When you’re good at overcomplicating things.

When you’re good at overcomplicating things.

My newly revived late-summer obsession is making these zucchini noodles with my shiny new $20 Japanese mandoline. (It really is the color of toothpaste, just like the picture shows.) Our single zucchini plant went crazy this summer, and the only reason I haven’t been making these noodles nonstop is that I didn’t have a mandoline till last week.

A few years ago, I won an epic mandoline in a food blogger’s giveaway. It was huge, complicated, and cost $200. After it arrived, I gave away my trusty little bridal shower mandoline that had served me well for ten years. I didn’t need two mandolines, and the fancy one was better than my inexpensive one—or so I assumed.

But here’s what happened: my prize mandoline was so big it didn’t fit in the cabinet. Getting it out to use it was a pain, and the machine itself was complicated. My home kitchen needs didn’t require a $200 mandoline. My old $20 one worked just fine, and I missed it.

I finally got so annoyed with the fancy mandoline that I gave it away, too—but then I had no mandoline, and I felt stupid buying a replacement, so I didn’t. (It wasn’t a huge loss, because I don’t use a mandoline terribly often, but every time we had zucchini in the house I sure missed it.)

That’s not an isolated incident.

planning

I’ve used a planner pad for years. I loved their basic planner, but I couldn’t always squeeze in everything I wanted to include on the page, so last year when it was time to reorder I “upgraded” to the biggest size they carry.

I thought bigger would be better, but it backfired. The executive size I thought I wanted is so big I can’t fit it in my purse, and a planner is only so effective—at least for me—if I can only look at it when I’m at home. Nowadays I’m writing my to-do lists—the kind that I carry with me—on tiny little index cards, or 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper.

I know I should just order another planner pad—the smaller one that I will actually use—but I haven’t yet, and it’s because a tiny part of me is wondering if there is a better option out there.

My maximizer nature can make me crazy. I’ve wasted so much time in my life rabbit-trailing to find the “best” option.

Some things in life are inherently complicated, but that doesn’t mean I need to make things more complicated than they need to be.

As we move into fall, my zucchini noodles were a sharp reminder that the simplest solution is often the best one. My goal for this season is to not needlessly complicate things: not clothes, or school, or kitchen gadgets, or personal planners.

I’m not much of a minimalist, but I’m tweaking Occam’s razor: for the day to day stuff, the simplest solution is probably the best.

Are you good at overcomplicating things? I’d love to hear your stories in comments. 

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66 comments

  1. Megan says:

    This speaks to me on a very personal level. My biggest struggle… trying not to overcomplicate things (even the simplest of things)! Like you, I am also particular about my planner / organizer. I have overcomplicated it a bit, but have a computer version (that I can access and update on my phone or computer), and I have a large daily calendar at home for all family members to see (though it’s not yet hung up as we just moved and I haven’t yet found the RIGHT place for it)! Right now I am overwhelmed with trying to find THE right system for organizing the mountain of paper that is associated with a move. And it’s ALL important! I recognize that it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to get it done, but I’ve done it more than once and still don’t feel like it’s as efficient as it should be. I’m still misplacing things. Hopefully it’s nothing that’s due today!

  2. Rachel says:

    I am the opposite problem. Done is good enough so I just do what seems quickest and easiest and often miss out on efficiency because I don’t want to “waste” time on the front end.

  3. My husband is a maximizer (and an INFP!) and boy, when I watch him, I feel super happy to be a satisficer. Maximizing seems exhausting!

    I’ve been wondering what to get to try making zoodles, so maybe I’ll give that toothpaste-colored mandoline a try.

    (And I probably won’t research any others. Because, satisficing. Ha.)

    • Anne says:

      Ha! I think you’re married to my male counterpart. And I just had to google what zoodles are. 🙂 Now I know, and the mandoline would do the trick. 🙂

  4. Taryn says:

    I can totally relate! I research every large-ish purchase to death! And it doesn’t help to be on a small income; I feel like I need to get the best quality item at the best possible price. It took me forever to choose a new printer, for instance, when our old one died, but the one I finally chose uses so much expensive ink (because it didn’t fit the XL cartridges it claimed it could use). Argh. My husband and I talk about how my time is valuable, too (with three little ones), so I’m trying to cut back on research. I give myself a time limit, so I say I’ll spend one hour investigating and at the end of that time, I’ll get the best I found and live with it. The other problem is that I enjoy process of searching.

    • Anne says:

      I hate the process of searching, but my mom LOVES it. I don’t know what that means for appliance purchases, but I’m jealous of her (and my other friends) who truly enjoy the thrill of the hunt: they bring home fabulous finds from flea markets, thrift shops, and department store sale racks!

