NOT into reading? LISTEN to the audio version instead! (Or listen to me narrate along as you read the text below. Best of both worlds? #AudioBlog)
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time I spent a significant stretch of time at home in Fresno was in Fall 2018.
Aside from days spent in a Clovis Starbucks brainstorming ideas for a book I had just decided to write, the other activity that managed to take up a memorable amount of time was helping my mother…pick out a refrigerator.
Yeah. My mom wanted a new refrigerator and couldn’t decide which one to buy. She had actually purchased one before my Fresno arrival, but returned it before it was ever delivered (it was a Side-by-Side refrigerator style – freezer on the left, fridge on the right.) She was keeping her options open.
The search for a new fridge spanned months. It involved online searches, visits to the Sears Appliance outlet on the other side of town every weekend, Best Buy, Lowes, the like. We looked over every option and considered all sorts of factors: brands, price, style, features. There were multiple days where I spent HOURS inside the same appliance store.
She opened and closed hundreds of refrigerator doors. Over and over. Had me look at them. Compare prices. Even considered getting one with a minor “malfunction” (cosmetic issue, a dent in a hidden spot) just for a better deal.
She had now become convinced she wanted the Samsung “French Door” Style Fridge with the “hip” (her words, not mine) new design – the one with the freezer at the bottom and the fridge on top.
The only answers I could get out of her were that it was “hip” and that her friend had that style.
I, her helpful and dutiful daughter, logically pointed out that it would be annoying to have to bend over every time you wanted something from the freezer. I also pointed out that in a lower freezer layout, it’s impossible to see everything in there because the food is stacked.
While my mom listened, what I said wasn’t really heard.
She would periodically mention the original fridge she had purchased and sent back, never fully explaining why she bailed on it in the first place.
She just continued to fridge search. After a while, it was just exhausting.
One day, after months of searching, we went to Best Buy and noticed a “hip” Samsung French-Door style refrigerator on sale. It was the floor model (i.e. the only one left) and with a little nudging, she FINALLY commits.
Fast forward to Spring 2020. It’s the COVID era and I’m now based at home in Fresno for the indefinite future. My mom is spending a lot of time in the kitchen, and yes, the fridge is still there.
Problem? My mom hates the fridge.
Specifically? The design.
Why? She has to bend down and can’t find anything she’s looking for in the freezer. Everything is stacked on top of itself.
As much as I wanted to drop an “I told you so” – I held off. Why? My inner voice jumped in.
INNER VOICE: Do you think you can judge your mom, SK?
SK: I mean…I am judging slightly.
INNER VOICE: Don’t you do the same thing?
SK: I mean I wouldn’t spend THAT much time finding a fridge.
INNER VOICE: Haven’t you spent 30 minutes looking over a menu? And a full week debating between hundreds of AirBnB options in Asia? And an entire quarter of an NBA game deliberating over which shirt to buy at the Knicks store, only to buy multiple because you couldn’t decide on a favorite and didn’t want to miss the whole game?
SK: That was old me!
INNER VOICE: What changed?
SK: My hairstyle.
INNER VOICE: Be serious.
SK: I dunno haha I just think we have too many options and I just stopped caring about them. People always are like “I wanna keep my options open” and it’s like, why? That just creates more room for error, you know? How come no one ever says “I wanna keep my options closed!” Ha. You know? Like less is more. [pause] Wait. Am I onto something?
As I sat and pondered this new epiphany, I realized that anything I had successfully decided on in life (i.e. never regretted) adhered to this “keep my options closed” mentality.
When looking to add to my life (professionally or personally), the only times I confidently chose something is when I didn’t overdo the search AND when I didn’t compare alternate options after finding something I really liked.
On the flip side, whenever something would stress me out, like hiring a freelancer or buying a blender, it was because I’d opened dozens of tabs of different potential choices that were seemingly similar, and kept doing so even after finding an option that worked (which ultimately just overwhelmed me and led to eventually regretting the choice made since it was impossible to narrow down when all the options blurred together.)
And yes, I know millennial culture loves options and keeping them open. But in 2020, when we have a million choices for everything, wouldn’t life be easier if we narrowed the focus?
If we kept our options closed?
Right now (or well, pre-COVID) we lived life with an options open mentality.
“A million places to eat? Thanks Yelp! A million places to work at? Thanks LinkedIn! A million people to date? Thanks Tinder! A million socks to choose from? Thanks Amazon!”– Semi-Satisfied Pre-COVID Millennial
The problem with a million options, though, is that the more you look at, the harder it is to discern one thing from another, and the closer options seem to appear.
You end up with browsing fatigue and nothing makes sense anymore. You end up choosing an option based on the wrong reasons because you don’t even remember what you were looking for in the first place – like my mom who picked a fridge (a long-term commitment) because it was “hip” (i.e. only relevant now and trendy) and inevitably hated it in the end.
And what makes it worse? Knowing you spent two months trying to pick the perfect fridge. At least if you only spent two hours you’d feel less guilty about it.
And even worse? Knowing deep down that the fridge you originally first picked, originally wanted to commit to (but ended up returning) was the kind of fridge you should have gotten all along.
The non-hip one. The Side by Side-style. The freezer on the left, not on the bottom.
The fridge that “felt” right before you decided to go on your two-month fridge tour to see what fridges were out there and involve so many others in the process hoping they’d tell you what you already knew, but instead their perspective just confused you more and you delay the inevitable decision-making…
And now…you just want a new fridge. Sigh.
INNER VOICE: Is this even about a literal refrigerator anymore?
SK: Hmm…I don’t think so.
But really. Whether it’s a kitchen appliance, a person to hire or simply what to order on the Cheesecake Factory menu, my advice is….
Don’t fridge your life.
In other words, less is more.
When you have an idea of what you want (as my mom did based on her original fridge purchase), just go with that. And when you don’t have an idea? Sure, look at a few options, but know that after a while, what you get after opening 10 tabs (or refrigerator doors) will probably be the same sort of mix you’d get after 100. You’ll save yourself time, effort and a lot of confusion.
I recently asked my mom why she returned the original fridge she wanted. At first, she responded with “I dunno, it was stupid of me” in a sad and regretful tone (like someone reflecting on “the one who got away.”) She paused, and then added, “oh because they were taking too long to deliver it. Like a month. I got fed up and didn’t want to wait.”
Yeah. Little did she know she’d end up on a find-a-fridge tour that took twice as long. If only my blog existed then and I was able to offer her this wisdom. Alas, she may have lost time (and the fridge she really wanted), but you dear reader, won’t make that same mistake.
Just keep your options (and those French doors) closed.
Recommended Listening: Katy Perry’s The One That Got Away
All this money can’t buy me a time machine, no
Can’t replace you with a million rings, no
I shoulda told you what you meant to me,
Cause now I pay the price.
(And yes I know as a die-hard Taylor Swift fan that I shouldn’t be picking a Katy Perry song, but…the “loyalty and feuds” topic is a conflict for another day. Also…they made peace recently. So I think I’m clear? Enjoy. I’ll see you next week. — 💜 SK)
ICYMI…PREVIOUS BLOG POST: Was I Friendzoned for Having Black Friends?
START THE JOURNEY FROM BLOG #1: Am I Too Scared To Start Things?
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Samia Khan directly!