Satisficing, and the holiday party dress

photo-97My husband’s company has an annual holiday party. Every year around this time, I find myself remembering that I need some sort of festive cocktail party dress. So what do I do? More often than not, I wear the same one I wore the year before.

But this year, as I am attending what I think is my 10th office holiday party with him — and I realized I was going to pull out the same little red jacket-type thing I wore to our first office party — I decided that, potentially, I needed something else.

Fortunately, I got a shipment from Stitch Fix this past week. I’ve blogged before about my shipments from them. This service asks for your measurements and style and sends you 5 items of clothing when requested. You keep what you like and return the rest. I’m now on my 5th shipment, so they’re starting to get a pretty good sense of what I like.

Lo and behold, this shipment contained a red collared wrap dress. Is the dress perfect? No. But it’s festive and it fits. Paired with heels, I’m now good to go.

As I was hanging up my dress in the closet, feeling happy that I’d saved 3 hours of driving to the mall, hunting through the racks and trying stuff on, I realized that I am a classic “satisficer.” I have certain criteria, and as soon as I find something that meets my criteria, I go for it. If the something happens to arrive in the mail, all the better! An optimizer works hard to make the absolute best decision. A satisficer realizes that there is no absolute best answer for many things, and the human brain chooses to make itself happy with anything once the decision is final — and yours.

I’m pretty sure I’m married to a satisficer. My husband and I spent very little time looking for houses before we bought ours. That was actually the second decision in that process that involved satisficing. To be honest, we don’t actually have to live anywhere in particular. Why did we choose our neck of the woods? It’s got good schools, it’s close to a major metropolitan area (with an international airport), it’s 90 minutes from the beach and the mountains, and I happened to go on a package tour to Peru with one of our local council members a few years ago and she talked it up. Sold!

If I were a different person, I might think about the fact that there are a lot of holiday dresses out there. Given enough time, I’d probably find a dress that looks better on me. But I’d rather devote that time to other things. Particularly during the holidays.

Are you a satisficer?

Note: I have no affiliate accounts, and don’t run any advertising on this blog. The link to Stitch Fix goes to their home page with no link to me whatsoever.



29 Responses to Satisficing, and the holiday party dress


  1. Yes,but I made the mistake of going shopping with my optimizing little siste before the last wedding and instead of getting the first dress, (Fit perfectly, but she claimed to be too young) I ended up with nothing new and looked frumpy in the same dress I’ve worn for years but because of nursing was a little too big. The pictures are depressing.

    • Laura says:

      @N&M – oh yes, satisficers can find optimizers somewhat bewildering. Optimizers probably find satisficers bewildering too, particularly in the dating department.

      • I’m an optimizer when it comes to my love life. Fortunately I found the optimum at 16. Or perhaps I’m a satisficer with the very high bar of not having to share a bedroom with someone, and only one guy passes that threshold.

  2. bogart says:

    Satisficer extraordinaire here. Picking up on N&Ms comment above, I got married in the off-white suit I’d bought at a consignment shop shortly after getting engaged figuring, “If I don’t find something I like better, I can always wear this.” I never even looked for anything I liked better (also it actually was lovely). And about two weeks before the wedding I decided, “These off-white flats I already own are close enough.”

    I have had remodeled 50% of the floor footage of our home, and have plans for the other 50% (but no budget, yet). And I do put a lot of thought into those, but it’s scheming I enjoy (plus, with no budget — no hurry!). And even there, I’m certainly making satisficing decisions based on budgetary constraints.

    • Laura says:

      @bogart – decorating… in our house I just wanted it done! I feel there are infinite combinations that could look OK, but I’ll never get that time back.

