to go about this, the rules are simple: “A capsule wardrobe should have interchangeable pieces and accessories in it that hold psychological value of the past, present, and future,” says fashion psychologist Dawnn-Karen, CEO and founder of the Fashion Psychology Institute. “This could lessen anxiety felt and improve productivity when deciding what to wear daily.”
2. Embrace your life the way it is.
One of the things that keeps our lives both dissatisfying and hectic at once is the constant desire to get more. We want more money, a bigger house, and a better job, all without realizing the toll that constant wanting can take.
“Too often, we spend our time wishing our lives were different. That we would have accomplished more, had more money or written that book. Placing energy and focus on the ‘what ifs’ keeps us from accepting our lives and ourselves as we are,” says Horsham-Brathwaite. “Instead, accept the truth of where you are now so that you can focus your energy on healing what needs to be healed, confronting what needs to be confronted and making the necessary changes to reach your goals.”
3. Sign up for an automatic savings plan.
If you’re one of the countless Americans who don’t have much of a nest egg to speak of, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a 2017 report by GOBankingRates, the average American has less than $1,000 saved. The easiest way to simplify your life while taking your mind off those retirement funds? Set up an automatic savings plan. Even if you can only contribute $5 per week, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it grows—and how much less stress you have knowing that your money is doing the work for you.
4. Reduce your debt.
According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the average American between ages 35 and 44 has a staggering $133,100 in outstanding debt, a burden heavy both financially and psychologically. For those eager to Marie Kondo things after 40, reducing debt is an easy first step. Begin tackling high-interest debts (like credit card debt) first, until they’re eradicated. Move on to car payments, student loans, and your mortgage until you’ve either paid them off or are making significantly more than the monthly minimum on each. Medical debts should go last: though, like all other debt, keeping a high balance will destroy your credit, you won’t incur any interest on medical debt.
5. Organize your home.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a simple solution to some of the problems that are plaguing you: organizing your space. While it’s often hard to find peace in a home that’s overburdened with things, something as easy as dividing your items into labeled bins or straightening up your bedroom can improve your overall wellbeing.
6. Make self-care non-negotiatble.
With ever-increasing commitments in your 40s, it’s often hard to find time to put yourself first. However, if it’s simplicity you’re after, start putting self-care on the same priority level as those other tasks on your to-do list. “Simplifying is not just about what you take out of your life, it can also be about what you add,” says Horsham-Brathwaite. “Writing a gratitude list, yoga, walking, and other forms of exercise helps to calm stress, improve mood, and invigorate you so that you can focus on what matters.”
7. Prioritize work-life balance.
The American workweek is getting longer, with few people living stateside clocking out after just 40 hours in any given week. However, if you want your life to be simpler and more manageable, it’s high time you addressed your work-life balance issues. If saying yes to an additional project will necessarily mean that you don’t get to clean your house, shop for groceries, or attend a workout you’ve been dying to go to, it’s not worth it. Before you can get the rest of your life streamlined, you need to take control of the precious little time you have off, even if that means making some unpopular decisions along the way.
8. Reduce your social media usage.
With so many social media platforms at our fingertips, it’s often hard to feel like we’ve completely unplugged, even when we want to. If you’re eager to simplify your life and enjoy the mental freedom that only those who aren’t constantly waiting on a new like or notification know, try deleting some of your less-used social media apps. Once you realize how much their constant information was weighing on you, you’ll be glad to see them go.
9. Streamline your morning routine.
If you’re like most people, no matter how many times you’ve completed your morning routine, it still manages to come close to making you late on a near-daily basis. To make life easier and simpler in one fell swoop, try simplifying wherever possible: take your shower and blow dry your hair the night before, use multi-tasking beauty products, and pack your lunch the night before to save yourself serious time.
10. Opt for paperless billing.
Those paper bills you’re still getting are no good for the environment or your peace of mind, either. To make your life a little simpler, simply opt for paperless billing and you’ll automatically have one less task on your plate.
11. Create a workable budget.
Even if you’re comfortable financially, having a budget in place can help you streamline your day-to-day life and eliminate some of the stress of not knowing where your money’s gone at the end of the month. Using an app like Mint, simply input your expenses and you’ll get a better picture of where you’re spending and saving effectively and where you could stand to scale back.
