Happy Mail How-To

08.15.12

send off some school supplies in a bottle, get the full details here

Hello everyone! How has your summer been? I hope it has been exciting and slow and wonderful all at once.

I have been meaning to get back to blogging for some time, I have missed everyone! I thought maybe the beginning of a fresh school year would be just the time. I snapped a few pics last week of some new happy mail we sent, so I will put those together and share here tomorrow.

But before I share something new, I’ve had several questions (and several reactions!) about the things I’ve mailed, and I thought it might help to go over a few basics of sending happy mail that I’ve learned along the way.

So here we go, a few happy mail tips for anyone wanting to try:

1. Write the mailing address and return address on the same surface. My friends at the post office taught me this one. It’s best to avoid any chance of confusion over who is sending and who is receiving.
2. Mail that weighs 13 ounces or less qualifies for USPS’s wonderful, inexpensive first-class shipping rates. The things I have mailed are, of course, considered first class parcels, not envelopes. You can download the parcel rates here on the USPS shipping sight, but I’ll include the current rates as of 3.15.13 here

Weight Not Over (ounces)
1 2.07
2 2.07
3 2.07
4 2.24
5 2.41
6 2.58
7 2.75
8 2.92
9 3.09
10 3.26
11 3.43
12 3.6
13 3.77

3. You can take your mail to the post office desk to be metered or add stamps yourself and drop it in a mailbox. Both are fun. Stamps are pretty! And it is fun just sticking stamps on a package and dropping it in the big blue mailbox to send it on its journey. But I always enjoy going to the counter and seeing my postal workers either grin or subdue a grin, depending on who is helping me behind the counter.
4. You can mail something without a box!? Yes. So far, I have never had a package returned, and never been turned down at the post office desk. I have, however, heard from readers who have happily walked into the post office with a frisbee to mail, and had the central post office managers of the whole country, I imagine, phoned on their behalf, and then been turned down. But the majority of my friends and readers have had no problems. You can always send something in a box, but there’s something about catching a person off guard. It’s kinda fun.
5. And now, the controversy! I have had some post office workers comment on how it makes their day to see a fun piece of mail come through, that they spend the day chuckling to themselves, and a couple tell me what a pain I am for workers who have to hand meter the mail. I have had one reader suggest that I might be single handedly taking down the struggling USPS post office (and another comment that happy mail might help save it!) To tell you the truth, I have thought quite a bit about this, as an ardent fan of the USPS and a sucker for a hand-written letter. I often have readers make me well up on the spot or laugh outloud telling me about eggs and frisbees and ribbon wands they’ve sent to a husband serving in the armed forces abroad or little kiddos who need an extra dose of support and love. I’ve also sent a few of that type of package myself. So far, I am thinking that happy mail is worth the effort, and am hoping that if the USPS should find that sending bouncey balls and flip flops and other items that need to be hand metered is costing more than is covered in their parcel rates, they inch up their rates a bit, I will pay.

MORE happy MAIL:: more fun mail inspiration from the archives:

(or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here)

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Smee August 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

I absolutely adore mailing fun stuff to my kids and grandkids, and well, last week to my sister! The little post office where I go laughs and seems to enjoy it when I bring in my oddities (posed for photos from not only me, but others standing in line with phones) and the reaction from the recipients has always been fun, positive, and surprise -even though they know I send stuff often. Last week it was pool noodles (back to school – time to use your noodle!) and for the ones without pools a couple of bottle of coloured bubbles, and a blow up dolphin! I’ve sent whole pineapples, beach balls, flip flops, water bottles filled with “summer kits” of stickers, kool-aid, band-aides, etc., and a myriad of other items.
I vote for continuance of the snail mail surprise packages!

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AmberLee August 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I love that you are posing for photos at your post office, Smee. That could not be more awesome!

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Katie August 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I am definitely a fan.

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Katie August 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

P.S. I’m so glad you’re back!

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Lisa K August 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I am fortunate to have a small post office close to my home. The postal workers always get excited when I bring in two of my surprises for my twin nieces. I have never had anyone suggest that the items are not suitable for mailing. For the money I have spent mailing these items I’m helping the USPS not hurting them. It’s fun for me to send these, fun for the postal workers at my post office, and my nieces love the surprises. I will continue to send the fun things until I am met with some reasonable argument from the USPS not to. Thanks for all the marvelous ideas!

