Decision Fatigue

I have never before so comprehensively started over. Even at my first apartment, I had a lot of inherited/hand-me-down furniture. I left behind a lot of stuff when I left America, and European apartments come barer than any I’d seen before. As a result, there is entirely too much shopping to do, and the decision fatigue is wearing me the heck out. But it’s Sunday and all the stores are closed, so I have some time to tell you about it.


I’ve been moving in to my new apartment since last Tuesday, which means I’m on about step 587 out of infinity of roughly establishing a home for myself in Belgium. Two months ago I estimated that an international move was only about 25% worse than a regular move (It’s like regular moving, but with more paperwork!). It has gotten so much worse in the last week, I would now put it at 150% worse than a regular move. The reason for this is shopping, which I hate. 

I had to sell or store all of my furniture and large electronics before coming to Belgium, which of course means I have to replace it all now that I’m here. Some people would relish the opportunity. New TV! New oven! New surround sound! New couch, new bed, new table, new laundry machines, new ALL THE THINGS! And a lot of it gets reimbursed in my relocation package! But my problem is, I rarely want new things, because the old thing works just fine, and shopping is the worst. I really would rather unload a moving truck of all my same old stuff and put it all in its place. I’d be done by now were that the case.

It is actually scientific fact that shopping sucks. The ability to make good decisions is a finite resource available to the brain (Decision Fatigue – Wikipedia), and what is shopping but a string of decisions? Normally when I go out to buy something like a new computer, or a kitchen table, it comes after months of passive interest and casual research. But I don’t have that luxury now. I have to buy all my major appliances at once to get my apartment livable, plus a dozen pieces of furniture, kitchen wares, curtains, electronics, etc, all in the space of two weeks (Both the comped loaner car and my temporary flat run out on the 11th).

It also doesn’t help that I’m shopping for things I’m not used to shopping for. I’ve never bought a dishwasher before, I’m not up on all the latest dishwasher technology and lingo! I’ve got to do preliminary research before I even do the real research! It’s like I’m doing a master’s thesis about buying a dishwasher. Do I need “eco wash” programs? What the heck is “iQdrive”??? I JUST WANT A DISHWASHER. It’s like someone from 1985 trying to buy a TV today. Same goes for the other appliances. Plus I’m not familiar with half the brands over here. Which ones are reliable and well-designed? Which ones are inexpensive, which ones are just cheap garbage?

The large selections of things don’t help either. Competition and choice are good, but when there are 8 different decent looking end-tables at Ikea for less than 20 EUR, how do you decide? I swear, if Ikea made a couch that was just named “Couch,” I would probably buy that just to keep things simple (I can really relate to this XKCD comic). In the meantime, I’ll carry a D20 around to outsource the decision-making if necessary.


(Side note: An amusing microcosm of this happens whenever I try to buy toothpaste. I buy it so rarely, I don’t have a good feel for what I like, and there are way too many choices. Do I want whitening or tartar control or extra whitening or cavity protection or deep clean or enamel health? Mint flavor? Fresh mint? Peppermint? BRISK MINT?? ALPINE BREEZE?!?! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WORDS MEAN ANYMORE.

So I just stand there for three minnutes staring into space considering my options, then pick one at random. And it’s always fine. I really just want Toothpaste™ brand toothpaste.)

So yeah, in addition to all the time spent on this (7 hours just in Ikea so far. Time I’d rather spend watching Star Trek or doing anything else.), decision fatigue is really taking its toll on my mental faculties right now. Especially since the fridge I ordered was about 3 cm deeper and 2 wider than the listing said, and so was slightly too big to work properly in the assigned space, which caused me to immediately second-guess every other purchase I made, including which apartment I decided to rent. Could I have found another one with maybe one or two pre-installed appliances so I wouldn’t have to worry about the fit? Could I have found one that had curtains pre-installed so I didn’t have to add that to the list as well? Maybe I could have found one were all the rooms had pre-installed light fixtures? Maybe I should have chosen the apartment next door that had a garage that was esier to pull in and out of?

God, this is exhausting.

This all brings to mind a scene from Fight Club in which The Narrator (a.k.a. “Jack”) says, “It’s just, when you buy furniture, you tell yourself, that’s it. That’s the last sofa I’m gonna need. Whatever else happens, I’ve got that sofa problem handled.”

And he’s right. There is a tangible level of comfort and security in knowing you have that sofa there to catch you when you get home. I don’t have the sofa. But at least I got a nice-ish office chair. And, you know, like Tyler said, it could be worse.

I know I’m probably being overambitious, too. I’m trying to recreate the apartment I had in America just as soon as I can so I can get back to doing the things I like to do. My sister ( did not have this problem, because she went abroad directly after college. This was probably the correct way to do it. Given that my apartment here doesn’t even have any built-in shelves outside of the kitchen (more things to buy… *sigh*), it could be tough. I can prioritize and get things later, but the danger of putting things off til later is that it’ll be put off forever. Partly because a Lotus can’t carry a sofa, even if it is flat-pack.

In the end though, I only have myself to blame. Nobody blew up my apartment (like in Fight Club), or forced me to move to Europe to keep my job. I am at least not second-guessing the Big Decision yet; only the little ones that came after.

Author: haveracecarwilltravel

Moved from America to Belgium in early 2016 (mostly for the racetracks) and brought my Lotus along for the ride. I also enjoy putting my D7000 to good use.

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