Why Too Much Choice Is Too Much & What to Do About It

When it comes to shopping, choice is a bit like salt. Small doses add flavour; anything more and you’re looking at high blood pressure. Too many options create anxiety and, in turn, weaken our decision muscle. The result? We either snuggle up to the security blanket of stuff or suffer option paralysis –fearful, in both cases, of choosing poorly.

American psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, maintains making rational decisions is next to impossible when endless opportunity clutters the mind – a modern malady known as ‘option paralysis’. The greater the variety, the less sure we are of our selection.

So, what’s the solution? Intention. You’ve got to approach shopping like a woman on a mission. There’s no wiggle room for time-wasters, faffers or dilly dalliers. Window-shopping is only permissible if you are actually in the market for a new window; the same goes for browsing – leave it to Google. After all, the perfect wardrobe doesn’t just happen. You make it happen.

Put some fuel in the tank: All of you after work, lunch break or on the fly shoppers: listen up. Make sure you have eaten before you start any sort of retail mission. There is a clear and documented link between willpower and our blood sugar levels which will effectively clap out like an iPhone battery if not refuelled every couple of hours. The more tired our brain, the poorer our decisions and the higher our level of regret. Keep some snacks and a bottle of water in your handbag. When it comes to closet health, this is one of the few occasions where regular caffeine breaks are accepted, if not encouraged.

Control your environment: Give yourself an objective and stick to it. Shop environments can either repel or seduce depending on the time of day, the number of rogue children; if your parking fairy is sleeping on the job. Best advice? Go off peak and get the heck out of Dodge before crowds begin to surge – usually around 11 a.m. and always before lunch. Ideally go shopping alone but if you need a second option, bring that frank friend with no filter or ideally one with no agenda. Buy him or her lunch and a few glasses of wine in exchange for their time and attention. There’s nothing worse than someone high-jacking your valuable shopping hour to feather his or her own nest.

Find the connection: There's nothing wrong with buying a 'Well, blow me down and call me Dusty' piece that just deserves to be worn. Nothing at all. Where we run into a spot of bother is when it has zero relation to what's already in our closet. If there's no dialogue then, regardless of how gorgeous it is, it'll be hanging on its own like Nelly No Mates and you'll be obliged to buy it friends who speak its language. Repeat this process one too many times and your closet will be like the Tower of Babel. Rule of thumb: Do not create a life around a love interest. Instead, make sure it fits in with your existing picture.

Delay gratification: Neuroscience studies prove that when dopamine tickles the brain's pleasure receptors, it can take a full 30 minutes to recover. The only way to is to walk away. Bargaining tools (much like we do with children) to dampen the desire. Tell yourself you can buy it tomorrow. Check in with how you feel. Play the scenario out in your head – will you actually wear it in your day-to- day life or are you convincing yourself you will? This will allow time for the brain to figure out whether this is a need or simply a want that can wait.