I’m thinking about mugs today.

One of the cupboards in our house is filled with mugs. I use 1 mug per day (on average). Usually, since I’m looking for consistency for my cup of coffee, I use the same one. That means I often wash up that mug rather than having to use a different one from the cupboard. Because of the way our coffee machine works, on a weekend I use cups instead of mugs. Again, I tend to use the same two cups because I’m looking for consistency. It seems fairly silly to be constantly using the same 3–4 mugs/cups when I have at least 30 in the cupboard.

However, I’m not going to write about all those other mugs being a ‘waste of space’. I’m more interested in the reasons why I made the decision to have all those mugs. I think that my collection of mugs I don’t use is mainly because I didn’t make a decision about how I wanted to use the mugs.

I had the mugs in a box. I wanted the box to be empty quickly. So I put them in the cupboard.

Because I wasn’t limited for space, I didn’t have to make that decision. I didn’t have to think about what I wanted to use the mugs for - I was just trying to unpack boxes. And because I didn’t, that entire cupboard is now devoted to mugs. Interestingly[1], now that we have so many mugs, it means that sometimes my housemates and I end up using up way too many mugs before we wash them up. It has bred the attitude that we’ve got so many mugs, one may as well just get a new mug instead of re-using or washing up this one. It’s not really a problem, it’s just interesting to me because that lack of decision about what we wanted to use the mugs for has led to a relatively significant behaviour change completely unintentionally.

Mugs seem like a ridiculous thing to get me started thinking about this, but I’m reminded how often we don’t make decisions about things, and how much that lack of decision can be just as powerful as having made a decision. How often does something major happen in our lives because we didn’t make a distinct decision about how something should be done? It’s not that people are making stupid or bad decisions, it’s that people are making decisions about something else entirely[2].

Does any of this matter? Probably not. The house is plenty big enough to handle a few extra mugs. This is just a thought exercise about how a few mugs you don’t use can turn into an entire cupboard you barely use.

  1. Depending on your point of view. The rabbit hole can go pretty deep on this stuff.  ↩

  2. i.e. how can I most quickly get this box of mugs empty? Oh, I’ll just put them all in this cupboard. In this case, I wasn’t even considering how I wanted to use the mugs.  ↩