Why is it still that way?

empty toilet paper shelves at the supermarket

I understood why the shelves were empty of toilet paper over a month ago. It was a weird kneejerk zombie-apocalypse mass response to Covid-19.

But why is this shortage still happening?

  • Can’t the companies that make toilet paper keep up?
  • Can’t the hoarders realize they already have a year’s supply?
  • Don’t people realize that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and not a gastro-intestinal virus?

I did a little research and went to the Kimberly-Clark website. They are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of toilet paper.

The newsroom section of their website had two initiatives that seem a bit out of touch:

  1. No Baby Unhugged… don’t they realize that social distancing kind of prevents hugging babies from happening, other than by their own parent?
  2. #ShareASquare… there is very little mention of the idea of toilet paper hoarders sharing toilet paper with their neighbors who might not have planned ahead. The initiative seems more focused on giving to United Way. And share just a square… why not a whole roll?

To be fair, maybe their marketing team is probably stretched like the rest of us.

Update 1: Supply chain issues and working from home are some of the reasons why. Read more.

Update 2: Americans do hoard. My son recently arrived in the USA after having lived in Italy until April 15. He said supermarkets in his city of about a million people never had any toilet paper shortage. Italians normally buy what they need for a short time period and no more.


Inbox 38,000

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-5-38-12-pmWhy do I have so many emails in my personal inbox?

  • It’s easier to search for something in the pile than trying to process every email when it comes in.
  • Finding an email using search forces me to be creative in what search terms I use – I must use a unique search term to find the email I’m looking for.
  • I’m lazy. It would take too much time and mental energy to ruthlessly file away semi-important incoming emails into the correct folder or take the time to figure out if I should take action now or later on them.

Like most of us, I am a man of contrasts. I don’t believe in eating up too much space on server farms. So I do several things to keep my email account from hitting Google’s free-cloud limit. (Currently, I’m at 33%.) Here are those actions:

  • I go back to old emails and delete the ones with attachments. (Those are the space hogs.)
  • Occasionally, I go back to the beginning of time and delete a few pages of emails, without taking too much time to figure out if they have value.
  • I am ruthless about deleting incoming emails that I see no immediate need to keep. (This is a more recent habit – otherwise, the inbox number would be lower.)

What’s your personal inbox number?


Will you use it?

a totally covered Toyota Land CruiserHow often do you use it? Is it worth covering when it takes 45 minutes to get it ready to use?

I passed this Toyota Land Cruiser on my way to work one morning. (I was on my bicycle, so it wasn’t hard to pause to take a quick picture.)

I understand the desire to collect nice things. But how often are you going to use that treasured item?

I ask myself this often. (Does it drive me to reduce my possessions? Not as frequently as I’d like!)


Smaller can be better

two wireless external keyboardsTwo external keyboards – the larger is the one that I used to have at work. The smaller is my new one, and I love it.

I realized that the numbers keypad was forcing me to type at an odd angle to the screen. The new smaller keyboard lets me type in a more ergonomic position. It’s much lighter and easier to move out of the way, when I need to use more of my desk. And, it’s more elegant.

America is in love with big things. If you travel to almost any other part of the world, you’ll see small.

What can you go smaller with? Play around with this idea and you might enjoy the results!



It is OK to just look

Sole of Converse sneaker with clear rubberNordstrom Rack is a great place to get quality clothes for sometimes way less than list price.

Even better than buying stuff from there is to just enjoy it – at least in the case of shoes. I love shoes but don’t need any. So as we were shopping for some dreadfully-needed running shoes for Rachel (our daughter), I enjoyed just looking at other shoes.

I loved this particular Converse model – clear rubber with the logo embedded underneath. Way cool.

And even better than just looking was capturing it digitally – for my grandkids someday.


On hoarding, part 9

For once, I will come out in favor of hoarding – as long as it’s in someone else’s attic.

The Hill Top General Store in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, is a very humble museum. They have everything from collections of old tools, a room of vinyl records (including the songs of Stevie Wonder, as performed by the Motor City Rollers), a gathering of toy ponies, to a small group of Elvis memorabalia. And there’s much more, held in a fairly small collection of rooms.

You can mouse-over or click on each image to see it larger.

