Isolation Log: Covid Date 15.a.20

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I am so thankful for strawberries. This was the second time in 4 months I have been able to get fresh fruit due to food shortages.

Day 100 of captivity. The natives are getting restless. I have had enough of being stuck inside my house because other people refuse to wear masks and distance. I have no faith in humanity to do the right thing anymore.

It has now been 100 days since the doctor told me to stop going to the grocery store and pharmacy. It has officially been 111 days since I have actually been to a grocery store myself.

I am so tired of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if I’m tired of it or not, this is the world in which we live. At this point, I’m just waiting to die because people are not wearing masks and distancing.

As frustrated as I am with the situation, I do not feel as though I am missing out on anything. I have altered my behavior to keep myself safe. Due to multiple food allergies that react by touch, I did not go very many places before the pandemic. The changes I have had to make to my routine have not been huge. So what have I changed? Here’s the list:

Groceries: This one has been the most challenging. I am so thankful and so grateful for the small army of people who kept me supplied throughout the worst of the pandemic so far. I have now successfully been able to receive grocery delivery so that I am not putting my friends at risk. I am now grocery shopping once per month. As long as I have food to eat, I do not mind NOT going to the grocery store. I loathe shopping in general. I am not missing out on anything by no longer going to the grocery store. I am fine with contactless grocery delivery once per month.

The Gym: This is the time of year when I am running outside. I typically use the treadmill from October to April. I am not missing the gym right now. That may change come this fall and winter. As long as there is not ice on the ground to cause me to fall, I will run outside. I do not feel like I am missing anything by not being able to go to the gym.

The Library: I do miss the library. However, I am taking this opportunity to reread every single book on my bookshelf to make the decision whether I should keep the novel or get rid of it. So, I am using this time to engage in a minimalist exercise. I miss the people in my book club, but we have been able to keep in touch with phone calls and letters. The library recently reopened for touchless curbside pickup only. I have requested two books and a movie for curbside pickup. I will let you know how that goes when I pick up my items. I am thankful for the touchless pick up option. If we end up officially quarantining again, I am content to read what I have in my house to make my “keep or donate” decisions.

Church: I have found a podcast that I am able to listen to and enjoy to hear Bible messages. Of course, this is in addition to Bible reading. It’s nice to hear someone’s perspective on how the Bible applies to daily life. I am fine with doing church by podcast. I don’t want to physically go to church and then meet Jesus by getting COVID-19.

The salon: We have reviewed this one previously. I am now shaving my head, which means I do not need the salon. I do not feel like I am missing anything here. In fact, I am using the money I am saving by NOT going to the salon to help pay for groceries. My groceries expense has increased about 3x due to the food shortages and price gouging.

The grocery store, the gym, the library, church and the salon are pretty much the extent of my social outings before the pandemic.

A friend recently expressed concern that I am still isolated (this is by recommendation of my doctor, remember). Yet, I am totally fine being isolated. I did not do much before the pandemic. I do not feel like I am missing anything by not being able to go any place. People’s cavalier attitude regarding this virus right now is scary. It is not worth my life to go out someplace when I have no need or desire to go anyplace. I can communicate with people through letter writing, phone calls and text messages. I’m fine.

Another concern raised by a friend is that they want to see me for coffee. If we weren’t having a pandemic, I would be open to that. Every contact you have with someone is an exposure, so seeing anyone in person right now is not safe.

However, we can still have coffee. Make your coffee and then call me on the phone. There. We are having coffee in a safe way. 

Things around me are reopening. People I know are taking HUGE unnecessary risks with their health and safety that I am uncomfortable taking. Unfortunately, if I come into contact with those people (like at work), then they are exposing me to all of their risk taking. I’m still waiting for my execution date.

People and businesses in my area are not doing enough to keep people safe right now. The safety measures are not being enforced in my area. People are being remarkably careless. No errand is worth my life at this point in time. 

We must remain vigilant. The pandemic is not over yet. As frustrated as I am with 100 days of captivity, the alternative is death. I have three little ones to take care of at home. I’ll take captivity. 

