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How To Avoid Choice Fatigue

We've all heard (or perhaps felt) this: "I've got a closet of clothes and nothing to wear".

Or: "I know I need a few new pieces in my wardrobe, but I go to the mall and wander around and feel so confused/overwhelmed I come home with nothing".

And: "I keep buying new things, but still have nothing to wear".

As a teacher-librarian, I love research (even better when it is style related!). There is, in fact, some research that helps explain the above predicaments. It connects to something called Choice Fatigue or Choice Anxiety - going further...there's even Choice Paralysis.

As a society, we have a lot of stuff; which can be overwhelming to make sense of and/or sift through. And, when we are considering purchasing something new either in-person or on-line, we are inundated with options. This can be both confusing and exhausting.

An article in The Atlantic recently sited that research consistently finds that when people are presented with fewer options they make better and easier decisions than when presented with many.

That makes sense to me both in my own experience, and in my work with clients when it comes to their closets and building workable wardrobes.

Here are some ideas on how to avoid choice fatigue when it comes to getting dressed:

Do a Closet Edit:

This is always the best place to start. Get rid of what you don't wear, what doesn't make you feel amazing, doesn't fit properly, or is loved beyond repair. Once you remove those pieces, take some time to create a system, organize and present your clothing in a way where it feels enjoyable to step into your closet every day.

Here is my checklist to help get you started.

Make a list of any gaps noted in the wardrobe. This will become a prioritized shopping list so next time you enter the mall, or the world of on-line shopping, you have a plan. No more wandering around aimlessly feeling overwhelmed!

Remember when considering each new item to ask yourself: Can I style this 3 ways with pieces already hanging in my closet? That is a great first step to ensuring the items will get worn because you have thought about how they combine with what you already have.

Do your homework and shop your closet first:

To avoid that sense of overwhelm that can come with choice fatigue, take a little time to think about the types of outfits you require in the upcoming weeks or month. Are there any events you need to dress for? Do you have looks for work/weekend etc.? If you take some time to put together outfits with the pieces already hanging in your closet connected to different aspects of your life, you will thank yourself later. I promise.

Take it a step further - try them on, and take photos. During the process you may also discover some gaps that will become your prioritized shopping list.

Seek outside help:

If this still feels daunting there is a range of support available.

Several subscription box services have cropped up where pieces are selected based on a questionnaire and sent to you on a monthly basis. You choose what you want to keep, and send the rest back. An article in Fashion Magazine recently reported on their experience testing out various box services that ship to Canada.

Apps and websites such as have become increasingly popular as they allow you to quickly shop the outfits donned by your favourite bloggers or influencers. Amazon just announced a new feature called Stylesnap also with the goal of making it easier for customers to track down and purchase those inspirational pieces that align with their taste and style personality.

If you want a more personal approach, you can always enlist the support of a personal style consultant! In the shopping portion of my Sort, Shop & Style service the shops we visit are specifically chosen based on the gaps identified during our sort. I pre-shop for my clients, and select pieces that I feel will compliment their body shape, colouring, personal style, lifestyle and existing wardrobe. I've been told it is so much less stressful to have this completed in advance, and people really appreciate that it was done with their specific needs in mind. Similarly, the items curated in my Month of Style virtual service are hand-picked and presented in a personalized catalog rather than the on-line alternative of having to sift through reams of infinite options on-line without any direction.

If you've ever experienced some level of choice fatigue, know that you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed by what is (or isn't) hanging in your closet and how to remedy that with the infinite choices available, those feelings are shared by so many others.

If we can lessen the amount of stuff we have and try to make educated selections as to what we add with the goal of creating cohesive, versatile wardrobes (that we love) it's a step in the right direction.


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