A few years ago I entered the produce section of my newly remodeled grocery store to purchase some tomatoes, only to discover that it was going to take quite an effort to fulfill my mission. The new and “improved” produce department was at least double the size of the old one, and it took me 5 minutes of intense searching to discover where the tomatoes were located. There were dozens of tables displaying bin after bin of all types of fruits and vegetables, and I became increasingly annoyed at each bin that didn’t reveal the object of my quest. While some of you may have enjoyed such a hunt, it nearly brought me to tears – so many choices and so much floor space to navigate left me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

It turns out I’m hardly alone in my reaction to having too many options – numerous studies have concluded that satisfaction level drops as people are given more choices. For example, a joint study by researchers from Columbia and Stanford Universities concluded that “people actually seemed to prefer to exercise their opportunities to choose in contexts where their choices were limited” and “they even performed better in such limited-choice contexts.” Translation: less choices lead to greater satisfaction and better performance.

So what does this have to do with organizing? I wonder if having too many possessions leads to a similar decline in satisfaction. One of the steps in the organizing process is to pare down the number of items one has so that only things that are useful or meaningful are kept. Many of my clients have an abundance of items yet resist letting any go because they are sure they will need them “someday.” For example, they may have a closet packed with clothes and be reluctant to let go of any because each one has the potential to be just the right choice for an upcoming occasion. Does having to choose which of the 11 pairs of black pants to wear, or which of the 53 pairs of shoes is just the right one, at least on some level, lessen one’s quality of life? If closets aren’t your sore spot, what about your overstuffed bookshelves, overflowing craft room, or an impassable basement? Although they often insist otherwise, I imagine that this seemingly endless possibility of choices might actually cause people to be less satisfied than they realize.

So when does enough become too much? I’d love to hear your take on how the volume of items from which you have to choose impacts your satisfaction.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom.

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.