Stay safe. Wear a mask.

Retro Farm Life

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All 3 cats have learned to share the cat tree.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, farmers used to leave cash in their mailbox. The mail person would leave stamps for the farmers. This was common practice in rural areas, as the only time that farm people would go into town was for church on Sundays.

My grandparents were like this. In addition to going into town for church on Sundays, which was the only time Grandpa was not in overalls, there would be one Saturday a month trip into town. On the once a month Saturday trip, Grandma would be dropped off at the grocery store to pick up that month’s supplies, while Grandpa took the truck to Agway to get feed for the animals and any other supplies needed on the farm.

My grandparents’ farm had chickens, cows, pigs, horses and geese. There may have been more animals, but those were the ones I remember. Due to my age, my farm chore whenever I visited would be to collect the eggs from the chickens. I hated this job. The chickens do not like having their eggs taken and would peck at me. More than once, I would be found running screaming through the yard being chased by a chicken with my egg basket dropped on the ground somewhere behind me.

Because I was small when my grandparents had the farm, I did not realize that they would buy stamps through the mailbox. Or, if I did know about it, I had forgotten. I was reminded about it this week when talking to my mother.

Earlier this week, I was super excited because an orange envelope appeared in my mailbox letting me know I could put a check inside it to purchase stamps and any other mail services I need. 

I told my mother how happy I was to have this service so that I do not have to go to the post office during the pandemic. That is when she reminded me – buying stamps through your mailbox used to be commonplace on farms.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be when I was growing up. We were able to talk about things that happened that totally went over my head as a child, like buying stamps through your mailbox. I told my mother that I am glad she is here because I still have a lot to learn from her.

I have said before that one of the best things about this pandemic is that people actually have time to connect with other people and have more meaningful interactions. As part of my minimalism journey through the years, my goal has always been more quality human interactions. However, I realize that other people are more busy than I am and have other priorities, so they do not prioritize human interaction as I do.

Talking to my mother, she said that quarantine wasn’t that big of a deal for her. Growing up on the farm, they did not go out much. As I said earlier, there was the once a month Saturday trip, and then church on Sundays. You only made your grocery trip once a month. Groceries were to supplement what food you had from the farm.

Growing up, we always had venison for meat. My grandfather and all my uncles were hunters. We never had ground beef because it was expensive. Many people who meet me think that I am a vegetarian because I do not eat beef. I am not a vegetarian. I do eat beef – if it’s cheap. As someone who grew up dirt poor, beef was always out of our price range, so it is something I am not used to having. It is not a necessity, it is a luxury item.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be and realized that things do not change all that much. Well, the world has changed, but when you are used to farm life where you did not go all that much, then quarantine is not all that different.

As we are in this quarantine situation, I have been seriously evaluating my wants and needs. I have also been thinking more about my routines.

Grocery shopping once a month sounds really good to me once this is all over. Previously, I had been grocery shopping twice a month due to my pay schedule. If I can switch to once a month, then that reduced my potential exposure for when the second and third wave of the coronavirus comes through. 

There was also a time in college when I was having a very hard time financially that I remember going grocery shopping once for three months. I would get my student loan money, get a bunch of food at the store, then when it ran out .. well, that was it until the next semester student loan payout.

There are some items I have ordered online as a result of the pandemic that are set up on an autoship basis that I am going to keep going once the pandemic is over. When you think about it, it is similar to the old buying stamps through the mailbox routine.

Another aspect of farm life we reminisced was that one Saturday per month was haircut day. My grandmother would put a sheet down on the kitchen floor. She would place a stool in the middle of the sheet. Donning an apron, she would stand there with a pair of clippers while one by one, my grandfather and then my uncles would sit on the stool without a shirt on to have their haircut. The girls would sit on the stool and my grandmother would take a pair of scissors to cut all our bangs straight across so they were out of our eyes. 

Right now I have a pair of hair cutting scissors that I have used on myself. I have not been able to get clippers because there are none to be had. I have already said numerous times how happier I am having short hair because it is easier for me to take care of. I am totally fine with using the scissors to cut my own hair for right now. 