      • bogart says:

        @Laura, no no — what is this decorating of which you speak? We had a structural wall knocked out, replaced the fireplace with a (relocated) woodstove, redesigned the kitchen. I insisted on accessibility (3′ doors, lever handles) and put A LOT of thought into where the fridge, stove, sink go, insisted that a door go directly from the kitchen to outdoors and that the kitchen itself have doors (so the dogs can be closed inside it) and a tile floor for durability/ease of cleaning. But the tile itself was the cheapest available at Lowes and in an earth tone (hides dirt — sort of…) (though if I had it to do over I would devote some effort to learning about slippery-when-wet ratings and get some that isn’t; ours is). The decorating I don’t even qualify as a satisficer on — I just ignore it. I find the layout and design do merit careful attention. But then, I plan/hope to live here a long time.

      • ARC says:

        Oh yeah, this describes our current remodel/addition project. Once we got the details of the design right (rooms & walls), for the rest of it, I was in “just get it done” mode – I didn’t want to see EVERY POSSIBLE CHOICE for carpet, counters, etc. Just show me 2 or 3 choices in our price range and I’ll pick something. I don’t have the patience, as everything we’ll get is nicer than what we have now.

  3. Ana says:

    I’m a total satisficer….married to an optimizer. It makes for some tension, if I let it, but usually I just let him spend his own hours coming to the exact conclusion I came to in 20 minutes. We are getting a large portion of our house painted soon…and I”m trying to let him just pick the colors so it doesn’t turn into a huge staying-up-late poring over swatches production.
    I’m also a “good enough”-type and he’s a perfectionist…another source of tension (though his stuff always turns out amazing, like crafts or baking, and mine look like something the cat dragged in…)

    • sarah (SHU) says:

      ana, SAME! total satisficer here . . and definitely married to an optimizer. however, i do think that over the years i have rubbed off on him as he has realized that i am just as happy (if not happier!) with many of my quick decisions as he has been with his prolooooooooonged ones :) (plus, being a surgeon you start to just run out of TIME and you become a forced satisficer whether you like it or not).

      interestingly, the example of the dress is one area where i’m not a total satisficer BUT that is because i enjoy shopping for clothes (when not prego :) ). (on the other hand, and in stark contrast, i picked out all of my maternity gear in about 15 minutes. mostly online.)

      • sarah (SHU) says:

        (another example: our water heater just broke. josh was going to spend hours researching it when i proposed the lazy solution of letting out (trusted) plumber tell us what to get. in the past, i don’t think josh would have gone with this but monday he basically said ‘good idea’ and was happy to let our guy pick one out as long as we tell him we want decent quality and not an energy suck. and i’m sure it will be fine!)

      • Laura says:

        @sarah – actually, come to think of it, my husband may have some optimizing tendencies on a few things. Like, potentially, water heaters. We do often get multiple bids. But as with your husband, eventually it becomes a matter of time. If you get an hour of free time, it makes little sense to spend it researching a decision you won’t be able to improve upon much when you could be exercising or playing with the kids.

        With maternity clothes, I became even more of a satisficer, because I figured there were limited options, so if it fit and looked decent I should *definitely* buy it. I was quite annoyed at both the cost and quality of much maternity wear, but I didn’t think I would solve that problem by spending more time looking. I think it’s the nature of the beast.

        • Ana says:

          I’m working on my husband, and yes, with limited time these days, he’s seeing the beauty of making a quick decision and moving on to more interesting things.

        • With maternity clothes, I just bought a couple of lots on ebay. Let someone else with reasonable taste make all the decisions. I also got my in-seam figured out and bought every pantsuit with that inseam that was $15 or less until I had enough. If only regular shopping were that easy (used non-maternity clothing is more expensive so it matters more if some of the items in a lot suck–more professional shoppers and fewer women getting rid of a bunch of stuff at once).

      • Ana says:

        Also, yes, I do enjoy shopping for (non-maternity) clothes for myself, so if I had a holiday party to dress up for, I may indulge myself in a little fun shopping (I don’t). I do my kids shopping in about 10 minutes each season, too (having boys, that are picky about only wearing “comfy” clothes helps. There really isn’t much to ooh and ah over).

    • After reading the Paradox of Choice, DH realized it was often optimal to satisfice, so he started satisficing in more situations.

