Simple Ways I Reduce Decision Fatigue

posted by Andrea | 08/9/2018

Dave and I often joke about how we are somewhat “boring” in the sense that we don’t DO a whole lot. Some of our extroverted friends might even say we are “really boring”… and honestly, I’m not offended by that because it’s mostly true!

Considering Dave and I both lean more towards the introverted side of the spectrum, we both tend to prefer being home with just our family versus going out anywhere, especially with 4 young children who are bound to be hyper, crazy, loud, destructive, and messy for at least part of the time we’re out!

Another reason we prefer staying home is because it’s fewer decisions we have to make!

For example… Going Out to Eat:

Anyone who has read my blog for any amount of time knows that, aside from Culver’s and sometimes Arby’s, we NEVER go out to eat… ever.

We’ll order pizza or get a car-side-to-go order from a local restaurant if we want a special treat or if I want a night off of cooking, but we never actually go IN to a restaurant other than Culver’s or Arby’s — and even then, Dave and I would definitely prefer to just go through the drive thru and eat at home.

Dave and I did get a gift card to a local restaurant that doesn’t have a to-go menu, so we actually went out, just the two of us, earlier this summer.

It was definitely nice to be out without kids, but we both agreed we didn’t have to do that again for a while. We’d rather just drop the kids off at one of our parents and enjoy a quiet meal at home!

Yes, we save money (and calories) by eating the vast majority of our meals at home… but the real reason we don’t enjoy going OUT to eat is because it requires so many extra decisions on our part.

  • where should we go?
  • will it be kid-friendly? if not, who will watch the kids?
  • has everyone gone to the bathroom?
  • is everyone loaded up in the car?
  • where should we park?
  • how long will it take to be seated?
  • can our kids wait that long?
  • what should we order?
  • what will the kids like and eat well?
  • what should we do while we wait for the food?

And then there’s the constant “checking in” from the waitress to see if we like the food, if it tastes good, if we need anything, if we’re going to get dessert, if we need a box, does it still taste good?, etc. etc. etc.

When we stay home, I simply make the food that’s on my menu plan for the week — usually without a recipe because it’s something I’ve made many times before. When it’s time to sit down, I know the kids will like it (most of the time!) and we can simply enjoy our meal without constant interruptions.

I know this is a somewhat silly example, but it just goes to show how many extra decisions we need to make when we go out versus when we stay home. Right now, making extra decisions is one thing I try to do as little of as possible as it easily drains my energy and my patience — both of which are often in short supply these days!

Here are a few other ways I reduce decision fatigue: 

I wear the same jewelry all the time.

I rarely ever wear any jewelry outside of my wedding ring and 2 pairs of earrings I keep in day and night.

This means I never need to think about coordinating my jewelry with my outfit (it’s all white gold so it goes with anything), and packing for any sort of trip is a breeze!

Also, sort of along the same lines, but I do my hair the exact same way every day — it takes me 3 minutes and I’m ready to go!

We keep all library books in one basket.

Over the past 6 years, we have checked out (and returned) thousands of library books. We go every week and get 20-30 more books… and to date, I’ve never lost one, nor have we had any fines (knock on wood!)

This is not because I have an amazing organization system for library books — but rather, because we have one central location to store them, and my kids know this.

We have a large “book basket” in our office and that’s where ALL the library books live. The library bag is right next to that basket, so whenever we decide to go to the library, the kids put the books into the bag and we leave.

We don’t need to search through the entire house to find our books. I don’t need to keep track of what books we have each week. And I really never worry about books being overdue because I know the books will be in the basket. Period.

I run and empty the dishwasher every night after dinner.

This might sound like a ridiculous addition to my list, but I don’t really love emptying the dishwasher — especially not during the day when I’m trying to make food, corral my kids, and keep the kitchen somewhat neat and clean.

So knowing that I never need to worry about the dishwasher until the kids are in bed at night (and knowing that Dave is around and often empties it while I’m putting the kids to bed) means one less thing to worry about or remember to do during the day.