When clippers are available from the manufacturer again, I do want a pair. My goal is to go back to farm life and start doing my own hair so that I do not have to pay to go back to a salon again. Yes, there is a very good possibility that I will just buzz all my hair off at some point. I think it will be easier this way.

These are trying times and we need to remember what is an essential need and what is a want. As much as I like my hairdresser, paying $50 for a haircut is not an essential need. I can do it myself, and probably will from here on out. 

I wonder what other retro aspects of farm life will be making a comeback? Are you planting a victory garden? I have toyed with this idea, but since I do not do well in the heat and the initial monetary outlay are detriments to me right now. 

This is the perfect time to remember and evaluate what is important and what is not.

The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 2

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We all know from the Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1, that people who have experienced homelessness or scarcity in life typically fall into one of two camps. You either end up as a minimalist or as  hoarder. For me, I am mostly a minimalist, but have a tendency to hoard toilet paper. I know what it is like to have to go without toilet paper for long periods of time. 

I was very surprised when I went to the grocery store this week and all of the toilet paper was gone. The shelves were bare. Now, I have enough toilet paper at home already to last me a few weeks. Yet I found the lack of toilet paper on store shelves to be downright alarming.

I still do not completely understand – why are people hoarding toilet paper? 

There were three things on my grocery list this week that I was unable to obtain because the shelf was empty. One of those items is a can of pineapple chunks. When I stood in the canned goods aisle, there was plenty of food on the shelves. The only hole in the entire row was the pineapple area. There was not a single can of pineapple at the grocery store. 

What gives? Why are people hoarding pineapple of all things? Don’t you want peaches or green beans or something? Why pineapple? I just wanted one can for a ham dish I am making this week. It does not make sense for me to buy an entire pineapple for one person, so I figured one can of pineapple chunks would be sufficient. Now, I can live without that can of pineapple. I am just amazed at what people are hoarding during this health crisis.

Emergency preparedness officials have been telling us for years that we should be prepared to shelter in place in the event of an emergency for 7-10 days. This would be for a snowstorm, hurricane, some sort of crisis. If the current health scare is requiring people to shelter in place for 14 days, then we should not need much extra to go from a 7-10 day supply to a 14 day supply.

The problem is, most people, myself included, never prepared to shelter in place for 7-10 days to begin with. Quite honestly, my home emergency kit was only stocked for us to shelter in place for 3-5 days, which is the average length of time we are typically home bound due to snowstorms in central New York. 

With multiple food allergies, I thought I was ahead of the game being prepped for 5 days in case the specialty items I need become hard to obtain in an emergency. 

That said, the second item on my grocery list that I was unable to obtain this week is flour. With duhring disease, I can’t just have “flour.” I use a special 1:1 gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free flour. There was none on the shelf.

I can live without flour. I was going to make some apple muffins. I have plenty of other things to eat without muffins. I was just surprised there was no flour. Now, if I did not have multiple food allergies, I would have been able to get a sack of traditional flour with no problems. 

However, in an emergency, living life with multiple food allergies is even more challenging when all of my specialty items are gone and I am physically unable to eat what is there unless I have a death wish.

Luckily, I have enough food to accommodate my food allergies. I can always order online if need be.

Which brings me to the next point – this health scare is highlighting people who have and people who have not. There are some people who need to shelter in place for 14 days. Yet these people are in the comfort of their homes, with electricity and running water. You can order food and other supplies to be delivered to your door. However, this means that there are people out there who are still working and unable to shelter in place because they are delivering supplies to your home.

Just something to think about how interdependent we are as a society.

This brings me back to toilet paper. Not only are all the shelves bare. But when I just checked Amazon, you cannot even order toilet paper online. It is out of stock.

I guess people are going to find out what it was like for me growing up with no toilet paper. When you scrimp to save a quarter to buy a roll or go without. Of course, a roll of toilet paper today is generally $1. I’ve heard that with the empty store shelves, some people are selling toilet paper for $20 a roll.

