How Much Is Too Much?


How Much Is Too Much?

ryan christopher

When was the last time you asked yourself how much was too much of something? Let’s smash brains on that question, and I’ll give you some tools to play with if you’re a mess like I am.

There are ideas you have to know for this conversation. You have to know that there is a how-much-too-much graph. You have to know that there is a how-much-too-much line that moves through that graph. And you have to know that there is a how-much-too-much peak point. For easier verbiage, we’re going to call them the hit graph, the hit line, and the hit point.

Some other time I’ll go into details about the graph and the line. Right now, we can just look at the hit point to answer our question of the day – how much is too much? Our strict definition of a hit point is going to be the exact number of something that you can have immediately before it becomes more than you need.

Let’s start with forks, spoons, and towels.

I live by myself. I don’t get a ton of visitors here. Which means that there aren’t lots of people coming here to eat. The most people who have ever sat down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner here numbers three. And that includes me. So, in how-much-too-much land, the hit point for the number of forks or number of spoons is three.

In my silverware drawer, I have three spoons and three forks. Any more than that would be too much. So the discrete number of forks is equal to the maximum number of needed forks. That’s my hit point. Three forks. Three spoons.

I am the only one that takes a shower here. That means I need two bath towels. One that is being used. And one clean and at the ready for next in line. My hit point is two. I don’t need any more than that in context.

Notice those are definite, whole numbers. You can’t have 2 1/2 forks. You can’t have 1.25 bath towels. Hit points for numbers of items that are entire things are pretty easy to figure out. But things can get a little more complex if you have increments.

How many doughnuts are too many? Well, if one isn’t enough, and two is too many, then it’s fair to say that your hit point might be 1.5 doughnuts. It’s not hard to split a doughnut. Realism and all that.

But that’s going to lead us into the idea of the smallest noticeable difference factor.

How much house is too much house in terms of square footage? Remember, the hit point is going to be the exact number before you have too much of something. But can you tell the difference in square footage between the house that is 1500 ft.² and one that is 1500 ft.² and 1 inch? Nope.

So how do we figure out exact numbers to make it fit with the idea of a hit point?

What we have to do is find the smallest difference that you can notice. Could you tell the difference between a 1500 square-foot house and a 2000 square-foot house? Probably.

What about the difference between a 1500 square-foot house and a 1600 square-foot house? Again, probably. That’s an extra 10 x 10′ room.

But smaller than that, being able to absorb and comprehend the difference in square footage is going to be tougher. A 50 square-foot room is going to start to be the size of a walk-in closet. At that point, the value of a house isn’t going to change much. There isn’t going to be a perceived difference. So, right around 50 ft.² is going to be your smallest noticeable difference.

Here on out, we will call that number our hit factor. So in that example, 50 ft.² is the hit factor. And maybe your personal hit factor is larger or smaller if you tend to notice more or less space differences in context. All of this stuff is totally self-defining. You have to figure out what your individual number is for every situation where you’re trying to find your perfect answer to how much is too much.

Consider a cup of coffee. Can you tell the difference between 12 ounces of coffee and 12 1/2 ounces of coffee? I can’t. Can you tell the difference between 12 ounces of coffee and 14 ounces of coffee? That’s probably what my hit factor would be. I would notice plus or minus 2 ounces of a liquid. Maybe yours is different.

If you’re going to figure out your own relationship with the world, spend some time deciphering how clearly you notice more or less of things.

For more technical example, think about color. If you have a line of color that slowly changes from yellow to orange, there’s no discrete point where you can tell from one molecule to the next that the color is changing. However, your eye would be able to tell that it’s changing jumping a certain amount of space on the color spectrum.

I don’t know what the percentage of change would be for the human eye to notice, and I’m guessing individual people have different sensitivities toward that sort of thing anyway. But ultimately, your hit factor would be the percentage change from one color to the next that you would be able to discern if they were right next to each other.

How’s your mind cooking so far?

Now let’s get random here. Think about tallness or shortness of people as related to income in fields where height matters.

How tall is too tall? In other words, how much height is too much height?

If you look at the basketball players who make the most money, what is their average height? At what point does income go down because the additional height does not help them get paid more as a professional?