  5. Danae says:

    I have maximizer tendencies but experience has taught me to start with the simplest approach, use tools I already have on hand, and problem-solve any ongoing needs from there. For example, I just use iCal to keep track of our family schedule, menu, and household tasks. Rather than purchase a paper planner or wall calendar, I just print out the monthly view and put it on the fridge. It’s not fancy, but it saves me the time and effort to transcribe all that information and it’s easy to pencil in any changes. I follow a similar process to the planner pad to map out my tasks on a weekly basis, but use blank paper and plug the tasks into iCal. Each morning, I review my schedule on my phone and write a simple to-do list on a small legal pad. It’s just too easy and keeps things functional.

  6. Jane says:

    I’d love to hear suggestions for a good, sturdy, uncomplicated purse! I need something that will hold my stuff but not something overly large. I love the pockets and storage in a Vera Bradley purse but I am not wild about the patterns!
    Help please!

    • kimmymac says:

      I love MZ Wallace bags! They are considerably more expensive than the patterned Vera Bradley bags, but the construction (well made with nice detail) and storage can’t be beat. You can order online through MZ Wallace or the brand is available at Nordstrom. I got a crossbody last year and I LOVE it! And it goes with everything 🙂

    • Melissa F. says:

      I just got a Vera bag in one of the solid colors they have now (the cobalt blue they are discontinuing). The prints are fun for accessories, but I like solids for a purse.

  7. liz n. says:

    I’m all for thorough research and finding the best method/thing/solution, but it had better be done efficiently. The moment a solution (whether temporary or permanent) becomes clear, everything else is a waste of time, and, for me, over-thinking is the biggest time-waster. Sometimes, you have to be satisfied with “this works for now” because you aren’t always going to find a soulmate in a solution, and you’ll drive yourself insane trying to force it. There’s research, and then there’s overkill.

    P.S. The INTJ in me always–and I do mean always–measures cabinet/counter/wall/floor/shelf/closet space before purchasing anything, in order to avoid exactly the situation you had with the mandolin! 😉

    • Anne says:

      Yes to all this. Would you bring your INTJ-ness around my place every once in a while to boss me about overthinking? I mean that in an entirely sincere and good way. 🙂

      • liz n. says:

        Lol…what if I just shake my head and roll my eyes while you’re considering Option #46 of whatever? (And then callously abandon you to your fate… 😀 )

        • Anne says:

          That would be much appreciated. 🙂 (Although, in my defense, these days I usually cut myself off at 17 options. The days of 40+ options are long gone. 😉 )

  8. Tim says:

    I’m usually a less-is-more person, but that could just be my natural tendency to maximize entropy.

    P.S. A kitchen mandoline found its way into a post I originally wrote for Keri Wyatt Kent’s blog. She started it. Kitchen Gadgets and the Family of God.

  9. Catharinr says:

    I can relate! I’ve been searching for the perfect soup bowls and the perfect duvet cover for three years! I know I should just buy something I like, but I can’t seem to pull the plug!

  10. Jenna says:

    Wow, I can SO relate to this! Specifically on the planner side of things, Anne, have you ever looked into the Bullet Journal concept? It’s not necessarily a type of planner, but rather a method of journaling, and I’m so fascinated by it. The biggest plus for me is that for all those daily notes & scribbles that usually end up on post-it notes or miscellaneous pieces of paper, it would keep them in one place! That’s huge to me.

    I’m starting to practice some of the bullet journaling concepts in my current planner, until I decide I can justify buying a new Moleskine notebook to start fresh. 🙂

      • Marci says:

        Bullet journal.com . Ha. For real!
        I’ve modified it to work for me. For instance I need a monthly calendar view for future planning. But I do love indexing. I use the midori travelers notebook, with several mini notebooks inside. I keep a monthly calendar one, the current bullet journal which includes to dos, appointments and all lists. My other notebooks are more for inspiration and longer term projects. YouTube it!

      • Jenna says:

        I initially found it because Emily Freeman mentioned it when she started using the bullet journal concept. You can find a lot of information at http://bulletjournal.com/, but honestly, I’ve been less overwhelmed and more inspired by looking up “bullet journal” on Pinterest to see the myriad of ways that people have taken the bullet journal principles, tweaked them, and created a great system for themselves. I think the best part about it is that it IS completely customizable, so you can figure out what works for you and then stick with it – which is the whole point of a planner, right?!

        I think you would love it. 🙂

  11. Havok says:

    Oh, I am quite talented at over-complicating things. It’s a skill that I have managed to work and build, though it’s not very handy! “Why do something *okay*, when you can do something *AWESOME*” – except, a lot of the time, the “AWESOME” is just too much (like your expensive mandolin) and the “okay” really was just exactly what you needed. There’s certainly nothing wrong with bigger or fancier or more options, but only if they are actually useful. Which, sometimes, is only visible in hindsight (le sigh).
    So far as the planner-problem goes, I’ve recently changed from a week on 2 page set up to a bullet journal of sorts (which is basically just a to do list for each day, then a checklist of things for the week). It’s working out great. It’s a tiny enough size I can throw it in my purse and not even notice it’s there.