There are alternatives to toilet paper. I am going to start hanging onto my newspapers instead of recycling them. Is it ideal? No, but in a pinch, newspapers make great toilet paper. It’s better than nothing. I do not anticipate having to use the newspaper, but with my childhood history of toilet paper scarcity, lack of toilet paper is what makes me the most antsy. I’m sure I will be fine. 

I wonder if we go into a hardware store if all of the bidet toilet seats will be gone as well? Bidets are an alternative to toilet paper. I’ve never used one and the idea does freak me out a little, but I hear they are popular in Europe. Maybe it’s time for the bidet to catch on here. 

Being able to stock up on supplies is an economic privilege. There are many people on fixed incomes who are unable to buy an extra week or two of groceries. Sure, they may buy an extra can or item here or there. But if you have been to the store this week and come out with a full cart, consider yourself privileged. If you have 2 packages of toilet paper in your house, think of people who are going just for their weekly groceries hoping to buy a few rolls. We need to be sure that we are taking care of everyone in this health crisis.

For every person buying enough toilet paper to last a year right now, there is someone going without because they can only afford to buy one 4-roll package per month, and that package just ran out.

I will say that I am glad I made the transition back to cloth handkerchiefs and to microfiber cleaning cloths. I do not need to buy facial tissue or paper towels.

But if you see me next in the hardware store buying a bidet seat, you’ll all know why.  

 

The Great Milk Conspiracy

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People with food allergies, particularly people with multiple food allergies, are food insecure. When you have multiple allergens to avoid, that means you have to buy a lot of specialty items. Specialty items are not only hard to find, but also more expensive. People with multiple food allergies are typically unable to use traditional food pantries unless the food pantry somehow caters to people with food allergies.

I have 5 of the Top 8 most common food allergens. My reactions are severe. My last year of teaching, one of the kids spilled their milk in my lap. It’s a simple spill, right? No big deal.

It was a big deal. The milk soaked through my pants. I absorbed it through my skin. I stopped breathing. I began to have a seizure. By the time I made it to the hospital, my kidneys and liver had started shutting down. I spent several weeks in ICU.

One of my friends recently said that they heard a newscast that food allergies are all in your head. If that was true, I would have wished that away and not spent so much time in the hospital followed by several long months of recovery.

My food allergies are nothing to joke about.

No, I cannot have “just a little bit.” No, I cannot “pick it out.” I cannot have any contact by any means, period. This includes no cross contamination.

I am like this with peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg and wheat. Of the five, my worst reactions are to almonds and dairy. No, I do not have celiac disease. I have an actual allergy to wheat, which is something completely different.

I cannot go into a Dunkin Donuts unless I have a death wish. Seriously. If I ever decide to attempt suicide, I am just going to walk into a Dunkin Donuts. A few years ago, Dunkin Donuts added almond milk. It is quite prolific. I cannot even enter into a Dunkin Donuts to use a bathroom at a thruway rest stop. Who knows how thoroughly the surfaces were cleaned? If I come into any contact with almond milk/almond oil, I react.

I cannot have “normal” cow’s milk (or goat milk or sheep milk or any other animal milk). I cannot have almond milk. I cannot have soy milk, because all soy milks have an almond warning on them.

I typically have  rice milk, coconut milk or hemp milk. Coconut is a misnomer. Coconut is not a nut, it is a drupe fruit and a member of the seed family, and is safe for those with nut allergies. Hemp nut is a misnomer. Hemp is actually a seed, and is safe for those with nut allergies.

These specialty milks are quite expensive. I typically get a half gallon (2 litres) at Aldi for $1.69. This week, Aldi was all out of my milk.

I like milk so that I can have cereal in the morning. I eat allergy-friendly cereal, of course. My medication requires me to take it with food. Mornings are a hard time for me to eat because I don’t feel like eating, and cereal is the easiest thing for me to gag down in the morning to take with my medication.

The past few mornings, I had to get creative with breakfast so that I could take my medication. It was not fun.

Today, I went to 6 different stores looking for milk.

