Too Many Mugs

It dawned on me when I started moving the last time. I was in my kitchen and packed three full boxes of coffee cups. What? How was this possible? Where did they all come from? I started examining them. It all started with a cute matching pair of cups that I bought for me and my husband as newlyweds forty years ago. They had roadrunners on them (we lived in Tucson, Arizona at the time). They were beautiful – with muted desert colors and cactus. Since that first pair of cups, I had moved to six states, had three children and many different jobs.

Each time I went to a different company, I received another coffee cup with that company’s logo on it. If the company had a particular achievement or product they were promoting, there was another coffee cup issued. While working in that office environment, we celebrated many employee birthdays. Some of my coffee mugs were acquired through this. They had sayings about too much work or having good friends. Some of my favorite cup sayings were, “The best thing about my job is that my chair spins”, “Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice”, or “Rome wasn’t built in a day – I wasn’t assigned to that job.” I kept them all. They reminded me of fun times with my co-workers.

There were also holiday cups. Some were given to me by well-meaning acquaintances who couldn’t think of anything else to give. They often had a small cocoa packet or some candy inside. Some had cute holiday pictures or designs. Sometimes you were given one at a store or at a special event. Which reminds me of another cup category – the nonprofit promotion. I have volunteered for many organizations over the years and they would each give you a cup to commemorate your hours of service. I got one from my children’s school, different disease organizations, the food bank, the city volunteer programs, and the 5K walks. I would receive a mug just for attending a church, a fundraising event or a special program.

Of course, the most cherished mugs were made for me by my children. They had carefully hand-painted and glazed them in school art classes, summer programs or daycare centers.

I often used them to hold things since they were far too precious to actually drink from (sometimes they wouldn’t stand up straight or hold liquids). How could I part with these masterpieces? As I looked over the massive collection, I knew I had to cull it down. After all, I already had coffee and tea cups that matched my table service. But, how far could I cut down the collection?

How many cups are too many? That’s the question. Practical advice from professional organizers is that you need to keep the number of cups your household uses each day times the number of days between dish washings. Add in a couple of extras in case company comes over. That would really limit the number you keep. With smaller kitchens, the cupboard space is sparse and you have to use your few cabinets wisely. An excess of mugs is taking up valuable real estate that could belong to something you use more often like that seal-a-meal or salad spinner. You can easily get rid of chipped, cracked or heavily stained cups. Put away the cherished collectible ones. You can also use tall mugs for holding items like pencils, pens, and straws and you can even re-gift the ones that you received but never used. Put something clever in them and put them back out into the great mug gift-go-round of the universe.

Part of decluttering is carefully examining how your space is used. A hundred coffee cups is probably too many. Look over your cups and donate some to a nonprofit resale shop so another newlywed couple can find a cute matching pair of mugs to start their own collection.