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I’m pretty sure a lot of you know how much I love snail mailing by now. If you don’t then I REALLY LIKE SNAIL MAILING. There, now you know. Anywho, one of my pen pals and blogging friends, Laura, is doing a pen pal collab with me today! I’m so excited for it. We’re each doing a sort of Pen Pal 101 post, so together they make 202! We’ve been brainstorming a ton of ideas so after you read these posts you should be all set for writing some wonderful letters!
Shall we begin?
-KEEPING UP WITH REPLIES-
First of all, I’m gonna give you a few tips for keeping up with replies. Hopefully this will be helpful for me too, because I’m rather behind at the moment!
One of the best ways to do it is to just make yourself set aside time for writing letters, even if you don’t particularly feel like it. I usually feel the most like writing letters when I actually start doing it. In my experience, you’re more in the mood to reply to letters right after you read them so if you set aside even just 20 minutes to be able to write letters after you get the mail, it’ll help you get a head start on it.
Another way to get started is to start with the art. (Hey look, that even rhymes!) Of course, if you don’t usually do a lot of art, or don’t enjoy it, this might not be the best way for you. But if you’re excited to decorate the envelope and stationery, go ahead and start with that! It’ll get you in the mood for the actual writing of the letter.
Several people keep the letters in plain view so they’re always staring at you, waiting to be replied to. Keep them on a spot on your desk, or make a little holder for them on your bulletin board or pegboard.
-KEEPING TRACK OF SUPPLIES AND SUCH-
Sometimes I think writing letters might be the messiest hobby out there. Or at least it is if it’s combined with a messy person such as the one writing this post, heh. My desk and even my bedroom floor can quickly be taken over by letter writing supplies, but I think it really does help if you have a good way to store everything. At least that way the cleaning up process won’t be so bad. So! Here are a few tips that might be useful for you.
Letter storage: Most of the ideas I’ve heard relate to boxes, and that’s honestly a pretty great way to store them. Especially if you have heaps of them and you just want to pile them in something to keep them contained. I personally love keeping my letters in a big drawer so I have them handily stored in my actual desk. Another idea is to store them in a file folder or three-ring binder. You may need several of them depending on how many pen pals you have and how many letters you get. I think it would be neat to be able to flip through your letters in a binder, but then you’d probably have to punch holes in the envelope so I’m not sure how that would work.
Information: I have a few of my pen pal’s addresses memorized, but definitely not all of them. So of course I need an address book! But I like to make a pen pal notebook and put not only addresses in it, but also keep track of incoming and outgoing letters, my pen pals’ favorite colors, and also their birthdays. It’s nice to be able to flip to a “pen pal profile” if I need to look up their address or when their next birthday is.
Supplies: And then of course we have all the supplies! There’s always the obvious, like little cans or jars for writing supplies. I really like having a file folder with different sections for stuff like stickers, stationery, and already decorated envelopes. Another idea that someone gave me was to put stickers in clear page protectors in a binder. That would be great for flipping through to find certain ones. Plastic drawer organizers would also work great. Maybe get a little one for on top of a desk so you can put small supplies in it? I also have a simple box for goodies that’s on top of my desk so I can quickly sort through it and find things I want to include in letters.
If you want to see how I organize all of my supplies, you can check out my room + desk tour post. (The photos above came from that.)
If you want to have a portable “desk” for letter writing on the go, check out my pen-pal binder tutorial.
-GOODIES TO SEND WITH LETTERS-
The wonderful thing about letters is that you can put so many things in an envelope for just fifty-five cents. But then again, you can’t send everything. A few helpful tips for those of you in the US when mailing letters:
- A letter over 1/4″ thick requires additional postage.
- A letter over 1 oz. requires additional postage. (You can get extra ounce stamps for just fifteen cents each.)
- A letter that is rigid and non-bendable requires additional postage.
So keep that in mind when including goodies, otherwise your pen pal might have to pay to get the letter. (I have been guilty of this, unfortunately. Sorry pen pals!)
Anyway, onto the goodies! I’ve collected a huge list of fun things to put in an envelope, and hopefully you’ll find some new ideas in here!
- cross stitch
- twine or ribbon
- business cards
- wall decals
- vintage stamps
- newspaper or magazine article
- prints of your photography
- tea bags
- enamel or button pins
- little pieces of your art
- pressed or dried flowers and leaves (note: at least in the US, you can’t send these internationally.)
