Home Life Too many choices? Make 2 at a time

Too many choices? Make 2 at a time


One of the hardest parts about remodeling a kitchen, bathroom or your whole house is narrowing down so many choices.

Just choosing a countertop can take a month. Do you want granite, quartz, or butcher block? Which color? With an edge that’s beveled, bullnose, ogee or square?

And that’s just one surface in one room. You also have to choose floors, cabinets, appliances, paint color, ceiling texture, lighting style, plumbing fixtures, and drawer pulls and caulk colors.

I’ve met more than one homeowner who decided to put off a remodeling job because the choices simply overwhelmed her. The sheer volume of choices left her unable to choose at all.

Jeb Breithaupt HeadshotBack in the day, when my father was building and remodeling houses, his clients had far fewer choices to make. Windows came in just a couple of styles. Most folks went with similar products for countertops and floors. One “in” color for each season seemed to be enough.

The flip side, of course, is that we could consider ourselves lucky to have so many options for making our homes look custom-designed and reflect our tastes and personalities.

The trick to taking advantage of the array of remodeling products for the home: Choose between only two things at a time.

Say you’re selecting a kitchen faucet. You walk into a plumbing showroom and see 200 different models with 500 different features.

Instead of deciding among 200 choices, decide between two at a time, like this:

Ask: Do you want a sleek, modern faucet, or one with curves that looks a bit more traditional?

Say your answer is “traditional.”

Ask: Do you want a gooseneck spigot or a flat one that’s closer to the sink?


You’ve already whittled those 200 models down to 100.

Ask: Do you like silver or gold tones?


Ask: Shiny silver or muted silver?


Ask: Do you want a pull-out faucet or not?


Ask: Would you prefer a single lever to turn the water on and off, or do you want separate hot and cold knobs?


You’re still making a lot of decisions, but you’re only choosing between two things at a time. This so-called “binary” decision-making can help you make your selections about 40 percent quicker, and it can ease most of the “overwhelm” from the process.

In the example above, you probably knew the answers to some of the questions without even thinking, so you decided in a second or two. You know without thinking, for instance, if you like silver or gold better, so that choice was probably easy.

All told, it took very little time for you to narrow your faucet selection from 200 models to a small handful of traditional, gooseneck faucets with a brushed-nickel finish, a pull-out hose and a single on/off lever.

If you’ve had a good experience with a particular brand of faucet, you might narrow your choice even more by looking only at those single-lever goosenecks from that plumbing manufacturer.

I learned this from a smart salesman named Robb Best, who has devoted his career to home improvement and sales.

So he knows that when you walk into a showroom, the salesman isn’t going to offer you just two choices. His job is to offer you 200 choices, so you’re sure to find something you like. He doesn’t realize that the simpler your choices, the more likely you are to buy something today.

My advice: Step back and do this on your own. Tell the salesman you want to wander around on your own for a little while before talking. Take it all in for a minute—so you can see that you have color and style options. And then, break it down into A choices and B choices.

Do you want a low-flow aerator or is that something you’d rather not pay for? A or B.

Can you spend more than $500 or less? A or B.

If the salesman insists on overwhelming you with more than two choices at a time, go someplace else.

Another good way to de-stress home improvement decision making: Find a remodeling contractor who is a designer or has one on staff. The designer will do a lot of this narrowing down for you. She will get to know you well enough to figure out if you’re into silver or gold, contemporary or traditional—and she won’t ask you to spend your time looking at faucets—or anything else—that she already knows you won’t like.

Designers are good at this A or B process. They’ll show you some photos of cabinets, for instance, and ask:

Do you want stain or paint?


White or color?


“Dark or light?”

See how that works? You make just one decision between two choices at a time.

And you leave saying, “This was easier than I thought” instead of “I don’t know where to start.”

Give it a try next time you’re facing an overwhelming array of choices. Like most things in life, a big job gets a lot easier once you break it down into manageable pieces.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.