The Postcard Project

by Tammy Strobel on August 15, 2011

As I stood in the Northwest Travel Mart, a wave a travelers rushed by. It looked liked the group was late for their flight. Their carry on luggage weaved behind them and one of the bags, a red bag with shaggy trim, was so torn up it looked like the wheels might fall off. I happened to be browsing through the postcard rack when this motley crew of travelers hurried by. The woman who was wheeling the torn up bag missed a step and crashed into the rack. I jumped back as all the postcards fell to the ground.

She moved back quickly and took off. As she was running toward the gate she turned around and said, “I’m so sorry! I don’t want to miss my flight.”

I shrugged my shoulders and helped the cashier pick up all the postcards. As I put them on the counter I leafed through the pile and decided to buy a few. They were only $.25 cents each and I figured I could start a postcard project while I was traveling.

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Recently, I’ve been struggling with a case of homesickness. I love Portland, but I miss my Mom, Dad, and California buddies. Logan has been listening to me whine about this for months.

Rather than continuing to make such a fuss, I decided to make time to visit my friends and family. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity, time and money to make this trip. It still blows my mind that my job allows me this kind of flexibility.

The only downside of the trip is I won’t get to see everyone I love. So I decided to challenge myself and do something fun. For the next 30 days, I’m going to send one postcard a day to a family member or friend and tell them a little bit about my trip and how much I appreciate them. As Todd Kashdan says in Curious?, “Our relationships need to be regularly checked on and fed if we want them to grow.”

If you’re interested in doing something similar, you only need a few tools to get started:

1. Thirty postcards. Postcards run between $.25 and $.50 a pop. That’s only $15.00 on the high end.

2. A good pen. I recommend Pigma Micron pens. I started using these after I read Dan Price’s book How to Make a Journal of Your Life. One Pigma Micron pen runs about $2.80 and a pack of pens is roughly $18.00.

3. Finally, you’ll need stamps. You can pick up 30 postcard stamps for roughly $11.50.

So, this little project will cost just over $20 for the whole month! Talk about an inexpensive way to brighten someone’s day! In a world where email is ubiquitous, sending small notes to your friends and family is one way to add a little magic and depth to your relationships.

How do you infuse magic into your relationships? 

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If you’re interested in joining Google+ I have 150 free invites to give away. Click here to sign up. The link should work, if it doesn’t let me know.

1 Karol Gajda August 15, 2011

This is a fun idea Tammy! I attempt to send my Parents a postcard any time I’m in a unique place. For a while I sent them a postcard from every city I visited, but I stopped doing that for some reason. I’m gonna send them a postcard from Asheville today. :)

2 Tammy August 15, 2011

Thanks Karol! :) I got into the habit of writing letters earlier this year and then I stopped. I’m excited to start sending out notes again.

3 Kathy Sprinkle August 15, 2011

I LOVE this idea! I recently wrote a post about the lost art of writing letters however a postcard is something anyone can do even if they are busy!!

I also enjoy that line “How do you infuse magic in your relationships?” Sounds like a great title for a post on romance!

4 Tammy August 15, 2011

Thanks Kathy! I’ll have to use that title in an upcoming post. :)

5 Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate August 15, 2011

There’s something very grounding about putting actual pen to paper. I have been enjoying my 52 Weeks, 52 Letters project this year. But of course, you already knew this. ;-)

Katy

6 Tammy August 15, 2011

@Katy – Heck yeah! I love that project. I’m still writing occasional letters, but I’m super excited about sending postcards. :)

7 Amanda August 15, 2011

Going to send out a postcard to my grandparents today! Thank you for the reminder! (My 85 yr old grandfather loves to travel and is very adventurous but my 84 yr old grandmother now has Alzheimer’s so their activities are greatly limited. Receiving a postcard from me, especially of a place they haven’t visited, will mean a lot to them.)

I love this idea. It’s such a treat to get actual (non-bill, non-junk) mail.