Also, we run the dishwasher EVERY night after dinner — even if it’s not 100% full. This means I never ask the questions “should we run it? should we wait? is it full enough?” I just run it and move on with my day.

Obviously, since we never go out to eat (see beginning of post), we usually have the same number of dishes to wash every day — this helps the process!

We eat roughly the same things for breakfast and lunch each day.

Again, this might sound boring, but it’s just one more way I’m able to limit the number of decisions I need to make each day (and honestly, my kids prefer fewer options).

BREAKFAST: 

We rotate between the following choices — all served with cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon and/or sausage (I cook up big batches once a week), and fresh fruit.

  • pancakes
  • waffles
  • toast
  • muffins or donuts for a special treat
  • oatmeal (usually served with a smoothie instead of eggs and fruit)

LUNCH: 

Dave and I often just eat leftovers from dinner the night before. However the kids don’t like leftovers so they choose one of the following… served with fresh fruit, raw veggies, pickles, and maybe a few chips.

  • PB&J sandwich
  • meat & cheese roll-up (on a tortilla)
  • sliced summer sausage, sliced cheese, and crackers

I promise, we do not get tired of these options — in fact, the kids often get upset if we try to do something different!

This makes meal times SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL and it makes packing school lunches super easy with fewer decisions to make.

I do laundry on specific days.

I’ve never been one to put certain chores on certain days of the week — but a couple years ago, I got so fed up with our laundry situation that I tried designating 2 times per week for laundry to see if it worked.

To my surprise, it made an enormous difference in how I felt about doing our laundry — basically eliminating all my frustration because I never thought about laundry any other time during the week.

There are definitely exceptions to this rule (if kids are sick or wet the bed) but other than that, I’ve been sticking with Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings as my designated laundry times, and I don’t think about laundry any other time of the week. It can be piled up super high… but I don’t care because I know I will wash it all within a matter of days.

I wear roughly all the same colors.

No, I definitely don’t have a super minimalistic wardrobe… but I DO have a pretty fantastic mix-and-match wardrobe consisting of only a few colors that all go with each other.

This makes getting dressed each day a breeze (even with our crazy West Michigan weather) and packing for any sort of trip or vacation is no effort at all (at least not for my own clothing!)

I also stick to my favorite brands of pants so I know exactly what size (and colors) to buy when shopping at thrift store or online.

We don’t do activities after dinner.

I definitely know this will change as the kids get older, but right now, we rarely ever do any sort of activity after dinner.

Once we’re finished eating dinner, the kids think it’s fun to eat their dessert on the front porch while Dave and I clean up the kitchen. Then we play a game, play outside, play upstairs, etc. until it’s time for bed (they go to bed early, so it’s not that much time!)

We don’t go out, we don’t play with friends, we don’t go to the neighbor’s house, we don’t watch TV or do anything “electronic”, etc. etc.

Once in a very great while, we’ll have the boys take rests in the afternoon and we’ll surprise the kids by going to a park or splash pad or a friends house after dinner; or we’ll let them stay up “late” to watch a show and eat popcorn… they think it’s just the greatest thing ever! 🙂

This might not seem like a big deal, but since our kids know this routine, they aren’t constantly asking to go to the neighbors’s house, go to a park, watch TV, or whatever.

.

I’m certain I could give 20 more examples of little (and big) things we do to reduce the number of decisions we make on a daily and weekly basis.

Each individual example might not seem like it would make much of a difference on it’s own (and sometimes it doesn’t) but when added together, they make a huge difference in the flow of our days, in the number of decisions we need to make every day, and in the over-all mood/tone/feel of our home life.

Dave and my brains are freed up to make other (different) decisions instead — what sink to buy for our bathroom renovation, what color to paint the cabinets, what  post to write for Thursday, what activities to do with the kids, what our menu plan will be for the week, when Dave needs to have his classroom ready by, what school supplies the kids need, how long Clara’s nap has been, etc. etc.

Of course, YOU will most likely have totally different examples of how you reduce decision fatigue — for example, you might serve cereal every morning for breakfast and choose not to do any house projects. You might have a very minimalistic wardrobe but wear tons of jewelry and accessories.