  12. Grace says:

    That’s so interesting. I deal with being a maximizer, but I never thought about it being a behaviour making things over complicated – though you’re totally right, it is. I know when I experience a maximizer-caused fail I also struggle with feeling shame and guilt around having been wasteful.

  13. Lee Ann says:

    I’ve been looking for a mandoline that does more than make flat slices. Does the safety guard on this one work well, and how do you store the other blades?

    • Anne says:

      This one didn’t come with anything that covers the blade while it’s in storage. But it did come with an attachment that “holds” the vegetable (or whatever) for you so your fingers don’t get to close to it. That part works great. The other blades came in a little plastic pouch; I just threw it in the drawer with the mandoline. Changing up the attachments is simple.

  14. Brittany says:

    I JUST realized my husband is a maximizer. That explains so much about him and some of my frustrations. Knowing that, I think I’ll be more accepting!

  15. Jules says:

    I did the same thing with a food processor. We don’t use one often, mostly for making our own peanut or almond butter and coleslaw. We had a perfectly adequate one even if it was a few years old and not terribly big. When we moved countries and had to shop for most everything for the house we also grabbed a big, fancy food processor. Why? I’m not sure. It is so big and complicated and had bowls within bowls that I was reduced to tears the first time I tried to use it! Of course, we use the old one which I shipped home and the fancy one is just taking up space in the pantry. On another note, I discovered bullet journaling yesterday in a blog post and am intrigued. The hesitation I have is that with the indexing and different types of bullet points suggested to indicate priority etc I fear it may be a rabbit hole for over-complicators like my INFJ-self!

  16. Adrienne says:

    I used to have 4 separate calendars. One for work, one for meal planning, one for bill paying, and one for family appointments. I was going crazy. I recently splurged on an Erin Condren planner and I consolidated everything into one planner that I can put in my bag and carry with me everywhere. I’m so much happier, now.

  17. Anna says:

    I’m definitely a maximizer as well. I do lots of research before replacing a simple item like a tote bag. Sometimes after doing all of the research I end up thinking I don’t need to replace the item after all!

    Speaking of planners, I recently consolidated all of my planners/calendars into one Moleskin planner. It’s working out much better so far.

  18. Mary Alice says:

    I think I am a planner “junkie”. All these different systems have jump started my overthinking my planners. Always looking for a better way. However, I am NOT an over thinker about other purchases. I agree with a previous writer, “done is better than perfect”. So my options are done or not done.
    Now I’m off to investigate bullet journaling!

  19. Amy says:

    Hi Anne!
    Last year I discovered the Week Dominator(http://www.neuyear.net/products/the-week-dominator). The planner is amazing (be sure to watch the video link!) The planner is 8×11 currently, but they have plans for a Purse Dominator for next year. 🙂

    I have NO connection with the company…just someone who has been searching for the perfect planner for 20+ years, and finally found it! 🙂

  20. Clara says:

    I’ll apologize because my comment isn’t about decision-making, but it is about the mandoline you use. I ordered it from Amazon Prime (which I love!), and it arrived today. I just tried it out with kohlrabi, and it got stuck on the slicing blade, and I cut myself trying to get it unstuck. I can see it working well for softer vegetables like zucchini, but how do you keep hard vegetables like carrots or potatoes from getting stuck? Or am I just too weak to push them through the cutting surface? (Maybe I need to start weightlifting…)

    • Anne says:

      OUCH!! Did yours come with a little plastic piece whose purpose it is to “grip” the vegetable? That gives me the leverage I need to do harder vegetables like carrots. It requires a little more effort than zucchini, but I wouldn’t call it hard—just so you have a feel for if it’s working properly for you or not. (I’ve never done kohlrabi with the mandoline, but I love it—very curious as to what you’re cooking up. 🙂 )

      • Clara says:

        It did come with the plastic piece. I think I’ve figured it out, although I have to lay it flat on counter in order to push hard enough to get the vegetables through the blade.

  21. I over complicate things all the time. Especially when I am organizing. I come up with some super efficient organizing plan for, you name it. I implement it that day and then throw up my hands on it by the next day. It turns out to be more work then necessary. What a great reminder that the simplest solution is probably the best. Such as getting rid of my stuff rather than trying to organize it. I love your blog by the way.

  22. Kara says:

    Most days I am a satisficer but when we started planning a trip to Disney last winter I was definitely a maximizer. I read every blog, book, and pamphlet on Disney World. I watched all of the videos Disney sends when you begin planning – twice. I had charts, actual charts, with a list of each family members top three ‘must do’s’ at Disney parks. I drove myself crazy (and my oldest daughter jumped on board) planning. We got there and I didn’t have fun the first day at all because I was so busy trying to keep us on schedule. The day we had the most fun was when my husband convinced me to just GO. The four kids happily ran from ride to ride, we ate when and where we wanted, and my chart was forgotten. Also, like you, I overcomplicate planners. I am embarrassed to admit how many I have tried, so I won’t, but it’s a lot.

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