8 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Amanda – Awesome! It’s a bummer that they can’t travel much anymore. But I understand why. My Dad is getting older and his health isn’t very good. He’s getting more and more forgetful and my mom’s had to take over a lot of the little things, like balancing the checkbook, doing more driving, etc. It’s so important to do special things for family members who are having health problems and for their caregivers too. :)

9 Briannaavenia August 15, 2011

Yay for postcards! When I was living abroad, a good friend of mine launched a postcard campaign. She sent me the weirdest cards she could find, one a week, for a year. It was sooo much fun!
I like to see what kind of interesting and unexpected items can be reused as a letter or postcard. (Like writing on the back of a photo or cutting out a funny image from a cereal box.)

My other favorite magic-infusion-technique is to make something yummy and leave it in a friend’s mailbox as a surprise when they get home from work- like a bundle of chocolate chip cookies, or a tupperware of homemade strawberry shortcake.

10 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Briannaavenia – Lovely ideas! I’m might have to incorporate a few of these into my postcard project. Thanks for sharing. And I have to say, I love your “magic infusion technique” of leaving yummy treats in the mailbox. They sound scrumptious.

11 Holly August 15, 2011

Great idea about the postcards! Thanks, too for the Google+ invite — I snagged one and signed up. I’m not sure I’m ready for another social media site, but I’ll look it over.

12 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Holly – Sweet! So far I’m digging Google+. I love the circle feature. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been suffering from social network overload too. I just scaled back. I’m no longer using my personal facebook account, just my fanpage for the blog. Taking this tiny step has been really helpful. I feel less overwhelmed and more excited about interacting with folks on that site.

13 Byronious August 15, 2011

Tammy, I’m glad your back from your sabbatical – I missed your inspirational writing each week.

14 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Byronious – Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate it. :) I’m glad to be back! I missed all of you!

15 James August 15, 2011

Tammy,

Sweet, heartfelt, and simple idea. I like it, and I have always admired postcards. Their one fallback is a lack of privacy, but then you don’t feel obligated (on some level) to keep a paper envelope that has an address on it!

Warmly,

James

16 Tammy August 16, 2011

@James – Thanks! I try and gear my postcard writing toward tiny little stories and thank you’s. If I want to write something super personal, I feel like a long letter is more appropriate.

17 Sandra Pawula /Always Well Within August 15, 2011

What a simple and beautiful idea! I already have a small stack of paradise postcards sitting in a draw.

18 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Sandra – Thank you! I’m glad this little post inspired you to use some of those cards. :) Have fun!

19 Victoria August 15, 2011

I love this idea. I haven’t done it for an entire month, but I love sending people hand-written cards just to show I’m thinking about them. In our house, whenever someone leaves, as they drive away, we use a special hand gesture that means “I love you.” Nobody else knows what it means or what we’re doing, but we know. It always warms my heart to send someone (or have them send me) away with this simple gesture and reminder of family love.

20 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Victoria – Awww how cute! My family doesn’t have a fun wave like that but we have a few inside jokes that always make us giggle. Thanks for stopping by and sharing! :)

21 DJ August 15, 2011

I’ve been doing this for a few months now. One card to one friend every Sunday morning. No one writes back, of course, but I have heard from them via email or phone, saying how special it was to get something via snail mail.

22 Tammy August 16, 2011

@DJ – I haven’t gotten many cards back either. But I have gotten a few thank you phone calls and that always brightens my day. :) Thanks for sharing!

23 Pat Chiappa August 15, 2011

I did something similar with postcards with two differences; 1) I do small collages on them (I can use any ‘ol postcard which you can pick up free just about anywhere) and 2) I send mine to strangers (and friends of course) You can read a post I wrote about it at http://www.planyourbestyear.com/2011/06/whats-fun-free-and-wears-a-stamp/

I also just tweeted this about a postcard my friend made for me…
sweet-tweet A friend made a card with dried flowers from a bouquet I gave her-she wrote “Like chopping wood, giving flowers warms twice.”

Isn’t that lovely?