- book or movie suggestion list
- temporary tattoos
- paint samples
- flattened origami
- face masks (they’ll most likely require additional postage, just a heads up)
- sheet music for whatever instrument they play
- interesting coins
- word searches / activity sheets
- stickers (maybe make a little sticker pack for them to go in!)
- scrapbook paper
- sticky note pad
- nail files
- drink mixes (i.e. hot cocoa in winter and kool aid in summer)
- pressed souvenir pennies
- small or empty gift cards
- iron on patches
- seed packets (note: at least in the US, you can’t send these internationally.)
- bucket list
- confetti/glitter (for the sake of your pen pal not being glitter bombed, you may want to put this in a bag. ;))
- mini bunting/banner
- ticket stubs
- friendship bracelets (and if you don’t want to make them yourself, check out this page for info on buying them from me to support The Smile Project!)
- instant grits (what? I’ve been sent some before, hehe)
- flat candies (like air heads, candy dots)
- handlettered quotes and Bible verses
- clipart cut-outs and die cuts
- a color swatch of some new art supplies
- washi tape samples
I made it to fifty! Although really, does anyone appreciate getting band-aids? It’s a bit of an odd thing… although odd things are interesting to get in letters. But now you should be well supplied with many ideas of what to include with letters.
-THINGS TO DO WITH PEN PALS-
You can’t exactly go out for coffee with a pen pal, but you can do other fun stuff! Here are a few ideas of things to do through writing letters.
- Do challenges: Give your pen pal a few challenges to do, like “put a thank-you card in the mailbox for the mail person” or “go outside and sketch three wildflowers”. Then they can complete them and send some back to you.
- Color a coloring page: This is a fun one! Just find a coloring book, tear one of the pages out, put it in the envelope, and take turns with a pen pal coloring it in a bit at a time.
- Draw a collective drawing: Another fun one, and sort of similar to the coloring page. Start with a basic scene and add in details each time you send it to your pen pal!
- Play tic-tac-toe: I have to admit, this never works terribly well because you have so long to think on your next move. But it’s still a fun thing to do! Just make a little tic-tac-toe grid and add an x or an o each time you send it back.
- Exchange music suggestions and share your thoughts on them: This is such a fun thing to do! Suggest a few songs and then when your pen pal gives you suggestions, listen to them and tell them your thoughts about them. It’s like a song club instead of a book club! Which brings me to:
- Have a letter book club: Decide on a book with your pen pal, and when you both have read it, discuss it in your letters! Or send post cards with your thoughts on it, and discuss it further in your letters. I have yet to do this but I’m going to start with one of my pen pals here soon, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.
- Do a book swap: Continuing with the bookish theme, if you and your pen pal both love reading you could try doing a book swap every month or so! You can each make a list of some books you enjoy + think the other person would enjoy, and then get the books from a secondhand place like ThriftBooks. That way you both get to read each other’s suggestions without spending a ton on books!
- Send postcards from interesting places you visit: You could do this by either putting them in your letter or actually sending them as postcards. I love getting postcards from places my friends and pen pals have visited! And I love sending them. Who doesn’t like an excuse to write more letters?
- Exchange recipes and then rate them when you are done: I think this would be such a fun thing to do! Anybody wanna do this with me for main dishes? Maybe that way making supper would be a little more fun. 🙂 If you and your pen pal love baking this would be such a fun thing to do! Maybe you’ll find a new favorite recipe.
- Put secret messages in your letters or on your envelopes: This is another fun one! One of my pen pals and I always write messages on the front of our envelopes using elemental symbols and it’s quite fun.
- Memorize a Bible verse/passage together: I love this idea! I actually have tried it once, but it didn’t work overly well since we wrote super long letters and it took a while to write them. But you could make little verse cards and include them with each letter, so you could memorize a verse or two at a time.
- Write a short story or poem together: This is a fun idea for all you writers out there! I imagine it could turn into a very twisty tale. 🙂
- Do a quote or verse swap: If you love lettering this is a fun way to do it often! Track down your favorite quotes and Bible verses and swap a couple each time you send a letter. My sister does this with one of her pen pals and puts several of the ones she receives up on a light strand in her studio. It’s so pretty!
- Swap your favorite tea: This is the perfect thing to do this time of year! Especially if you love to find different kinds of tea. Or you could do it with hot chocolate, but then again there aren’t as many kinds as there are of tea. Hmm.
-ENVELOPE ART CREATIVITY BOOSTS-
You can’t forget this! Envelope art is such a fun part of snail mail. It’s way more fun to find a yellow flowered envelope in the mailbox than just a bunch of No. 10 white envelopes.
