Needs and Wants in the Covid-19 Era

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post called “The Conquering Clutter Resolution” in which I discussed my wake-up call when I replaced flooring throughout the house, which meant having to pack and relocate everything.

During the process, I could not believe how much “stuff” I had. It was nothing on the scale of an episode of “Hoarders”, it was just mystifying how much I could hide in a closet when it was neatly and efficiently organized.

This prompted me to start a purging habit of getting rid of one cubic foot of “stuff” (aside from the regular garbage and recycling) every week. This was definitely an easy and achievable goal, even on the busiest of weeks, to see slow and steady progress.

Gone were the kitchen gadgets that got little use. Gone were the hobby items that never developed into an actual hobby. Gone were the collectibles that never really turned into a collection.

As the months went by, I patted myself on the back as I felt lighter with each donation and each extra garbage bag. I thought that by the next time something like that came up, moving my “stuff” should be a breeze.

But when I moved this past spring, despite my best purging efforts, my moving van was still astonishingly full. How did that happen?

What was annoying about the packing process this time was that even though I went through everything and found things that I was ready to part with, I was hindered in my ability to get rid of anything because of Covid-19, as no one was accepting donations.

As well, aside from regular paper and plastic products, nothing could be returned for proper disposal like batteries, electronics or old paint cans. I had to bring them with me to the new place until the easing of restrictions.

But throughout the unpacking process, a few factors have triggered a new perspective on purging: Covid-19, the new house and my retirement next year. These factors helped redefine “needs” versus “wants”.

First, the media bombarded us with images of empty store shelves with some items defined as “needs” that suddenly went scarce. To us, some of them were indeed essentials while others, not so much. But just the same, the weekly shopping list during Covid-19 was a demonstration of what was truly essential.

While working from home for the last seven months, I realized that it was the same batch of casual clothes that were getting washed week after week, while my usual office wear remained in boxes. Because clothes don’t fit this 5 foot 5 inch frame perfectly, right off the rack, when I did find something that fit and flattered, I used to buy articles in multiples (…before they decided to change the size or style on me). This is not to say I wouldn’t need them eventually, but perhaps I didn’t need quite so many dress shoes, blazers, collared shirts and pairs of office pants, especially not in retirement.

And so began a quest of keeping absolute favourites and eliminating some of the less-favourites among the multiples. Before I knew it, I had a few boxes ready for donation, with more on the way once I started tackling the winter wear.

With retirement just around the corner, I took a second look at items that I’ve held on to, asking myself with refreshing honesty if I will REALLY use them in retirement. With the clarity of knowing that I want to spend my time working on writing projects, disposing of things that don’t contribute to that goal has been surprisingly easy.

When it came to the contents of my office, I found a few boxes of papers for sorting and shredding that escaped my radar in previous attempts, notably old condominium bulletins and service receipts that may have been important while living in my last house. But in the new house, most of these are irrelevant. The shredder has been busy.

With the easing of Covid restrictions, you cannot imagine my extreme joy at my first field trip to the town’s dump on “Hazardous Waste Day”! We were finally able to get rid of the boxes of items that had to move with us.

Because we are still putting in very full, exhausting work days, the unpacking process is taking us longer than expected. But that being the case, if something has been sitting in a box for several months and we haven’t had to look for it in that time, how much of a “need” is it? That has been food for thought.  

Perhaps it took Covid-19 to gain insight into how our needs are perhaps simpler than we think they are, and to gain clarity in what we still value as our “wants”.

As I continue to go through boxes, the triage process has been stepped up and I find myself more easily disposing of certain items. Where I used to second guess whether something will be useful in the future, the letting go process has been considerably easier.

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Sincere thanks for reading!

Have a great day,



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