Space Relations: How to Split the Household Goods

I ended a column a few weeks back by saying, “Of course, there’s other stuff that may or may not get split, too, like groceries, furniture purchases, paint, light bulbs and various household supplies — but I’ll leave that for another week. Now isn’t a good time to expound upon my feelings on 1-ply toilet paper.” Well, today, my friends, is the day that I get you regale you with all those feelings. It’s time to talk TP! I hope you’re as excited as I am.

You see, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who care about two-ply toilet paper, and those who don’t. And I’m of the mind that you can gauge a lot about a roommate by their toilet paper preferences. In fact, if it wouldn’t be perceived as totally creepy, I’d even recommend asking potential roommates about it before you move in together. Here’s why: If someone is willing to make what Wikipedia calls “a budget option” on something they use multiple times a day to wipe their own ass, he or she is probably going to make “budget options” on everything else, too.

I realize this is a sweeping generalization that I made up entirely in my head, but it seems like the people who go one-ply are also more inclined to “borrow” your milk, replace quality sponges with shitty ones made of foam (seriously, those things don’t work) and generally avoid contributing to household supplies whenever possible. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making those purchasing decisions, because some people are broke or just cheap and don’t have the money or see the point in buying the “nicer” items. And that’s fine! Off-brand items can be just as good, no question. The problem, however, is that other people (some of us who are still relatively broke) do see the point in stretching our dollars to buy the “quality” items, which creates a giant disparity in who spends what on basic products shared at home. And in my experience, these disparities can lead to tension and frustration for months on end.

What happens is that one person buys a six-pack of two-ply toilet paper that’s soft and durable and awesome, and when it runs out another person replaces it with 4-pack of one-ply sandpaper at half the cost. Sure, the one-ply might last longer (because it’s a never-ending roll of the thinnest paper imaginable), but that doesn’t compensate for what’s lost (the first person’s dignity). The same formula applies to every other item in the house, such as paper towels, dish soap, and even cheap brooms whose bristles are made of useless plastic. The worst is when your One-Ply Roommate replaces shared food items with some weird off-brand alternative, when everyone knows that you can’t replace a five-dollar jar of fancy mango salsa with some 99-cent “fiesta!” crap.

Added up, these disparities make for a repetitive, headdesk-inducing situation with seemingly no solution. You can’t exactly say to your roommate, “Listen, I know you’re a cheap bastard who would rather spend her money on clothes and shoes than on a respectable bag of cotton balls, but that extra dollar would result in a more effective use of your money. Plus, it’s only fair, since you use all the expensive stuff that I buy like it’s going out of style and then replace it with products you found on sale at the Dollar Store.” No, you can’t say that. Even just typing those words makes me feel bitchy. And no roommate is going to appreciate being told what to buy. Similarly, it would be equally lame, not to mention difficult, to try to curb your roommate’s access to your stuff. I tried doing this by keeping nice toilet paper in my bedroom closet, and it resulted in awkward sprints to the bathroom hoping my roommate wouldn’t “catch” me in the hallway holding “the good stuff” like I was some kind of addict.

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