Today I want to discuss why too many choices can be a bad thing.
I recently decided it was time to purchase a new computer. So I did what most anyone would do. I went online and started looking for deals on laptops. But it soon became clear that I could not make a decision with so much information coming at me.
Then I decided to go to some good old fashioned brick and mortar stores. But every time I found a laptop that might be “the one” I would start to wonder what offerings were available at the next store down the street. I finally gave up and went home for the day – no closer to getting a new laptop and no longer wanting to deal with it.
I actually told my hubby I wished he would just pick one for me and buy it. He did not like that idea as much as I did, so I am currently sitting here typing this post on my old computer.
I am usually a quite decisive person. This is one of my better qualities (don’t ask about the bad ones), but sometimes the sheer number of choices in our world can overwhelm anyone.
Our super-consumer driven society would have us believe that infinite choices and possibilities equals infinite happiness, but that is truly not so.
For example, years ago when my grandparents wanted to purchase new furniture or appliances they went down to the local store (there was only one) and looked through the handful of choices . They picked what they wanted, paid for it, and took it home. It was that simple. And life went on as usual.
Similar purchases for us have taken weeks or even months.
Because not only are there lots of choices, but many stores carry the exact same thing and we need to make sure another stores doesn’t sell it cheaper, right?
But the endless choices don’t just extend to consumer goods. These days every choice becomes a process in frustration.
Career choices can be daunting with so many new fields emerging. I constantly hear about jobs that I never knew existed. (You can get paid for that?)
And how about that online dating? Now, you don’t just choose a mate from those in the vicinity of where you live. There are thousands or possibly millions of potential companions all around the world. No wonder so many people are single these days.
So how do we cope with all this clutter of possibilities? (And, yes, this IS a type of clutter.)
I think we must limit our pool of choices ourselves. We must be mindful of wanting to simplify the process of making choices.
I sometimes decide to buy something (after debating whether I really need it) and decide I will only shop on Amazon for that item. I usually find exactly what I need. I don’t check any other sites and I don’t second guess my choice. I give myself permission not worry about whether there is a better one out there. Or cheaper one.
Then I proceed to enjoy the new item without any stress attached to it.
It’s small things like this that have made my life more peaceful. After all, it’s the small things that usually impact our lives the most.
Yesterday, my mother in law walked into my house and said, “Your house looks bigger.”
And, although I hadn’t noticed it before that, she was right. It DID look bigger. Why was that?
Well, I had purged tons of items out of our house. I mean, HUGE piles of unused things left our house this summer. And what was left behind was all this open, airy space. You see, I no longer feel the need to fill every wall with a piece of furniture and something hanging on the wall.
Instead, I let my house breath. In return, that allows me to breath.
Yesterday. I also read an article on Becoming Minimalist titled Reconsidering the Merits of Slow Acquisition which I loved, so when my mother in law made that observation I was downright proud. I had pared down our possessions to only those we needed and/or loved. (The hubby helped too.) Joshua Becker, who runs Becoming Minimalist, is a wealth of inspiration, by the way. Check him out here.
So I had this epiphany:
Everyone (ok, maybe just some people) want a larger house.
What if……..people just had less stuff?
Then our houses would feel and look larger and we wouldn’t be striving to spend more money on larger and more expensive real estate. I know this idea will be very strange to some people, but others will think it is charming.
I strive to be a minimalist, There are different levels of minimalism, and I would say I am about medium at this point. This level makes me happy right now.
And I will never live in a tiny house. Why?
You can live a more minimalist (simple, uncluttered) lifestyle without living in a tiny house. While I see the merits of a tiny house for some people, that just doesn’t work for some of us. Instead, a average size house can become an oasis of peace and tranquility when you remove all the unnecessary distractions.
At least, it is working great so far for us.
If you have any thoughts on this I would love to hear them below.
My husband and I always notice how most dog owners are friendly, outgoing people. It is quite unusual (at least in our part of the country) to see anyone walking a dog who doesn’t have pleasant demeanor and a kind word for anyone passing by.
Our theory is that dog owners:
- Are drawn to the fun loving attributes of dogs because they exhibit those traits themselves.
- Are less stressed because dogs provide stress relief in their lives by way of closeness and silliness.
The same goes for minimalists.
Well, not exactly…..but sort of.
Minimalist are also friendly, outgoing people. And it is also for similar reasons to dog lovers. In fact, minimalist often ARE dog lovers.
Stay with me here…..I’m going somewhere with this……I promise.
You see, being a minimalist allows you to strip away all the things in your life that are not important. And believe me, there are lots more unimportant things in our lives than most of us realize.
