How Many Coffee Mugs?

Like most folks, we have a ton of coffee mugs. They accumulate somehow without effort.  I often wonder why I can’t seem to manifest money like I do coffee mugs.  When I look in the cabinet with all the mugs, there are very few in there that I actually bought.  Some were gifts from friends; some were gifts from vendors whose services we utilized; some just seem to have been here forever.  I have no idea where my current favorite mug came from.  It may have just come with the house, since we bought everything in the house with it and my previous favorite mug broke shortly after we moved in.

Why all the blather about coffee mugs, you wonder? I’m getting there.  In 1997 when I turned 40, my group of college friends all decided to have our first annual “Crone-Fest” to celebrate our mutual birthdays, since we all hit the same age that year.  Another alum from our college has a house in Montreat, NC so, we set a weekend, and all converged there to celebrate.  Montreat is near Asheville and the Biltmore Castle, so one day we went over that way to wander around the little village and see the sights.

As we meandered from shop to shop, I noticed that there seemed to be an inordinate number of pottery artists displaying their wares, and of those wares a rather large percentage seemed to be coffee mugs.  Different shapes, unusual glazes, experimentation in handles, etc., but coffee mugs nonetheless.

I began to think about not only this rather personal and labor-intensive way of producing coffee mugs, but also of all the coffee mugs that are continuously, day after day, week after week, rolling off of assembly lines somewhere and showing up in W@lMart, T@arget, BigL0ts, M@cy’s, everywhere!  There are close to 7 billion people in the world right now, and I would bet money that in the 13 years since I started consciously thinking about coffee mugs, at least that many have been manufactured.  In fact, if tomorrow no more coffee mugs were EVER made, my grandkids’ grandkids would probably be old and gray before the last coffee mug was gone. The mugs might well outlast the coffee!

When was the last time you wore anything out? A while back, I wrote about my 30-year old rice cooker that I couldn’t seem to replace. The lid has disappeared, but the cooker is going strong. I thought a new one might be nice, but turned out that new wasn’t better, it was just new. My current favorite coffee mug is




The handle is neither too wide nor too narrow and it holds all of my fingers comfortably, the true test of a functional coffee mug. There’s nothing more aggravating that a fancy coffee mug that costs a lot of money, yet can’t accommodate your fingers!  It is probably the most un-fancy coffee mug ever created, yet every day it holds my coffee admirably, and when it hasn’t been washed out from the day before, I will wash it while the coffee brews rather than pick another one out of the cupboard.

For myself, I could probably drink out of that mug from now till I croak, but my G will look inside of it one day and pronounce that it is too “worn” and out it will go.  I’m not exactly sure what her “worn out” criteria are, but she has them, trust me.  I am not looking forward to that day.

Until then, I will continue to think about that coffee mug when I consider buying more shoes or another pair of pants or yet another $10.00 black purse (no more of those lately), or anything that I haven’t worn out or used up. All of the “things” I currently have are perfectly functional and given even the bare minimum of care will probably outlast me.  After all, I can only drink one cup of coffee at a time, and each time I drink I can only drink out of one mug at a time. One very plain yet very good coffee mug seems quite sufficient at the moment.

Rather like life.


2 thoughts on “How Many Coffee Mugs?

  1. We’re nearing the end of a great big clean out. A huge dumpster was delivered last Tuesday and we will have it for a full week. It’s funny, but, the “Everything must go”, mentality has not been applied to coffee mugs and special drinking glasses. We do have a designated donate, scrap, and recycle areas in the garage. Books have been the most difficult for me, but now that you mention coffee mugs, I’m wondering what I’ll do.

  2. This post has ‘me’ written all over it!

    Coffee mugs. Check. Here’s what I have: a favorite for different days of the week. Crazy times 7!

    Wear it out or use it up. Check. Add to that a medium sized tendency to store things for later and you’ll have a full basement.

    Combine this with a mid-life hook up with another woman who owns her own houseful of stuff and yeah, we have enough towels and bedding and coffee mugs and EVERYTHING for the next 20 years.

    One more thing: the idea of never manufacturing another and never running out also applies to paperclips. At my work we have a recycling center where anyone can come and pick up used office supplies. I told my staff that we will never order another box of paperclips and we will never run out.

    Oh, and a post script: twenty years ago (give or take), my little family had one coffee mug each and one to spare. They were used and washed every day and they were sufficient for our needs.

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

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