12. Follow a daily to-do list.
While adding a literal to-do list to your metaphorical one may seem counterproductive when you’re trying to simplify things, it may actually be a boon to your life in the long run. For your best bet, write down your daily tasks at night—according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people who wrote to-do lists before bed fell asleep faster than those who left the task undone or waited until morning.
13. Implement a meal prep routine.
A recent study from OECD reveals that the average American will spend over two hours on meal prep and clean-up on a daily basis. Of course, on those busy days, this can be a serious drain on your time and energy, making it feel nearly impossible to execute all the other tasks you’re eager to get done. Instead of simply resigning yourself to a life of takeout, implement a meal prep routine—designate one day a week during which you prepare and pack all of your meals, and enjoy a wealth of extra free time and less stress throughout the week.
14. Put down your phone.
If you’re like most people, you likely spend upwards of five hours on your phone every single day. And all that time spent tuned in to what’s going on with your friends and the world at large means time you’re not focusing on what’s going on around you in real-time. If want to simplify things for yourself, designate no-phone times: when you’re at meals with friends or family, when you’re watching a show or movie with your significant other, or even on your commute home—you’ll be amazed by how much less burdened you feel.
15. Use your lunch hour to exercise.
With just a fraction of Americans getting the recommended amount of exercise each week, it seems like there must be some way to simplify this much-needed, but rarely-achieved task. If you want to make sure you’re keeping your heart and body healthy, instead of banking on a post-work trip to the gym, use your lunch hour to exercise. That way, once your workday is done, your evening is freed up for other activities.
16. Keep the same daily routine.
While it may seem boring, keeping to the same daily routine can help simplify your life in a hurry. Having the exact same routine day after day can make it easier to streamline your tasks while taking away the uncertainty that comes with an unscheduled day.
While organizing your life is a good start, decluttering can help clear out both literal and figurative space, simplifying your life in the process. Decluttering—the act of not only paring down what you own, but making sure that everything is in its place—can have a profound effect on your stress and your happiness, too.
18. Cut out cable.
When you’re overwhelmed with choices, it can feel difficult, if not impossible, to find the simplicity and peace you seek. The good news? There’s an easy way to lower your bills and avoid wasted time: cutting out cable. With so many inexpensive streaming services offering similar programming for much less money, there’s no time like the present to cut the cord for good.
19. Quit multitasking.
Though it may feel as though you’re getting more done when you multitask, in most cases, you’re just doing everything less effectively. If you want to simplify your life, it’s time to cut out the impulse to multitask. According to research conducted at the University of Michigan, at least, the human brain simply isn’t set up for it, anyway.
A calm mind paves the way for a simpler life, and there’s no better way to enjoy some mental stillness than through meditation. “I have noticed that my own meditation practice allows me to be more present to what is important and less bothered by minor issues,” says Horsham-Brathwaite.
21. Learn to say no.
You say yes to work, events, and even people you don’t particularly want to spend time with. The end result? A busy schedule and heavy mental load. When you’re ready to simplify your life for good, practice saying “no”: you’ll be amazed by how much easier it is to do what you set out to accomplish and still find time for yourself, too.
22. Pay in cash whenever possible.
While earning credit card points can be a nice benefit, every time you charge an item, you’re essentially adding extra tasks to your to-do list, since you’ll have to eventually pay it off. To make things simple, start bringing a specified amount of cash out with you on a day-to-day basis—it’ll help you stick to your budget better, too.
23. Hit unsubscribe.
Those tens, hundreds, or even thousands of unnecessary emails you get on a daily basis aren’t doing you any favors. To keep things simple, hit unsubscribe on every extraneous message that hits your inbox—or better yet, get a program like Unroll.Me to do it for you.
24. Give yourself some buffer time around appointments.
If you find yourself in a constant state of mid-rush panic, you’re not alone. When you want to make things simpler for yourself, allow yourself some buffer time on either side of your appointments, or even write them in your calendar as occurring earlier than they actually do. Without those mad dashes between every activity, life will feel a whole lot more manageable.
25. Switch to autopay.
There’s no reason to spend an entire evening every month poring over a stack of bills. Instead, switch to autopay and save yourself time and hassle, making life simpler in the process.
26. Pare down your social calendar.
If you’re not a person whose job demands that you’re out seven nights a week, then why are you stressing yourself to commit to never-ending social engagements? Trimming the fat off your social calendar can help you find some much-needed time to decompress and plan for the rest of the week—something that’s pretty hard to do if you’re getting home after midnight every night.
