We have too many choices. In most of the world, where scarcity is the norm, this concept would not be easily understood. However, in the West, we have become spoiled in our relatively lavish lives with seemingly endless possibilities.
For example, we now have multiple streaming services where before we only had cable as an option and maybe the sports package as an optional add-on for an additional cost. Before that, tv offered only a few channels and if you didn’t like what was on, you’d be required to fall back on the couple radio stations coming in clearly enough to understand.
In the “old days”, when folks sewed their own clothes, even before the invention of sewing machines, they had enough clothing for a few days before they’d need to wash and rewear. They were careful to ensure they were sturdy and made with quality because they had to depend on them and could not wear them for a season before throwing them out and buying the next big fad. Nowadays, fast fashion and cheaply-made clothing have resulted in huge wardrobes with most people only wearing half (if that) of what they have in their closets.
You ate what you could grow yourself or swap with your neighbors. Now we have fast food and casual dining restaurants galore. Grocery stores have a greatly-expanded inventory even compared to what they had half a century ago. Not to mention the amount of apps and delivery services that have been created to ensure you can have any food you want at any time delivered to your doorstep. But when you’re really hungry, don’t you find even usually unappetizing food tastes like the nectar of the gods? How many people ask each other “I don’t know what I want to eat. What do you want to eat?” back and forth when trying to decide on an option?
It seems quality has greatly decreased even as options have increased. For instance, most of the movies on the streaming services to which I’ve subscribed have been rated very low by viewers and seem to be thrown together quickly on a low budget and use rehashed plot lines and tropes. The cheap food you can get through any drive-thru is typically packed with high calories and “filler”, while being low in nutrition and long- lasting satiety. The clothes, as mentioned, are typically fragile and thin. Photography does not require skill anymore, as digital cameras and built-in phone cameras allow several pictures to be taken while only the few deemed good enough are kept. No longer are we required to buy more film and pay for it to be processed after taking the time and effort to drive somewhere. No longer do we have to eat healthfully and exercise to look good — we can simply photoshop or use a filter. If we want a more permanent change, we can save up for plastic surgery.
The sheer amount of options has resulted in a populace that is rife with dissatisfaction and whose attention spans have been shortened without their explicit permission. Ever had the experience I often have where I’ll be watching a YouTube video only to stop it in the middle and click on a different one that catches my attention from the side bar? Or that yucky feeling when you can’t pick a movie on Netflix to commit 1.5-2.5 hours to because of the nagging feeling that there might be another one available that you’d enjoy more? That you’re not choosing the best and settling only for the good?
Everybody knows it’s easier to clean a room that is a bit messy instead of one that resembles the path of a tornado. If there is too much to do, one often does not know where to start cleaning and organizing. It’s tempting to throw up your hands and walk away, feeling defeated, than to steel yourself for the monumental task.
These are only a few examples of the amount of choice we have available to us today. I believe one big reason behind the popularity of minimalism, natural food, and off-grid living nowadays is that people are feeling overwhelmed and actually yearning for less choice. They are tired of working ridiculous hours to buy things they don’t even want, but feel they need, because everybody else is working just as hard to have those things, themselves. I encourage everybody to think about what you’re giving up by accepting overload in your life. By doing so, you run the risk of living a life that feels dull and unfulfilling, with the haunting feeling of not being or having enough.