So many of humanity’s material problems have been solved with the bounty of mass production, but this plenitude has spawned another. Decision fatigue, or the exhaustion that comes with the multitude of decisions in modern life, has developed into a serious issue. This trend is especially taxing for people ADD and executive function disorders, like myself. In order to reap the most benefit from a market economy, while minimizing its mental cost, one must learn to approach purchases with a conscious strategy. Here are a few starting points that may help.

1. Go back in time

Sure, there are 83 varieties of mustard in today’s grocery stores, but it wasn’t always that way. Rewind 25…50…100 years in your mind and consider what people purchasing product X had access to. Find the modern equivalent of that historic item—something simple with no frills. The timescale will vary based on what you’re buying, but the rule of thumb is that categories get more complicated and nuanced as time goes on. There’s nothing wrong with fancy specialty products, but if you’re suffering from decision fatigue, it might be best to eliminate them for awhile. After some clarity is regained, you can add the most important things back in.

2. Shop at discount chains

Some businesses have leveraged the feeling of ease that comes with fewer choices. Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Apple are all strong examples of this simplicity in commerce. Rather than cater to a customer’s every whim, they offer a concise, high-value collection of products. I’m happy that other companies offer variety, but brands with a KISS philosophy help keep a handle on decision fatigue.

3. Develop a philosophy

People with strong opinions often find that they can only mesh closely with a small, like-minded group. This principle also applies to the discerning consumer. For a vegetarian, entire swaths of the supermarket are irrelevant. For the digital-privacy conscious, most “smart” consumer electronics offerings are anathema. For a frugal person, items from the value store brand seem to be illuminated with a spotlight. If you do some research into the things you buy, distinctions will form in your mind between desirable and undesirable subcategories of products. Don’t get caught in the trap of researching things to death, though. This can quickly cost more energy that it saves.

Cover Image Attribution: decision by Becris from the Noun Project