Excessive Consumer Choice–How About Some Repurposing?
Do you ever stroll through the aisles of your local supermarket, scanning prices, looking for sales, and attempting to find the best mustard, cereal, or cookie amongst dozens of options?
I’d rather do my grocery shopping somewhat quickly, if not hastily at times. I like to make my decision and move on, as there are other activities I’d rather participate in than get sucked in to a ridiculous amount of consumer choice. Let me get back to the garden or writing a blog post, versus ruminating over what type of shampoo I should buy.
After reading Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice–Why Less is More several years back, I became more attuned to the absurd level of consumer choices we can make in the modern era. One of the book’s central tenets has stuck with me. There are generally two types of consumers: Maximizers and Satisficers. Maximizers want the best of all products, going through great pains and research to find the highest-rated mustard, dishwasher, or paper towel. Satisficers, on the other hand, choose products and services that are simply good enough. They make their purchases, and tend to not dwell or obsess over them.
The proliferation of consumer choices has complicated our lives, led to less satisfaction, wasted time, and given some people the false hope of always striving to find the best of something amongst a plethora of options.
Guess which type of consumer is generally a more happy person? You guessed it–Satisficers.
I stumbled upon blogger Chris Barnes from Stylelist Home, which originally led me back to The Paradox of Choice. Barnes frequently updates his page with “Repurposing Ideas” for basic household products. Did you know that a combination of lemon juice and water could deter your feline companions from exploring counter and tabletops? Or that sugar is an effective coffee grinder cleaner, in addition to an effective additive to facial scrubs? How about your inefficient old toilet bowl? Put an empty two-liter bottle in the bowl, restricting excessive water from filling up every time you flush.
Repurposing items we already have scattered around our homes can lead us to be more resourceful, creative, and, perhaps, less reliant on having to make so many silly consumer choices. I cut up old pie tins and dangle them from my fruit trees and bushes to deter them from pecking at the fruit. They apparently don’t like the noise. It seems to work. I like to make simple cleaning solutions with vinegar. I’ve built furniture from old pallets.
It seems to be like Satisficers have the right mindset when it comes to consumerism/materialism. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important to find the best of everything, especially at the cost of satisfaction and well-being. I guess I like to think of myself as a Satisficer/Repurposer.
Are you a Maximizer or Satisficer? A combination? Do you like to reuse or repurpose items you have around the house? Why impact does consumer choice have on your life?
Additional reading: The New Yorker published a Malcolm Gladwell essay about ketchup back in 2004, exploring the rise of specialty mustards versus the static nature of ketchup and it’s varieties. Good stuff.