Choosing to make fewer choices

About one year ago I suffered a crisis of conscience with regard to my debt, consumption, waste, and impact on the earth. I donated, sold, or recycled nearly everything I owned.

I found a place in my home for all of the things that remained: Pretty much just a desk, chair, bed, bedding, bathroom stuff, kitchen stuff, a computer, and my guitars. I then took strides to increase energy efficiency and minimize waste.

In nearly every aspect of my life I worked hard to eliminate needless choices, finding that having fewer choices to make throughout the day helped me make better choices, choosing thoughtfully, and helped me focus my mental resources on what really matters.

In order to have one less choice to make each morning, I adopted a 'life uniform’—an outfit I feel confident in and don’t mind wearing every single day. Like Doug Funny.

Presenting myself with fewer choices in the morning has been so good for my brain on stressful days. Here are some of the other benefits to choosing fewer choices:

  • Reducing the number of food choices during meal prep makes for a brilliant diet.

Slash sugar, cut carbs, spurn sodas. Go vegan, eat only veggies. Go meat and greens, it's been shown to reverse all kinds of ailments. Go pescetarian, eliminate all meats but fish. Go paleo, reject all processed foods.

I tried veganism in college (like everyone else does) and lost 60 pounds, learned how to cook, enjoyed getting creative with my meal prep, had a lot more energy, and felt like my skin and hair were healthier.

  • Having to make fewer choices is liberating.

We get so paralyzed by the overwhelming number of decisions we’ve got to make throughout the day that we often do nothing at all. We become bound by indecision in our world of endless options.

It's a real phenomenon, that the more choices you have to make, the worse and worse your decision-making becomes.

  • Fewer choices can lead to less wasted time and energy.

When trying to make a decision or trying to plan out a series of decisions, it's so easy to exhaust ourselves and run out of time. This minimizes all of the anxieties involved with time-based decision-making.

  • Having fewer choices to make is cheaper overall.

Before I minimized my wardrobe, I had seven jackets ranging from the least expensive at $100 to most expensive at just over $400. I had over $1200 in jackets alone. What if I had chosen to take half of that, $600, and invest in a great-fitting, simple, classic, multi-purpose jacket?

If I had bought something like a Patagonia 3-in-1 Parka, I’d have a jacket for all seasons that’s markedly better than the most expensive one in my wardrobe, for half of what I’ve paid on jackets alone in the past year! Choosing fewer, higher quality items increases the longevity of your clothing.

  • A simplified wardrobe that fits well will make you appear more mature.

Alice Gregory wrote, “A uniform can be a way of performing maturity or, less charitably, impersonating it. A uniform insinuates the sort of sober priorities that ossify with age, as well as a deliberate past of editing and improving.”

  • You’ll have less to worry about when you eliminate your choices. I love what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34:
“Why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
So do not worry. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

My wardrobe is simple and I’ve figured out what works for me. At first I felt I needed an outfit for every occasion. But if I needed a suit, for instance, there are hundreds of affordable rental places out there. But I haven't worn a suit since prom a decade ago.

Here’s what I wear every single day now: Black Ray-Ban Clubmaster eye-glasses, black Håndværk long sleeve t-shirts (I bought a week's worth), Levy’s 501 jeans, and Timberland recycled plastic boots.

On rainy days I wear a black Patagonia rain jacket. On cold days I wear a black Patagonia sweater. On hikes or trips to the beach I wear black Myles Apparel Everyday shorts and a cheap pair of black flippy-floppies. And MeUndies for socks and well, undies.

Further reading: "Why I Put My Closet on a Diet,” by Drew Barrymore; "Why I Wear The Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day,” by Matilda Kahl; "Favorite Clothes of a Minimalist,” by Joshua Fields Millburn; "What is a Capsule Wardrobe Anyway?" by Denaye Barahona and Caroline Rector; "The Death of Clothing,” by Lindsey Rupp, Chloe Whiteaker, Matt Townsend and Kim Bhasin; "A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes" by Joshua Becker; "Project 333" by Courtney Carver.

Lastly, there's a growing number of people who are choosing to eliminate food altogether. That's right, they just stopped eating. Using meal replacement products like Soylent, actual people have really stopped eating food altogether. It sounds crazy, I know, and before you do it please read all the disclaimers.

I’ve tried the stuff and it’s pretty good. And at 400 calories per bottle it’s a filling meal that eliminates the need to choose between lunch spots when you only have an hour to get in and out and back to the office. Other than Soylent, I eat a lot of fish, fruits, and veggies, and drink a lot of Topo Chico and a whole heck of a lot of coffee.

Further reading: "Soylent: What Happened When I Went 30 Days Without Food,” by Joshua Helton; "The One Year Meal Replacement Experiment,” by Lee Primeau; "12 month 100% liquid food,” by Reddit user futurefooddocu; "How I Stopped Eating Food" by Rob Rhinehart.