When you get rid of the things that are not important and only the good things remain, then you will become a more relaxed, happier person. Your joy will begin to overflow. Then the most amazing thing will happen. You will suddenly be super nice to everyone around you…..even complete strangers!
So you really shouldn’t ask why you must be kind to be a minimalist, but rather, how can you be a minimalist and not be kind?
As for dogs, as a semi minimalist (I’m still working on it) I find that a dog (or in my case 2) are essential to my happiness. When I strip everything away, my fur babies are on my top ten list of things that make me happy. They are a part of our family, and they bring joy to everyone in our home. (It’s like having two more kids that you don’t have to start college funds for.)
Besides, I truly believe that way deep down, even the meanest, nastiest person really wants to be kind to other people. When we take away all the clutter and see our lives clearly, then love and kindness stand above all else.
And, really, nothing else truly matters.
This is going to be short and sweet.
Having memories will always be better than having stuff. Always.
Over the years people have decided to rebel against the so called “American Dream” and define their lives with a new set of values. The Great Recession, as it is now labeled, has become a driving force for this.
The Millennials have one thing in common with survivors of the Holocaust. They have figured out that some things can’t be taken away from you.
Holocaust survivors learned that possessions could be taken away, but educations and vocations for individuals, such as doctors, lawyers, and scientists, couldn’t be taken away. This is why so many of these survivors encouraged their children and grandchildren to educate themselves in this way so they could always have a certain level of security in their future no matter what might come. (They could always go somewhere new and start over. They sort of carried their security with them, so to speak.)
Fast forward a few decades and a different generation has learned a similar lesson although from entirely less traumatic circumstances.
Houses can be foreclosed on and vehicles can be repossessed, but experiences can never be taken away from you.
Just think on that one for a moment.
I know lots of people right now who wish they had spent their money on dream family vacations instead of over sized houses that were repossessed during the financial crises. Or luxury cars. Or boats, Or expensive jewelry. Or designer clothes. Or ______________. (You fill in the blank.)
Now, instead of having lovely family vacation memories, all they have are regrets over bad choices and digging out of a financial hole.
So buy a nice house that suits your needs, not your wants. Buy a a good, dependable car (if you live where you need one). Take care of your basic needs and make yourself happy. Having memories is better than having stuff.
Don’t do anything to impress anybody. Only do things to make yourself and your family happy.
Then go have some experiences and make some memories.
The Art of Being Happy
Happiness can sometimes feel as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The art of being happy is actually big business these days with books and other forms of self help flying off the shelves. So there is obviously a shortage of happiness out there.
But as someone who has chased happiness for most of my life, I can tell you that is really boils down to just four things.
- Give Yourself Permission To Be Happy
- Be Grateful For What and Who You Have
- Ignore the Past and Future
- Learn to Truly Not Care About What Other People Think
I know this sounds a little too simple, but it can be quite difficult to change behaviors and ways of thinking that have become our habits. Sometimes our thinking patterns are engrained all the way back from our childhoods.
That’s why the first step is to give yourself permission to be happy. Everything else hinges on that one decision.
Give Yourself Permission To Be Happy
Everyone deserves to be happy. EVERYONE.
Sometimes we feel like we don’t deserve happiness in our lives for various reasons. Maybe someone else we know if a better person or does more charity work than us. Maybe we were treated badly as children and made to believe we were less than. However, there will always be someone “more deserving”, like Nobel Peace Prize winners, which most of us are not. That does not mean that you don’t deserve happiness too.
Think of it this way, if you become a super happy person, then you will spread that happiness to others and improve the world around you. Other people will be happy because of your good deeds, kind words, and general goodness toward all.
If nothing else, you could be a force to change the world just by being happy. That alone should be enough to give yourself permission.
Right now you are giving yourself permission to UNHAPPY. How much more energy would it take to change that?
Be Grateful For What and Who You Have
This can be difficult in the materialistic world we live in, but it completely doable when you change your perspective on things. I find that watching and reading a lot about minimalism and the simple life helps me stay focused and know that I am not alone in my quest. Other people are trying to close out all the noise of the world and work toward a simpler, happier life too.
This always leads back to being grateful. ALWAYS.
When you appreciate what you have, and I mean TRULY appreciate it, then you just don’t want as many other things.
Who cares what the neighbors have? They probably also have huge payments to go with it. While they are working all those extra hours trying to keep up all those payments, you can sit on the porch sipping a latte and reading a good book.
How can that NOT be better than having all that “stuff”?
It’s not the number of things/friends/achievements you have that makes you happy. We know this for a fact.