At all 6 stores, there were walls and rows of “regular” cows milk. There were walls and rows of almond milk.

Was there rice milk or hemp milk?

Nope.

It was only at the 7th store that I found what I needed. Now, keep in mind, I typically pay $1.69 for a half gallon (2 litres). Today, at the 7th store, when I found what I needed, I paid $4.69 for 1 litre.

Now, that is quite expensive.

If I have to do this on a regular basis, then that means that half of my monthly food budget is going to be allotted just to milk.

This is partially why people with multiple food allergies are food insecure.

I am one of the privileged ones. I have a vehicle, so I was able to drive to 7 different stores trying to find what I needed. Imagine if you have to ride the bus, take a cab, ride a bike or walk to a store. What would someone in my situation do then?

Food is extremely challenging to find when you have multiple food allergies. This is why I always tell everyone I am not picky about what I eat. I will literally eat anything that won’t kill me. With so many food allergies and reactions so severe, I cannot afford to be picky or to partake in some sort of alternative diet such as vegetarian, vegan, keto, etc.

The rules are simple. Will this kill me if I eat it? No? Then eat it. If it will kill me if I eat it, then don’t touch it. I have actually not had a reaction to something I have eaten in almost 15 years. The 10+ reactions I have had in the past 15 years have all come from touch, or skin absorption.

If I did not have food allergies, then it would be very easy to live on a $30 per week grocery budget. I’d be having macaroni and cheese, sandwiches of all kinds, pizza, ice cream, you name it. I look at grocery store ads and fantasize about all the things I would love to eat if I did not have food allergies.

With multiple food allergies, $30 per week does not go far. I just spent $14.07 on “milk” for the week, which was about ¾ of a gallon. If I want a loaf of bread, it is $10.79. Allergy-friendly bread loaves are smaller than regular loaves of bread. I typically get 3 or 4 sandwiches out of an allergy friendly loaf of bread.

I have to pre-plan my days and be sure to pack enough food for where ever I may be. I cannot go out to eat – hardly anywhere in this area. It’s not like I can just pick up food on the fly or go to a convenience store and get a snickers bar if I’m hungry.

Maybe for my last meal. If I was on death row, I have a milkshake and macaroni and cheese on the list for my last meal, maybe I should add a snickers bar to that.

The great milk conspiracy comes from the fact that I went into 6 stores and found walls of regular milk and almond milk, but no milk for me. Do stores and manufacturers just not think about all the people who are allergic to both dairy and almonds? I did not even see soy milk at some of these places, not that I can have that either.

What is with this trend in almond milk? It is my worst nightmare. This is why I wear a warning label like a Gremlin.

You want to see how fast I can run, whip out a carton of almond milk. I’ll be gone in a flash. I don’t have a death wish today. No thank you.

Maybe I should just give up on specialty items. I mean, I’m sure if I was on food stamps that people would judge me for checking out with a 1 litre carton of hemp milk for $4.69 when I could get a half gallon of regular milk for $1.29.

More importantly, when did milk become a specialty item?

The dairy industry has such a hold on our food system that they are advocating for alternative milks to be called something different. The dairy industry argues that something like rice milk isn’t real milk and should not be called milk.

There are times when I think “I don’t care what you call it as long as I can put it in my cereal and it doesn’t kill me.”

There are other times when I think “Why is my milk less than your milk? I should have access to milk too, whatever form that may take.”

Who would have ever guessed that trying to buy milk would create such drama?

This is the first time I have had this experience with trying to find milk. I do have this experience with allergy friendly pasta and allergy friendly flour on a regular basis. Whenever I do find allergy friendly pasta or allergy friendly flour, I buy them in bulk. I consider them treats because they are so expensive and so hard to find.

Part of me thinks that things like milk, bread, pasta and flour should not have to be considered treats. They should not be hard to find. They should not be expensive. Those items should be staples. I should not have to drive to 7 stores to find what I need. Don’t most people go to 1 or 2 grocery stores? Why do I have to go to multiple stores looking for “specialty” items?

