Author Archives: Mathew Bell

Your Hobbies Should Make You Happy

For the past half year or so, I’ve been talking about how great it would be to have live plants in our home. I mention it to my family on phone calls home to check in. I mention it to friends in random conversation. I’ve mentioned it to my girlfriend a heck of a lot.

But I finally found an excuse to get a handful of houseplants this past month with my girlfriend’s birthday coming and going, and we’re proud parents of about 6 different succulents and two other houseplants.

It was actually quite a fun process to go pick them out and find the pots we thought would fit the aesthetic of our home. While buying plants at a local shop and not a department store likely cost us more than it could have, we felt better knowing the plants were taken care of and probably healthier in general.

Repotting when we got home, however, was slightly more of a task than we realized considering we haven’t done such a thing ever, so we wanted to make sure we had the right soil, were handling our plants and their roots with care, and knew what pots were perfect for which plants.

One thing we were lacking, though, was gardening supplies. Luckily, we had a few different shipping supplies that sufficed, such as a boxcutter to churn up the soil and a few cardboard boxes to put excess soil in.

The process was more fun than I would’ve imagined, simply because it felt like we were really taking care of the plants as living beings, not just as “decor” to our home. Sometimes, it got tricky to plant some of the succulents since they had spines that would prick my hands, so nestling one of the chunkier guys into a small pot and putting new soil in with it was extremely tough. Again, we were lucky to have some of those shipping supplies handy, though.

But so far, it’s all paid off. We get compliments on our succulent table. We enjoy having the blinds open far more often so that they can get sunlight. We feel happier to have them around. And heck, they’re great for giving us a sense of responsibility while also having us respect the life around us outside of each other and our dog.

It’s just been one of the best decisions and I feel we’re only bound to get more here in the next few months while summer starts to pick up.

Gifting in Boxes or Bags?

With spring finally here and Easter around the corner, gift giving is in session. It’s only been a few months since Christmas was here, but a few months is all it takes in the gift-happy culture of the US.

When it comes to giving gifts, though, I prefer to wrap mine in boxes. Any old shipping boxes usually do for whatever I’m giving away. I just think that a gift in a box wrapped up shows a lot more effort went into the gift than just placing something in a bag, stuffing some tissue paper in on top of the item, and calling it a day.

But that’s to each their own, I suppose. While I like to have my recipient think there was a lot of thought that went into the gift, not everyone else does. And I can’t fault others for being more efficient with their time and gift giving even if it does make their recipient think of the gift as less special than a wrapped box.

My gifting habits are a main reason as to why I do have a lot of old shipping boxes and other cardboard laying around my home, though. I’m always using them for something with how versatile they are.

It’s funny to see what people think when I give them Easter gifts all wrapped up in the style of a birthday or Christmas present, though. People always expect baskets or bags around this time of year, but a fully wrapped box just seems to say a lot more in my opinion. It stands out a lot more, too.

I’d say my favorite part of wrapping gifts in boxes is honestly the type of paper I wrap it with. Whether it’s a specific pattern tailored to the occasion or just plain, thick brown paper (which is actually pretty classy, I must say), it’s fun to change it all up and keeps me, the gifter, interested and excited in the whole process.

That’s not even to say how many compliments I usually receive on my wrapping and the paper I chose. I’m always getting asked where I got my paper or how I wrapped my gift, and it’s honestly kinda nice to have that recognition for my efforts.

Overall, though, I do it for the recipient. I get joy in the whole process because I know it’ll bring joy to whomever I’m gifting the item to. If you can’t get joy out of that, what’s the point in gifting someone a thing you don’t truly care to spend money on? If that’s how you approach it, don’t bother giving them anything at all.

Odds and Ends for Your Hobbies

You know that hobbies can be quite niche, ranging from things like collecting rare spirits to raising a garden inside your house. People enjoy different things for different reasons, and almost always there’s certain gear that just cannot be substituted for extremely in depth hobbies like painting needing palettes and oil paints or even baking requiring specific pans and ingredients.

But for most hobbies, there are a few things that can be substituted, and this usually allows you to have an array of supplies that can span across multiple hobbies. When versatility is allowed, it’s best to make the most of it so that you can save money, save space, and ultimately still get the job done without losing out on whatever supplies you needed in the first place.

One of my favorite hobbies as of late is camping. While I enjoy hiking and carrying my pack with me to set up camp somewhere in the wilderness, I also don’t ever shy away from trips with friends that involve packing up the truck and getting on the road to the nearest campgrounds for a weekend of fun.

