Decision Fatigue (or, why are there bees in my head?)

It’s happened to me twice. The first time was two years ago right before my wedding when someone asked me what kind of spoons I wanted at the dinner tables. The second time was when my assistant gave me options for the design of the name tags at my book launch party. I heard the question, and then suddenly it was as if all could hear were bees buzzing around in my head. Decision fatigue!

A very frustrated and angry woman screaming. Isolated on white.

There comes a point in any big project – not just wedding and party planning, but also remodels – where you just. can’t. make. one. more. decision. I got there about six days before my book launch. And if you are embarking on a remodel, you’ll get there too. It usually crops up right around the day the contractor is installing your cabinets and says he’s ready for cabinet handles. He asks, innocently… “have you chosen them?” And your brain explodes. In that moment you couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about cabinet handles, and often you just say “put on whatever you want.”

Now, it’s not necessarily that you don’t care about the handles, it’s just that it’s one too many demands on your brain. After deciding the counters, cabinets, flooring, paint color, faucets, lighting, appliances… After having vetted and hired a contractor. After having faced problem after problem (“um, ma’am, we hate to tell you this, but you we seem to have a problem…). You just can’t care.

This is a real phenomenon. Your brain only has so much capacity. So what can you do about it?

  1. Do all your planning before you start execution. The more you can plan upfront all the design details, the less will be on your plate during construction. So give those details, especially the “small” ones you think can wait, your attention during the planning phase.
  2. Don’t decide based on someone else’s emergency. If you forgot a detail and your contractor needs a decision NOW – take a deep breath and count to twenty before you answer. I’ve seen people choose their cabinet color in this crisis moment, and it rarely leads to long term joy. You’re spending a LOT of money. Yes, delays can cost a little more, but give yourself the space to make right decision so you spend the money well.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Recognize that there will, in fact, be things you really don’t have an opinion about. It’s okay to let those things go. In the case of my wedding I didn’t think anyone would care about the spoon style, so I asked the person helping me to just choose. I knew that I really, truly would be fine with whatever they chose. And I was.
  4. Consider help. This is really where a good designer can shine. It’s NOT that he or she is bringing the design to the table (in my opinion they are bringing out your vision, not theirs). It’s that they can eliminate all the noise and show you only the options that fit your needs. By only having to look at three options instead of 300, you can reserve some of that brain energy for things that matter, like choosing the cabinet color, or spending time with the family dog.

Remember, when the bees starting buzzing, remove yourself from the situation, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that it’s just a book launch/wedding/remodel. All the things in your life that really matter are good, and this is just a detail. A big detail, yes, and one that will hopefully provide wonderful memories for years to come, but just a detail in the big picture of life.

Want to see the book from the book party? Check it out here (and the name tags turned out beautifully, in case you wondered). 🙂

May your home always be happy,


Hi! I’m Rebecca West.

I’m not your classic interior designer because, frankly, I don’t care if you buy a new sofa. I do care if your home supports your goals and feels like “you.” Remember, happy starts at home!