Maybe my thinking is all out of whack. But when you have a large industry like the dairy industry saying you can’t call rice milk “milk” because it doesn’t come from a cow, and it takes me 7 stores to find something to put on my cereal in the morning, we have a problem.

For now, the Great Milk Conspiracy can take a rest. I have enough hemp milk for my cereal for the rest of the week. I can tell you right now, that breakfast tomorrow morning is going to be amazing. I may have completely blown my food budget, but I can have cereal again. At least, until the milk runs out.

The Toilet Paper Chronicles

People tend to have strong opinions about poverty and those who have “less than.” Many times, the individual is blamed for their “poor” choices. We refuse to acknowledge the societal factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty and instead firmly place all blame and responsibility for being poor on the individual.

There was an article recently that used toilet paper as an example of why people are poor. Unfortunately, as gross as it may sound, this issue of toilet paper has been a recurring theme in my life. More on that later. This particular article pointed out that buying toilet paper in bulk is cheaper in the long term than buying toilet paper in smaller packages. For example, the 20 roll bulk pack works out to be cheaper than continuously buying rolls that are either individually wrapped or packaged in groups of four (very common).

Do the math. Toilet paper is cheaper in bulk than in four roll packages. You can’t really argue with the numbers. It is a fact that bulk toilet paper is cheaper. The article then says that low income people or those on a fixed income, have a finite amount of money to spend. People are more likely to buy the four roll pack because it is “cheaper” (for that week) to pay the $2 for the four pack than it is to pay $10 for the bulk pack.

If you only have $30 a week to spend on groceries, it makes sense. You do not want to spend $10 on toilet paper and only have $20 that week to spend on your milk, bread, and eggs. When you are low income, it is hard to squeeze out that $10 in an individual week even if it is cheaper in the long run. When every day life is an emergency, you are constantly reacting to the present situation and it is extremely difficult to plan for the long term when you do not have any additional resources to set aside for an emergency. The emergency is now. You are living it.

The article then concluded because people only have a finite amount of money to spend each week, that the cycle of poverty is partially perpetuated by people’s inability to buy bulk toilet paper. They end up paying more in the long run for toilet paper and are unable to take advantage of the savings of buying in bulk.

This is, of course, an oversimplification of the point the article was making, but you get the idea. When you are low income, you are limited in what you can access. For example, if you do not have transportation to get to the discount store, you may be restricted to having to buy necessities at the local gas station down the street. We all know that this strategy is expensive. I personally do not buy anything in a gas station unless I absolutely have to. We all know the markup on items is astronomical. For some people who lack transportation or are in a geographic area that are what we call “food deserts,” there is no other access to necessities than the local gas station.

The cost of being poor is that sometimes, due to lack of resources, you end up paying more for necessities because you do not have the capacity to access cheaper alternatives. Poor people are often condemned for their “choices,” but often, they are making the best choices they can give what they have at the moment. It’s hard to break free of the cycle.

Toilet paper is a luxury item, not a necessity.

When I was growing up, toilet paper was a luxury item. We very rarely had it. Before there was SNAP or EBT cards, we had these things called paper food stamps. They came in little booklets where you would tear out a “stamp” that looked like monopoly money. The ones were brown, the fives were blue. If you were really lucky, the 20s were green. These were very rarely seen, and the highest denomination of food stamps.

When you used a food stamp, cashiers were only allowed to give you back change if the amount was less than a dollar. You could get coin change back, but if you had a $5 food stamp, and your grocery bill came to $3.73, the cashier could give you the $0.27 cents back in coins, but for the $1, they had to be able to give you a brown food stamp dollar, not a real American dollar. Thus, when you used your food stamps, you better use them in a place that could also give you change in food stamps. Otherwise, if the cashier did not have the brown $1 food stamp, you would have to forfeit it, and could only take the $0.27 cents in coin change.

