One of my goal areas for this year was to do a better job with keeping up with family correspondence. While I would love to spend time making homemade cards for each special occasion, I also realize the importance of “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” In other words, I probably wouldn’t be reaching my goal at this season of life if I followed my ideal picture of the perfect family correspondent.
Send My Mail for Me
Enter Cardstore.com to the rescue. I discovered them at the end of last year, and I used their company to send out my Christmas cards (as it turned out, they were running a huge discount at that time, with free postage and shipping). One of my favorite things about Cardstore.com is that they have the option of mailing out the cards for you, and occasionally run deals that may include heavy discounts, free postage, or even free cards. You can even import your address book from an Excel File or online contact list. You can choose a card design, upload your pictures, and often have the option of personalizing most of the text. It might not be handwritten, but it is personalized and it is “snail mail.” This was their main selling point to me.
And if you do want to sign it by hand, they also offer the option of mailing pre-stamped, pre-addressed cards to your home, as well as unstamped and unaddressed cards. I did this with some of our birthday cards, as it was less expensive to order in bulk during a sale and we can sign them before we send them out.
Free Card Today and Tomorrow
Around major holidays, they usually offer discounts, and usually have at least one “free card” giveaway around holidays. They are actually running one right now:
The first 50,000 people to enter code: CCE2326, will be able to send a free Easter card via Cardstore.com. This offer is running through Tuesday, March 27.
Having used Cardstore for several months, here are some things that have helped me:
- I keep my address and contact info here, and up to date. That way, I only need to enter them once. I entered several at Christmas time, and when I send out our Easter cards and our birth announcements later this year, I just have to click a few buttons and my cards are ready to send.
- I try to keep one pre-made photo card ready to send to a relative (like Great Grandmothers), and when a free code comes along, it only takes me a few minutes to put the card in my cart and enter the free code.
- I have 2 overseas addresses to which I send out cards. Sometimes, the free card offers do not cover postage for these. Sometimes they do. However, for the cost of a stamp, it’s nice to be able to send out a card to my relatives overseas. And, I’ve noticed sending them out from Cardstore somehow gets them there more quickly.
- Make sure you order in time for the holiday you’re anticipating.
- If there is a deal going on offering free postage (there is right now) and you have cards you can order ahead of time (and have sent to you), order at this time. Then just send them out when it’s time–you can have them pre-stamped and pre-addressed.
- I also usually check a site like Retail Me Not to see if there are coupon codes that can bring my order down to less. There is currently a code for 30%. You can only use one code per order, so if there is a free card offer, split your order into 2 orders: 1 for everything you want at 30% off and 1 for the 1 free card.
Keeping it Simple
Right now, I’m focusing mainly on making sure I get family members birthday cards and that I get out cards for major holidays. But it’s also been fun to send out extra cards here and there. And of course, my girls sometimes like to send out their drawings and cards, and sometimes we mail those via regular old envelope. Cardstore has definitely helped me with getting closer to keeping up with this goal.
Another “Mail It for You” Option
Since I’ve been using Instagram to keep up with some of my daily phone photos, I’ve also discovered Instapost, an app you can download for free to your iPhone. For 99 cents, you can choose an Instagram photo and they’ll mail it for you as a postcard. This is an okay deal, especially if you’re on vacation and can’t get to a post office. But this app comes in quite nicely for mailing postcards overseas. Overseas postage has now gone up to $1.05, so 99 cents to have a postcard mailed for you with postage is less expensive than the postage itself. (I’ve used this once, but it’s been within the last 2 weeks, and I’m not quite sure that my postcard has made it.)
Disclosure: I am now an affiliate of Cardstore.com, so clicking on that link will possibly earn me a few cents for each person who orders. However, I am very pleased with this company and joined because it is a product I love. I’m not an affiliate for Instapost, but think their product is pretty cool, too.
What Does It Mean to Simplify?
There is growing talk these days of living simply. This, I think, is a healthy reaction to our Western cultures of excess, affluence, and too much. Our excess is evident not just in our mountains of stuff, but also in our overbooked schedules, cluttered psyches, overwhelming options, and many other surprising parts of our lives.
Of course, like any reaction to any part of life in any era, we can let the pendulum swing in the opposite direction. We can even allow living simply to become its own sort of idol. Still, in the grand scheme of things, it seems the message most of us need to hear and apply is to pare down, to get rid of excess, and to focus on doing more with less. It’s also important to remember that simplification is a tool to aid us, not a law by which to crush others. It’s going to look different for everyone, and different for each individual during different seasons of life.