And then, what is that difference in height adjusted from the average that will move someone from one salary point to another? If you’re 6’9, are you making the most amount of money? And at how many inches of difference do you start making less money? Do the people at 6’6 and 7′ even both make less money? Then your hit factor would be 3 inches.

Think of the same thing regarding horse jockeys. What is your ideal height? Where is that ideal range of moneymaking potential? And what is the hit factor growing or shrinking that would create a noticeable difference in average income?

Real physical idealities exist for everything.

Back to more practical matters

Can you tell the difference between 70° and 71°? I can’t.

My hit factor for temperature is probably 3°. Maybe yours is five. The reason that having this information could be helpful would be that you would know if you want to be warmer in a room you have to turn your thermostat up at least that many degrees to feel the difference.

Do you see where all of this is going? The more you understand about noticing a difference between one thing and that thing in a changed state, the closer you can come to figuring out how much is exaclty too much with every single thing in your life.

Here’s another good one.

How much money is too much money for a house that you’re going to buy? You have a number in mind like $100,000 for instance. How much more than that would you be willing to pay before you were no longer willing to purchase the house?

You would probably pay $110,000. Maybe you would pay $115,000. But would you pay $130,000? Maybe not. At that point, you know that your hit factor is $15,000. At that point, you can start using the math to understand your negotiating position. As soon as you can figure out how to draw the homeowner into your set of hit factors and hit points, you can destress the bargaining conversation because you know exactly where you stand.

Hit points change in context. They change by situation. You can flex them as you need to. But if you cheat yourself, then there’s no point in bothering to pretend that you’re looking out for your own ideals in the first place.

If you pretend that you need five forks for some reason, then you get five forks whether you need them or not. But if you look at external circumstances, rational reasoning, and concrete need, all of your hit points will define themselves automatically.

For example, at one point, I owned eight guitars. One acoustic, two electrics, a 12-string, a six-string bass, and so on. I used all of them for music productions. I didn’t need one more. Which meant that my hit point was eight guitars at that time. Now, I don’t do music production. I just wander around in my pajamas and twang out folk tunes to make my cats run away. I have my one acoustical electric that I love. Owning two guitars would be too much. One guitar is just right.

Same thing with microphones. I used to own a few dozen. I used them all. Now I have four. So your hit point can change every time your circumstances change. You don’t need to fight against it. You need to look at why you have things. There will always be a natural number that is perfectly ideal.

And personality quirks can certainly come into play.

Right now, I have nothing in my house that would count as a piece of furniture. I have no couch. I have no real table, just a folding one in the kitchen. I have nowhere to sit other than a few office rollers and some folding chairs I have stacked around.

[In fairness, I do have my two zero-gravity beach chairs tucked in a closet. I used to bring them out for special occasions when I pretended to be on vacation, complete with the sound of waves and a campfire coming from my computer speakers. Right now they’re a little dusty, but they don’t take up much space. Quirks, like I said.]

But everyone who comes in here tells me where it would be perfect to have a couch. Or where a few cushy armchairs would go so that it would be more – normal, is the word they might use.

I spend a lot of time sitting on the floor. It makes me feel earthy. And I also promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t buy anything that I couldn’t pick up on my own, carry up a flight of stairs, and put into a new place by myself.

I can literally move everything that I own by myself from one place to another in a very small car. It’s a leftover survival tactic from days past.

And all that means is that in my case my hit points and hit factors for furniture is drastically different than someone else’s might be. I have no bookshelves. I have no dressers. No nightstands. They don’t fit into my lifestyle. Right now, any furniture is too much furniture. Thinking about how much is too much helped me make a lot of decisions about how I live and why. No regrets, no concessions, dear world.

And I imagine that if anyone else started playing around with this how-much-too-much business, they’d find that pressing for exact numbers brings a lot of things into focus.

You can use hit points and hit factors for every single aspect of your life. It only takes a minute to focus on individual items. And then that number will stay the same until something changes.

If you don’t know how many pairs of pants you need, or how many boxes of cereal you should have in your cupboard, or how many pairs of shoes, or how many screwdrivers you need, or how many pieces of artwork up on the walls makes sense.

The answers are all there. The exact answers, are all there. Waiting to whisper themselves into your overwhelmed subconsciousness. Furniture indeed.