How it all got started…
When my oldest left for college she was incredibly homesick. In an effort to cheer her up I started mailing her happy mail, which is basically snail mail with a twist – either something in a funny package or doodles on the envelope or some other type of non-traditional piece of mail.
I was inspired by AmberLee Fawson, who used to have a blog. While the blog seems to have vanished into the interweb, some of her original ideas can still be found on Flicker or Pinterest. It turns out that anything weighing
thirteen ten ounces or less* can be sent through the U.S. Mail as a “package” which allows for some really fun mail!
Below is a selection of some of the happy mail I’ve sent over the last several years. I’ll update it periodically. You can also find lots more of my own and other people’s happy mail on Pinterest. Or check back here every so often. I’ll add new happy mail pieces at the top.
*There have been a lot of changes at the USPS over the last few years. Prices have gone up, delivery times have slowed down, and with the Pandemic it has seemed less safe to send silly things through the mail without a protective box around them. You are now required to bring directly to a post office anything that meets the following guidelines:
• is thicker than ½” and uses postage stamps
• weighs more than 10 ounces and uses postage stamps
• requires a customs declaration form and uses postage stamps
So the good news is you can still use the USPS stamps you have been hoarding, especially those forever stamps. The less-than-good news is you can’t pop packages or odd items in the mailbox at the end of your driveway or even in a blue USPS box around town. When you do show up in person at a post office get ready to wait as the clerk counts and recounts your stamps to make sure you have the correct amount affixed to the item you are mailing. It was pretty easy when the stamp value was 50¢, but until it hits $1.00 most people are going to need a calculator to add up the stamps you have affixed.
2020/2022 Covid-19 updates & changes to USPS policy
During the pandemic I dialed back sending my usual happy mail. When the pandemic started, and we really didn’t understand how it was passed along, if felt like there would be too many people touching and potentially breathing on items which weren’t in boxes.
The other reason I have pulled back from happy mail has been because much of the mail I have been sending these days is going to military people deployed oversees. A package can take weeks, if not months, to get where it is going. As much as a squeaky toy with a tag and stamps on it would probably bring some joy to postal workers along the way, I would also need to figure out how to add a customs form as well, which would complicate the mailing process. So instead I have been putting “themed” sets of stamps on my boxes. It is really fun to play around with my stamp collection and see what concepts I can come up with.
Themed Stamps on Boxes
The great (and grape) outdoors themed stamps.
Animals, real and imagined, for this package.
Flowers and blooms were the stamps for this box.
This package’s theme was out of this world, mostly the solar system.
Red, white and blue
Fish, sea creatures and bodies of water.
Birds of many feathers adorned this box.
This was a very loose TV and movie themed parcel. The penguins were for National Geographic, the chair, lamp and necklace for Antiques Roadshow, and the pear for the cooking channel.
The only gripe I have for these themed stamp boxes is with one unknown employee at the post office which handles my son’s mail. This person has a sharpie and wields it with abandon. Even though Dennis, the guy at our local Post Office, carefully hand cancels each stamp on my themed boxes. Whoever this person is at my son’s local Post Office should have their wedge-edged sharpie taken away from them!
The USPS really rocks – they even deliver them.
A favorite granola with a reminder not to skip breakfast.
Banana happy mail. Will it make it or won’t it?
It made it, but not in such great condition.
A favorite washi tape of birds on a wire.
Popcorn happy mail for pre-exam time.
An empty gelato container filled with some fun treats.
Altoids tin as it’s own very small mailing package.
Faux popsicle made from a foam pool noodle. Not sure if actually cooled anyone off during the dog days of summer.
Remember when you used to rip magazine pages out and fold them into impromptu envelopes? Here’s an eggscellent one made for my friend Amy.
Beef and turkey jerky for a quick snack of happy mail.
Lip balm happy mail for the person who never has enough.
Fish mail during Air Force field training. I probably should have done an Eagle instead of a fish.
Sea shells work well for the under 13 ounces criteria at the USPS.
Color block happy mail.
I was incredibly impressed that this bag of Earth Balance popcorn arrived intact. Well done USPS!
Room envelope. I should have drawn a small little table for the coffee pot and cup to sit on.
Watermelon happy mail made from a foam half sphere and a xerox of a cut watermelon.
Tree doodle happy mail.
Eat more tomatoes home-made envelope happy mail.
Trader Joe’s apple ring happy mail.
Blueberry happy mail.
Watercolored envelopes with doodles.