As a child, I was given one brown food stamp per week for groceries. I can tell you that I used that $1 food stamp each week to buy 3 cans of spaghetti o’s and a pack of gum. The spaghetti o’s were $0.30 cents and a pack of gum was $0.05 cents. I would have a nickle left over each week. Each can of spaghetti o’s would last 2 days, so I had enough food for 6 days a week. As a child, I was pretty good at getting myself invited to friends houses for a meal so I could eat on the 7th day each week.

I remember when the price of spaghetti o’s increased to $0.33 cents because of how it affected my weekly food alliance. No more gum, and I only had a penny each week instead of a nickle. And people wonder why I started working at age 14. I had a paper route.

Food stamps were not allowed to be used to buy paper products. No toilet paper, tissues or paper towels. Food stamps were only for food. I used them for food. If I didn’t I would have starved.

At the time, you could get a roll of toilet paper for a quarter. So I was saving my nickels each week to be able to buy one roll of toilet paper every 5 weeks. This meant that you only used toilet paper when you absolutely needed to. If you were in a public restroom, you always grabbed an extra handful of toilet paper to take with you so you could have it for home.

This was the 80s when I was a child. The priority was having food, so toilet paper was a luxury item.

Because of how I grew up, I have this tendency as an adult to always buy toilet paper in bulk to have it on hand. It makes me feel rich knowing I never run out of toilet paper or have to go without. No matter how difficult my life has been at times as an adult, I have always had toilet paper. Even when I was living in my car.

As an adult making my own money, who is not on food stamps, I have the ability to buy toilet paper in bulk. I am privileged. I know there are people in my town and in this country who are not as privileged as I am who are making the choices I had to make as a child every single day. It’s the reality of being poor in America.

Buying in bulk may seem counterintuitive to the concept of minimalism. As a minimalist, the concept is less not more. Logically, bulk items make sense because they save money in the long run, especially for a household item you can use. For me, I have no problem making the argument to buy toilet paper in bulk. Buying other items in bulk such as shampoo or toothpaste, does not make sense to me, but to each his own.

Toilet paper is a recurring theme in my life. I cannot escape it.

I was in the grocery store this week and I bought the four roll pack of toilet paper.

Wha? I just spent how many paragraphs discussing the merits of buying toilet paper in bulk and got the four pack roll?

Yup.

I am currently having a housing crisis which has significantly reduced the spending power of my income. That’s a story for another day, but the consequence is that I have a limited amount of money to spend each week on groceries now. With multiple food allergies, it is very challenging to have to go from $80 a week for groceries down to $30 a week for groceries. This is especially true when I only have one choice of allergen-free bread and it costs $10.79 a loaf, which is half the size of a “standard” loaf.

So instead of spending the $10 to buy the bulk toilet paper, I spent $2 to buy the four pack. I took the $8 I “saved” and used it to buy a box of allergy-friendly cereal. Again, I only have one choice, and it is $6.78 a box. I may be paying more for toilet paper in the long run, but hey, I will have breakfast this week. I need to eat something in the morning in order to take my medication for it to absorb.

I currently do not consider myself poor. I still have toilet paper! I’m trying really hard to keep my family together and healthy. But these are the choices you have to make sometimes when you are in challenging situations such as being rent overburdened because someone decides to increase your rent hundreds of dollars each month to over 50% of your income.

Your next comment is probably going to be: “Then move to cheaper housing.” People make the best choices they can given the situation that they are in. I am working on it, but these things take time. Especially when the area I am in is extremely economically depressed and wages are well below what is considered “market rate” housing in a bedroom community. Again, a discussion for a different day.

While I feel that my life is constantly being measured in toilet paper, the point is to take a different perspective on poverty and circumstances. Sometimes you can make all the best and right choices in the world, and shit still happens. Literally and figuratively. The deeper the shit you are in, the less toilet paper you have to clean it up. Hope you brought a shovel. Hey, what did you expect? It’s the toilet paper chronicles.

Before you go judging someone and the choices they make, take a moment to step back and consider what may be driving those choices. You never know what some people are facing in life, whether as a result of their “choices” or simply the circumstances they are in. They could be reacting to something that happened to them in their environment.

And always buy your toilet paper in bulk. It’s cheaper.