This past month I began reading the book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” by Barry Schwartz. I wanted to gain more insight around an issue that I continue to hear you are struggling with and one that I am working on too. It’s the problem of the over-abundance of choice in our lives. Maybe you can relate?
Think about all of the decisions you are faced with each day.
Actually, wait! That’s just too overwhelming.
Try again- just ponder what happens when you need to buy cereal. At the time that Barry Schwartz wrote the book, he counted “275 varieties of cereal, including 24 oatmeal options and 7 “Cheerios” options” during a trip to his local grocery store. That number is staggering and if you are anything like me you might have learned to deal with that abundance by zeroing in on your favorites & continuing to buy the same thing over & over, just to cope with how overwhelming it would be if you truly looked at the full aisle of options!
Decisions can be overwhelming & Schwartz’s research shows that having more choices doesn’t mean we will be happier. He says that having too many options available can create some unfortunate effects:
- decisions require more effort
- we are more likely to make mistakes
- and the psychological consequences of the mistakes seem more severe
So how does all of this talk about choice pertain to the work of decluttering?
It fits perfectly.
We are constantly bombarded with the latest & greatest, abundance & possibility, which makes it hard not to succumb to the myth that more equals better. So we have surrounded ourselves with lots of stuff! Bring in more stuff and you create more options & more decisions around all of that stuff.
When we give in to the “more equals better” myth, we end up with spaces full of more cabinets, more storage, more closets, more shelves, more places to file things into & more surfaces to place things on. It feels like we have to have those options to house ALL of what we think we need.
We have given ourselves too many choices & too much pressure to find the “right solution” for all of this stuff. Often times that means that instead of putting something away we drop it on the counter or in a corner because it’s all too much! The decisions, the options, the stuff, feels like all too much!
I don’t want that to happen to you. I don’t want you stuck with decision-fatigue!
Decluttering is an effort to create clarity around your choices. It is the effort to really look at what you have, what you want to have, and how you want to interact with those things.
Let’s decrease the choices & get clear!
Here’s how to get a small start:
1. Consider – Take some time to think about all of the spaces that you have set up to store your items. (remind yourself of all of the possibilities – the closets, cabinets, under-the-bed storage box, attic, garage, hutch…).
2. Evaluate – Look at the items that are living in those spaces & decide if they support the function of the space, make sense in that area, and are stored in a place that will enable efficient retrieval when you need it.
3. Shift – Make a goal to store items based on 1.) their use (ex: cooking items in the kitchen or pantry, sporting goods in the garage) or 2.) proximity to where they will be used/needed.
4. Limit – Limit the choices by letting go of extra storage pieces. Don’t clutter your room with extra shelves & cabinets to store hardly-used items. Reduce storage options & the decisions will come a lot quicker.
Often we cope with the overwhelm of putting things away by developing a habit of creating clutter-collecting-zones. For instance, you might throw all of the things that you can’t decide on in a laundry basket in the bedroom, a pile at the front door, or a space at the bottom of a closet.
If you have those clutter-collecting-zones, then it’s time to shine some light on what’s hiding there. Commit to digging into those cluttered spaces, one at a time.
Begin with the sort. Forget about all of the options for storing just yet. Organizing always comes after you purge. For now, sort out what you are going to keep, what needs a new home, and what you can let go of.
Once you have decreased your items & the pile feels more manageable, then clarity around the storage space will appear. Put the item away in it’s new home & offer yourself a little boundary/accountability by labeling that drawer, cabinet or bin until you get in the habit of putting items away there without a second thought.
The result of less choice is greater happiness & I think that’s an idea worth looking into!
Want more insight, inspiration or conversation?