Monday, November 14, 2011

How to deal with all those drinking cups!

Recently Amy from Raising Arrows posted about corralling the family’s drinking cups. Having a large family herself, she had some good insight, and the comments below her post are overflowing with good ideas.

We are a family of only 5, which is on the small side compared to many in our circles, yet drinking-cup-corralling challenges seem to abound in our home. I think it just goes with the territory when your family is home all day.

In the early years, I tried the method of constantly picking up dirty cups and putting them in the sink or dishwasher. Inevitably, though, this would lead to days in which we ran out of clean cups – or ran a full dishwasher with a sink still full of cups!

We did disposable cups for a while, but that just seemed wasteful. We tried writing on the disposable cups with a Sharpee, rinsing them after each use and keeping them by the sink. This worked really well for us for some time, and eventually morphed into our next method – using “real” cups and glasses, labeling them with masking tape, and keeping them by the sink for the day.

One cup per person per day. This system worked very well, for a while.

Then, with our kitchen’s layout and constant use, the system began to fall apart. Not everyone labeled, so we couldn’t keep track of whose cup belonged to whom. The part of the counter designated for cups was needed for other uses, so cups would get moved around the kitchen accordingly and often people needing a drink would just grab another clean cup (not that I blame them!). It got to where on a good day, when the designated cup area was only used for cups, it looked something like this:

Remember, there are only 5 of us!

I chose to be satisfied with this orderly chaos for some time, until I read Amy’s post and all the wonderful ideas in the comments beneath it. Inspired to make another attempt at the “one cup per person per day” routine, I scanned the ideas, evaluated the supplies we had on hand, and came up with this:

I had my son trace 5 circles on construction paper and cut them out. He then wrote each family member’s initials on a circle, and decorated each circle. (I should have taken pics of this - sorry! Didn't think about it until afterward.) 

I probably would have allowed each child to decorate his own "coaster," except two were gone and this was a brief window of opportunity in which to complete a project, so it was delegated to one child - who very proudly selected themes for each person's circle. Thankfully, all family members are pleased with his selection :-)

I dug out this old red tray that had been collecting dust in the pantry, and I traced the bottom of it onto 2 sheets of cardstock, taped together on the backside.

I cut out the shape, making sure it was a good 1/4” smaller than the tray all around. My son then glued the circles to the cardstock, and I laminated the whole mat with self-laminating sheets that I had on hand. We trimmed the edges, put the mat into the tray, and VOILA! 

Noticeable (as in the boys around here will be able to see where it is!), labeled, portable, wipeable homes for our cups-of-the-day!

Now, I enlisted kid-help and we used only supplies we had on hand - I’m sure someone could totally "Martha Stewart this idea out" with pretty scrapbook papers color-coordinated with one’s home décor and dainty or artsy initials or symbols cut with cute paper punches. I love that kind of stuff!

I just knew that my kids really, really feel loved when they are included on the project and when their work is used and displayed in practical ways. And, personally, I actually like having kid-made creations around me – it’s a whole other type of beautiful that’s meaningful, when made by those you love. (I also knew that I had zero dollars in the budget to go purchase the perfect scrapbook paper and punches!)

That said, I’d enjoy seeing photos of someone else’s Martha Stewart version! :-)

Also, if one had a laminating machine and was able to laminate it nicely with one sleeve, it would have a nicer finish. The smaller laminating sheets I used weren’t big enough, so there is a visible seam where I joined them together.

In this instance, I believe that form definitely had to follow function for us – and so far this “home” for our daily cups is functioning wonderfully – with a pretty cute form following only shortly behind!


  1. LOVE this idea! I also read Amy's post and tried colored rubber bands...for a day! This idea may work for my younger kids. My older boys...well, they tend to collect glasses in their rooms upstairs. Yesterday, I brought down 7 glasses...from TWO boys!

  2. Thanks Christy! I thought the rubber band idea was great...until I remembered all the things that end up happening when little boys have access to rubber bands ;-)