Reducing the Paradox of Choice and Finding the One True

I was moving and we were putting all the things in boxes. I thought I had few things but it was more than realized. It’s all too familiar: clothes I rarely wear, stuff I rarely use. It’s a bit like the frog in boiling water fable: a little bit each time and without realizing it, a lot of the space feels cluttered.
If you’re fortunate enough, you can buy things and you live in a place where there are lots of choices for products that will:
  • Make you buy stuff you don’t really need
  • Lead to the overwhelming paradox of choice when buying something that will add true value to your life
If you’re interested in avoiding the first, read You Have Enough by Mr. Derek Sivers, 144 words of condensed wisdom. If you’re interested in the second, the concept of the “One True” I’ve found useful.
When buying clothes, Mr. Jamie Millar, a writer I enjoy, looks for “the Platonic ideal of that particular piece, the one you saw in your mind but all too rarely when you went hunting… If it’s the One True” version – a just-right piece that I totally love –  is going to slot seamlessly into my wardrobe, bolster it and remain there for the foreseeable – then I’ll snap it up. But if not, then I’ll leave it, thanks.”
I’ve found two really great things in the One True concept:
  • It works as a filter to reduce the number of choices to a reasonable quantity
  • From Derek Sivers again: “People who spend more for a product or service value it more, and get more use out of it”. Spending here I would argue is both in time, effort, and money
An embarrassing example: I’ve never needed a coat until I moved. I spent months hunting down the “One True”
  • 1st filter: consulting with Fashionbeans (my favorite men’s style-clothing website). Decided the peacoat was the most versatile for me
  • 2nd filter: the color had to be navy.  Anything else I didn’t even bother to consider
  • More filters: Got real picky discarding. Lapels were too big, the fabric was low quality, the pockets were not vertical, the buttons were not brown, too many pockets
Every time I went “hunting”, I would leave feeling a bit disappointed, but it was so easy to say no because I was looking for something very specific – no anxiety, no second guessing, no sales could break my will. One day, I walked into a nice looking store and saw a gray one that was the One True in all but color. Then, on another rack, they had a navy one. After months of looking, I was so happy, I had found the One True…but it was too expensive for the budget I had.
Once you find it, it’s much easier to find it on sale than to choose something from the massive sea of sales that are constantly changing.
Depending on what you want to buy here are a couple of options:
  • Used. Something like eBay (tip: you can set up alerts based on your keywords)
  • If you wait for the end of the season, retailers will most likely discount it to make room for the new collection
  • Simply Googling it, you might find one retailer discounting it (the option I found)
The whole cliché of the journey adds a lot of value if it has a story, even a silly one like this. Much to my embarrassment, it’s now called the “Beacoat” because I had kind of a boner when I saw it.
Go To The Source:
  • You Have Enough – Mr. Derek Sivers
  • 5 stages of Menswear – Mr. Jamie Millar: The One True, the value of self-imposed wardrobe rules, getting on trends vs buying for the next decade
  • The True Cost (2015): a documentary that talks about some of the hidden costs of the fashion industry, fast fashion in particular. It made me start to implement the “will I want to wear this in 10 years” rule from Mr. Jamie Millar and of course choosing quality pieces that can last that long if taken care of.
PS: here’s an article hating on the frog in boiling water fable which I thought it was funny


1 Comment

  1. Patricia Pérez M says:

    Panks, me dejas pensando en el encuentro entre dos cosas como the paradox of choice and the “one true”: The first one is based on saturation (what I understand to be one of the big postmodern dilemas) of options, of narratives, of “truths”… While the latter one is so resounding of a modern “one truth”. I’ve come to think maybe “choosing one” is leaving aside the multifaceted opportunities that can end up being so enriching in our lives. Or even how the expectation of reaching a “one true”, or the thought that there is such a thing as a “one true” might make choice even more overbearing (similar to Barry Schwartz’s argument). I know this is about uncluttering and becoming a more efficient consumer but, hey, precisely… ¿Qué piensas?


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