Mugs, bowls & glasses...

Living a simpler life meant (for me) opening the bulging cupboards and making some tough decisions! We (like so many people) had amassed a huge collection of mugs through the years. They're great to give as gifts and there seems to be one for every occasion so there they all were. And difficult to contemplate downsizing - a bit like the books, there were often sentimental reasons why I'd kept so many.
I was lucky in that I had my darling sister Esther with me for the big mug clearout. As many of you know, she usually lives over 12,000 miles away from me in Australia. But last year - a huge year in so many ways that I'll continue to discuss in this blog - we were all together again for 13 blissful months as she and her three children were living here so we could help each other through some difficult times.
Many of my favourite mugs were given to me by her and so I'd always balked at the idea of discarding any of them. Also, I loved them for other reasons. She knows me better than almost anyone and so they were  in a shape I like, or a colour or design that really appealed to me. But she helped me see that there are only two of us in the house and, even if we have many visitors, we're unlikely to ever use more than 12 mugs! 
Firstly, I took them all out of the cupboard, hand washed and dried them. Then I picked six that (trying to leave sentiment aside) I really, really love...and if you decide to do this, you'll know which they are, as I did, deep down. The ones you instinctively reach for when making a cup of tea. Sometimes you even take them out of the dishwasher dirty and wash them by hand so that you can use them! They fit beautifully in your hand...or they hold the right amount of liquid (some mugs - however gorgeous - are just too big. Or the mouths are too wide so the drink goes cold before you can drink it. Or they're way too small. Unless you actually drink a lot of espresso, I think those tiny cups are a waste of space although they're often beautiful!)
Then I was 'allowed' six more. Esther was really tough on me! I picked those for design or colour or special memories...but really considering and justifying why I was keeping them was a great exercise and pared everything down to the truest criteria - is it practical and/or do I really love it. Those are the two questions I try to ask now about everything I own. And it's amazing how much you can let go by being absolutely truthful with yourself!

Glasses were next. Another item we tend to amass way too many of through the years. I prefer to drink everything from tumbler-style glassware. This lovely hand blown (not expensive!) one is perfect for me...Esther gave me a set for Christmas and I use them for wine, water, gin & tonic...everything! They feel lovely in my hand and are easy to care for - as are the traditional french glasses we also use (about £1 each, or sometimes much less, available everywhere!) Paul likes a 'proper' wine glass so we have a small quantity of those too...but everything else has gone!

I eat most things from these bowls now. They are handmade by Paul Jessop at Barrington Pottery - beautifully crafted and inexpensive.They hold the perfect portion size of everything - soup, rice, pasta, stews...even salads. They also have a pouring lip so are great for pancake or yorkshire pudding batters. I don't eat meat or fish so rarely need a knife and fork. We use the cutlery from my grandparents house - not at all fancy, just good old stainless steel. We do have a matching crockery collection too - an old 1960s design that Paul inherited from his parents and means a lot to him. It was a very popular pattern and you can pick up replacement plates and bowls really cheaply and easily in charity shops. We don't save anything for 'best' anymore - Paul eats from the plates every day but they also look lovely if we have guests for dinner. We also have some other vintage plates and bowls, inherited from family, that we love. But they have to work to earn their place. I use them often. If you love something, it does your heart good to see it and feel it on a daily basis and not leave it in a dark cupboard to be used only on 'special occasions'. LIFE is a special occasion!!

I have a small collection of tea bowls too - I really enjoy drinking from them in the afternoon when I get home from work. But they also double as bowls for morning yoghurt or after supper ice cream too. I really enjoy the look and feel of them...they make me feel good!

Shedding items is undoubtedly difficult (especially to begin with).  I find it absolutely fascinating - since I've started this way of living - to realise how much emotion we invest in inanimate objects. I would keep a mug purely because my Dad had drunk his tea from it (for example) And when I really thought about it, it made no sense.

What I really want is to have my Dad back. No amount of mugs, books, photographs is going to make that happen. By letting go of these things I'm not letting HIM (or my grandparents, or even my younger self) go. They'll all always be with me as long as I am here. And amassing huge quantities of items isn't the best way to remember those things (people, relationships, happy times) that have now gone.
It was really difficult to think about this, and even more difficult to implement it - but once I started, it was so freeing and comforting. My Dad is as much with me as he ever was, despite the fact that his mug has now gone!
I hope you're enjoying these posts and thanks so much for your thoughtful comments...I'm enjoying writing them as they help me to unravel my thoughts and ideas too.

Next time I'll tackle a huge one - clothing!! Deep breath....xx


  1. Once again I can identify with your post. I have slowly been able to release things that belonged to my parents. Like you, I feel them in my heart; they are a part of me, so letting go of the inanimate objects becomes easier with time. One thing I'm planning to do with some of the things that are really special to me, is to take photographs and create a small book. I've created other small 5 x 5 paperback books of my digital photographs. They don't take up a lot of room and they are inexpensive. Maybe no one will want the books when I'm gone, but they are inexpensive and it helps me to let go of the really special things that bring me pleasure to look at and remember. All the best to you as you work through this task; reading about your journey inspires me on mine.

  2. I need to do the same thing! Wonderful post, we tend to hold on to things but really it is our memories that we should treasure. "Recall a happy memory as often as you like, you can never wear it out." I love that quote!
    After you do your clothing, come to my closet too, I need help! LOL!

  3. I can't let go of my mugs! I love them all and need them to drink tea! Or milk.

  4. Rachel, this is such a thoughtful post about why we keep things. As one who has gone through the process it is quite freeing and gets a little easier. Your "Life is a special occasion" is so meaningful when we think about saving dishes for special times. I've been rotating my dishes for different times of the year. When our daughter visited recently she was surprised to see our "special dishes" in service daily. She said she only remember us using them for the holidays. How foolish I've been. ♥

  5. I agree Rachel, you should use all your nice dishes and don't just keep them for special occasions. It is hard to part with things, but I'm finding out as I get older that I don't have to have them all to make me happy. I have a friend who is moving from a 3 bedroom house to a small one bedroom apartment. She's got so much 'stuff' and hates to part with anything, but she knows she has to. Her son will move her from Florida to Wisconsin in a big U-Haul truck . I've tried to tell her that she needs to try and keep in mind that when the truck is full, it's full, and nothing else will be able to go on. So, she's trying to only take what really means the most to her. You mentioned clothes - yes, that's going to be hard for her to let go of them, too! I love your blog Rachel - thanks for keeping us posted on what's going on.

  6. Oh, such a lovely post- I love how you have chosen what you love and why. It's all perfect for you both and perfect for fresh starts, new beginnings, refresh and go! It's making me think, for certain. My youngest daughter is moving practically across the country and will be thinking of the same. "What do I truly love?" For each bit of it will cost a certain something to move.

    I am so happy that Esther got to spend time with you; it is one year yesterday since I lost my mom and it's so hard to think of it. I have to force 'that day' out of my mind and replace it with joyful times and hearing her laugh. We can't spend a lifetime on one day or one mug. Your post is lovely, just like you. xx

  7. I agree and I use glass wear passed down from my family. It means more to me to use it, than just have it sit. Like you the memories come as I use it.
    Thank you for posting.

  8. Wonderful post! Love your collection. I have a small collection too!

  9. Yes ..there is always a time to rid yourself of lingering clutter... I do however prioritize ... the things from childhood are the most I do keep what is near and dear to me.... Since my mother’s passing, I’ve been clearing out the glasses and china too... You have put it beautifully into perspective... Lovely post/Thank You...Hugs


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