A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Is it just me, or does every passionate letter-writer get a bit obsessive about certain things? I'm talking about those little things that go hand-in-hand with writing letters: keeping fastidious records, collecting stamps, hoarding stationery, etc, etc, etc.

I've got to explain that I am not the most organised person, in my usual life. In fact I shy away from too much organisation... as if it is a house of cards and if I forget one thing, the whole lot will come tumbling down. I'm an Aries, and we are one of those rare types that actually like change, so too much routine gets under my skin. Sometimes I wish I could have better routines or be more organised, but this is just the way I am - no use fighting it!

Yet, no sooner had I decided to get seriously into letter-writing than I started to get organised. The very first thing was an address book. I hadn't bothered to have one for a few years. Afterall, I had everyone's phone numbers stored in my mobile, everyone's email address stored in my gmail list of contacts, and if all else failed there was always facebook. I didn't bother storing mailing addresses - I'd just txt whoever I wanted to write to and ask their address. Sometimes I had to do this over and over!

Yet now I have a pretty little address book - it's covered in a liberty print and ties up with a blue ribbon - and I update it regularly with addresses of new penfriends. It feels like a little treasure trove. There are people in there who I imagine exchanging letters with for many years to come.

My next organisational tool was a little blank notebook where I record incoming and outgoing mail. Incoming is in the front of the book, and outgoing is in the back. I don't put a new date every day (too much organisation for me) but I divide it up into months. Sometimes i just list the person's name, sometimes it's a name and a general location. For postcrossing cards I record the first name and state or country of the sender.

In my outgoing, I list people who I am intending to write to, and then put a tick beside their name as the letter is sent. Right now I have about a week's worth of letter recipients listed in my outgoing without ticks beside them yet. It keeps me motivated to keep on writing.

So, when I receive a letter, I note it down in my incoming, and then I add the author straight onto my outgoing list, so that I write back to them before too long. Then I put the letter on my pile of 'letters to be answered'. Once a letter has been answered, the original letter goes into the top drawer of my chest of drawers.

As my drawer gets full, I'm thinking that I will bundle letters up with ribbon and then store them in shoe boxes under my bed. Well, that's the plan for now... I may change my mind before I get to that.

Some of my quirks:
  • I can't write straight back. Each letter has to go on my 'letters to be answered pile' for at least a couple of days.
  • I have to answer letters in the order I received them.
  • If my list of people I'm planning to write to starts to get too short - say down to about three - I go looking for new people to write to.
  • I am religious about checking my post office box and my home letterbox every weekday (no post on weekends).
  • I have to post at least one letter each weekday, and I have to try to put new postcrossing cards in the mail within 24 hours of receiving the address.
Now, am I the only one who has these very particular (crazy?) systems to manage and organise my letter-writing habits? How do you organise yourself, and are you obsessive about it? What are your quirks?

Love from Kaz


  1. I am quite organized about my writing. I don't keep a written address book anymore because my Apple Address Book now has 7000 contacts. I record every single address, and note each piece of mail I send on each person's "card." I include what stationery or postcard was used, and the date, so I don't duplicate. I don't save all my mail. I can't. I get about 80 pieces of mail a week. I do save about 90% of the postcards, but very few letters. I would be buried in letters within a month.

    My "turnaround" is really good right now ... about 2 weeks. Usually it is about a month, or even two. I have more writing time right now. My waiting for response pile typically has 40 pieces of mail (lots of my incoming is from PostCrossing.com and those don't require reciprocation, though if the card is excellent, I often do).

    I am obsessive about my postcards, as evidenced by my Orphaned Postcard Project spreadsheet. I also have a document with my UNESCO World Heritage collection, which is not quite ready for public viewing yet. I sort my US postcards in a very elaborate hierarchy. One of these days I will do the same for my world collection.

    Ten years ago I kept a system very much like yours, Kaz, but my contacts just grew too big. I do keep a mail journal where I record the daily outgoing count and thoughts about incoming, or mail in general, and it is illustrated with bits from my incoming, like postage, or stickers, or sometimes entire letters or postcards. I go through lots and lots of journals.

  2. Oh, I love hearing about how you organise yourself. The Apple Address book sounds good, and I may have to look into that kind of system in the future. For now, I just hope that the randomness of the universe will ensure I don't double up and send anyone the same sort of thing twice!

    I can only dream about the day I start getting too much mail to be able to keep it all. I really like the idea of journalling about your mail and sticking bits and pieces from your mail into the journal - I think I might steal this idea. :-)

  3. Wow you are organised! And might I say, very busy.

    I love it. Plus I love the address book goodness.

    See now I feel bad for my organised disorganisation.

    I am not organised in any shape or form and it works for me, right now. When I say mess, I mean piles of books and mags on my night stands, with jewellery scattered amongst it, and then my letters from you are sitting pretty on top. In a pile.

    Damn it! I need a pretty box to put them in...

    Love any excuse to buy something shiny, especially when they are letters from you K.

  4. Gosh - what a wonderful pen pal you are. I went through a faze of having tons of pen pals - maybe around 50 or so, back when I was 14 and we all liked the same music. Getting post through the door was fantastic! But it did mean being very organised - keeping a note of who had written, stacking them so I knew who I had to reply to first. So I do understand, and there is a real pleasure in seeing all those envelopes, those shared words just for you. :)

  5. Aw, thanks Dani.

    Hi Jayne, and welcome. It seems that often girls go through pen-pal stage as a young teen, but then as we grow up and life gets busy we leave it all behind. But I, for one, am glad I've brought it back into my life.

    Oh, and I love your blog, btw.

  6. I made myself an address book, covered with a French map and French stamps, to log in addresses -- and Kaz, yes it IS a treasure trove! I agree, I don't get nearly the mail PostMuse gets so I can keep track of it....I have another covered notebook I made that records what I sent and receive daily and notes....isn't this a lot of fun?

  7. "Once a letter has been answered, the original letter goes into the top drawer of my chest of drawers.

    As my drawer gets full, I'm thinking that I will bundle letters up with ribbon"

    Wow, I could have written that myself. My letters go on a little shelf when they're replied to (NEVER before!), and I plan to bundle mine up with string when it gets too full. Isn't it strange how we all have these little quirks!?