Too Many Choices

I have a confession to make. I get nervous standing in line at Starbucks. I actually hope there are a few people in line in front of me before it’s my turn so that I have a little time to decide what I want. That elaborate menu of combinations and delivering my order in just the right way to have the expert Baristas wait for me to make up my mind and prepare it for me gives me a bit of anxiety. Especially because I am not a “regular” that frequents this famous establishment, so I feel like a novice at those detailed and very specific orders.

It sounds ridiculous I know, considering that refining and making decisions of incredible cost and magnitude is such a huge part of my day. In fact, ironically I get paid very well to help make decisions with and for others to curate and direct the infinite number of decisions it takes to execute a design project. In the world of interior design, I am probably the most decisive individual possible. I do not hesitate when asked what paint color would be best in a particular situation, or whether to go with brushed nickel or chrome, or what color temperature should the LED lights be, so how is it that a seemingly simple choice like coffee can cause me to feel a bit inadequate.

The answer is so simple, there are just too many fuckin* choices on this planet, that its no wonder we are all stressed. Yes I know I used the F-bomb, but that’s just how strongly I feel about this topic. Choices and more choices can definitely be too much of a good thing.

We are just bombarded daily with decisions to make.  Way too many of them, but it doesn’t seem to be letting up. Every day we are faced with more choices to make. Paper or plastic, really!

Life used to be simple, but with each new idea and ability to discern between them becomes more complicated. The possibilities are endless and overwhelming!

I was intrigued the other day by a Podcast that I stumbled upon about Minimalism, the idea of de-cluttering and minimizing choices in an abundantly choice-filled world. It sounded amazing to me and yet I have to admit that pressing the button to hear about this topic also produced that familiar coffee selection anxiety. Would I, once hearing about this, feel overwhelmed with guilt at the number of things that I have? Would I need to begin to address my own disorganized drawers and filing, undeleted emails or photo files? Would I feel compelled to add to my already extensive To Do List?

Guess what, I pressed the button anyway, and I realized that we all suffer from this anxiety and that at the very least I should feel proud of myself for helping so many people navigate the anxiety they feel in the creation and selections that are made in building, remodeling or tackling their design projects.

This is the arena in which I feel absolutely no anxiety at all. I feel incredibly grounded and focused when I help my clients navigate the seemingly endless possibilities that await them in the process of manifesting their design projects. I actually wish there was someone like me that I knew for all of the other choices that we face every day. It is no wonder that Marie Kondo’s Netflix show is such a hit. We all need a process for making the plethora of choices in our lives easier or simpler to make and de-cluttering or minimizing seems the best solution to the problem. We all want to simplify our lives as we drive to the mall to buy more… just kidding.

What I did learn on the Podcast, and knowledge that is worth sharing, is that The Process for all of this is rather simple and applicable for all of the situations you may find yourself in when making a choice between this or that. Ask questions. Yes, its that simple. Ask yourself some basic questions. It’s step 1 in my Design Enlightenment process and its step 1 in everyone else’s process that I know to be an expert in this genre of self-awareness and productivity. Ask yourself, How do you feel about this item, object or product? Is it something that will truly fulfill me or its purpose in my life right now? Why do I want it? What if I didn’t get it, would I feel I was really missing out on something special?

Honestly, there are any number of questions we can ask ourselves to help refine and discern our decision-making process and whittle down to the essence of why we are desiring something. At the end of the day, it’s really all about how something makes us feel. How we feel, with or without something is where the secret sauce is. This is the real reason we consume or not.

I always say to my clients, “Start from what makes you smile.” This simple directive has served me very well. For Marie Kondo, it’s “Does it spark Joy?”

If we learn to take a moment to listen to ourselves, our inner, higher selves in these moments, similarly to when we select something with less emotional investment like a coffee or an item on any menu, we will all be happier for it.

By the way, how blessed are we to have so many choices, to begin with, so even if the tone of this particular discourse is slightly cynical, our abundantly obvious ability to have choices, to begin with, does not go in any way unnoticed by me. They are all first world problems that I feel blessed to have, even if they do and might cause me and everyone else a bit of anxiety sometimes.

I promise the next time I’m struggling to pick out only 3 pairs of shoes to fit into my carry on to go on my 4 day weekend vacation, I will remember not to complain at having too many choices and I will relish in how easy it is to pick from the, oh so simple few, that I have with me hanging in the hotels minimal closet space and relish at the moment I get to select what I will wear for that particular day, especially because every overwhelming choice I left behind at home, seems like a distant memory. Maybe I’ll laugh at the idea, that I spent all day in my bathing suit and didn’t even have a chance to use the few strategically selected items that actually wound up in my bag. C’est la vie!

Bea Pila is an award-winning interior designer with 30 years of residential and commercial experience. Bea’s work has been recognized by ASID and the International Design Awards and featured by U.S. News and World report, Houzz, and Elle Décor, among others. She is the pioneer of Design Enlightenment, a process for aligning people’s interior spaces with their interior selves.