I’m glad this place exists. Many people would enter the door and promptly turn around to leave. But I savored every moment of browsing (and photo-gathering). How wonderful that this room of records exists, even though no one will ever listen to them again. I applaud the creativity of Ms. Hill Top, as she carefully arranged the ponies on a shelf behind a painting that the ponies would love to wander into.

Thirty years from now, all of this may be in a land fill. But I am glad that my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit this eclectic landmark. (The rest of my family also visited, but their enjoyment level was not quite the same.)

(“Part 9” is simply an estimate. I don’t know how many posts I’ve written actually relate to the topic. You can see at least some of those posts here and here.)


Don’t save it

old mouse padMy in-laws gave Heather this lovely mouse pad, back when our boys were about 2 and 4. The oldest is now in college.

Things fall apart. In this case, the rubber on the back of the pad started to deteriorate. Fine powder began spreading around the home-office… time for the trash bin.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, I can remember that mouse pad for many years to come.

I would urge you to do the same. Take a photo, and then throw the darn thing away.

Click on each word for > more in this series.


Save your kids the effort

Crap at My Parents' HouseI love Urban Outfitters. My sister introduced me to the store when she lived in Chicago. They have a collection of eclectic clothes and weird stuff that I occasionally spend money on.

So this book on their shelves caught my eye. My wife Heather spent the better part of six months dealing with this very issue at her parents’ house. They were pretty much too old to deal with getting rid of a house full of stuff before they moved into a much smaller home, so that joy fell to Heather. I helped some, but she did the vast majority of filling the shelves at the local charity shop.

My dad was a huge collector. After he died, it took my mom more than six years to clear out all the stuff that he collected, before she was able to move into a 1-bedroom apartment. (She didn’t want to buy a condo, as she felt like it would be a burden on her kids to have to sell the place!)

So I guess my only point is that if you don’t buy that junky thing that catches your eye, your kids won’t have to give it away later.


1. Special thanks to my friend James Taylor (not the musician), who inspired this post.

2. Here are some related posts I wrote: Not going to buy it, Let it goRecapturing that lost childhood and That collector gene.

3. I did not buy the book. And I was amused to see that as of this writing, it was selling for just $1.48, used. Apparently several people decided they didn’t want their kids to have to give it away, much later.


Recapturing that lost childhood

Matchbox Mustang No. 8During the summer, I saw an amazing toy car collection worth thousands of dollars. It was not in a museum – but in a home office. Few people beyond the collector, his wife and daughter ever see these cars.

So why would he invest so many hours and and so much money in that? (One small set alone is worth about $1,000.) My theory is that he is trying to recapture some of his lost childhood. He remembers when he saved up and bought those cars when he was a kid. As a proportion of his income, the little cars might be similar in what they cost him today, maybe.

I collect little cars (in spite of my primary emphasis on collecting digitally). I don’t pay very much for them. I don’t collect very many. But to anyone who visits my home office, they will see probably 6 or 7 little cars lined up, looking at me. Am I trying to recapture some of my lost childhood? Maybe. Mostly I just like cars and it’s fun to see those little cars every day.

What’s the difference between the previously mentioned collector and me? He goes to great lengths to find specific models. He’s willing to pay a ton when he finds the pearl of great price. I just randomly pick up a Trabant when I see it at Walgreens. Or a friend will give me a Mini.

By the way, the model shown is from the amazing collection. (He very kindly let me take several pictures – which are in now my digital collection.) That white Matchbox Mustang is one that I owned when I was a boy. Today on eBay with the box it costs $100. Sadly it won’t regain a place of honor in my collection.


Let it go

A gentleman not far from my house has a Firebird in his garage. It’s a shelf for things to rest on during their journey to other destinations. And it harbors a major dust collection.

My guess is that it’s a source of guilt for him. Every time he sees the car, he thinks, “This weekend, I’ll start renovating it.” The weekend starts and he realizes he has lots of other things to do. The weekend finishes and the Firebird has been neglected. Again.

If I knew Mr. Firebird owner, I might suggest that he sell the car and give up that dream of restoring it. He’d then free up a slot in his garage – less snow removal on snowy mornings for the car in the driveway. He’d release some cash to be used in whatever fun or worthy cause he can come up with. And the Firebird might end up being restored by the new owner.

My point? Give yourself permission to get rid of that project you’ll never do.

I took the photo with my phone’s camera; thus the poor quality.