Freedom to choose: Cutting down on all the noise in modern life


Have you noticed all the choices you get to make every day? Not just one or two choices. Lots of choices! Choice at every newsstand (or news site), on every grocery store shelf, and every flick of a finger on a dating app. Rich or poor, at all budget levels, we can choose from dozens of brands of ketchup, hundreds of models of cars, and thousands of colors in everything from neckties to handbags.

We can choose what we wear, who we marry, and where we live. And from this plethora of choice comes a very modern problem. The very thing that looks like freedom — the freedom to choose — creates, instead, paralysis.

Study after study shows that we make poorer decisions in the face of too many options. And that’s if we make a decision at all. Often we just get overwhelmed and we either choose something by default (*not* saying “no” to taking your boss’s call on a Sunday somehow leads to “yes”) or we don’t make a choice at all. Have you ever shopped at a big clothing store, tried on dozens of pairs of jeans, and left with nothing? Somehow, none of them were right “enough.”

Is choice bad? Of course not. Who isn’t happier living in a time when women (or heck, men) can choose whether they wear jeans, or a skirt, or a kaftan, in the first place. Yea freedom! But all that choice creates a lot of static, and makes it nearly impossible to discern the important choices from the unimportant ones. As Greg McKeown shares in his brilliant book Essentialism: “We have lost our ability to filter what is important and what isn’t. Psychologists call this ‘decision fatigue’: the more choices we are forces to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.”

The key in this modern age is to manage all the noise. Adapt filters to sort through all the chaos so that you aren’t constantly bombarded by useless information. Limit your choices. Choose between three flavors of jelly instead of fifty, and the options feel manageable. Shop at a thrift store and you either find a pair of pants that fit, or you don’t. Find ways to only see what you need to see, and save your energy by having to make fewer choices in the first place.

What’s this got to do with interior design? Well, if you are considering some ch-ch-ch-changes to your home in 2017 (and really, who couldn’t use a fresh start after the crazy year we just had — I miss you David Bowie!!) don’t start until you know what you are aiming at. Walking into a tile store when you don’t know what you are trying to create means instant overwhelm – too many choices, no filter.

Waaaaay before you go shopping, do some homework. Go online and find ten — yes, JUST TEN — examples of rooms that you love. Once you pick ten rooms, analyze them. Are you drawn to rooms with a lot of wood, or a lot of metal, or a lot of white painted finishes? Did you pick rooms with a splash of bold color, or lots of layered neutrals, or deep, rich hues? Do the furnishings have more curves or more straight lines? Are they leggy or grounded? Are you inclined to things with stark simplicity, or ornate detail? (If you are making over the space with a partner, have them do this separately, no need to agree on all the images yet.)

Once you do this, once you understand what kind of garden you want to grow, only then can you start to select the flowers (or the veggies) that you’ll plant to create that garden. Because just like it’s no good picking out pretty flowers at the nursery if what you want is a vegetable garden, it’s no good creating a massive media room if what you really want is a space for boardgames and conversation. Only once you’ve set a clearly defined target can you start to shop.

Not sure you can assess your design style all on your own. No problem, we can help with that! No, we won’t do it *for* you (the goal has to come from your heart) but we’ll help you understand what you are looking at in all those design pics, and help you figure out what ingredients are coming together to make you want that in your home. We can set up a stand-alone Design Assessment meeting just to get you started, or we can do the Design Assessment as a part of a larger design package, helping pull together ingredients that, when cooked up together, will become a satisfying room that helps you feel happier and helps you reach the goals you have for your life.

Whether it’s time to remodel the basement, or just choose a bottle of mustard, shop where there are fewer choices, and save that energy for things that really matter!

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!