As someone who seeks joy from simplicity and is no stranger to the rewards of owning less, I often find purchase decisions overwhelming. Take the grocery store for example: it’s not uncommon to spot me agonizing over ice cream flavors, chocolate chip varieties, or tea blends. Do I want pistachio or salted caramel? Mini or semi-sweet? Mint medley or pure peppermint? Don’t get me started on deciphering among toothpaste brands or picking out the perfect greeting card.
It’s not just grocery stores either. It’s clothing stores, communication stores, app stores, and home goods stores. I can barely decide what book to read next, let alone what color socks to buy.
It can be challenging to sift through the number of options we have at our fingertips, whether we’re browsing for bed sheets or baking soda. In many ways, variety on our supermarket shelves and in our shopping centers is a blessing. It allows us to personalize our homes and wardrobes and transform our gadgets into personal assistants.
It lets us exercise freedom in deciding what enters our lives and what doesn’t and experiment with new ways of being.
It fosters creativity, connection, brand loyalty, and innovation. There’s something comforting in knowing that self-expression can be sought from a number of shades, textures, shapes, and sizes. Apple’s trademark phrase, “There’s an app for that,” is no longer just a figment of our imagination, but a rapidly evolving reality.
I was reminded of this recently by the influx of applications being offered for free or at a discounted rate as the world rides this tremendous wave of fear and uncertainty. Developers of health and fitness, meditation, and education platforms are taking note and doing their part in hopes of easing the suffering many are experiencing.
As an avid meditator, I was initially tempted to take advantage of each new offer coming my way. Like a kid in a candy store, it was hard to resist that which was now so easily accessible. And free!
But I soon found myself feeling a bit panicked: how was I going to keep up with all of these programs? Would I find each of them useful? What would happen when the promotion period ended – would I be inclined to subscribe, and if not, would I miss what I once had?
Our values can be so easily compromised when temptation arises. I don’t typically fall for flash sales, one-time-only offers, seasonal promotions, or drastic discounts. But I briefly entertained the idea of opting in because I worried that if I didn’t, I might be missing out.
If you find yourself struggling with similar thoughts, I encourage you to be mindful of what you’re saying yes to. When I asked myself what I’d be committing to, I realized I was pretty happy with the meditation practice I already had. I knew that I’d likely get overwhelmed by trying to keep up with all the new content being rolled out and didn’t want to create stress around a ritual that was meant to be relaxing.
In the end, I realized that it wasn’t realistic or useful to increase my meditation practice tenfold. I recognized that I was more excited about the idea of a premium product being made available at little or no cost than I was about many of the products themselves.
I made a conscious decision to limit my use to one app and I’m so glad I did. Perhaps, you prefer having two or three apps to choose from and that’s ok too. Understand what you’re needing during this time and be deliberate in how you go about obtaining it. If you feel that familiar urge rise up to say yes to something simply because it’s free, ask yourself how it might serve you and if it fills a need that isn’t currently being met elsewhere. Sometimes giving yourself a day or two to decide can help you connect with the feelings beneath the surface that might be driving your impulses.
We can’t always limit the number of options from which we have to choose, but we can remind ourselves of the deep joy to be found from owning less. We can maintain the routines and rituals that ground us and recognize that their simplicity is part of what makes them soothing. We can challenge ourselves to say yes with conviction to that which makes us feel whole and connected, and no to that which leaves us feeling empty and in a state of longing.
We can remember, today and every day, that the strength and calm we seek resides within.