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Whereas 30 years ago, I might have bought a four-pack of toilet paper, now I buy several 16-pack units of double rolls (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
Whereas 30 years ago, I might have bought a four-pack of toilet paper, now I buy several 16-pack units of double rolls (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

DAVID MARTIN

Why do I hoard? To extend my expiry date Add to ...

The older I get, the more squirrel-like I become as I carefully stockpile more and more supermarket purchases.

Whereas 30 years ago, I might have bought a four-pack of toilet paper, now I buy several 16-pack units of double rolls, no less. Thanks to my bulk purchases, I have filled one basement shelf with packages of toilet rolls, thereby assuring bathroom comfort for my family even if our house should come under siege by an alien invasion for months at a time.

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This tendency toward bulk buying also extends to other toiletry items. If one tube of toothpaste is good, two is better and five is best. No need to put one’s teeth at risk due to an unfortunate lack of dentifrice.

The same holds true for razor blades and shaving gel. Thanks to multiple purchasing, I could shave twice a day for a year and still not come close to risking an unplanned day of stubble.

Food items and staples, too, are bought in unnecessarily large numbers. Our freezer is brimming with bagels and bread and the fridge contents ensure that no one will go without milk or orange juice for the foreseeable future.

This tendency has developed over time. At 30, I was quite happy with one can of shaving gel, one box of cereal and one carton of OJ.

But today, I feel downright anxious if our toilet-roll supply should drop into the single digits or if there is only one carton of juice in the fridge. So what happened over the past three decades?

Presumably, as one grows older, the tendency to hoard should abate. Rather than buy extra quantities of everything, the smart thing to do would be to buy less. After all, who wants to die leaving huge unused supplies of tuna, coffee and peanut butter in the pantry?

Yet I seem to be bucking that rational trend and am buying in ever-increasing numbers with every passing year. At my current rate, I expect to be able to build my own toilet-roll fort in the basement before too long.

Since I am part of a family of three, bulk buying makes some sense to ensure there’s enough of everything for everybody. But my multiple purchases often go beyond the sensible. For example, do we really need six containers of barbecue sauce? (My answer, of course, is “yes” – so long as the expiry dates are suitably distant.)

Ironically, I think my bulk buying is a way of avoiding death. After all, if I’m buying necessities for use well into next year (if not the next decade), then I’ll have to be around to use them, won’t I?

If this does, in fact, explain my purchasing patterns, I fully expect that as I enter my 70s, I will be bringing home endless rashers of bacon, giant bags of rice and oil drums full of orange juice. Just knowing that I have all those household goods and foodstuff to consume will inspire me to live long enough to see them actually consumed … by me.

By purchasing goods with later and later expiry dates, I am attempting to push my own personal best-before date further and further into the future. If the six cans of peaches are good until February of 2016, then so am I.

My theory is that my innate frugality is ensuring my longevity. It would be unthinkable for me to expire leaving behind three unopened boxes of corn flakes, four unused packages of granola bars and five two-litre bottles of soft drink.

Thus, my mind and body have conspired to keep me healthy enough to ensure my food supply and household goods do not outlast me. To borrow from the great French philosopher René Descartes: “I buy, therefore I am.”

David Martin is the author of Screams & Whispers.

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