We’ve all heard the phrase “less is more” (in fact I’ve written about this concept previously), but how many of us actually practice that philosophy? It sure seems as though the world (or at least the United States) is going in the opposite direction – we’ve got supersized grocery stores with dozens of choices for each food category; enormous home-improvement stores with aisle after aisle of products; hundreds of television stations from which to choose; the list goes on and on. But do all these choices improve our quality of life?

The May 2011 issue of Real Simple Magazine included an interesting fact regarding choices: According to a 2008 study let by the University of Minnesota, “students faced with multiple choices had less physical stamina and were more likely to procrastinate.” As someone who is easily overwhelmed when I have lots of choices, I am not surprised by this information. When our local grocery store was being remodeled many years ago, I had to shop at the much larger grocery store down the street. I can still remember the near-panic feeling I had when I walked into the produce section – it was absolutely huge and I had no idea where to start looking for the garlic I needed. After searching for about 10 minutes (ok, maybe it was only 5, but it sure seemed like a long time) I finally found an employee who told me the garlic was with the tomatoes. Really – I would have put it near the onions! Hmm, maybe I should contact grocery stores as potential organizing clients.

But the point remains that too many choices can easily overwhelm us. The Real Simple article went on to quote Barry Schwartz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania: “When it comes to choosing what to wear (not to mention making other life decisions), try to limit yourself to fewer than 10 options.” Nancy Pipal, an image consultant who makes a living helping people create their perfect wardrobe, epitomizes this philosophy. Her closet contains no more than 100 items, (including shoes!) and everything is neatly organized by category.

With only a few items in each clothing category from which to choose, Nancy has an easy time getting dressed. She loves each and every item and knows that they all fit her perfectly. There’s no need to try on five different outfits – every item is worth the space it takes up in her closet.

With Nancy as a real-life example of how owning less can simplify one’s life, what changes are you ready to make to simplify yours?

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.