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If We Run Out of Toilet Paper…

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If you are like me, you may be experiencing a little Coronavirus exhaustion. I take this situation very seriously. We all do! However, it is easy to experience burn-out from negative news. I’m sure you’re feeling the same way. Sometimes, we just need a break from the moment to catch our breath and find a little humor.

That’s what I am doing in this post. This post is in no way making light of the Coronavirus situation. Please take this post as it is intended, as a little comic relief. I will save talking about real estate for another time.

I thought it might be interesting to talk about a household item that we all cherish. Toilet paper! The current pandemic is not the first crises in which toilet paper was in short supply. According to Priceonomics’ article, “The Great Toilet Paper Scare of 1973”, (Click for link) in that year, “The stock market crashed and lost over 45% of it’s value — one of the worst declines in history.” (Sounds familiar) There were many things in short supply. For instance, “gasoline, electricity and onions were heavily reported as goods and services that were in limited supply”, the article states. 

So was toilet paper. The article went on to say that, “The toilet paper fiasco all started with an unsubstantiated rumor. In November of 1973, several news agencies reported a tissue shortage in Japan.” Media reports about the potential shortage led to a consumer panic. Then, reports the article, “Johnny Carson cracked a joke about toilet paper on his television talk show”, which helped make the idea of a shortage of toilet paper, become a reality.

I included this video in my last article. Here it is again.


For four months, toilet paper was in short supply. Other articles on the subject have stated that while Carson may have caused some panic, he was not the only one to blame. According to Snopes’ article “Did Johnny Carson Cause a Toilet Paper Shortage in 1973?”, it states, “On 11 December 1973, Harold V. Froelich…a congressman, put out a press release warning the public about a possible toilet paper shortage: ‘The U.S. may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months… we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue…a toilet paper shortage is no laughing matter. It is a problem that will potentially touch every American.”

Interestingly, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, in which, there has been a run on toilet paper again. What can we do if we run out? What did people use before they were able to squeeze the Charmin? There were several things I discovered in my quest to escape reality for a bit.

Before we get on with the list, I must address the elephant in the room. This is a blog that is designed to discuss real estate and home valuation. So, let’s take a minute to discuss toilet paper and home value. It has been noted by some social media posts, that having toilet paper in your home will increase your home’s market value. That is not the case. After all, toilet paper is personal property. What about a bidet? It’s too soon to know. Let’s give it some time. Now, on to the different substitutes for toilet paper, besides the bidet.


Ancient Romans used a sponge on a stick that was shared by everyone in the community. When not in use, it was soaked in a highly salted bucket of water. I’m not sure if a longer or shorter stick would be more useful. Inquiring minds want to know. Some articles suggest that it may have been shared by up to 80 different people at times.

Sponge on stick
Sponge on a stick – Picture courtesy of Bing Photos


In the 15th and 16th century France, some used rope made of hemp as well as lace and wool, in order to clean up.  According to the article Toilet Paper Alternatives – “17 Substitutes that Reduce Your Need for TP”, by, it said that, “Back in the wind and sail days, sailors didn’t bring toilet paper on their voyages. Instead, they would fray the end of a rope and drop it in the ocean”, as a means for taking care of business. This gives a whole new meaning to the term knot’s landing.


In colonial America, dried corn cobs were often used. People also used corn husks.  That is, until people figured out that that a soft newspaper or pages from an old book, was a better alternative, which leads me to the next item.

Corn cobs & Sears Roebuck catalog – Picture courtesy of Bing Photos


How bad would a book have to be end up being on the back end of the reader? Old Farmer’s almanacs were also used. Some had a hole in them so that they could be easily hung on hooks in outhouses.

The Sears Roebuck catalog was also a favorite. I used to love reading through the Sears Catalog. I’m thinking that when the pages went glossy, this discouraged the use of this catalog. Of course, by the time I was reading them, toilet paper was around. Newspapers & telephone books were also used.


In Ancient Greece, some used stones or pieces of ceramic. My guess is that it was a nice smooth river stone and not a lava rock. Either way, it seems like there were better alternatives. 


Now this is an idea that I can get behind! Of course, one needs to know what poison ivy and poison oak look like. Some types of foliage sound quite nice. Here are my top three pics:

Lambs Ear

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on


Picture By Bing Photos

Thimbleberry (Not to be confused with Dingleberry)

Picture By Bing Photos

The good news is that it’s springtime! Let’s start growing some of these, just in case.

And now we understand why toilet paper is being hoarded…

Here’s something to reflect on. Baboons have never used toilet paper, and yet they seem to have no real issues.


baboons-004 Butts


Well, I hope you enjoyed reading something other than real estate this week. Hopefully I covered all the main ways people have kept clean before toilet paper was invented. After considering this information, I am grateful to be alive today!

May none of us experience what this next video shows…



If we do run out of toilet paper, rest assured, we will survive. In the end, it’s going to be alright!  May all of your personal toilet paper stories have happy endings! 

Be safe out there!

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Here are some links to other articles and podcasts I’ve enjoyed recently! I hope you will also…

Essential Businesses Keep The Housing Market Trucking Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

CURB-SIDE APPRAISALSVoice of Appraisal with Phil Crawford (PODCAST)

Coronavirus and Appraisal InspectionsHome Value Stories (PODCAST) 

Hot real estate stats during the pandemic?Sacramento Appraisal Blog

What Homeowners Can Do To Assist The Appraiser During The Coronavirus PandemicBirmingham Appraisal Blog

What’s The Difference Between A Manufactured & Modular Home?The Appraisal Cast (PODCAST)

Effects on Value – FHA/VA – Return to Normal? – Fun VideoAPPRAISAL TODAY

6 thoughts on “If We Run Out of Toilet Paper…”

  1. Very timely post Jamie. We didn’t run out in my household because my son worked at Costco and we got in the habit of buying in bulk.

    I’ve found the best real estate agents are the ones who make sure that their vacant listings have toilet paper.

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