When you think of it, there isn’t much we really need. The word “need” is one of those funny words like “want” which have a meaning different than at first understood. As I am certain you already know, the word “want” has through usage developed an import from lack to need to desire. Hence, if you want something, it may have nothing whatever to do with either insufficiency or necessity; rather, want may merely express desire. The issue about what we either want or need in life then becomes one of desire.
I am by degrees discovering that the disposition of desire is a cleansing process. I suppose if you apply desire to such things as cigars or whiskey, the disposition process is uncomplicated. When however the disposition of desire is made applicable to household memorabilia or historic paperwork and documentary records, the path is less coherent. For one thing, old paperwork is not the most manageable item. There is always the fear that a contest may arise within a statutory limitation period which makes the paperwork a critical evidentiary element. This I suspect is hogwash. Most of what inhabits the long neglected filing cabinet drawers is already part of the government’s vast collection of electronic documentation, whether birth, marriage or death certificates, whether licences or accreditations, whether court transcripts or judicial decisions, whether tax returns or notices of assessment. As for the other stuff – such as educational records, health records or insurance policies – that too is most likely catalogued in a modern electronic vault somewhere in space. And all of it is accessible through the internet.
As I was “cleaning out” one of my more disregarded filing cabinet drawers this afternoon I unveiled some yellowing photographs along with some decaying paperwork (like ancient birth, marriage and death certificates). Precision housekeeping is worthwhile in such an undertaking; that is, the answer is not as simple as dumping it all into a green garbage bag. Yet it formed but the tiniest slice of what remained after the cull. The more evident feature of the enterprise was how persuasively over time I had succumbed to the theory, “I’ll leave it for now in case we need it later“. In my experience, that day never comes.
Much of what is found in a drawer is there for a reason. I am not suggesting they be thrown out willy-nilly; rather that some scrutiny and selective disposal is preferred. We shall always have that cautionary inclination to preserve even the most inconsequential thing for a subsequent generation; and, the more remote, the more pertinent. This too is probably unlikely. But it illustrates the difficulty getting rid of things.
Our interest in this matter – that is, getting rid of things – has arisen not entirely unexpectedly. As with everything else is life, there’s a reason. The reason is that we’re moving. It has been eight years since we last undertook a substantial move (which in the that instance involved a 30-year collection of domestic and business stuff). Though the current move is anticipated to be far less cumbersome than previously, the process is still one of downsizing, partly the result of moving to a slightly smaller space, partly the result of learning the value of simplification.
It occurs to me that simplification implies what in mathematics is called reduction; or what in the Boolean model is “true” (1) or “false”(2). In this broad analysis, need or desire acquire an almost Stoic rendition.