Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Condensing the Kitchen, Part 3 – Mugs

Mugs are one of those household items that accumulate quickly and, for unknown reasons, we form strange emotional bonds to (notice I didn’t say "with," as mugs are ceramic and could care less about us). When Eric and I entered into our relationship we each had a collection of mismatched mugs. Upon moving in together, our mug collection grew even larger and became more diverse. We had mugs with quotes, mugs with school emblems, mugs depicting vacation spots, giant mugs, novelty mugs, as well as our sub-collection of travel mugs. This eclectic collection, of course, was in addition to our two sets of matching mugs (Eric had a set of about 8 blue mugs and I had a set of 4 striped mugs, which in my opinion, were much too fancy to use). We had more mugs than we had liquids to fill them.

The funny part about mugs (and there are just so many funny things about mugs) is you usually have one favorite and that is the only one you use. I routinely hand washed “my mug” in lieu of using any of our other dozens of mugs. Our mug situation was out of control. We lived in a tiny apartment, with little kitchen storage and our mug collection was taking up a disproportionate amount of cupboard space. Of course, we couldn’t get rid of any of the mugs. That would have been crazy. So, we packed up the majority of our mugs and stored them out of sight; keeping only 4 of Eric’s matching mugs in the cupboard.

Then, a funny thing happened. One wintery day, I made myself a cup of hot chocolate. As I walked into the living room carrying my cocoa-filled mug, I suddenly felt the cup portion of the mug break away from the handle. It fell to the floor, spilling its chocolatey contents all over our white carpet and my pants. After I finished cursing at the broken mug, I cleaned up the mess and consoled myself with the knowledge that the accident was a freak occurrence and would never happen again. I was wrong. It happened again, and more than once. Thankfully we had an abundance of mugs in storage, so despite this dark time in our mug history, we were never mugless.

When we moved from our tiny apartment in Chicago to our larger townhouse in Kentucky, we brought almost all of our mugs with us. Since our new place had much more space, all of the mugs could be stored in our cupboard. However, once we started thinking in terms of boat living, we realized the mugs would be a problem. Unlike almost everything else you eat or drink from, mugs don’t stack (at least not our mismatched collection). Additionally, our assorted mug collection wasn’t the most presentable for serving tea or coffee after a dinner party. So before long, we donated our hodgepodge collection, keeping only my 4 “fancy” striped mugs. Like before, we got along just fine with only four mugs. Unlike before, the handles of these mugs stayed attached.

Before long, we found ourselves in a familiar predicament. Our small mug collection was fine for the two of us, but add any more people into the equation and, suddenly, four wasn’t enough. This realization came as Thanksgiving approached. We knew our 4 mugs wouldn’t work for the 4-6 additional guests we were expecting – all of whom were tea and coffee drinkers. The theme of needing more, but at the same time needing less, returned. Our solution? Stackable mugs:

We found a set of stackable mugs at World Market. They had a large selection in terms of both design and size. We opted for two sets of 8oz white mugs. Each set came with a metal holder, which is great if you want to display your mugs on your countertop. Since most boats have something similar already built into the galley, we discarded the metal holders.

Our 12 mugs take up the same space as our 4 traditional mugs, and each holds almost as much volume:

The plain white is nice enough to serve to guests, yet the mugs aren't so nice that we worry about breaking them.

It is hard to let go of a sentimental mug collection, but rest assured, there will be no hard feelings on the part of the mugs. If you are looking for a way to better organize your cupboards, stackable mugs make a big difference (as long as you actually get rid of your old collection).