Family Life: Fewer Choices, Less Stress for the Holiday Season



Fewer Choices, Less Stress for the Holiday Season

By, Rachel Schmoyer

When my youngest child, Molly, was 5 years old, an elderly friend took our family to the Dollar Store. For Christmas, she wanted to treat each of our children to five things from the store; five things of their choice.

The day we met at the store, it was crowded with people getting ready for Christmas. Everyone was trying to get in and out quickly, but we leisurely browsed up and down each aisle so the kids could see all the choices. In the first aisle, Molly saw some pretty wrapping paper and bows and picked them up. When she did, I said, “Are you sure? Maybe you will like the next aisle better.”

The second aisle was filled with toys! By the time we were two steps into the aisle, Molly had picked three more things. She was excited about the five things she had picked out.

A minute later one of her sisters found something fun on the shelf and said, “Look Molly! Look at this! You should pick this instead!” She reluctantly choose that toy instead of one of the items already in her arms.

This pattern continued up and down every aisle. Either I asked Molly if she was sure, or one of her sisters persuaded her to pick something else. Once we had finished browsing up and down every aisle, we checked out, and went home happy with our purchases --or so I thought.


While I was making supper that evening, Molly came in to the kitchen and melted into a puddle of tears. I asked, “What’s wrong, Molly? Aren’t you happy with your new things?”

“Oh, Mommy,” she uttered between sobs. “There were just too many choices!”

Her statement hit me like a ton of bricks. For a five year old, forcing her to constantly rethink and reconsider her choices at the Dollar Store had been too much. I wish that I could have gone back and just let her keep the five things she had picked out in the first two aisles!

We often think that having many options to choose from is best. But making too many decisions can be stressful and exhausting. This isn’t just true for five year olds. This is true for any aged family member.

What are the benefits of having fewer choices?

  • Fewer choices means more mental energy for the most important decisions. If you are not wasting your brain power on a lot of little things, you will have plenty of mental energy for the big things. This is why many successful people have the same thing for breakfast every morning or wear the same type of clothing every day. Consider Mark Zuckerberg and his plain gray t-shirts and zip-up hoodies.

  • Fewer choices means less money spent. This is a big reason I like Aldi’s grocery stores. In Aldi’s, there is one kind of diced tomatoes, only a quarter of an aisle with cereal, and only five kinds of crackers. I just pick the item I need and put it in my cart. I don’t have to stand there figuring out which kind of an item to buy which sometimes leads me to the “I’ll just take one of each” solution. The fewer choices there are, the less you spend.

  • Fewer choices means more contentment. With fewer or no choices, you will escape the nagging thought in the back of your brain: “Did I make the right choice? Maybe I should have picked something else?” If there were no options left behind, you are free to put all your energy into enjoying the present moment with a heart of contentment.

  • Fewer choices means more realistic expectations. In life, sometimes there is no other choice. If you are accustomed to always picking what you want, it may be a rude awakening for you (or your kids) when you come across a situation in which you need to take what you are given.

  • Fewer choices means less selfishness. If you are always making decisions about what you want, then you are training yourself to constantly seek out your own pleasure. Rather, we should be training our families to think of others more than ourselves.


Choices at Christmas Time

Christmas time preparations are loaded with choices. Which cookies should I bake? How many? What presents do I need to buy for others? What should I tell others that I want? Which Christmas activities should we attend? Which Christmas movies should we watch?

Give yourself some mental freedom this Christmas. Eliminate opportunities for decision-making so your family can celebrate with a heart of contentment.

Meet the Author


Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and mom of four. She blogs about finding simple truths in complex passages of Scripture at Read the Hard Parts. She also writes about parenting and other adventures at Rachel Schmoyer Writes. If she is not writing, she is probably reading, most likely a biography of one of the First Ladies of the United States.

You can connect with Rachel online at Twitter.

You can find Rachel's "Family Life" column the 4th Monday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette. What do you think about how fewer choices can mean less stress during this holiday season for you and your family?


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