The Paradox of Choice

The Paradox of Choice

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Barry Schwartz is a notable American psychologist and frankly, a pretty funny guy. In 2004 he published a book called The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less. This book is an expansion on his theory that while autonomy and decision making are critical to happiness, too much of a good thing can ultimately be not-so-good after all. Mr. Schwartz spoke at the TED Conference in 2007 in support of his theory, and tells some compelling and entirely true tales about everything from buying jeans, to building a stereo system out of the 6.5 million choices available to us. It is a compelling performance, and an absolute must-watch for anyone interested in simplifying and minimizing their lives.

As consumers, we find ourselves in a unique position. We are presented with an ever-expanding catalogue of available options, all of which have different sizes, colours, scents, textures, software, hardware, accessories, etc. In a somewhat misguided effort to seek happiness, we have inadvertently created a type of mental stress and emotional strain that has not been observed in previous generations. It is called decision fatigue, and it stems from having to make upwards of 5,000 individual choices every single day. From the mundane to the big-picture decisions, we are in a constant state of having to choose. As humans, we are not designed to be in a perpetual state of mental exertion. Simply put: it’s too much decision making.

So, what can we do about it? Fortunately there are many simple ways in which we can reduce the number of decisions we have to make while enriching our lives. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started on your journey. These suggestions all work together to bring more balance and happiness to our lives, while reducing some of our unnecessary decision making stress.


We all have a drawer or pantry shelf stocked full of every kind of green, black, oolong, rooibos, and herbal tea known to man. Or, perhaps it’s a closet overflowing with dozens of t-shirts, jeans in every rise and wash, or dresses from seasons past. These are the types of decisions that bear little importance in our day to day lives.

It’s time to clear out the clutter! Sort items into keep, sell, donate, and trash piles. Once the clutter is cleared, we are able to more effectively make decisions as the options are significantly reduced, and more curated to our preferences. Then we can begin to incorporate elements into our homes that we’ll want to use without thinking about it - and that’s the whole point.

Choose Quality over Quantity

Choosing high quality items for our homes is a natural extension of reducing what we own and eliminating small decisions during the day. High quality items last longer, and by virtue of that greatly reduce the frequency with which they need to be replaced. This means fewer shopping trips (sorry!). The advantage to that, of course, is that we save money in the long run. Not only that, but not replacing items means reducing our environmental footprint by keeping quickly-worn-out items out of landfills. This helps us reduce fatigue by allowing us to confidently choose pieces that will last a long time, and by reducing the overall number of consumer choices required when sourcing new items. Good for us + good for the earth? Win-win!

Choose Multipurpose Items

Versatility is an unsung hero as far as we are concerned. By choosing items that can be used in a multitude of ways, we are increasing the value of the items we’ve chosen for our homes. Clothing that can be worn throughout many seasons by layering, towels that can be used in both the kitchen and bathroom, blankets that can transition from indoor to outdoor use, and a silicone lid for our favourite coffee mugs are all examples of how we can take everyday items and enhance their usefulness. Our Marin Small Towels are an excellent choice for the bathroom, as a hand or hair towel, in the kitchen as a tea towel, and they’re also fantastic as a gym or yoga towel.

What it all comes down to is that we want to improve our lives, gain more happiness, and reduce our stress. While the above suggestions are by no means the only solution, they are certainly helpful tools for those of us who wish to seek change in our lives. Curating a lifestyle which is rooted in mindfulness and balance is what many of us seek. By implementing positive changes, we can in turn see benefits to our mental health, an increase in our emotional capacity, and a reduction in overall stress.

A quote from William Morris comes to mind when considering the overall improvement of our lives through refining our spaces, and sums up the theory rather succinctly:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Until next time,

Stray & Wander






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