Packing and shipping

Whether you’re moving or sending a package it’s important to know how to pack a box properly.

When you mail a package you want to consider–

  • Cost
  • Who packs it and how
  • Ability to find supplies (if applicable)
  • Time in transit
  • Service guarantees
  • Insurance for high price items

Shipping a package at a shipping store

My personal preferences from experience on shippers

In my part of the country USPS, FedEx, and UPS are the big three for both domestic and international shipping. I think all of them offer great services but each has its advantages and disadvantages relative to the others.

  • USPS tends to be far cheaper than the other two as far as I can tell but it usually takes longer for the packages in transit. You can opt for a type of First Class Mail where you don’t get a tracking number and it’s cheaper than Priority Mail. To be honest, I think USPS is the most complex of the three big shippers and it seems to offer more services than the other two. I still get confused on how their system works sometimes.
  • UPS and FedEx are pretty much equivalent to me. You should get a tracking number on every package you send regardless of the service level you choose. In other words, even if you pick the cheapest thing they offer you can still track it. I like that.
  • Ease of contact and when things go wrong: Here’s something a lot of people don’t know when they want to track a package or reschedule it- calling your local UPS or FedEx won’t really help unless you shipped it from that location specifically. The best way to get help is to call 1(800) 463-3339 for FedEx and 1(800) 742-5877 for UPS. As for the US Postal Service, I’ve found their website to be the easiest method for contact.

How to pack items yourself

Recommended packing materials

  • Air-filled bubble rolls
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard inserts (like wine boxes)

Materials to consider depending on your needs

  • Packing peanuts are going out of style. Several big box stores have discontinued them for environmental reasons. They are still a solid method to protect fragile items.
  • Foam boards are excellent for especially fragile packing needs.
  • Plastic totes and bins are great for moving but beware if you try to ship them on their own. Many companies consider them irregular if they are not inside a cardboard box and cost extra to send.
  • Fragile tape If it’s a reminder to you use it absolutely. If you expect companies to handle your packages with fragile tape any better or differently it’s not going to happen.

Materials to stay away from for fragile packs

  • Plastic grocery bags This one really hurts my brain. I know it’s tempting, they are freely available and cheap, but what exactly are you accomplishing here?
  • Be careful with tea towels and washcloths; they generally do not offer enough protection for fragile items in transit.

Packing a box

  1. Choose the right box for the packing weight. If you are packing a heavy item be sure to check the box manufacturer’s seal found on the bottom of the box. A quality box will tell you its edge crush strength and gross weight limit. Do not exceed the weight limit on a box. Seal the bottom of the box making an “H” with your tape: The inner seam and the two outer seams. For heavier boxes, reinforce with another strap or two across the box.
  2. (for non-vulnerable items skip to step 3) Start by laying down a layer of packing material on the bottom of the box. This could be crumbled newspaper, reused Airpack bubbles, or foam peanuts. Layer your item with its own cushioning material. Be sure to cover edges carefully so your item does not suffer broken tips or scratched edges. Layer packing materials up the side of the box for side protection.
  3. Load your box so that the weight is evenly distributed. You may have to rearrange a few times to get the right fit. An uneven box is more likely to tip and fall over, damaging the contents.
  4. Stuff empty spaces with packing materials. Make it snug but not so tight that it strains the contents or you have to pull really hard to yank an item out. Shake your box lightly. You will be able to tell by the shifting where you need more material. (for non-vulnerable items skip to step 6)
  5. Top off your box with a small layer of your packing materials. You should have materials protecting the bottom, sides, and in between the items. You can take out some material if you end up with too much. Do not stuff your box so full of material that it is hard to close. This makes a weak spot on your box.
  6. Finish your box by sealing the top in an “H” like you did the bottom. Never simply fold the sides in and ship it that way. The sides are likely to collapse when weight is set on them and they are moved around.
  7. Congratulate yourself on a professionally packed box. 👍

Bonus: Classifying packs

Here are some common items you might need to ship and how you might pack them yourself. Note that sometimes you might want to ship both fragile and non-vulnerable items together. When in doubt, especially for irreplaceable or valuable items, ship your fragile item by itself so that your other items don’t have the chance to destroy it when packed together.

Non-vulnerable items generally don’t require any packing materials and are pretty hardy. You may still want to corral them into smaller bags or boxes so they don’t arrive in a mess. These items include books, shoes, curtains, office supplies, pillows, fabric baskets, papers, etc. Note that heavier non-vulnerable items can become projectiles in a box with vulnerable or fragile items.

