Walking the aisles of one of the largest bookshops in London on a morning last week, I was struck by something odd.
Despite being surrounded by tens of thousands of books stacked to the ceiling over five floors, none appealed to me. Plenty were on my list of books to read, yet I found myself immobilized by the sheer number of options. Each time I picked up an interesting volume I would be distracted by others until I found myself reaching for the book I had in my backpack just to avoid a decision.
Decision fatigue is one of the many modern phenomena which I doubt anyone could have ever predicted and my bookshop confusion was symptomatic of it. Science tells us that the more decisions we make, the harder it is to make good ones (also known as analysis paralysis.) The paradoxical part is that having the choice to eliminate choice is perhaps what autonomy is at this point in history, not the extreme ends of the spectrum. Having no options is not fun and neither is having too many. In between the two lies the opportunity to step back and reassess which areas require multiplicity.
I find myself gravitating away from options towards simplicity wherever possible. Cutting them out of my life is creating a pronounced sense of contented calmness. The more I automate chunks of my days, the freer my mind is to be creative at other times. The fewer clothes I own, the more joy they bring me.When I take one book out the library, I can focus and finish it much faster than when I have an intimidating stack. I try to listen to one artist at a time to immerse myself in their music and appreciate it. The more uncomplicated I make my diet, being vegan with maximum unprocessed, whole, or raw foods and plenty of water, the healthier I am/feel. One of the key things I have learnt this year as part of adopting minimalism is this: I don't want this many options.
For me, true autonomy is to be able to pick which areas I want to have options in.
I am content to always drink a small black Americano coffee wherever I am, but I like tasting new types of tea whenever possible. I wear my hair either loose or in a half top knot every day, though I like to vary other parts of my style. My black eyeliner never changes, though I frequently try out different notebook designs. Some things - driving, drinking alcohol, foundation/concealer, watching TV, animal products- I have cut out of my life due to the complications associated with them. Instead, I can direct my mind elsewhere.
This is another example of how the 80/20 rule can be applied to everyday life. If I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time, why keep the others? If I us 20% of my belongings 80% of the time, do I need the rest? If I eat 20% of foods 80% of the time, why not ensure those are the healthiest, most nutrient-dense items possible? This applies to more areas than I can list. My point here us that I am learning to remove the unneeded options to stop wasting time or mental energy on them. Making my life simpler has changed everything. Waking up, going through my morning routine, dressing in something which takes seconds to choose, eating a delicious whole foods breakfast and having a clutter free room, makes it far easier to sit down and write or work. All that mental energy which used to be pointlessly expended goes on the facets of my life which matter.
This makes me happier than I have been for a long time. Obviously, it doesn't apply to important life decisions and novelty and change are still appreciated. I just happen to want to direct my focus to where it is best served - relationships with the people I love, writing, education, and growth.