There’s no “right” or “wrong” choice for YOU – unless you start feeling overwhelmed with your life and all the choices and decisions you have to make everyday.

When you start feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to study your life, examine your routines, think through your days, and look for ways you can reduce the number of decisions you’re required to make every day.

  • Maybe you pair down your wardrobe.
  • Maybe you limit your menu options for at-home meals.
  • Maybe you hire someone to take on some of your responsibilities (at home or at work).
  • Maybe you quit some of the extra activities you currently do.
  • Maybe you implement a new routine to streamline part of your day or week.

Whatever the case, reducing the number of decisions you are required to make each days can go a LONG ways in helping to simplify your entire life.

Believe me… I know from experience! 

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17 comments

  1. Bonnie'sMama

    08/09/2018

    I love this concept and really need to think through more ways to simplify various areas of my home. More kids means so many more decisions and more pieces of information to juggle, so simplifying in every area possible is a really good idea.

    I think I need to start with putting together a bunch of outfits which I wash and put back in the closet as a unit. I’m just not creative with outfits, and it makes me tired to keep trying to come up with new and interesting combinations.

    Once again, I was amused by that hot pink in your “sober” wardrobe palette . . . And once again, I looked down to see my own outfit–black, white, and hot pink.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    gotta love the bright pink accents! Yesterday, I wore a bright pink necklace with a grey button-up and shorts. I got ALL kinds of compliments on my necklace (which was $0.25 from our local thrift store last month!)

    [Reply]

  2. Pascale

    08/09/2018

    Hi Andrea,
    Thank you for this great topic. Although we don’t have any children, I’m very much like you. When I became ill in 2005, I was so tired that I could barely get out of bed. That’s when I looked into minimalism and how I could make my life simpler. I did Energy Profiling and discovered what type I was. This helped me tremendously and still does. It helped me in my relationships and in my clothing. Now, everything I have goes together. I also changed the way I stored things. For instance, everything for coffee and tea is stored together so I don’t have to go back and forth to get things. I applied this to everything in my house. I also keep things clutter-free and minimal by getting rid of items that no longer add value to my life. I’ve learned to give myself grace and to accept that when I’m not well, things will not get done and that’s okay. If someone comes to see me and it’s not perfect, it also allows them to have me over to their place when it’s not perfect either.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’ve found that often times, when I am forced to change (do to illness, finances, another baby, etc) those changes end up creating many positive outcomes I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t forced to make the changes in the first place.
    Sounds like you have a pretty good handle on your home and schedule — and I love your outlook on people coming over when your home isn’t perfectly clean!

    [Reply]

    Pascale Reply:

    You’re right, Andrea. Illness forces us to make changes that end up being positive. Thank you for your encouraging words. I’ve come to realize that people come to see me, not my house and my cleaning and tidying skills.

    [Reply]

  3. Ruth

    08/09/2018

    I never even knew there was a name for what I did until the internet popularized it but I wear a uniform. When I find a shirt I like, I buy 5 in black and 5 in white, and I just wear it until I come across something else I like in a few years.

    So when I found a dressy t-shirt style top this summer, I bought 6 in black and have worn one every day this summer.

    I also only wear jeans, even in the summer. I have one pair of shorts just in case I need it.

    I also stopped wearing jewelry other than my wedding rings.

    I feel like life can be so much more complicated for women cause of all the things we can do…hair, nails, purses, shoes, makeup, jewelry… it just never stops!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like a good system! And yes, you are not the only one who buys 4-6 of the same shirt when you find one you like!! 😉

    [Reply]

