Variety Overload

More more more. Is there a point when we reach too much? I’m talking everything here – people, cars, technical gadgets, brands, and on and on and on. In my opinion, the answer is yes, and I’ve got  firsthand experience with what it feels like to live through Variety Overload. Here’s just one example of what I’m talking about…

A few months ago, I was on what I thought would be a simple enough mission at a shall-remain-nameless department store. My goal? Brace yourself here, to buy a new toothbrush. A little background info first…I’m fairly obsessed with my teeth, and have always been a sucker for the electric toothbrush and teeth-whitening products. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never sought to have the Ross Geller sheen, just a nice, naturally looking, white smile. Needless to say, I was quite confident in my ability to pick dental care products. That day, I was shopping with my sister, and each of us had ventured off into separate aisles; my goal was to just quickly pick out a toothbrush, and then track down my sister so we could continue shopping together. Well, little did I know that about 50, 000 new brands of toothbrushes had been invented since the last time I purchased one (the previous year).

My eyes glazed over staring at the sea of toothbrushes. I started to feel antsy, my head swarming. I started thinking, “Ugh…This is going to take me forever. Trisha’s gonna get impatient waiting for me…Hurry up, you can do this, Carolyn…HURRY UP! Just pick one, and go!” I stood there, my eyes glancing along the aisle-long shelf of toothbrushes (OK, that might be exaggerating by a smidge, but it was at least half to 3/4 of the aisle). All I wanted was an electric toothbrush, one I could just plug in and recharge; heck, it didn’t even matter if it was electric, as long as the bristles moved with the push of a button (it may be a mind over matter thing here, but I feel it does a better job). Instead, I was bombarded with soft bristles, hard bristles, softish-hardish bristles, medium-soft bristles, all-in-ones, not all-in-ones, battery-power, manual, crisscross bristles, rounded bristles, tapered brush head…you see how you feel right now reading this? Multiply it by 100! I couldn’t do it. I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. I could not pick out a toothbrush. I left the aisle defeated, toothbrush-less, feeling like I had just been visually assaulted, and eventually, located my sister. I laid it all out on the line, my feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. My sister, being the lifesaver she is, put on her brave face and led us back to that  aisle of doom with a take-no-prisoners kind of attitude; I meekly followed. On the way, I discussed with her my ordeal, and she clearly felt my pain. She whipped into that aisle like a Momma Bear on a mission, picked out the first battery operated toothbrush she laid her eyes on, and we were Outta There!

My experience attempting to buy a new toothpaste followed a similar path which leads me to my concern…when is enough, enough? Do we really need this much selection in everything/anything you can think of? Why not just a low/medium/high end version of the products? Why does there have to be a low-low/medium-low/high-low, low-medium/medium-medium (well, you get the picture) version of everything? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer other than it’s just sheer greed or just because we can.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of meditating. I’ve discovered that with meditation, I have a strong desire to limit the amount of “stuff” in my life. Perhaps that’s why I have such a meltdown when I feel like I’m being bombarded with brands, objects and selection. What have I done to attempt to overcome this? The solution for me has been to KIS (Keep It Simple – Yes, I left off the extra S. I’m not a huge fan of referring to myself as ‘stupid.’). How do I this? By finding my personal favourites of everything I need or use, and sticking to only those products and brands. That way, my eyes know exactly what they’re looking for, and I focus on finding that particular product, not looking at, or for, anything else. Another suggestion I have (but can’t really use myself because there really aren’t any in my neck of the woods), would be to frequent your local Mom and Pop shops. Although they may be a little more expensive (and perhaps, you can choose just a few products you’d like to buy there), you have the added benefit of helping out your local small businesses, probably meeting friendlier employees who value your business and will treat you like a person, and the pièce de résistance, the selection will not overwhelm you into a coma. If you have this option in your own neighbourhood, I’m jealous!



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. heidihansonwp
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 16:06:21

    I feel the same way. How did we get to this point in our culture?


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