I recently saw an ad campaign by a certain furniture/home décor company. In the ad, a family is around what is presumably a Thanksgiving dinner table, and a lady in her 20s-30s gave a smug and pretentious grin at her “mother-in-law” who was apparently impressed with her dinnerware. The punchline went something along the lines of “be embarrassingly proud of your house.” I’m not sure if I was supposed to laugh. I maybe had a mild, soundless chuckle for it. I’m also a total schmuck for gimmicky marketing campaigns, and definitely laugh at everything whether it’s supposed to be funny or not. So take what you will.

Social media is particularly good at figuring out what it is we might be in the market for. When I got engaged, I was bombarded with wedding-related ads. Then it was real estate ads. Then home decor and furniture. For a while, I got ads about pregnancy, but when the algorithms noticed I didn’t click on them, they switched to fertility test ads instead (Social media nudges me to pop out a child even more than my own mother does, and that says a lot). At this rate, it’ll be showing me AARP ads by next year. I am truly living the targeted ad customer lifecycle.

Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot of these types of ads, which I imagine targeted for people in their mid-to-late-twenties: people who probably still have lots of their college belongings, but deep down, have serious imposter syndrome fears  … ahem, really want to look put together with tastefully adult furniture.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m all about being comfortable in my own home, having the finer things in life. The Danish word hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) would basically summarize my life goals (I am, after all, a Taurus… just saying.) So in that regard, these ads are. Spot. On. As my Pinterest suggests, I deeply want our house to look like a showroom for “modern farmhouse comfort” – clean, welcoming, and the envy of the whole world (…as I said, I’m a Taurus). I longingly stare at these pins and ads, imagining our home draped with deliciously warm wool blankets; picturing myself sipping mulled wine near a fireplace during the fall and winter months; visualizing our kitchen with clear glass cabinets as we proudly display our matchings sets of glassware, dinnerware, and, of course, perfectly matching white mugs.

Here’s the reality:

Our home is never 100% clean. As soon as I’m done swiffer-ing and mopping, my dog shakes out his coat and fur tumbleweeds into the living room, enough to reverse hours of cleaning… in seconds. The cat merely sits and leaves behind a mittens-worth of cat hair. The main reason we even picked a home with granite countertops is because we realized that white laminate doesn’t hide cooking splatters. While I work from home, the dream of having household chores done is just that – a dream. Piles of unread mail greet you at the door, with piles of clothes-to-be-put-away lingering just out of sight in the bedroom. Admittedly, I’m domestically-challenged, and struggle with basic housekeeping.

(I do make some mean mashed potatoes and Instant Pot brisket… but that’s about it.)

We have a few warm blankets. We do have a lot of wine, in general, because priorities. And we also have coffee & green tea. We have opaque cabinets. Our dinnerware doesn’t match because when you get married, you acquire each other’s things, and nothing matches. And when you subsequently move 8 times in 5 years, you inevitably pick up some things along the way. As for those matching mugs – they don’t exist. Our mugs are a collection of souvenirs, college dorm mugs, chipped-but-still-good mugs, and an assortment of gifts from our family members.

We’ve tried to reduce our belongings over the years as minimalism became trendy. I’ve done the 30 day minimalism challenge, ridding ourselves of hundreds of unnecessary items. Months later, my husband is still mad that I chucked our spare vegetable peeler and that I got rid of the two extra measuring cups we had (note: we still have two more). I mean, it worked wonders, and was timed well, since we were about to move. As for the mugs, I parted with maybe one of them.

I’ve also tried to KonMari the house a few times in the last couple years, attempting to surround myself only with things that bring me joy. The thing is, you can’t really do a full KonMari. There are certain things that don’t spark joy, but that you need in your house – like cleaning supplies, toilet plungers, cat litter, and spare lightbulbs. Also, if you have something that could spark joy, but that currently doesn’t, that means you have to donate or throw something away and then spend money on something that does spark joy. For example, I could buy a mid-century modern litter box to replace my $20 one in my spare closet, but think of the waste that causes! Anyway, several mini-KonMari’s later, I still couldn’t part with my mugs.

The most challenging part of the KonMari process is handling the items, individually, before you decide what to do with them. I have handled each and every one of these mugs. Each mug has some story: a 7-car pileup that miraculously did not harm my mother and I, a gift from a sarcastic friend which only gets more relevant every year, something that literally makes me smile when I hold onto it, and something that keeps my hands warm in a way no other mug does. I’ve managed to pare down my collection to about 12 mugs, and all but two do not match.

I’m okay with that. I’m okay with having a collection of 12 mugs which each have a story to tell. I’m okay with having 12 beer glasses from 12 different places instead of a matching set of 12. I’m okay with all of this because no set of 12 matching mugs will give me as much joy as each individual mug ever will.

So, you know what? TO HELL WITH YOUR MATCHING MUGS! Give me the joy of a life with character.

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