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Invasion of the Coffee Mugs

March 4, 2012

How many coffee mugs does the average person (or even the average family) need?  How many are in YOUR cupboard (go ahead – count them now, I’ll wait. Oh, and don’t forget the insulated ones you take with you in the car – count them too!)

I’m going to suggest that the average person needs no more than three (okay, maybe four, depending on how often you run your dishwasher): one for right now (today), one in the sink/dishwasher (from yesterday), one in the cupboard (for tomorrow – or for company).  If you entertain a lot, then you might want to add one or two to your ‘acceptable’ limit, and if you’re the type who fills your own mug with coffee (or tea) at home rather than stopping at the local Tim’s or Starbucks or wherever on your way to work or shopping (or you use your own refillable mug at one of those ‘coffee shops’) then you can include an insulated ‘to go’ mug in your ‘requirement tally’ as well.

So – how many do YOU have?

Miscelleneous MugsI have forty-three (yes, 43)!  This is a frightening number of vessels designed to hold hot liquids (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) for a household of only two people, particularly considering my husband and I each have our ‘favourites’ that we use almost exclusively (and the fact that I know I’ve sold and/or given away any number of mugs over the years when I’ve moved and/or housecleaned extensively).

I am a tea drinker (primarily).  Every morning my husband serves me my tea in bed (yes, I’m spoiled, I admit it, and I do not feel the least bit guilty about it) in a handcrafted earthenware mug featuring two families of ducks (or are they geese?) parading around its bowl. This particular mug was given to me by my eldest son’s kindergarten teacher as a ‘thank you’ gift for my help in the classroom (that was twenty-five years ago!)  There’s a small chip out of the top and a crack in the handle, but it is a fairly generous size (10 oz.) and it keeps my tea warm for quite some time.  I generally drink two cups of tea before breakfast, and one or two more during the later morning hours – all from the same cup (washed, naturally, between servings).  I rarely, if ever, use another mug for my tea. 

Our Favourite MugsI also have a purple mug with a sort of three-dimensional Eeyore on it that I bought one year at Disney World.  It, too, holds a generous amount of liquid (14 oz.) and I use it for the occasional afternoon cup of herbal tea.

My husband drinks his (two cups of) coffee in the morning out of a dollar store (actually, I may have gotten it free) mug emblazoned with a cartoon image of Santa wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  Our three ‘favourites’ get washed (by hand) every night; they are then set out on the counter (beside the coffee maker), ready for re-use the next morning.

I do, occasionally, invite friends in for coffee (or tea).  For that reason, I keep a small selection of additional mugs on hand (see first image, above).  However, I’m at a loss as to how or why I’ve managed to accumulate so many ‘extras’ that they take up almost three full shelves in my kitchen.  Where do they come from?  Do they multiply by themselves or merely sneak in – one at a time – over the years, as gifts at Christmas and birthdays, acknowledgements, and ‘freebie give-aways’?

The other day, I needed a little extra space for some new drinking glasses I picked up (again, I should be questioning why I bought new glasses when I already have enough to serve drinks to an entire platoon of marines, should they happen to stop by … but that’s another post for another time), so I decided to sort through my mugs and offload some to a donation box for one of the local charities that hold fundraising ‘rummage’ and ‘garage’ sales during the spring/summer months.  Here’s what I found:

  • MGG and Miles Muga matched set of four that came with my ‘everyday’ dishes
  • a set of four white ones from my ‘back up’ dish set
  • one from my sons’ public school (c/w logo of the school’s mascot – a mountain goat – and his tiny goat ‘sidekick’)
  • three from various textbook publishers (give-aways from my teaching days)
  • one each from the two different Colleges where I worked for 30 years (plus an insulted one from the most recent institution)
  • one from the Molson’s Learning Centre (where I coordinated and conducted computer training for several years)
  • a clear (rather small) one from CH TV (a give-away at an event I vaguely remember attending some time ago)
  • three smallish ‘tea’ mugs with images of cats on them, inherited from a neighbour who passed away years ago (I use them mostly for my orange juice in the morning)
  • two WWF (that’s World Wildlife Fund, not World Wrestling Federation) mugs covered in images of various endangered animals; they were part of a set (they came with a matching platter-sized plate) that my mother gave me one Christmas
  • a pinkish one with an English garden painting imprinted on it (it’s very pretty)
  • a mug featuring two (upright) bunnies dancing together (this was the mug I generally drank out of when I would visit my mom at her condo; she gave it to me when she moved into my brother’s house)
  • Thanks A Latte Muga giant handcrafted ‘latte’ mug, decorated by one of the students who took part in the 2006 High School Marketing competition; the finished mugs were given away as ‘thank you’ gifts to faculty volunteers
  • one featuring a little girl riding a carousel horse
  • a handcrafted one where the handle is the body of a lizard (or maybe it’s a dragon); his head ‘peers’ over the lip (making it rather difficult to drink from)
  • two with the word “Mom” on them (you can guess where they came from)
  • two featuring rather classic images of Santa Claus, and one that I believe represents ‘The Night Before Christmas’
  • one showcasing the four classic Winnie the Pooh characters (Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger) at Christmastime
  • one with two ‘cartoon’ cats on it that I picked up for 25 cents at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Goderich when I spent several days there back in 2007 (the hotel provided coffee, but nothing to drink it out of!)
  • two ‘Campbell Soup’ mugs (a promo item for some product I don’t recall buying; they were likely designed as soup mugs, although they got stashed on the ‘coffee mug’ shelf in my cupboard)
  • two different Tim Horton’s mugs (given to me by two different students at two different times as teacher’s gifts; I also have two insulated Tim’s travelling mugs w/lids)Goderich Cat Mug