Vulnerable items will require at least a minimum of wrapping the item so they can’t be scratched, dented, or crushed. Things like reading glasses, jewelry, figurines, etc. Any type of liquid like shampoo or lotion should be placed within a sealed bag to prevent leaks.

Fragile items require the maximum of packing including wrapping the item, providing packing material under, over, and between items, as well as cardboard or foam inserts where necessary. Glass frames (this really extends to about all glassware), porcelain items, fine china, etc.

The take-away

The only thing that will protect your items is how well you pack them and the box(es) you use. Not any sticker, tape, or message written on them. A package is only as strong as its weakest spot. Package your items well and they can survive almost any conditions they will encounter. I hope you found this guide helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions to improve it.

Green obsession: houseplants are taking over

I’ve been collecting indoor plants for about 4 months and I love how they bring character and life to my home. Unfortunately I’m pretty close to hitting my limit due to lighting conditions. I don’t have many windows in my apartment and my plants are crowded near them. Thankfully they enjoy huddling and it helps maintain a decent humidity level. Plants look great when you style them together on a table or wall. Here is one of my favorite resources for styling with plants.

On to the photos:

Feature image: Dumb Cane, Dracaena, Orchid, Marble Queen Pothos.

Pictured (left to right, top to bottom): Arrowhead Vine, 2 Fittonia varieties, Snake Plant, Fittonia again, the same Fittonia next to Coffea Arabica (no longer with me), Pothos vine above.

Row 2: Chinese Evergreen, Orchid (no idea what kind…), Schefflera. Small pic in between rows: Dumb Cane again in the center.

Bottom row: Florida Beauty next to the Orchid from earlier, Snake Plant and Fittonia riding home with friends, most of the gang at the end.

Not pictured: Aloe Vera, Crassula (I have no idea what type), Jade Plant, Croton mammy, Golden Pothos. These are on my balcony.

Natural elements: adding greenery in small spaces

There are infinite ways to style your home. Why not bring it to life with attractive foliage and pops of color from flowers? If you find yourself overwhelmed but awed at the indoor jungles present on social media today, you’re not alone. I’ve been watching the youtube channel Planterina and I absolutely long for a big beautiful house filled with plants like Amanda’s. Alas, I have a rabbit, a particular budget, and an apartment with exactly four windows (counting the sliding glass door). Not too bad but these do complicate my plant aspirations!

In this article I’ll show you some of my solutions to keeping plants in small spaces and away from pets.

The first picture on the top left is a small collection of some of the plants I’ve been keeping on my balcony. I had assembled them here together to get a look at what I had and to plan where they would end up. There are ferns, basil, a croton, an aloe, a schefflera plant, and a couple of small flowering plants. The table is a perfect height to keep plants well out of my rabbit’s reach.

The two plants in the center are enjoying my latest creation- a DIY light station. I got this tube light at Goodwill a few weeks ago for $5. I mounted it to the glass panel of a bookshelf with one of those picture hanging velcro sets.

On the right is my very first attempt at a terrarium. It’s not yet finished because I am expecting a shipment of moss next week. All it has right now is the bottom layer of pebbles and a layer of activated charcoal. I put my fern straight into it to start acclimating and with a few light misting sprays it’s looking great.

Terrariums are an excellent solution for fitting in greenery in small spaces. You can find pre-assembled ones that are teeny tiny (jars, cups, bowls, and even necklaces) or you can build one in a former aquarium. Humidity-loving plants can really thrive in an old aquarium and they create a lovely conversation piece.

Here’s what my patio table looked like at one point. I’m constantly moving plants around. I set an old shower curtain on it to keep it clean of dirt and debris. My aloe is loving the morning sun here and it’s protected from the rain getting in at the other end of the balcony.

Top left: Two lavender plants soaking up the sun. I found that cute little white container at a thrift shop. It jazzes up the plants without blocking their light and helps protect against predators (like rabbits) when closed. I’ve read from several places that lavender is safe for rabbit consumption but my boy is a piggie and he would leave none left for me to showcase.

Top middle: A funky little flower I picked up at Trader Joe’s for $1.99. I’m surprised it has survived a week because I had no idea what it was until I stumbled upon some larger ones at Meijer with tags. This plant is the Cyclamen flower common to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is actually a perennial (could have fooled me) and prefers cooler air in the 50’s to 60’s and high humidity. How it is still alive on my balcony is a miracle.

