Handling the stress of too many options

If you’ve read Greg McKeown’s fantastic book Essentialism then, like me, you probably suffer from shiny-object syndrome. You are regularly tempted by all the fun “opportunities” that come your way, eager to say yes! yes! yes! I mean, why else would you have read book that helps you say no?

It also likely means that you overanalyze, over-research, and, as a result are over-stretched. How do you stop all that insanity? According to McKeown it’s pretty simple. It simply means “cutting out some really good opportunities.” It means saying “no,” “not right now,” and “nope, I’m satisfied with what I’ve got.” It can be tough to do it, but of course he’s right.

This basic truth applies every time we face a decision, and let me tell you, you’re gonna face a LOT of decisions when it’s time to remodel or redesign your home! Which color did you want? Which cabinet style do you prefer? Which couch is cutest? Did you want feather down or polyester? Piping or a topstitch? Double pane windows or triple? Did you decide on door pulls???  It goes on… and on… and on!

Unless you thrive on all things design, and unless you can stop parenting your kids and stop working for a living while you design your space, you’re going to have to come up with ways to edit down all the decisions. And a *big* part of that is actually making a choice, feeling great about it, and then not looking at any more options. This can feel downright scary. What if there is a prettier countertop? What if there is a cheaper faucet? What if there are better/stronger/faster drawer glides, base moldings, ceiling fixtures, dimmer switches, dual-flush toilets…. You get the idea. Every choice is a rabbit hole that can drag you under and suck the hours from your life faster than Facebook.

Whether you work with a pro or you design on your own, you have to have some sort of system to help you filter. It starts with a good assessment system so that you know your target in the first place. Then a good organization system so that you know what you need to choose, and you know when it is done. And it finishes with being satisfied by a great, “good-enough” plan that you can execute with relative ease and appropriate cost so that you can get back to living in your space. That was the whole point, right?

It takes trust in yourself, trust in your designer (if you hire one), and restraint. It doesn’t mean you don’t speak up if you don’t like the design. If you had your heart set on an orange sofa, and your designer proposes a blue sofa, say so! But it does mean that you can stop at the fifth (or maybe tenth) page of lamps on the lamp website. And if you’ve assembled a great design for your living room, it means not letting yourself get sidelined by a brand new sofa or rug option because that will mean you have to start over from scratch (since, just like in cooking, every ingredient affects every other ingredient).

To be happy you can’t look at all the options. You just can’t. So whether you are remodeling your kitchen, finding a birthday card for your best friend, or choosing a new lipstick, find an option that satisfies your need, and move on to other things that need your attention. A great space (and a great lipstick) can add a surprising amount of delight to your day, but it’s not the point of living. Keep a little perspective, an eye on what matters. Don’t lose sight of what matters as you face the decisions of your day, and I promise you a life much more full of meaning and joy.

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!