So, what insights can I get from reviewing this collection of beverage holders? Well, for one thing, it tells me that I don’t sort through my cupboards as often as I should. It also shows that I have an overabundance of sentimentality when it comes to inanimate objects (how can I get rid of the ‘Mom’ mugs, the one my mother gave me, or the one that reminds me of my first ‘solo’ vacation?)  But it also shows that accumulating ‘stuff’ doesn’t take a whole lot of effort – it’s a slow but insidious process that just sort of happens when we’re not paying a whole lot of attention.

I have managed to whittle my collection down (the four white ones, several of the Christmas ones, the non-descript Tim’s mugs, and a couple of others are going in the donation box) but I’m going to hang on to the others, because some things you just can’t get rid of once you reach … the other side of 55.

Measured Life Quote

*With apologies to T.S. Eliot, whose quote (“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”) I have reinterpreted for my own purposes.

  1. Rosa permalink
    March 17, 2014 10:59 am

    I’d actually worked myself into a fret over how many mugs to buy for my new home and searched for what would be appropriate on the net. I really like matching sets and can’t seem to stop falling in love with mugs. Your advice for what a person needs is really spot on. I’d say I drank about three cups of something hot every day, and I do actually like to use a tea cup for tea a lot of the time. I now feel comfortable about the amount I want and know they’ll be used. How often does one have more than a few people over for coffee? And when you do then there’s always the coffee mugs from your dinner service if you need to be matchy-matchy like me. There’s a reason why they tend to be sold in sets of four! Plus now I can have two different sets of four and not feel wasteful. Crisis solved. Thanks.

  2. Dani permalink
    November 25, 2013 1:20 am

    Here it is Nov 2013, and I Google’d what to do with too many coffee cups and your blog was the fourth one down. It made me smile. I moved home a few years back and lived with my mom for six months until I got a job and got into my own place with my daughters. My mom, sister, brother and grandma all donated items from linen to dishware to couches and even beds to help us get all settled in. I ended up with what everyone else no longer needed nor wanted or got tired of or didn’t match in their stuff anymore. It’s made me smile, because I have at least thirty mugs and non matching silverware, glassware, and plates. They will come over and see something and go “Ohhhh I was wondering where that went to!” and I let them have it back. Boy, was I was ever so grateful to even have family help out with it all. I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. I’ve snuck a few boxes of mugs to the local laundry mat and left them there with a ‘for free’ sign three years running now, always right before Thanksgiving. That thirty mugs that I still have is a current count after these three years of giving the mugs away for free! I believe I will take another twenty this week and leave them there again. I’m sure they think the coffee mug person (me) crazy, but hopefully they are being used finally (at least not gathering dust on shelves in my kitchen anymore!)

    • November 25, 2013 10:01 am

      I still have a few mugs I don’t use, but they are sentimental favourites (mostly given to me by my kids). I think coffee cups secretly multiply behind closed doors!

  3. Margie permalink
    March 9, 2012 1:29 pm

    We have a lot of mugs in our cupboard, and I don’t even drink coffee or tea! I think they multiply in there when the door is shut.

    • March 11, 2012 5:16 pm

      Maybe its like the toys in Toy Story coming alive when no one is watching – mugs duplicate!


  4. March 4, 2012 8:43 pm

    One mug I’d be heartbroken to lose is one given to me by the woman custodian my first year teaching. She saw I was really wanting coffee in the morning, but our school was a bit too scotch to spring for styrofoam cups. How that cup hasn’t broken in all these years and it is a delicate thing, I don’t know. Perfect post.
    PS My brother and his wife have hooks across the entrance of his kitchen…bazillion mugs hanging from each hook! Now I don’t have a bazillion. OMG

    • March 5, 2012 10:10 am

      I almost feel guilty trying to pawn off my ‘extras’ at the rummage / garage sales – probably everyone shopping there already has too many!


  5. March 4, 2012 6:18 pm

    It’s funny that you wrote about this today–I was planning to sort through the coffee cups in my cupboard this coming week! I have an entire top shelf of mugs that don’t get used (I can’t even REACH the top shelf!), plus I have a middle shelf of mugs that do get used fairly regularly although there are some mugs there that I don’t really care for so only resort to them if the others are in the dishwasher…in other words, I, too, have a gluttony of mugs in my life.
    Thanks to you, I am definitely going to start looking through all my cupboards now to see what else I should offload!

  6. Madeline Lund permalink
    March 4, 2012 5:49 pm

    Enjoyed this one a lot! Each mug has a story even if that story is very brief. Yes we stick to our favorites too! The same thing happens in my closet–there are clothes there for numerous occasions but I tend to stick to the same 10-12 outfits. Are we just creatures of habit? Such is life! Have a wonderful week!

    • March 4, 2012 7:21 pm

      Makes you wonder why we spend money on things we never use, doesn’t it?


  7. March 4, 2012 2:16 pm

    I love your collection! You can never have too many coffee mugs!

    • March 4, 2012 7:21 pm

      There are only ‘too many’ when they don’t fit on the shelves anymore!



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