Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Frugal New Englander Tackles Packages

When I was a little girl, my mother, who had grown up close to poverty and never forgot it, used to save old packages--envelopes, boxes, mailers. And, she reused them. Those days are gone, and for very good reasons. I speak from experience.

My least favorite package comes from the clothing company that sends a cotton shirt in a plastic bag inside a package whose interior sides are covered in sticky film treated so that it doesn't respond to the plastic bag. This would be fine except the entire parcel has to be torn open to get at the shirt inside, and there's no way to use the packaging to return said item in case it doesn't fit. And, of course, it doesn't fit.

Next comes the paper book package with the bubble-wrap lining. I dislike this one because I can't recycle it after I manage to tear it open. But this is still better than the spongy parcel stuffed with shredded paper, which spills all over the porch before I even get it inside the house and then leaves a trail to the kitchen. The parcel barely survived an unknown encounter and is bleeding all over the kitchen table. But it is fully recyclable.

Next up is the cardboard book package for a single book. This sounds ideal--hard to damage in transit, fully recyclable, reusable, solid protective cover. But it requires a wrestler to get it open. This I manage because I make bread the old fashioned way, with lots of kneading, so I have muscles still, and I use them on this package. The book arrives undamaged, not counting the flight across the kitchen and crash into the wall as it springs loose from its cardboard prison.

Of course, I appreciate the large cardboard boxes that arrive with no more than three books inside and enough bubble wrap for forty piled in on top, leaving the books free to slide around over thousands of miles until arriving on my porch. As a frugal New Englander, I waste several minutes trying to decide if I should save the bubble wrap for later use. I do not save it because it takes up too much room. My horror of clutter beats out my distaste of waste.

Least expected is the large manila envelope designed to hold up to ten pages of typed paper stuffed with at least two books. The four-inch tear in one side holds long enough for the parcel to make it to my front porch, where the postman slides it to the edge. I'm grateful it's not raining.

Mixed in among all these parcels arriving in various states of disintegration or protected against the most determined opener, I receive a large white envelope with a glassine window. Inside is a catalog for a company selling trinkets from whom I've never purchased a thing. The back page is torn and dirty, with a large boot print across it. Safely tucked into the envelope, the catalog arrives in my mailbox with a note of apology from the post office.

I hardly know what to make of this reverence for a store catalog as I sweep up the stuffing from yet another damaged parcel. After some thought, I wonder if the man at the post office is related to my mother. Probably not. But perhaps he's a New Englander? Yes, for sure.


  1. LOL! I get a lot of packages in the mail and, while some are very efficient, every now and then I get a box the size of a footstool with something tiny inside. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

  2. I do wonder at all the packaging we use and it's not very good! And then sometimes it's way over the top. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hi, Susan,

    You're making a case for e-books here. I love print, but sending and receiving books in the variety of manners you so cleverly describe does make for difficulties.

  4. We've solved the problem for books but what about clothing or furniture or candy? We have so many unsolved problems from the nineteenth century. Thanks for commenting.

  5. This made me smile. It's really amazing how many different ways a single book can be wrapped. Since I'm a sucker for those used penny apiece books (plus shipping of course), I've seen dozens of ways to send them along. Thanks for the grins--I could see you wrestling with those packages--been there, done that.

  6. My pet peeve is the stuff that comes with the stuff you bought. Send me the return form and ONE card with a discount code, but please not send the catalog that you sent to the same address two weeks ago or the half dozen flyers from 'partners' whose product you think I'd be interested in. I paid shipping. I wish I could opt-out of getting those.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. The stores can't pass up one more opportunity to sell something, and then come the emails. Thanks for commenting, Sheila.

  7. Thanks, Jan. I also love the penny apiece books, and I hope the envelopes don't get any thinner. Thanks for commenting.

  8. What drives me nuts are the packages you can't open without a crowbar and an axe, and that contain fragile items which inevitably get damaged in the attempt to get at the contents.

    It's good to make sure the item you're shipping doesn't get broken in transit, but using 60 yards of tape and 5 pounds of staples guarantees the receiver won't be in a good mood when your parcel is finally open.

  9. My sentiments exactly, Allan. Thanks for commenting--and adding another sin to the list of those who have no clue how to package and send something.

  10. I can't exactly say "it was my pleasure," but you're welcome, Catherine.