Top right: A yarrow plant. I picked this plant because of its luscious yellow color and safety for rabbits. I’ve used one of my patio chairs as a plant stand for it and I covered its nursery pot with a white wicker basket.

Extra suggestions for adding plants to small spaces:

  • Use every surface available (within reason). When you are thinking about introducing a plant in your home think about its needs. Foremost, where would it get appropriate light? You may need to rearrange your space a bit. I have plants on a tray on my printer, on my dresser, on an end table, a bookcase, and on chairs.
  • If you can’t build out, build up. You can get cheap shelves at the hardware store and make your own built-in plant paradise near a good window. This saves tons of space.
  • Remember to rotate your plants when necessary. Once you place a plant it doesn’t have to stay there forever. Sometimes the light isn’t right or you find a draft, etc. Swap plants around every once and a while to change things up. Even if you only have a few plants it makes a difference visually.

Try IKEA online and find the inspiration you’ve been missing out on

IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer but many Americans still live far from their stores and have never visited one. Here’s how to shop online and why I think it’s worth it.

There are 37 IKEA stores in the United States. Image from Google Maps.

My first trip to my local IKEA was in February this year. I drove over 4 hours that day and went alone. It was exhausting and I should have prepared better for this trip or at least had lunch at their café. There are obvious benefits to shopping in-store: you get to see and touch items firsthand, measure them in person, access to the showroom, sales only in-store, etc. However, I think that IKEA can be successfully shopped online. Since February I’ve placed three online orders and I’m pleased to report no serious mishaps. In fact, I ended up with an extra item by mistake and I got to keep it. Non-furniture small item shipments start at only $9 through FedEx (at least in my area) and you can basically pile your cart as full as you’d like without any upcharge. Of course, do get a shipping estimate on your cart before you check out to avoid any surprises.

One reason I will continue to shop IKEA is that the retailer plans to offer fully sustainable materials in its furniture and textiles by 2030, either through recycling or renewable resources. I find this to be an admirable step to ensure responsibility and restraint when it’s so easy for big companies to ignore and shrink away from the reality of global climate change. IKEA is also notable for its flat-packing methods which also helps cut down on material usage and transportation costs.

Navigating the IKEA website

It doesn’t feel as user-friendly to me as say, Amazon, but once you know the general layout you’ll be fine. These guys here are your buddies:

I recommend creating an account if you plan on saving items to lists because it could wipe them out if you don’t. I also recommend joining the IKEA Family program because it’s free and you get access to exclusive sales. No credit card number necessary.

Across the top header of the website there are general menu options. The Products menu provides a drop-down of all IKEA departments. Inspiration takes you to what is essentially IKEA’s blog. You can find anything from news on press releases to gardening ideas to tips on styling your shelves. These are pretty self-explanatory. The parts of the website I most enjoy, however, weren’t readily apparent to me. The galleries.

The galleries are my happy places. Unfortunately I haven’t found anywhere yet that links all the galleries together. You would think that Inspiration would but it doesn’t.

Pssst. The gallery is all the way at the bottom. Image source.

Each gallery is essentially a showcase of a department. It’s a glorious place where you can view all the styles your heart desires without the excessive text of the catalog. It’s easy on the eyes and will leave you wanting more. Simply click on an image to view the room and scroll down to see all featured items.

Since I think it’s a pain to have to sift through departments to find the galleries I’ve collected all the prominent links I could find and here they are.

A lovely retreat provided by the Outdoor Gallery.

Time to go gallery-hopping.

Auction house picks for Sunday, May 19 2019

All items will be auctioned by Bluegrass Auction and Appraisal in Lexington, KY. All photos belong to them. Note that this link may be broken in the future or changed as they update their site to the next auction. You can bid online or in person and here are their instructions.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with this company nor do I claim to represent it. I’m someone who likes auctions and I like to keep track of the interesting items that appear and let others know how to get them too.

Here are the items I’ve curated from their 12 pages of content:

  1. Glass perfume decanters The dark ruby red is gorgeous. I’m imagining myself sitting at my dressing table, record playing as I sip from a delicate stemmed wine glass.
  2. Oil on canvas signed “Daniel” I’ve bought several original art pieces from BAA and I love each and every one. I like this piece especially because I admire still art as a solid traditional subject. I like the sense of depth created in this painting and the rich coloring of the fruits.
  3. Pendant light This is funky and I dig it. What are the clear pieces on the end, tiny boots? Whatever they are I’ll take three.
  4. Pair of red lanterns At first glance I thought these were a little too garden chotsky but consider the possibilities. They would look positively ethereal with a large pillar candle by the poolside at night or in your garden walkway.
  5. Tiffany & Co sterling silver chopsticks Now this is fancy eating. I’m impressed they still have their dust ruffle (carrying case?).
  6. 1920’s Persian rug I’m a little obsessed with rugs.
  7. Custom upholstered settee Holy cow what a piece of furniture! I’m not one for cow prints but this is truly a one of a kind little couch. Whoever purchases this is brave and I hope they will honor it. You’ve got to have the proper aesthetic to bring it home.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in auctioning. You can find some truly unique finds and great deals if you know what to look for, when to go, and how to bid.