  4. Rhonda

    08/09/2018

    I’ve also reduced a lot of wardrobe decisions over the past few years. I realized when I was pregnant the first time, that when I had maternity clothes (and of course, not many of them), that it was so much easier to get dressed in the morning with less choices. I don’t have a lot of jewelry (mostly because I don’t really like it all that much), and I wear simple outfits to work. Sometimes I look at other women at work and think of how great they look with their variety of cute dresses, different outfits, etc. But then I remind myself of how much time and hassle I save by wearing only a few outfits that are similar! Also a few years ago, I started using a stylist service (Trunk Club), and although the clothes can be on the pricey side (there is a large range of brands, though), I rarely have to go shopping or make a lot of decisions (I purchase mostly classic pieces that can be worn for a long time). I have had 3 stylists over this time (who you can talk to on the phone or email), and they always pick great looking things that I wear a lot. I also un-subscribed from email lists of clothes shopping sites – I would get hooked in by the “sales” and waste time and buy things I didn’t necessarily need. Right now the Trunk Club stylist just checks in with me every 2 or 3 months to see if I “need” anything. They ship a box of 10-15 items to my door, I try things on, and check out on my phone app for anything I don’t want, box it up, order UPS pick up on the app, and leave on my doorstep. So easy! No decisions on which store to stop at, etc.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much for sharing about your positive experience with Trunk Club. I’ve never heard of that before, I’m going to check it out today!

    [Reply]

  5. Lynn

    08/09/2018

    Great post Andrea! My life is not as hectic as yours by any means, but I am finding ways to simplify my life. It really does make a difference in how I feel and what I get done!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I honestly don’t think our life is “hectic” but we put a lot of conscious effort into keep things as simple as they can be — otherwise it most likely would feel very hectic at times!

    [Reply]

  6. Meghan

    08/09/2018

    I do all of my grocery shopping from Walmart (online and pick up) and Aldi. Both of these eliminate decision fatigue. Obviously with online grocery shopping, I don’t have to browse to find what I need. And Aldi has minimal brands and varieties of things.
    I also wear the same earrings every day. Diamond studs my husband surprised me with at Christmas when I was pregnant with my daughter. He really didn’t think I’d wear them every day, but I love it! I read if you leave studs in 24/7 in stretches out the earring holes. I used to try to take them out a couple times a week, but that’s not happening much anymore.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I wear diamond studs from Dave in my 2nd earring hole… and since they are fairly small studs, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they are stretching out my earring hole. Sometimes, in the morning, the whole stud is shoved into my earring hole. For that reason, I’ve thought of taking them out… but I never do!

    [Reply]

  7. Mary Ann

    08/09/2018

    This is so true and something I’ve thought a lot about lately. At the beginning of the summer, I put together 5 outfits to wear to work. I dress simply—mostly a maxi skirt and a top. It gets so HOT here in the South so I wanted outfits I didn’t have to layer for the most part. I hung outfits on hangers and just pull one out each day. It has been wonderful—no thinking required! When doing laundry, I just put the outfits back together again. One night a week is super hectic; we had been getting takeout or eating out but that required a decision and ended up running so late. I got a great deal on frozen pizzas at the end of July so I got enough for each week of August—we’ll pull out a pizza on that hectic night. The end. No thinking about what we’re going to eat!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Such awesome examples — I love that you wore 5 work outfits every week (SMART!)
    I go through phases where I want lots of clothing options, and then other phases where I purge to the minimum and wear the same things over and over and over again!
    Also, we almost always do frozen pizza on Sunday nights (for this very reason). We want something quick and easy before another week starts… plus, we usually have a bigger meal on Sunday afternoon!

    [Reply]

  8. Chris

    08/09/2018

    I’ve been realizing how having so many things and options is stressful. I am trying to use up “unusual” things in my pantry and want to start just eating more simply. I thought of you the other day, Andrea. 🙂 I wanted to pass along my thoughts. I know you enjoy meal delivery service for dates. I have done them a few times too. But a relative had surgery so I had my husband stop at a local place that sells meals already made, to buy her family something. He also ended up buying us something. It was SO good and much, much cheaper than a meal delivery service that I didn’t have to spend prepping and cooking and cleaning up. You may be interested since you love staying home so much (if you have something similar locally) but then you wouldn’t have to do the work. 🙂 Have a blessed day!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Chris! And yes, our new Meijer store offers more of these types of meals (even sushi one day a week). We might have to utilize them more once school starts up again!

    [Reply]