24 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Pat – Lovely indeed! I like the idea of doing a collage or a sketch on the back of a postcard. When I get back to Portland, I’m taking my first art class and I’m super excited. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. Maybe I’ll transfer those skills to my postcards? It would be fun to include tiny sketches on the back.

I’ll take a peek at your post later today!

25 Donna August 15, 2011

I think it’s a shame that there are NO postcards in my hometown of carousel horses or the renovation of an old opera house. Plenty of ‘generic’ postcards representing my state, sold at Walgreen’s, but nothing timely or local. I enjoy writing letters to older relatives from time to time, but you sure don’t hear ANYTHING back from anyone. Maybe I just have a deadbeat family??

26 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Donna – Well, if it helps I rarely get responses to my letters. My mom was just telling me last night that she used to write letters all the time. She feels like letter writing is a lost art and I agree. It can be a whole lot easier to send an email or make a phone call, instead of sitting down and writing.

Take a look at Pat’s post. It’s really fun. :) Maybe you can start writing to strangers? They might be inclined to write back. http://www.planyourbestyear.com/2011/06/whats-fun-free-and-wears-a-stamp/

27 Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear August 15, 2011

Tammy, I’ve enjoyed your recent story-posts; it’s great that you’re sharing your life + developing your writing voice. Postcards, ahoy! ;)

28 Tammy August 16, 2011

Thanks Caroline! It’s been fun writing story-based posts. I’m glad you like them! Hope you’re well. :)

29 Amber August 15, 2011

Thanks for the invite!! Been waiting for an opportunity! :) Sooo Excited to check it out.

30 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Amber – YAY! Have fun exploring Google+. :)

31 Joe3 August 15, 2011

Your postcard idea is great, I usually send them to myself while on vacation, started 20 years ago while doing a 7 day bike trip, one each day from each town we visited, and or any special places along the bike route, as well as sending the usual postcards to family and friends.
On a more parallel path to your postcard idea, as I’ve been downsizing over the last year, I found some sticky photo backing paper that makes postcards out of old photos. As I come across the photos of family and friends, I’ve turned them into “postcards”, have attached postcard stamps, and mailed them.

32 Tammy August 16, 2011

@Joe3 – Thank you! Are you still biking? The trip sounds like it was fantastic.

Great downsizing find. A photo + a postcard is an even better surprise! :) I would love to get something like that in the mail. Have a lovely week!

33 Jennifer August 16, 2011

Love this idea! Getting anything handwritten in the post automatically cheers up my day. Also, I’ve been wanting to draw more, so this is the perfect opportunity to get out there and draw something in my world, cut it into postcard shape, and mail it. :-) Any thicker card stock or watercolor paper should survive the USPS.

34 Whitney August 16, 2011

I did something similar to this for Lent this year. I sent thank you notes to all the people I cherished in this world and to people who made my day a little better.

35 Tess The Bold Life August 18, 2011

Hi Tammy,
I’ve always loved taking photographs and I received a new camera for our anniversary from hubs. I’m draw to flowers. Growing up on a farm we raised flowers with our produce. I think I was a bee in another life! Then I had 2 acres of flowers when the girls were little and we sold them at the Farmers Market. Now I take photos of flowers everywhere. It’s my sisters birthday tomorrow. I’m making note cards for her with photos of my mom’s favorite flowers. She died last Dec. I make note cards with photos and always have. With my new camera they just look better than ever.
I got kind of lengthy here and I’m going to post this on my blog with a few more words and photos if you don’t mind! Have a fantastic trip!

36 Tammy August 18, 2011

Tess – I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I think your idea is great. You should blog about it. :)

Your comment about “being a bee” in your past life made me smile and reminded me of something my mom said early this morning. We were kayaking past a mama duck and her 7 babies and my mom said: “I wish I were a duck. Then I could fly to every lake in the US and be in the water all the time.”

She’s super cute. :)

37 Mike August 19, 2011

Sounds like a neat project, Tammy, and a good excuse to break out my fountain pens. Of course I don’t know how many people’s mailing addresses I even have anymore (or have current, anyway); a good excuse for updating my address book I suppose.

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