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AmberLee August 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Lisa,
I love the idea of you walking in with double surprises! too cool. What lucky nieces you have : )

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Erin's Creative Energy August 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I am so glad you are back. I just bought some new “post cards” where you can slide in your own photo. I have a couple ready to go out in the mail tomorrow!

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AmberLee August 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Erin, what a cool idea of a postcard! So much fun to send or receive!!

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Heather August 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I love your blog and am a fan of mailing fun items. I guess my postal workers are better sports than others. I would suggest you mention to naysayers that you are in fact PAYING for postage instead of sending a FREE email or going FedEx… sounds more like job security..
Also, as the owner of a busy mail order business, we use USPS often but if they really want to compete, then the mail carriers should get off their duffs and actually scan in packages so they can be tracked. Even some of our own carriers admit they lack in that part of business.. give the people what they want!!
Keep up the fun sending and welcome back to the blog :)

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Jen August 16, 2012 at 5:23 am

I’ve stumbled across your site awhile ago – no idea now – but am in LOVE with your fun ideas. The little ones in my life are toddlers and I can not wait for them to get a little bit older and they can receive these fun packages. Packages are such an expected gift. A great way to surprise someone and remind them that you are thinking of them. Thank you so much for your blog and your ideas.

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April August 21, 2012 at 10:15 am

Hi, I was wondering how the rates would be if you are shipping overseas?

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AmberLee August 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

Hi April,
Thanks for the note! Rates for oversees vary from each country. You’d probably be best off to stop by the post office and ask for rates for the specific place you are mailing by weight. You may not be able to get all unusually-shaped packages through, though I’ve had a lot of readers who have had success!

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Angi August 23, 2012 at 7:35 am

Such great ideas! I will have to try my post office out. I know the news station did a segment at Halloween last year of a lady who mails pumpkins (the small ones you can buy for a $1.00 each) to her children every year—she writes the address with a sharpie and sticks stamps on it. The employees love to see her coming!

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Sam Q August 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi AmberLee,
I was wondering if you’ve ever tried using “Forever” stamps. I work at a Boutique and one day I had to mail a very small item so I put it in a small box and put a forever stamp on it. I guess it worked because they took it. I’m not sure if it will work on heavy things or things bigger than 3″x3″. I just thought that info maybe useful if you’ve never tried it. Thanks!
Sam Q

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AmberLee August 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

Hi Sam,
Thanks for the note!! I’ve actually used the “forever stamps,” but when I did, I just calculated them as the current price of a first class letter postage, and added more as needed. But if it worked for you on a box, great!

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Stephanie August 29, 2012 at 4:55 am

These are great ideas! Do you tape the lid of the waterbottle before you mail it? Thanks for sharing!

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AmberLee August 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Thank you, Stephanie!! When I mailed the water bottle, I didn’t tape the lid, I just made sure it was snug. Hope that helps!

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AmberLee August 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm

One new note! A reader pointed me to this part of the USPS’s web site, which has unusual packages on it and how to measure for them (http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm100/tips-measure-packages.htm). I have been told after mailing one of my packages that the post office asks for a minimum size of 3 x 5 I believe it was, for non-commercial parels, but I haven’t been able to find that on their website (I’ve only been able to find minimum sizes for letters and maximum sizes for packages on the USPS’s website.)

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K.R. August 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Took a bottle to the post office today. They were so nice and offered me packaging tape to help seal it up. Also one postal worker said he sends bottles to his grandkids for Halloween with spiders, etc. in.

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Gia October 5, 2012 at 1:46 am

I love these happy mail ideas! I’ve been sending out letters and a few gifts overseas but I’ve never thought of sending them as they are. What a wonderful treat to receive! Thanks for the inspiration.:)

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roj October 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hi AmberLee,

I came upon your blog by looking up Macaron which my daughter loves.
Now let’s see if she’s in love much enough to start making them herself.
Thank you so much for sharing so much inspiring ideas and results thereafter.
Please keep up this good karma.
Whenever you visit Bangkok, Thailand, I’d love to meet with and learn from you.