It’s the quality of the things/friends/achievements that matter. And how much you appreciate them.
You could be the President of the United States and it wouldn’t make you happy if that was not your thing, right?
Everyday, make a point of thinking through all the good things and people in your life and remembering why they are so wonderful. Your perspective will automatically change with no further effort on your part. It’s awesome!
Ignore the Past and the Future
For many years of my life I was guilty of living in the past and/or future. And I didn’t even realize it.
I alternated between thinking about stressful things from the past and dreading possible outcomes in the future. Or sometimes I was just planning for the future. (I am a huge planner, so it’s hard for me to just let things happen on their own.) But either way, I was never enjoying the moment that I was in.
Can you see how this could bring down loads of stress in a person’s life? In short, nearly all of my thoughts were stressful and caused tons of anxiety in my daily life.
I almost NEVER lived in the present moment, even though that is where happiness truly lies.
When I finally realized what I was doing to myself, I decided to make a point of living in the present. I started meditation (half the point of meditation is to keep you in the present moment), increased the amount of time I spent outside, started taking more walks, and I also just started reminding myself throughout the day to enjoy what was going on right then.
You can’t change the past. No matter how much you worry about it. No matter how much you replay it.
The future will come and you will usually find that no matter how much you planned for it – well, things just don’t go like we planned most of the time.
This does not mean that you don’t plan for your future. That would be crazy. It does mean, however, that you make a plan and decide what to do each day to work toward it and then put it out of your mind.
So give your brain a rest and only think about today for a while.
Learn To Truly Not Care About What Other People Think
Try as we may, most of us have a very difficult time with this one.
Society and nature have both programed us to care – and care big time! (What would the neighbors think????)
We often get our own self worth from what others think of us. If they think we are successful/smart/attractive/lovable, then we think we are too.
There are so many problems with that I don’t know where to start.
But …..let’s think of it this way. People around us are actually picking up signals from us. Not the other way around. So if we think we are worthy, then everyone around us will too.
And I don’t mean that superficial “I have more toys than everyone else” sort of mentality. I mean if you are a good person who does good things in this world, then you will feel like a worthwhile person and others will pick up on that.
People actually see us the way we see ourselves. It’s that simple.
So stop caring about what other people think and do what makes you happy and is important in life. You will be so happy and fulfilled in life that you will forget to care about what other people think.
(Although I’m sure it will be all good stuff.)
That’s it. Practice these four things everyday and your life will begin to change. It costs no money and is painless.
But if you would like some further reading, I recommend this book:
Be More Instead of Having More
It’s hard to embrace minimalism or the simple life in many ways.
For example, the other day I decided to look online for a Kavu pack. I had thought about getting one for some time, but didn’t want to pay the price for one and also wasn’t completely sure I would use it that much.
So I sat staring at me computer (off and on) for a couple hours while I deliberated on whether or not to add this item to my closet when I am trying so hard to actually eliminate things instead.
I know I am not the only person who has this problem.
Getting rid of the clutter in your life sounds great until you have to go item by item to make decisions, right? You think you can eliminate about half the stack, but after considering each item you only eliminate about a quarter of it.
One Easy Trick To Cut Clutter Even More
I have one little trick I use on myself (and my husband and kids) that works like a charm. Well, it’s not really a trick actually. But it moves the process along for us and helps us stay of track.
I always tell myself is this:
If I ever need this item again I can always go buy another one!
Duh….I’m sure we all know that, but sometimes I need to remind myself of this.
Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest difference. At least for me.
In a culture that is addicted to “stuff” I find myself being overly materialistic just like everyone else. We were all raised in the same toxic environment of “give me more”.
However, even though my journey has recently begun, I find that I already feel freer just by getting rid of one to two bags of useless stuff each week.
I also feel like I am putting more importance on people and relationships than finding, buying, cleaning, and storing stuff. That makes me a better person in general, and definitely a better wife and mother.
If you want to be more in life (and I mean “more” in the minimalist way), then you must learn to love people over things. The problem is that most of us already think we do that, even if we don’t.
If asked straight out, most people are NOT going to say, ” I love my things more than my friends and family.” But we all know that many people do. Some people would literally give up their spouse before their lavish home and cars.
You know some of those people. We all do.
You are more than the stuff you own. You are more than what naysayers think of you.
We all want to make a positive impact on the world. We want it to be a better place because we were once here.
Today is a good time to get started making that happen.
So do it today – be more.
(By the way, I bought the Kavu pack because I realized it fulfilled a need that none of my other bags did. But I got rid of three bags I already had.)