My desk, being a horizontal surface, usually collects all items I don't want to immediately throw away or leave on the floor, and anything that does end up on the floor I will usually pick up eventually and put back on my desk. There is a condom there, for example. I know exactly how that condom ended up there, but I have no idea what will become of it. It is extremely unlikely that I will engage in a spontaneous sex act with a stranger anywhere near the vicinity of my desk. Its packaging is attractive, though. It gives the desk focus. I leave it alone.
Next, the old dry-cleaning tickets. I never bother to find them when I need to retrieve a clothing item from the dry-cleaners; I just give the dry-cleaning person my phone number. I prefer to go to dry cleaning establishments manned by unpleasant, angry people who speak English as a second language. Not bringing back the ticket in exchange for my pants just burns their hides. I know they're fuming because where they grew up, not bringing back their laundry ticket was punishable by internment in a labor camp and they're sorry they can't mete out this punishment to me. Long after my clean pants are safely home, I find the crumpled laundry ticket and throw it on my desk. Now I throw it out.
I have dozens of dollars in Kohl's Cash. It is useless. They give it to me when I buy clothes at Kohl's and it has a "window" in which you can redeem it for more clothes. Being a man, I only buy clothes when I need them, one item at a time. When I need a shirt, I buy a shirt. When I need a belt, a belt. I never think of going on little shopping sprees where I fill a cart with new fashions, let alone plan one to take advantage of my Kohl's Cash. The store cashier should just look at me and say "Oh—you're a man—you don't need this," and throw my Kohl's Cash away for me. But they don't. Now I have to do it myself.
The biggest pile of offenders, clutter-wise, on my desk is delivered by the US Mail. You know the mail category I'm talking about—mail that is too important to be thrown away but too boring to open. For most of us, it is the bulk of the mail we receive. It falls into several subcategories, all of which are subject to a very scientific triage:
Envelopes marked DO NOT DISCARD. If I were a clear-thinking person, I would discard these immediately. Instead, I practice what could be described as a "virtual discard" by leaving them sealed on my desk for months on end. I've let them linger in the Gulag of my mail pile long enough; now it is time for them to meet their final fate in my shredder, unopened.
(I don't actually have a shredder—I just bundle this stuff in a bag and throw it in the recycle can, the one in which my neighbor constantly stuffs dead grass cuttings, chopped thorn bushes and grayish worn underwear. Nobody's digging through that, so I figure that's just as good.)
Envelopes marked LIMITED TIME OFFER. That time is gone. These could be separated from SPECIAL ONE-TIME OFFERS if I wanted to bother, but I don't. They are all meeting the same end.
There are several envelopes marked EXPLANATION OF BENEFITS. These are from insurance companies. Nobody understands any of these explanations, but an approximation of one might be "Your insurance company hates you, and wishes you would stop trying to interfere in the relationship it's having with your money."
Who doesn't know that already? Out they go.
I always get a couple of missives a month regarding an employee stock program from a place where I once worked, reminding me that some fast-talking benefits coordinator once persuading me to put part of my pay into company stock. This stock has shown a remarkable consistency during the last tortured decade of the Dow-Jones. No matter what dizzying heights or depraved depths other stocks may yo-yo to, my stock always calmly sinks in value. It is now probably worth less than the recycle value of the beer bottles I could have emptied over many happy weekends, had I been wise enough to buy beer instead of that stock back then.
I keep these. If I become so confused that I actually think that I have any financial acumen, they serve as a handy reminder that I don't.
Also surviving the paper purge are numerous envelopes, unopened and not, on which I have scribbled phone numbers without attaching them to names. I don't know why I keep these around. I can never imagine become so bored I would want to call these numbers and ask whoever answered who they are. If I suddenly suffered from amnesia, I could call them up and ask them who I am, I guess. So I am prepared for that.
The rest of it is gone. The whole sad paper trail of opportunities wasted, obligations ignored, and reminders neglected has been tossed forever. I could compare its dissolution to my own inevitable fate, for I know that one day I will dwell in an oblivion as deep as the one I just cast that cable TV offer RESERVED EXCLUSIVELY FOR ME into, for my life will have ceased, although my stream of invitations to join the AARP probably will have not. But, hey, who has the time for that?
What's next on my list? Oh, yeah, the dry cleaners.