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Erin Wanke October 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm

So, I know this is a long post, but I figured you would appreciate the fact that you inspired the objects I sent through the mail. My long distance boyfriend challenged me to send him a token of my love in a creative manner, so I chose to write him a poem in a nontraditional way. Just so you can get a better idea of what I did, I sent him an unusual object in the mail each week containing part of the poem. It was more exciting that way =)

The Challenge

You gave me the rules,
and I flipped and I flopped,
between so many options,
I just couldn’t stop! (written on a flip flop)

So many choices,
so hard to choose,
I had to get the ball rolling,
there was too much to lose. (written on a small ball)

I considered each could-be,
weighed the pros and the cons,
threw out the suckers,
and on me it dawned. (written on a box of milk duds)

Every girl wants,
to be treated like treasure,
but finding that someone,
can be a tough measure. (written on measuring cups)

Some guys love football,
some guys love cars,
but deep down inside,
guys have wants just like ours. (written on paper rolled around a hotwheel car) *similar to chapstick idea*

Every guy wants,
a girl who is sexy and wild,
fun in the bedroom,
and never too mild. (written on small jar of hot sauce)

But a guy also wants,
more than just a fun time,
a girl to take home to mom,
a girl who’s sublime. (I combined two of the stanzas and wrote each line on photos of me being sublime *ie surfing* , cooking *ie making a cherpumple pie cake*, looking smart *ie standing next to my spelling bee trophies*, and being loving *ie volunteering at special olympics*)

A girl who knows how to cook,
but who also is smart,
a girl who is loving,
and has a big heart.

I should like to keep thinking,
that girl could be me;
I know I have problems,
but if you look past them you’ll see: (once again I combined two stanzas and wrote them on the back of a foam number one sign)

I may not have the most money,
and I cannot buy you a ton,
but I have what it takes,
to be number one.

I don’t have lots to offer,
but my love is a start,
you asked for a token,
so here is my heart! (written on a small treasure chest, labeled handle with care, containing small rhinestones and a handmade origami heart)

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Kristyn Taylor October 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm

The minute I saw this idea on your website, I had to try it. I sent out my first attempt at this in the form of Happy Halloween gifts with candy for some family members. I’m not the most crafty person but they still looked good and I’ve already gotten great feedback from people who received theirs. We also sent one to my brother overseas to an APO. I had to put a customs slip on it but was able to pay first class prices and seem to have no problem, except that it takes longer to get there. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Karla November 26, 2012 at 3:59 am

I haven’t tried any yet but I’m anxious to! I once read somewhere that you can make pancakes. Let them cool. Cover in Elmer’s glue. Let dry. Then you can write on/mail. I may try this one first (to feel out my postal workers) as it is most convenient/cost effective for a practice run. I’ll let you know. Thanks for the other ideas too!

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AmberLee November 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Karia,
Holy cow, how fun would it be to get a pancake in the mail? I love it. what a crack up. I’d love to hear if it works for you.

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Misty Davis December 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I am very frustrated with the united states postal service for many different reasons. I want to mail things from my house without putting it in a box -like you do. But, I am new at this and don’t know where to start. I bought a scale to see how much it weights. I know it has to be less than 13 ounces, but how many stamps do I put on it? Do I use regular stamps or something I purchase from their website and print? I tried to find this information on their website (or from the link above) but have no luck. HAPPY MAILING and THANKS

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AmberLee December 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Hi Misty,
You should be able to use regular stamps OR postage printed from the USPS web site. If you are using forever stamps, just count each one as $.45 (or the current price to mail a simple first-class letter). You will need a precise scale if you don’t want to add too much postage, or you could just be safe and go for the cost to mail a 13-oz package. When you add up your postage, make sure you are using the prices for the first class parcels or packages, not letters.
A scarf is such a fun idea. GOod luck! I’d love to hear how it turns out!

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john December 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm

AmberLee,

I have a pair of kid’s skis my boys have out grown that i want to send to our niece. they weigh about 7 pounds. do you think i could send them taped together and labled without a box? i’ve not been able to get a straight answer from anyone and i thought you might know.

thanks,
john

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AmberLee December 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Hi John,
So sorry to have missed your comment earlier. There ARE pics on the USPS website of a guitar-shaped package and a tire being mailed. So I’m pretty sure you are good to go! If I’m not way way too late.

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Elena kinnear December 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Hi! I love all your cute ideas. Thanks for sharing. I am making some of them now and using my mother in laws new stickers to top off my packages! Happy sending! Yay Happy Mail!

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Kali Cascarano February 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

What about a box of conversation hearts???

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pam February 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

i work for the post office, and for those employees that won’t let you mail any “happy mail” just don’t want to do their job….but anyways…. i have also seen coconuts mailed. …. usually from Hawaii… lots of items birthday invites ect….. mailed in small plastic bottles.

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AmberLee February 26, 2013 at 9:52 pm

thanks for this, pam!! makes me feel much better : )

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