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A step-by-step guide to changing the toilet paper in a coworking space


Originally published August 17, 2016. Updated May 13, 2023.


A few days ago I went into the bathroom at a coworking space and the toilet paper roll was empty. On the back of the toilet were four new rolls but on the little roller was an empty cardboard tube.

For many years I worked in record stores, where finding empty toilet paper rolls when fresh ones were within arms reach was the norm. There’s a certain anti-establishment ethos in record stores that manifests in different ways: running monologs about the superiority of analog over digital, people occasionally showing up drunk to work, employees leaving for months to go on tour with their band, and, yes, not replacing the toilet paper.

But anti-establishment tendencies look different in coworking spaces. Most of us simply want to live life on our own terms—among other people. There’s a general cheeriness and helpfulness in coworking spaces that, even if you don’t chat or hangout with everyone, you usually share a nod of acknowledgement or a quick hello.

We’re generally pretty nice.

Despite all this niceness, however, someone is not changing the toilet paper.

I know, I know. It’s not you. It’s not me either.

Whoever it is, maybe the issue is that there’s confusion about how to change the roll.

If that’s the case, I can help. I changed thousands of toilet paper rolls in all those years spent in record stores and I picked up a few best-practices along the way.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to take your coworking space toilet paper roller from cardboard tube to fluffy new roll in no time. Good luck and let me know if you get stuck.

Step 1: First things first

Make sure there’s toilet paper before you sit down. You don’t want to be that person who does their business only to discover that there’s no toilet paper.

You’ll end up having to drip dry, or ask your neighbor to please pass some paper under the stall, or you’ll have to use a toilet seat cover. Ouch. Or, God forbid, the unthinkable: you’ll have to waddle out of the stall to get a paper towel.

Could things get worse? I don’t think so. Do your prep, people.

Step 2: The squeeze

If the roll is empty, carefully squeeze the ends of the plastic or metal roller to release it from its housing. Be careful here—you don’t want the roller to spring on you. Squeeze gently but consistently and angle it out.

Step 3: A serviceable surface

Set the cardboard tube aside to be recycled.

If you don’t have a recycling bin in the stall, you can set it on the back of the toilet for now, or balance it carefully on that bar people use to stand up, or find any other serviceable surface.

The floor will do.

Step 4: Get fresh

Grab a fresh roll of toilet paper. They sometimes live on the back of the toilet or may be found in a nearby cupboard or shelf.

Step 5: Thread it

Thread the roller through the center of the new toilet paper roll.

Don’t spend too much time on this step—there’s really no wrong way to do it.

In one side, out the other.

Step 6: Hold tight

Squeeze the ends of the roller just enough to fit it back into its housing.

At this point, you must ensure that you don’t lose grip of the whole thing and send the fresh roll tumbling to the floor.

No one wants to use toilet paper that’s been on the floor.

Step 7: Avoid the scratch

Find the beginning of the roll.

This step takes some mastery.

You may get lucky and have the beginning of the roll clearly cut and easy to grab. In that case, carefully pull on the end just enough to get the roll started.

You may, however, find yourself in the unenviable situation where the end is completely glued to the roll, there’s no corner to grab, and the more you scratch at what appears to be the end, the more the whole thing starts to fall apart.

If you find yourself scratching like a cat at the roll, hoping for a miracle or some signal as to what to do next, stop. Take a moment to breathe, calm down and focus. The scratch technique has never truly worked for anyone.

Stay the course, hold to your vision and eventually you will find, and free, the beginning of the roll.

Step 8: Only one

Make sure you have only one layer of paper when you start to pull.

The worst misstep you can make with a roll of toilet paper is to have multiple layers being pulled at the same time while some sections remain unmoved. You may be inclined to just keep going, thinking that the messy roll will somehow work itself out.

It won’t.

If you find yourself pulling at a small sliver of toilet paper as the larger roll goes around and around, for God’s sake, stop. Just stop.

At this point, you may need to get some outside help.

Or, if you’re committed to success, carefully run your finger horizontally across the roll, underneath a few layers, until you come to a section that hasn’t been destroyed by your scratching and uneven unrolling. You’ll have to sacrifice numerous squares, but, if you pull the feat off, you will have successfully changed the toilet paper roll.

At which point I say: Well done, my friend. Well done.

In conclusion

Changing the toilet paper is a quiet win, but take a moment to celebrate what you’ve accomplished.

Because of your focus and consideration, you and the next two dozen or so coworkers that go into that stall will have plenty of toilet paper to work with.

Cherish the moment and know that, whether we say it or not, your fellow coworking space members love and appreciate you.


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