By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
You might think that having an emotional attachment to a mug is ridiculous but hear us out! There is so much research which supports that becoming attached to a mug is for good reason and affects most of us.
Let’s give an example. When I left my first job out of school, as a leaving gift, I was given a mug. It was nothing too special, but it was porcelain and as such, had very thin edges which for me, is essential to any mug and felt great to drink from – I swear everything tasted better in it too! Every time I used it, I thought about my old colleagues, the job, the commute, and my days there in general and it really made me smile. That mug saw me through the whole of university, survived 6 different house moves (which is a miracle in itself) and saw me graduate and get through some tough days in my first full-time “adult” job.
I loved it so much that I kept it in a separate cupboard because I didn’t trust anybody else to use it and handle it...I know, it sounds nuts! When that mug broke, I was devastated because there were so many memories in it and, in that sense, it was completely irreplaceable. To the point that I did think about buying a replica, but it just wouldn’t be the same, I’d know it wasn’t MY mug.
Proving it’s not just me that gets so defensive over their mug, anyone that has ever worked in an office will undoubtedly have received that passive aggressive email sent to “All” demanding the immediate return of their beloved mug asap. Or alternatively, an equally ‘polite’ notice taped to the front of the mug cupboard asking that said mug be returned immediately. Roughly translated, “Return my mug or your life is not worth living”.
Given all of this, it is no surprise that 60% of people were said to have an emotional bond to their favourite mug, 40% said it was irreplaceable, and a third said that would go mad at the thought of breaking it (I clearly fit into that 33.3%!), according to the Heinz survey.
So, it’s established that we have strong feelings towards our mugs, but why? We’ve investigated this a little further.
5 reasons we are emotionally attached to our mugs
1. It’s part of your routine
“Millions, if not billions, of people around the world start their days with a hot, stimulating beverage”. Popping the kettle on is certainly one of the rituals, if not the first thing, I do in the morning. Katherine Schafler, a New York City psychotherapist said “We typically use mugs to get us going in the morning or to soothe us in the evening. Our mugs become these helpful, quiet, loyal sidekicks.”
It is said that routine is essential in establishing a sense of purpose and helps you feel in control of your day and life in general. A lack of routine promotes procrastination but with a routine in place, your body begins to “flow”. “Flow” is where you become completely engaged with the task at hand, you’re one hundred percent present in the task and not thinking about other things. The more you train your body to respond to different cues, the easier it is to fall into “flow” with ease, increasing productivity. A few cups of tea in your own handmade mug throughout the day can be the cues you need to encourage this.
It is said that mindful habits are best when focused and honed on those things you do routinely and so mindfulness practices are now being incorporated into morning tea drinking. A form of meditation, it helps calm morning anxiety and can set a more positive tone to the day. Drinking your first brew in the morning is often a time for quiet, to gather thoughts and prepare yourself for the day and kickstarts your daily routine. For parents, this might be the 10 minutes of solace before the kids get up and the inevitable chaos of getting ready for school begins, if you miss the 10 minutes of quiet, often the day is thrown off track.
Breaking that routine can exacerbate feelings of distress and make you focus on your problems. So, a misplaced mug, can be quite distressing for many people, as it messes up their daily routine (and therefore flow), hence the “polite” emails.
2. It takes you back in time
Much like a great song, or a familiar smell, you can be transported back to a particular time in life.
A mug can evoke lovely memories, maybe you bought it somewhere special, on holiday or visiting friends or family. Or maybe it reminds you of a happy time in life. As mugs are commonly gifted, they can have a little more meaning behind them than other inanimate objects. For example, have you ever felt the same with your fork or spoons? Nope. The sense of being attached to someone can make your mug more special if it is a gift. Even if it is not a gift, you can still feel it giving you a gush of good feelings.
3. It gives a sense of personal ownership
Our relationship with “stuff” starts early on, with children understanding by the age of two, the idea that we can own something and possess it as if it is part of ourselves. By six years old, the “endowment effect” kicks in, where extra value is placed on an object, simply because it is yours.
Small children often have intense connections with specific objects, whether that be a cuddly toy or comfort blanket. When faced with the prospect of taking home a copy of their object in a study, rather than the object itself, the most common response was horror, even though they were happy to take a copy of another child’s toy. It’s as if they believed their object had a unique essence.
In our teenage years, where self-esteem tends to be at its lowest, possessions are often how a person reflects themselves or display how they would like to see themselves, it’s when we are at our most materialistic and therefore, we become attached. This doesn’t leave us in adulthood either. Take our homes, for example. Whilst on the most basic level, they are intended to provide shelter, they become an extension of our physical selves and a reflection of who we were, are and want to be. 
Our mugs are an extension of ourselves, reflect our likes, dislikes, tastes and personality – it's no wonder we’re so attached!
4. It’s a comfort and always there for you
As the Guardian so eloquently puts it, “Few situations aren’t vastly improved by putting the kettle on”. Hot beverages provide much comfort to our lives, welcoming us home, relieving poorliness and lulling us to sleep, and generally softening the pace of life. Because of that, we treat our mugs with affection and gratitude.
Yale and Colorado Universities state that, “holding even hot water in your mug lets you enjoy positive vibes. You feel the gush of positive thoughts when holding your mug. It is akin to the hot bath after a tedious day. Even without your knowledge, you get close to the mug and it starts comforting you. It invokes optimistic contemplations and makes you feel better”
Remember the Heinz tomato soup advert? A lady coming in from the cold outdoors wearing a big thick knitted jumper, greeting with a hot mug of tomato soup to wrap her hands around – the ultimate picture of comfort and warmth!
5. It connects you to other people
Your handmade mug helps connect you to family and friends as well as to the maker themselves. As humans, we crave connection of others and there is nothing we love more than popping the kettle on and catching up with friends and family about our lives over a cup of coffee in our favourite handmade mug.
For a study in the American Journal of Marketing, participants were instructed to imagine that they were in the market for a gift for someone close to them. They were given a list of items including ceramic mugs, which were described as machine-made. Participants clearly favoured handmade items when they were making a purchase for a loved one, and many were willing to pay up to 17% more for handmade items in general. Consumers felt that the creator's love for the handmade product transferred to the product itself, and that the product now "contained love”, even when the customer did not personally know the creator or even who the creator was.
Just like when someone cooks a homemade meal for you, there is a feeling of love and warmth that you don’t get from a meal that you have bought ready-made. The human connection is what makes that meal special and the same can apply to mass-produced pottery. From a handmade pottery mug, we can imagine the person who made it, connecting with them and their studio and can sometimes see the evidence of someone else in the item itself, which is why it cannot compare to mass-produced. Potters put their heart and soul into their work, and it has undoubtedly involved many experiments to perfect that mug you are holding in your hand. You’re holding a piece of their passion which is why it is a great gift to show how much you care.
In fact, due to the process of making a mug (hand thrown on the wheel with a handle), it’s not a big money maker for potters as it is just as much effort to make a jug which can be sold for a higher price. However, potters know how much people love their mugs but make them anyway because they bring joy to so many people!
So, there’s no shame in feeling emotionally attached to your mug, it’s engrained within us from childhood it seems. And when the mugs are handmade and look and feel as good as they do, who can be blamed?
All mugs featured in this article are available at the Keeeps store now.