One of the huge benefits of “stuff reduction” is that it removes a layer of clutter from your mind allowing you to spend more time on the decisions you want to make and less time on the decisions you have to make. There are schools of thought that suggest we have a limited number of X available to us each day (or in a lifetime for that matter) and once we hit that number we have no more available to us. In this equation X can be anything – it could be steps, breaths or decisions. Running gets you to the finish line sooner, so slow down and enjoy the journey instead. Focusing on your breathing keeps you calm, so if you make an effort to breath slower because you think there is a countdown clock running then you end up with a more relaxed life. The same could be said for decisions – if you only have so many available, once you run out you simply can’t make any more.

I’m not saying this is factual, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. Let’s say you are in the kitchen getting ready to prepare dinner and you find that you need a knife. If you open the drawer and are presented with 10 knifes of different shapes and sizes then you have to decide which one is best for the job. Then you have to consider the others just to make sure you’ve made the right decision first. Now you have to make sure this knife is sharp enough for your needs; when was the last time you sharpened it? You sharpened a knife last week, but was it this one? Wait, is this the knife with the shipped blade? Etc..

If instead you have just one knife, then you don’t think about any of that, you just grab it and get to work. You already know it’s the right one, because – having decided to just have one knife – you took the time to select the best one for whatever job might come up. You don’t have to wonder when it was last sharpened, you already know because you only have one knife that you concern yourself with. So in this case, rather than spending decisions points (so to speak) on which knife, you get to spend them on what to do with the knife.

This logic can be replicated again and again through out your day. Take the time and care to pick the very right object for a particular need, and then you don’t need to have several objects to fill that requirement. Having the single best one is preferable to having multiples that are all, by definition, not the best one.

I find myself thinking about this a lot, and it’s easier to think about than it is to put into practice. The example I just gave makes perfect sense to me. Absolutely I should have one bad ass knife in the kitchen and be done with it. I know exactly the knife I want to fill that role even. But I can’t justify buying it because I have a kitchen drawer full of knives. Just last week I decided I had to take drastic measures and remove most of them – put them in a box and if in 6 months I don’t miss them I should get rid of them and enjoy my more limited selection. But I still have 4 knives in that drawer. Not cheap knives either, which is part of the problem. If I’d started off with crap then parting with them would be easy. But at one point I bought into the idea that as an adult I needed to have a respectable knife set in my kitchen. I had a block knife holder and I needed to have a knife to fill each slot.

But why? I don’t know. I saw other people with it. I saw it on TV. Even then, I always used the same 2 or 3 of those knives, but every time I reached for one I ran through all the options in my head. Thinking about that now I feel like such a sucker. I never needed all those knives, and if I knew then what I know now then I could have spent half the cash one that one perfect knife and it would still be as good as the day I bought it. If and when I ever do buy it, I’ll be able to give it to my kid when he grows up and needs a kitchen knife and it’ll be just as suited for the job. One of the perks of getting the perfect version of whatever is that it’s likely designed to last forever.

Traveling forces these decisions quite often. If I’m packing a suitcase and I need to bring a jacket, I don’t bring every jacket in my closet, I bring the one I think is perfect for the need. And then I spend the whole trip wondering why I have other options at home, because obviously this is the only one I need. It’s easy to forget that when I get home and unpack though. But I try, and I keep challenging myself to pair down. I don’t like making the same decisions all the time. I don’t want to think about the menial crap. I feel like it’s a waste of time. No one ever eats a delicious dinner and remarks “this was amazing, which knife did you use to cut the potatoes?”