Decisions, Decisions

by Eric Johnstun | Dec 7, 2018

Decisions are difficult.

Decision fatigue is a real thing. Well, not all decisions, of course. If it’s a choice between a delicious, 16 ounce New York strip steak and a fast food hamburger, I’m going to choose the New York strip, straight up. What often makes certain decisions more difficult than others is having too many options. Too many options can equate to more stress in the decision-making process, and can even result in not making a decision at all.

There’s some helpful research out there about how to simplify the decision-making process. This TED Talk specifically looks at decision making and how having too many options has impacted how people make financial decisions and invest in their future. I found it helpful, and although I’m not entirely sure how to speak to all the nuances that come with financial investing—leave that to a financial advisor—I do have a bit of insight into how simplifying my wardrobe has helped me minimize decision fatigue and simplify my daily life.

Last year, I transitioned to wearing only black t-shirts and a simple pair of jeans. All in all, the transition was pretty easy. My wardrobe was already pared down quite a bit when I started wearing a uniform, but it hit me one day that if I only had one option for what to wear in the morning, my day would get off to a better start and I could avoid decision fatigue. Also, the practical benefits are extraordinary.

I arrive at work early. I’m in the office by 6:45 (well, most days) and the flow of my morning routine usually involves rushing out the door and tying my shoes once I’m at the office. A simpler wardrobe has minimized the number of decisions I have to make in the morning, and makes for an easier transition from my Tuft & Needle mattress to my office chair.

Obviously, I can introduce new items into the rotation whenever I like. I have received some questions and concerns from co-workers when I deviate from the wardrobe too much, but most of them don’t notice. Many of us care about what we wear, thinking others care, too. But, in reality, most people aren’t paying attention to your outfits, unless your fashion decisions are unusual. I feel like the foundation of a black t-shirt and jeans allows me freedom in other ways. For one thing, I haven’t always stuck to blue-denim jeans. I have a pair of brown pants I wear frequently, and I recently purchased my first pair of black jeans. The best part about this wardrobe is that I get to make the rules.

Shopping has also become easier. There are some who love the thrill of scouring through several stores, looking for that perfect shirt, or perfect pants, or perfect pair of shoes. Or, maybe not even the perfect one, just something new. However, a trip to the mall isn’t my idea of time well spent. Having paired down my clothing decisions, I spend less time considerably less time shopping and less time worrying about shopping. When I do need to replace an item of clothing, I know what I need and usually know where to find it.

I have two toddlers at home. If you’ve never interacted with toddlers, you should know that they are a mess. Somehow food (usually syrup) is always on them, and they can find dirt in the cleanest and most sterile of places. You know what helps parents like me maintain an appearance of cleanliness with dirty toddlers? Not white shoes, as I may or may not know from experience. The answer is black t-shirts and jeans. Black t-shirts and jeans hide syrup and dirt quite well.

Through this transition, I’ve found that simpler is better. Coinciding with my wardrobe adjustment, I’ve embraced a more minimalist lifestyle. There’s no shortage of research on minimalism and how it can be integrated into one’s life, whether they’re a single adult living in the woods, have a big family in the suburbs, or fall somewhere in between.

I won’t go into too much about that here. However, a helpful idea within the minimalism community is Project 333. Project 333 is a unique look at a simplified wardrobe approach. Its basic premise is straightforward: pick your 33 (total) favorite articles of clothing, shoes, and accessories and see if you can go 3 months wearing only those things. At the end of the 3 months evaluate and see if a simplified approach to your wardrobe has made life easier.

Fewer decisions about what I wear every day has helped out tremendously. I may not always stick with this wardrobe, but it has served me well and continues to do so. As you consider simplifying and removing causes of decision fatigue from your life, consider a uniform or simplified-wardrobe concept. When I started wearing black t-shirts and jeans, I planned on doing if for about 6 months to see how it went. A year and a half later, I’m happy with my decision.