Analysis paralysis: I’m spoiled by choice
Two blue jackets – size small and medium; one pink jumper; a sparkly cinnamon tank; a pair of yellow jeans; one Peter Pan-collar top; the turquoise cami; the nude blouse; a grey off-the-shoulder knit. Oh, and an orange skirt, which is what I went shopping for in the first place.
I carted these ten items into the Zara changing rooms expecting I’d have to leave half on the rack. But, no, you can try on a wardrobe’s worth of clothes and the army of shop assistants will happily grab more.
Let’s deconstruct this: I don’t need a blue jacket; I already have a pink jumper; cinnamon looks best on apples; yellow skinnies scream 2012 – and may well make me look that old; you need a bob to rock a dainty collar; the turquoise was in fact icky jade; nude – particularly when worn on TV – makes me look naked; jumpers that fall off your shoulders are as pointless as a bikini in Thredbo. The orange skirt I needed – OK, wanted.
So why, when I didn’t have an hour to spare trying on clothes I didn’t need and couldn’t afford, did I hit that shop like a kid with a bag of jelly snakes? In a word, choice.
It’s not only clothes. I’m the same with shampoo, books, bread, holidays and schools. Yes, schools. You’d think it’d be a no-brainer, but welcome to the modern world, where we peruse the nutritional information on our children’s education for fat content and added sugar. Sorry, I’m confusing it with yoghurt.
All this choice is leaving me so befuddled, I’m considering hiring a life editor. He’d be gay, called Tom (as in Ford) and he’d edit my life by condensing my choices. Tom would curate a quarterly library of worthy books and organise my playlists into kids/dinner/happy Saturday/shagging. He’d order from menus, trawl paint charts to find the right shade of sage and source holiday houses that actually resemble the pictures. Crucially, he’d find five pairs of perfect-fitting jeans and then tell me which one looks the best.
“Get over yourself,” I hear you say. But I can’t, because I’m gripped by ‘analysis paralysis’. Whereas life used to be like a box of chocolates, now it’s Willy Wonka’s whole damn factory.
“Choice no longer liberates, it debilitates,” writes Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. “The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better,” he advises.
I hear ya, Baz; it’s Parenting 101. You don’t ask a child, “What would you like for lunch?” Rather, you offer two choices: “Ham or honey?”
But short of having Tom with me every time I visit the supermarket or switch on the TV, how am I supposed to a) limit my choices and b) ensure I make the right one?
I’d consult an expert, but have you seen the bewildering assortment of books about choice? So I asked my mates.
“I’ve given up on sales,” says Rach. “I shop online or at a small boutique where I know they have clothes that suit me. And I buy the same meat, cheese and cereal every week.”
“Set a time limit,” advises Jacqui. “If you say you’re going to buy a camera in an afternoon, stick to that goal. And don’t even look at Missoni if you can only afford IKEA.”
But it’s Cath who sets me straight. “I never read a full menu,” she says. “I order the first thing I spot that I know I like. Perfect choice doesn’t exist – whether you’re talking about margarine or life partners.”
Her policy does, however, have drawbacks. “I love ‘buy one, get one free’,” she says in an email. “Trouble is, the husband and I are now wearing the same sports shoes.”
Email email@example.com. Follow her at on Twitter: @AngelaMollard.
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