  4. Leanne says:

    I think I could be one or the other in different scenarios… if it’s something I enjoy doing, I’ll spend extra time to make sure I get exactly what I want, but if it’s something I just do because I have to, I’m completely fine with “good enough.” In terms of buying clothes, I wouldn’t have stopped with Stitch Fix, Laura- I’d go to a bunch of stores and online shops, and find the “perfect” outfit (possibly the one I started with, but I wouldn’t consider the shopping a waste of time). But when it comes to, say, folding clothes, I just want to get it done as soon as possible and I really don’t care how the inside of my dresser or the linen closet looks!

  5. Anne Bogel says:

    I’m a satisficer now–mostly. But it doesn’t come naturally and I’ve had to work at shedding my maximizing tendencies. (It’s been a great change.)

    • Laura says:

      @Anne- it certainly saves a ton of time! I’m curious how you managed to go about shedding these tendencies. Have you done a blog post about it? It would probably be helpful to people. The problem of being kind of a natural satisficer is that it doesn’t make sense that people would think differently. It’s probably the same with planners and spontaneous sorts…

  6. oilandgarlic says:

    I’m happier when I go the satisficer way but for clothing, shoes and purses, I’m often an optimizer. This isn’t really good as I don’t have much time to shop (with kids) and online shopping does not work as well for pants and shoes. Sometimes it takes me years to replace a favorite pair of shoes or clothing item!

    I’m a satisficer when it comes to tech goods, as I don’t think you can ever find the best — things change so quickly!

    • Ana says:

      I was like that with shoes and clothes for a bit, and realized that my well-researched out shoes were just as likely to end up uncomfortable as my purchased on a whim shoes.
      Sometimes buying online, with the INFINITE amount of choices can be overwhelming (i.e. Zappos) so I actually save time by just going to one little shoe store and picking something from their limited collection that they have in my size.

  7. usha says:

    I am a satisficer… Married to a helluva optimizer. We bought a teeny-tiny apartment that we are in the process of renovating. We hired an interior designer to do the job but we get involved a lot in the project as well. My husband is TOTALLY into it. He found out that there were hundred of varieties of faucets we could use – we need TWO of them. Ditto with the vanity – we need ONE. And ONE kitchen sink with a drainboard. He proobably knows as much about materials to be used in a house as a civil/structural engineer would. What I know is that I need a minimalist home, with clean contours, white walls and wooden floor. Enough space for our belongings and a lot of space for my books. My husband HAS to discuss everything with me – I admit with a sheepish grin that I simply nod many a time just to look interested. Doesn’t work mostly.

    • ARC says:

      My husband and I have a code word for that – “insulation”. As in, I find it necessary to have insulation in our house, but I’m not interested in discussing the choices or details. ;) So once he starts going into great detail, I just invoke “insulation” and the conversation is over :D Now he does the same to me when I’m talking about paint color or whatever.

      • Usha says:

        I just went through that… This neck and that stand etc. For days on end. I said “faucet”.

  8. Katherine says:

    This is the first time I have heard that term but YES. I made the switch a few years ago and have not looked back. I used to be an optimizer, and that still bubbles to the surface occasionally when I have the time/energy/desire, but it works for my lifestyle to be a satisficer.

    I’m happy to know there’s a word for it.

  9. Satisficer here, married to a maximizer. Watching him makes me happy that I’m a satisficer….I think it’s a more relaxing way to be!

  10. Whitney says:

    I’m not married (maybe that’s where I’m optimizing?!), but in most other areas, I consider myself a satisficer. I bought my house in 45 minutes; I loved it, and knew it was the right place and price for me. Lots of folks wondered about my decision, but I’ve been there two years, and I’m so glad it’s mine!

  11. oldmdgirl says:

    Nope. Total optimizer here. Could NEVER be a satisficer. Ever. (Shudder.)

    • oldmdgirl says:

      I should add, married to another optimizer who also has a touch of OCD.