I’m not necessarily going to pile a bunch of envelope art photos on you today. Instead, I’m hoping to give you ways to get the art creativity flowing by giving you ideas of different styles and ways to find inspiration.
1. Browse Pinterest. Perhaps one of the more dangerous methods, but Pinterest really does have some excellent inspiration despite how awfully distracting it is. I actually have a good bit accumulated on my snail mail Pinterest account HERE.
2. Draw your pen pal’s favorite things. This is a simple but excellent way to find inspiration! Does your pen pal love bears? Draw some little bears all over the envelope. Is their favorite color blue? Make it a blue envelope!
3. Get inspiration from your letter. A lot of times I’ll draw envelope art inspired by what I discussed in my letter. For instance, if I discussed my extreme dislike for chemistry, I might draw little chemistry beakers on the front. This can give you some pretty random ideas, but it works in a pinch!
4. Random squiggles! Recently I was completely baffled as to what to draw on an envelope, so I drew a random squiggle and found it looked sort of like a mushroom, so I turned it into a mushroom. So if you’re in even more than a pinch, that might work!
5. Song lyrics. This is a fun one to do. Write the lyrics to a song you and/or your pen pal like over the whole front of the letter. Add in the address or some extra art and you’re good to go!
6. Full-envelope lettering. Lettering is so fun and sometimes I just like to do plain ol’ lettering rather than art. But it doesn’t have to be “plain ol'” at all! Find different styles of lettering and combine it to make a different kind of art. You don’t just have to do their name either, you can use the address to fill the whole thing!
7. Washi tape. This is a simple way to do envelope art when you feel uninspired, or unartistic in the paint/pen/pencil way. Make different patterns with different colors of different sizes of washi tape! It’s so fun to do.
Those are a few ideas that I use, but of course there are way more. I’d love to hear what you like to do for inspiration! If you do want to have envelope art photos piled on you, check out my latest envelope art post, and this post on envelope art using decorative paper. (Other envelope art posts since this was first posted: HERE, and HERE.)
I know, I know, this is getting hugely long. But I still have a little more to say! I wanted to share a few of my favorite supplies for snail mailing. Also, several of these links are affiliate links, so I’ll receive a small percentage of the profit if you order something through the link. 🙂
-Envelopes: Since I usually decorate my envelopes a lot, I typically just get plain white or kraft paper envelopes. The white ones I just get from Walmart, in their a7 or a2 size, and the kraft ones I get from Amazon HERE. If I do use colored ones, I use the ones from Hobby Lobby.
-Stationery: If I don’t have much on hand, I’ll just use some basic notebook paper. But the nice thing about running a snail mail Etsy shop is getting to use the “seconds”! So I will often use stationery that has little marks or wrinkles on it. If I want to completely make my own stationery and get really artsy with it (i.e. doodles or stickers or washi tape) I like using 28 lb. paper so it’s a little thicker than normal copy paper.
-Art: This is a pretty broad category, I know. But my favorite art supplies are Winsor & Newton watercolors, micron pens (a must-have if you use watercolor), watercolor pencils, and sharpies, and Tombow dual brush pens!
-Writing: Pretty much the only type of writing utensil I consistently use are G-2 gel pens! We got some in a bunch of different colors and they’re really nice to use. (See HERE.) I also got a pack from AliExpress.com with lots of different colors for when I make color themed letters. 🙂
-Wax Seals: I have a couple different kinds, but one nice set I have is right HERE and comes in so many different colors in a nice organized box.
-Washi Tape & Stickers: Again, no particular brand for these. But I’ve found that an excellent place to get them is aliexpress.com! They have great prices, but the shipping usually takes about a month so be sure to plan ahead. If you want to go with Amazon, this set has a huge selection for a pretty good price.
Those are the main supplies I use. What do you like using?
If you want to see an extensive list of different supplies I use in my snail mailing, check out my Amazon list right here.
That’s all I have for this 101 post! To find the other 101 post, which makes 202, click right HERE to read Laura’s tips on question ideas, ways to get pen pals, and more!
Also, I didn’t single-mindedly come up with all of those ideas, I had help from Laura. And a few other random snail mailers who gave me ideas! So thanks y’all. 😀
Alrighty, have a wonderful day and GO WRITE SOME LETTERS.
how many letters do you think you’ve written in your life?
what’s your opinion on grits?
Psst, wanna save this post for future reference? Pin the photo below!