Simplifying does not mean living a life of choosing the easiest path. And it’s more than just keeping your sock drawer tidy. It’s eliminating the unnecessary, getting rid of distractions, and saying “no” to too much, too many, and too fast. It’s minimizing and maintaining. And of course, there’s the good ‘ole dictionary definition of simple.
While reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project earlier this year, I was somewhat surprised at one big way Gretchen set about working towards her goal of having more energy. One might correctly assume that getting more sleep and exercising would be part of this endeavor, but it may be surprising to learn that another of the big ways of improving her life in this area also involved cleaning out her closets (as well as other decluttering, organization, and simplification).
This affects us in many ways, but I think most people can attest to the energy they feel when they sit down to a clean workspace versus the drain it can feel like when sitting down to a desk covered in mountains of paper, piles, and paperclips.
Once you get started, particularly in a task like decluttering, you may be surprised by energy you feel as you set goals to continue. For instance, this month I’ve set a goal to get rid of at least one excess item a day. I’m afraid I’ve become a bit of an overachiever, and I’ve also been surprised at how excited I get when I’ve cleaned out a drawer and gotten rid of half of it’s former occupants. And then I want to do more.
The hardest part is just getting started. Once you do (and have a plan), the energy just might become the biggest motivator.
Related to energy is clarity. In fact, they’re really part of the same overarching concept. Getting rid of excess frees us to dwell on what is important. We have space to think, room to breathe, and can focus on making more of less.
Clarity allows us to devote more mental and physical energy to the things that really are important. I once read that in interior design, some professionals recommend leaving at least one wall space per room empty so that the eyes have a place to rest. Ever get a 2,000-word e-mail that was all one paragraph? Empty spaces allow us time to take it in.
We can often appreciate beauty more fully when we’re not overwhelmed by it. We can appreciate and invest in the important parts of our day when we have time to exercise careful thought and planning, rather than just haphazardly going from activity to activity.
Paradoxically, eliminating the multitude of choices actually allows us to make better choices, and usually helps us be more content with the choices we make.
Freedom from living simply can come in a lot of forms. It frees us to be able to have time — time for people and time for relationships.
It frees us to be flexible. In an over-scheduled life, an unexpected delay of spilling coffee on a shirt and having to change can feel like a personal nuclear meltdown; the schedule for the entire day is off, and the rest of the day is spent in a frenzied, harried race to catch up. And usually, if such a day includes any interactions with others, someone is hurt or overlooked.
Freedom from consumerism. As we pare down, the temptation to buy more or to add to the schedule fades into hesitation. While I’m decluttering my closets, drawers, and storage bins, the dreadful thought of bringing one more unnecessary item into the house makes me think long and hard about whether it is really necessary.
Inspiration Toward Simplicity
Since our excess is not merely evident in our material possessions, simplification is not something we only apply to “our stuff.” Still, it usually helps to begin there, because it is the most externally obvious place to start. Often just starting here will help develop a “keystone habit” of sorts as we work to simplify other areas of our lives.
If you’re inspired to simplify, consider taking action. Here are three suggestions for getting started.
1. Get rid of something extra. Today, find 3 things that are extra in your house. Throw them away, donate them, or sell them.
Go to your closet, and get rid of an outfit you haven’t worn in months. Get rid of a broken toy, or just that extra noisy one. Get rid of the pile of catalogs, or just one of them.
(Consider joining in on Johanna’s challenge of getting rid of one extra item per day for an entire month. March is almost over, but if doing this for a whole month seems overwhelming consider just joining in for the rest of this month. Or make your own challenge for April.)
2. Declutter. Clear off a surface: a countertop, a dresser, or a sink. Take things to where they belong and get rid of what doesn’t. Enjoy the beauty of an empty space.
3. Plan to simplify. Set aside 15 minutes without distraction (no e-mail, phone, etc…) and write out just 2 areas of life you’d like to simplify. Then write down one action step that will help you move toward that goal.
Some of My Inspiration toward Simplicity
Clearly, I’m still in the beginning stages of the clarity part and decluttering my mind. I’ve read a lot about simple living over the past several years and, in particular, months, and I’m afraid the “excess input” is still creating mental clutter in my head. Because as I was searching my friend Johanna’s blog, My Home Tableau, for her post challenging readers to do the get-rid-of-one-item-per-day challenge, I realized she’s already written some helpful insights on “Why Simplify?” Part 1 and Part 2. I recommend her blog for inspiration toward simplicity in the home.