As the COVID19 pandemic hit the US, with school and office closures rapidly following its arrival, Americans began to stock up for the long haul. Unsurprisingly the stocking up led to some shortages. Stores rapidly ran out of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and any number of perishable goods. But the item we heard about most often, and most derisively, was toilet paper.


Who were these crazy people stocking up on toilet paper? The mockery was everywhere. The Atlantic brought out a story comparing the current COVID19 TP buyers with people in 1973 who stockpiled TP in response to a joke Johnny Carson made on his show. The higher demand for TP is characterized everywhere as an overreaction and a moronic response to misinformation. The mockery has gotten so bad that last night my kids made fun of me for having part of a Costco sized pack of TP in our storage closet. It made no difference that I’d bought the TP well before the crisis and the quarantines. It didn’t matter that I’ve bought the same pack of TP on every Costco trip I’ve made since having children. Suddenly, Mom was a figure of fun for doing exactly what she always did.


I explained to the kids that, instead of one man being at home for most of the day on most days of the week, our household (and our TP supplies) now faced one man and three women at home all day, every day. That seemed likely to change our consumption rates of all kinds of things–including TP.


It seemed like a good time for a little bit of Momonomics.


I asked my kids to count the number of rolls of TP in place in our bathrooms today, March 20th. They’re with their dad this weekend, so we’ll recount when they get back, for a rough estimate of how much paper we use under ordinary–pre-COVID19 circumstances. And I’ll ask them to recount on Friday the 27th. That should give us a decent estimate of how much TP we use as a family in a week. Then we can estimate how long what we have on hand should last us and decide if Mom is nuts, or just a pretty good planner.


I invite you to get your kids to do the same and report back their findings in the comments to my follow up post on the 27th.