Freedom of Choice -- too much of a good thing?

Yes freedom of choice is AWESOME.

But everything in moderation, right?

There is a wall of yogurt at my grocery store. A whole aisle of cereal and the cheese choices are so plentiful that my store has a wall near the yogurt and 2 more big display areas in the deli. (Did anyone else laugh at the "what's dis?" part of Borat with the cheese? Just me? okay.)

We are so spoiled here it's quite ludicrous.

Other than groceries I'm not a fan of shopping. I know LOTS of folks really love it... I'm just not one of those folks.  Its all the choices that do me in.

When I enter a BIG MALL I start off with a tingle of excitement at all the shiny pretty things, then I quickly fade to anxiety over too much choice and too many things that are desirable/novel/expensive, and then a deep funk comes to me that is either tied to buyers remorse, or not being able to find what I entered the mall to buy (despite millions of items being there). The whole process takes about 20 minutes, and if I am determined to get that thing I came for, the funk just gets more and more tedious until I can't stand it anymore and I have to leave. I wish it wasn't like that. I really do.

I have found ways around the anguish of new-stuff-browsing-frustration-overload.

My favourite trick is going to the local thrift shops. Variety is amazing when you get a great thrift shop. Every style, every vintage (and every quality level) is hanging out there. Let's say your in the market for a red, 100% cotton, cable-knit sweater... it takes about 35 seconds to go to the sweater section, look for red, check the size and then the materials label. Nothing there? Great, now you know and your day can continue practically uninterrupted. In the mall it may take 2 hours just to go through those steps (department, colour, size, materials)... and then either come up empty handed or find the only one in the right size that is pleasing is over $100.  At the thrift store I know where I stand in my hunt very quickly, I won't be out more than $7 if I do find one, and I already know how it will look after a wash (bonus!). Some people may say that takes the fun out of shopping, but lets be honest here, if the thrift store doesn't have it, it was probably a "want" more than a "need" anyways, so live without it for another day.

(My favourite "score" at a thrift shop... I was in the market for ankle boots, I found PRADA bootlets with a cool chrome heel for $8 -- so comfy, almost too pretty and they have lasted for years).

A trick for staying sane shopping for NEW stuff:

Lets say a toy is needed for a birthday party or some similar scenario (like buying grooming products for example), head straight to the back of the store and check out the clearance section. Don't even look at anything else because you are on a mission. You may find a product you didn't know existed that could be your new favourite. Nine times out of ten something really cool is back there at a deeply discounted price that completely fulfills the buying criteria. If nothing suitable is there, then wander to the proper department and look only at the SALE tags... still no luck? Now you can face the flood of abundance of choice by looking at the full-price items.

Choice is great, I appreciate choices every day. And I choose to look at alternatives to the mall. I choose to re-use and make-do before buying new. My favourite choice is my choice to skip the mall entirely if I can.... my time is more precious, and my money too hard to earn to spend it on glamour and regret.

What are your freedom of choice overload point? Is it eating out? Exercise? Hobbies? Travel Destinations? Gadgets?


Sammyleia said...

I can relate to your post. My freedom of choice overload point is craft materials. Craft shows are my worst - I want it all! When I go to make a card though, I have so much stuff that I don't know where to start. It's terrible and I have to stop!! I love poking around in thrift shops too. When we were in the U.S. earlier this year, I was astounded at the different varieties available in the grocery stores - and I thought we Aussies had a lot of choice!

Blue said...

I would argue that we have the illusion of choice. That yogurt isle may appear to be bursting with choices, but how many of them are actually healthy and not overloaded with sugar? How many of them are not just pretty packaged variations of the same brands, with buzzwords like All Natural and LowFat that catch the buyer's eye but don't mean anything?

Another example would be shampoo. I've seen stores boasting nearly whole isles of shampoo, but almost all of them have the same first ingredients of water and sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent that dries out hair.

I say that if we were to strip away the duplicates our choices would whittle away to a handful. We have tons of quantity choices, not few of quality.

Pol* said...

Blue - that's something that is a big part of the problem!My husband has gallbladder issues and hypertension... the "choices" are illusions if you want to avoid crap ingredients, and you pay through the nose for the simpler foods (why is that anyways?)
I agree 100% that the choices are illusions, smoke and mirrors and distractions too! It just makes shopping all the more challenging which is my beef with it all.