Indoor plant inspiration for 2019

A light background, dark furniture, and pops of color to accessorize is a solid formula for styling any space, large or small. Throw in a couple of plants and you’ve got a cozy retreat. In this article I’ve brought together some looks and ideas that have given me inspiration this year.

This gallery set is provided by Mike Marquez:

Plants don’t have to be the focus of a room but they really do bring a lot of personality and life. Geometric planters and hanging planters are super popular right now. They can also be repurposed or refashioned if you grow tired of them.

IKEA small space big adventures

What I love about this room is that is looks curated but lived-in. It has bright lighting, a cozy feel, and personal touches like the chair and the art. It’s clean and organized but not necessarily a museum-worthy dwelling. The plants are spaced across the room and they are varying shapes, sizes, and species. All these elements come together in an attractive space where I can imagine myself reading a book, taking a nap, or typing on the computer.

IKEA Home visit: five ways to benefit from house plants

Also nice of course are plants that are shown together. This lot creates a natural barrier in the room and draws the eye to this spot. It’s generally good to huddle plants together as they can help one another keep a small bubble of humidity.

photo by Liana Mikah

Not everybody has a bunch of plants. I have six right now divided between my living room, office, and outside balcony. One plant can make a lovely addition to a shelf.

photo by Stephanie Harvey

I also find it very pleasing to house plants in uncommon pots. Here, a sugar cup from a tea set makes an unexpected home to a succulent. It is best to make sure that plants can drain properly, so try to make holes in the bottom of their containers. Small rocks or sand can also be used in the bottom of containers to help keep root rot at bay.

An Ode to Twine: Everyday uses for this extraordinary yarn

A generic spool of twine costs approximately $1-$4 but few products can match its versatility. If you like to craft you probably have some twine stored away in a nearby box or drawer. It’s essential for many floral DIY projects. Considering a trip to the store for those fix-it odds and ends? Check your boxes and drawers first.

Clever uses for twine around your home and garden

  • Use twine and newspaper to make really cool old-fashioned wrapping paper for gifts.
  • Use it to tie up a set of curtains where your vertical blinds used to be. Instead of running a full piece of twine through the curtains, make small hoops from the twine starting at the end of the curtain. Grab the loop and cut off a piece of twine so it forms a little circle resembling a curtain hook and knot it off. Each twine hook can then be run up into the vertical hook piece attached to your mounted track. It basically clicks up inside the hook and once all the hoops are secured you should be able to open and close your curtains with the guiding wand.
  • Wrap twine around an old vase or decorative glass to give it a new, rustic style.
  • Create a hanging planter with a wire shell or plant pot.
  • In the kitchen, use twine to make a paper towel roll holder. Simply cut a strand (or several to your preference) and leave enough space for it to hang down when you grab it. Run it through your roller and knot the end. You can hide the knot with a small piece of tape inside the roll. Mount your paper towel roll wherever you’d like. I have mine above my sink hanging off a small hook.
  • Gently hold up your growing plants with a small piece of twine and a thin wooden stake.
  • Make your own pet toys using twine to connect blocks or hang old toys. Giving them a new way to play with an old toy can help fight boredom. As always, supervise your pet if you know they like to eat toys or take it away. Don’t place twine in such a manner that a person or animal could be possibly strangled or lacerated by it.
  • Encourage your vines to creep up by securing them on a piece of twine supported by tape or a small hook.
  • Tie up welcome signs or banners with twine. I’ve done this for wedding showers and many other events. Super easy and super cheap.
  • Make a clothes drying line of twine in the yard or on your balcony.
  • Do a DIY book binding with twine. Use a three-ring hole punch to make your holes. Thread your twine in each hole to create the most secure stitch. Be careful not to tighten your knot too much or it will crush the paper. You can even make designs with the twine like ribbons on the page ends. This project can be as simple or as ornate as you’d like.

There you have it: 11 projects you can do with a material collecting dust in your home. Total cost: $0.