“Cheater!!” Mr ET shouted, as I emerged into the living room.
“What?” I shot back. I was completely taken off guard by his reaction. I was standing before him in my chic outfit paired with green wedge suede shoes.
“That’s new!!” he bellowed.
“What?” I shot back, defensively and confused.
“That dress. I’ve never seen that dress,” he explained.
I was being falsely accused.
“It’s not new, I swear!” I began to plead with him.
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen it,” he continued as he skeptically circled me.
“I…I don’t know why you’ve never seen it,” I said, turning slowly, following his gaze, “I suppose I forgot I owned it. I’m not cheating.”
“Are you sure?” he questioned.
“Honestly, I think I’ve owned it longer than we’re been together, “ I implored, pleading my case.
The truth is Mr. ET had a point. I have previously lied about shopping.
This adorable shift dress, with its subtle elephant stencils decorating the top and its bright yellow skirt was without a doubt memorable. He certainly had a point; this number was certainly unforgettable so why had I forgotten about it?
It had gotten lost at the back of my wardrobe, only to be discovered a few weeks ago during my big sweep of my closets and drawers. Less is more. The cliché clearly holds some truth as I now see the benefit of having less in my closet. Less allows for choice. I whittled down and donated half of my possessions, from shoes to dresses and I now have more options available to choose from. Finally able to see what I own, I’ve been walking out of the apartment in different ensembles. When the closet was full, I was left with no choice, always choosing among the first few items on the rack. Everything else was out of sight. According to research, the same order effect influences whom you vote for at the ballot box. Studies found that in one out of every 10 elections, the first name on the ballot will win just because it’s first. They also calculated that being in the middle of the list lowers your chance of winning. Ouch! Another reason my elephant dress wasn’t a first pick.
Our ability to consciously process a certain amount of information at a time is small and the time we give to that process is even smaller. Think of it this way, we handle 40,000,000 pieces of information every second, but only 40 of those make it to our conscious brains. I think back to when I would peek into my closet and pick amongst the first items within sight. The clutter and constant disorder deterred me from wearing the items at the back. I couldn’t consciously process them, so I opted for the easy picks and grabbing what was available in the front. I continued to shop, for various reasons, but I can now see that as my closet grew, the new purchases covered the older items and it just snow balled. No wonder I felt as if I had nothing nice to wear, my wardrobe was self-imploding.
Speaking of picking the easy options, we, actually most primates, are genetically hardwired to take shortcuts. The shorter alternative route is always sought as we do our best to conserve our energy; we conduct our activities of daily living (think food, sex, shelter) by exerting the minimum energy needed to do the tasks and no more. I begin to see how the energy I expended sorting through the mess in my wardrobe could be used elsewhere. I had to lighten the load.
Whittling down our choices in order to facilitate decision-making is certainly not a new concept. Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote, “Choice no longer liberates, but debilitates”. Owning nice things isn’t a problem, but it doesn’t mean that owning more beautiful things is necessarily better. The beautiful items in my closet were not being enjoyed simply because they were too many. I came across another writer expressing the same frustration I’ve been experiencing. She wrote, I feel that within my own closet I often have too many choices, so I just keep wearing the same shirts every week. I empathize with you, Megan.
Trop de choix, tue le choix is a French saying that underlines the enigma of choice. It translates to too many choices kills the choice. We live in a world where there are simply too many options for a simple need. We only use a dime size of it a day, so why are there entire aisles dedicated to toothpaste or shampoo? With so many different scents, colours and varieties, our choice becomes difficult. Something simple becomes trivial and we find ourselves wasting time trying to make sense of the options. Who wouldn’t enjoy making fewer time-consuming and ultimately tedious choices?
Tips to share:
Think of the essentials because if it isn’t of the essence, then there’s no space for it. Stick to the choices that matter, the needs and the reasonable desires. Eliminate the rest.
I’ve been good this past month. Only one small slip with a beautiful Guatemalan blouse- funds went directly to the Women’s Association, so I get part marks off, no?