27. Communicate in person.
If your inbox feels like the albatross around your neck, communicate them by another means instead. Whenever possible, deliver news in person—or if that’s not possible, call someone or shoot them a text; no matter the email alternative you choose, it will certainly give you more peace of mind than that inbox waiting to be emptied.
28. Outsource tasks when you can afford to.
There’s no shame in not always being enthused by domestic chores. Whenever possible, outsource the tasks that take up an undue amount of time and make you miserable, whether that’s cleaning, cooking, or picking up your prescriptions. “Just as businesses outsource, it may be helpful to figure out what tasks complicate your life and whether someone else can do them. This can mean enlisting family members and friends or hiring someone to do those tasks,” says Horsham-Brathwaite. “One aspect of life after 40 is often more material comfort that allows for choices that did not exist in our 20s and 30s.”
29. Ditch those unwanted magazine subscriptions.
Considering that most magazine companies offer their content in digital form these days, those magazine subscriptions are just creating clutter. Whenever possible, unsubscribe to the ones that are doing little more than gathering dust in your magazine rack—when’s the last time you actually read a copy of Cat Fancy, anyway?
30. Give yourself some time to think.
Considering the mental gymnastics, it takes to schedule our busy lives, it’s surprising how little time we have left to think at the end of the day. When you really want to simplify things for yourself, make sure you set aside some time to gather your thoughts, reflect on your day, and plan ahead for tomorrow.
31. Downsize your home.
By the time you’re over 40, you might not need as much space as you once thought. Maybe you didn’t end up having the big family you thought you would, maybe you’re single once again, or maybe your kids have already left the nest—no matter the reason, if you find yourself with more space than you know what to do with, try downsizing and enjoy a wealth of free time you used to spend maintaining that big house.
32. Bring a water bottle with you.
Want one less thing to worry about over the course of your day? Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go. Not only will this make it easier to stay hydrated wherever you go while keeping plastic bottles out of landfills, it will also mean there’s no more time spent feeling parched in front of your office’s vending machine, hoping your dollar doesn’t get eaten for good.
33. Invest in a robot vacuum.
Even if you don’t have the cash for a weekly or monthly maid service, you can simplify your life in no time by investing in a robot vacuum. All it takes is one purchase and voila: An entire onerous task off your plate.
34. Identify your goals.
If you’ve ever felt like you spend your time working toward things you’re not even sure you really want, you’re not alone. When you want to enjoy a simpler life, start by writing down your goals. When you realize what they are, you might just find that you’ve been wasting a ton of time on the wrong things.
35. Opt for multitasking products.
Who says that you need a product to clean every surface or a different makeup palette for every part of your face? When you’re ready to simplify your life, opt for multitasking products—not only will they make your daily routines quicker and easier, they’ll also save you space in the long run.
36. Put your laundry away as soon as it’s finished.
That pile of laundry that never gets put away isn’t doing any favors for your home’s aesthetics or your mental health. When you’re on a quest for a simpler life, put those clothes away the second the come out of the dryer—you’ll be amazed by the peace of mind such a simple task provides.
37. Set out your outfits the night before.
Don’t waste your precious time in the morning poring over the items in your closet hoping you’ll find one you like. Instead, put an entire outfit—accessories and all—on a hanger the night before and commit to wearing it the next day.
38. Clean up your desktop.
That stack of file folders on your desktop isn’t occupying any less of your mental space than a physical pile would. When it’s time to simplify your life, start by organizing your desktop into folders, deleting what you don’t need, and making it a weekly ritual to go through the items on there and clearing them out.
39. Cut down to two credit cards or less.
The more credit cards you have, the more bills you have to pay, and those monotonous tasks are, unsurprisingly, the enemy of a simple life. When you’re ready to declutter both physically and mentally, opt for just one or two credit cards instead—you’ll be amazed at how much lighter your load feels.
40. Ask for help.
When it comes time to simplify your life, asking for help is a good first step. Even if the things you’re dealing with feel like they’re too stressful for you, odds are there’s someone who’d be eager to help you out. “Remind yourself, ‘It is ok to ask for help,’” says Horsham-Brathwaite. “Especially if this provides more time to spend with loved ones or to engage in self-care.”