100 Possessions: Glass Plates and Bowls

After I graduated from college, I inherited a beautiful set of china from my grandmother. My fantasy self—the one who planned to throw fabulous dinner parties in her English manor house—was elated to own twelve place settings of vintage tableware. My real self, however—the one who carefully wrapped every dinner plate, salad plate, dessert plate, bowl, cup, and saucer during each move—became decidedly less enthusiastic about it over time.

After going through the painstaking process of packing and unpacking it at least four times (and constantly worrying about breaking an irreplaceable piece), I’d had enough. I finally gave the whole set to a less nomadic family member, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The irony: despite all the effort I put into preserving it, I’d used it on only one or two “special” occasions.

My dinnerware today is much simpler: four glass plates and two glass bowls, pictured above. Sure, it may not be as elegant—but it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and causes me not a whit of worry. The last time I moved, I didn’t even bother to wrap it up. Should I break a piece, I can simply nip on down to my local Ikea and pick up another ($0.99 in US, £0.70 in UK). And should I someday decide that transporting it is a hassle, I can donate it to a charity shop (or give it away on Freecycle), and spend about $6 to replace it at my new destination.

What about entertaining? So far, it hasn’t been a problem. We rarely have more than two guests for dinner, and if multiple courses are involved, I wash the plates in between. The very few times I’ve been short on tableware—like when I hosted Thanksgiving dinner—I’ve simply borrowed from friends and family. No one ever seemed put out by my request, but rather happy to contribute to the occasion. (I think the pooling of resources can enhance the warmth of a gathering, much like a potluck dinner!)

Certainly, I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the right plate (or enough plates) to accommodate every possible culinary situation. But that’s okay by me: what I have fits my current lifestyle, and when it comes to dinnerware, I’m perfectly content to “live on the edge.” ;-)

And though my grandmother’s set was lovely, I personally like the simplicity and versatility of plain glass. It blends with a variety of décor, is appropriate for any occasion, and most importantly, calls attention not to itself, but to its contents. For in the end, it’s what’s on the plate that really matters anyway!

(This post is part of my “100 Possessions” series, in which I explain why each item I own deserves a place in my minimalist life.)

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

90 comments to 100 Possessions: Glass Plates and Bowls

  • I think most people normally end up with plates, serving dishes, jugs etc that they very rarely use – perhaps only once or twice a year.

    Nice to see you can live clutter free – imagine it saves on the washing up too!

  • jeannie

    I got rid of all my charming handmade plates and bowls and got a set of Corelle – nearly unbreakable, easily stackable, cute design (black stripes and little squares) around the edge – have never looked back.

  • Kathy Hatch

    I’m seeking a simpler life for my retiring husband and myself. As of August we’ll be empty nesters and relishing it.This site is a sight for sore eyes that are exhausted by consumerism. Thanks to you all for the inspiration.

  • It all looks very airy, I love it!!

  • RachelH

    Francine, I sure hope you appreciate your minimalist husband! It makes it a lot harder to live minimally when your significant other wants to keep all the plastic containers and random kitchen things that rarely get used. And thinks we need to buy more plates! Because as much as part of me would like to go behind his back and ditch what I don’t want, it is just as much his stuff as mine. So, the superfluous stuff stays until he has a change of heart.

  • Tina

    I got a set of 16 from my mother in law, and promptly gave away half. Next, I got a set for 12 from my mother, I can recall using only 4 times. My nephew wanted a service for 8 so I gave them to him. I have some Depression glass from my mother in law which I put away for my son because she always served him soup in it. There were lots of other sets passed on to me. I kept a tray, the salt and pepper, or the sugar and creamer. My mother in law served sit down dinners to as many as 54 people using various sets of china. My 2 settled kids have no interest in the china, but I am waiting to see what my younger son may want, or my niece. We use Corelle and have had it for years.

  • Tina

    I have been giving away china. Years go by and it isn’t used. When I have a big gathering, we use paper. I have plenty of stainless steel utensils. I am keeping a few serving pieces from each china set.

    • Dylan

      You can also pick up cheap dishes at an Out of the Closet or Goodwill or other local charity if you have a lot of guests. I have a minimal dish/glassware collection, and I did this over Xmas since I had more people than usual over for the holiday. It helps avoid the use of paper plates (which are both a front-end and a back-end enviro problem), and you can donate them back when you’re done with them. I thing I paid 50 cents a dish for dinner plates and 25 or 30c for salad sized plates.

  • Nancy

    I can so relate! I have a cherished set from my grandmother, which I used to use daily until we got a dishwasher in the new house (my husband insisted we needed on) so now cannot use them because of the gold wearing off in the dishwasher. We got a nice classic looking set of 12 Corelle dishes because we had students from the local college boarding with us. We only keep a lot of our things because of my 88 year old mother who lives with us. Once she no longer needs us, we won’t need the house or the dishes, or the keepsakes. Grandma’s dishes which are chipped and crackled, will go to Goodwill, and I will keep the serving dishes, which are truly unique. Back to a set of four Corelle! and on to a backpack lifestyle…yay!

  • […] are people who happily live with just four plates and two bowls in their kitchen cabinet. While I do not want to get that drastic, Miss Minimalist did inspire me […]

  • Tina

    We got Corelle for our wedding 45 years ago. We still have it. I was given more china recently and use the huge soup bowls under my plants. I am giving more china to Goodwill.

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