Sometimes, though, we’re in need of basic supplies that we always end up forgetting. So instead of planning last minute what we need, I like to keep these common shipping supplies in my truck to be accessible whenever we actually need them.

Scissors.

Scissors may perhaps be the most useful thing to have when you’re out camping and most people don’t realize how useful they really are. From cutting twine to opening foods, you can’t go wrong have a pair of heavy duty scissors available on your camping trips. Heck, they’re even good for cutting, cleaning, and preparing tougher meat.

Tape.

While tape doesn’t work so well on anything that’s dirty or wet, it can still do well patching any holes you have in your tent, binding together broken stakes, and even sealing together food packages that you don’t want being broken into by raccoons. Out of all the shipping supplies on this list, tape is probably the most versatile at repairing.

Cardboard boxes.

You can use them for kindling, for storage, or even as makeshift “pads” for the hard ground you’ll be sleeping on. The best part is that you can break them down to save space when traveling with them so that they’re not all boxy and in the way while driving.

There Really Is No Place Like Home

This past weekend I had quite the blast from the past. My hometown hosts an annual alumni basketball tournament for fundraising, and so many people from the area come back to get a little competitive with other classes and teams to see who’s still got it and who’s the most out of shape.

While I definitely fall into that latter category, I find the camaraderie and sportsmanship super fun to come back to. The amount of physical exertion I subject my body to may be another story, but it’s honestly such a good time to make a trip back home for the weekend and catch up with old classmates, teammates, and buddies.

Breaking out an old pair of basketball shoes in some random shipping boxes at home shows how much I play regularly, so it really comes as no surprise that my body is protesting quite a bit now that the weekend is concluded.

I think the most fun part of it all, though, isn’t the competitiveness and playing aspect itself. It’s hanging out with everyone after the games are over on a Saturday night. We ended up going to a small local bar that likely doesn’t see too many patrons on any given night, but that evening it was quite packed with all sorts of friends, classmates, parents, and other family members. Just catching up with everyone and enjoying the moment meant a lot to me.

I was actually talking about this with my girlfriend while we were there. We’re huge on experiencing different cultures and really observing how different things can be from one place to another, and that night we saw it happening before us in a small midwestern bar that was pretty much filled with people who all went to the same high school at one point in their lives. There’s nothing else like the silliness and weird conversations and music that went on in that bar this past Saturday, and that, to me, is one of the coolest reasons to visit my hometown from time to time.

So now that my few pairs of basketball shoes are back in their old shipping boxes, it doesn’t mean that that part of me is also put away in storage. Rather, I feel quite revitalized and happy to know that I come from a community full of unique and fun people that can all claim they were from my hometown.

When is the Right Time to Buy a House?

I’ve recently been trying to convince a friend to move to the city where I live, and I’ve had a rather tough time of it for reasons that are hard for me to explain. But basically, it boils down to him wanting to own a house here so he’s waiting a bit longer instead of getting an apartment here first to make sure he likes the area.

While we seemingly have differing opinions (and I know my own suggestion to him may not sit well with some of you out there who are advocates of pulling the trigger and buying a home), I’d like to think for someone his age at 26, he’s not ready to buy a house here considering he doesn’t even know if he’ll like it in whatever area he forecloses.

So, though not every item on this list is something you must stick to by the book, these are a few suggestions on when buying a home may make sense in your life.

When you’re getting married.

This one is fairly common among Americans. If you’re marrying someone soon and don’t yet have a house, it could make sense to do as the joint income will help with any expenses you may deem tougher to handle compared to being on your own. Just as well, married couples most likely lived in an apartment together prior to their marriage, so it’s only natural to make the step up to a home if you know that you live well together and are ready for your own place. All that’s required is a little sweat equity, some cheap moving boxes, and a trailer to move out of your old apartment and into your new home.

When you have a child.

While I’m fully aware that raising a child in an apartment can be a cost-effective way of handling child-rearing, I’m still of the mind that owning your own place can be safer for you and your child. Not to mention, you have much more space and privacy to yourself if you were to get your own home while raising your kid opposed to being sanctioned away in a smaller place connected to other tenants.

When it feels right.

Buying a home ultimately boils down to moving forward when you’re ready. There’s no one out there that can tell you you’re not ready or you should already be living in a house. It may never fit your agenda in life or it may only make sense for you to shop around from one home to the next rather than move into an apartment temporarily. Just trust your gut on when you should be looking to buy a home, but make sure it’s for the right reasons and you’re in good financial standing while you’re searching around.

There’s likely no worse feeling than moving into a place, looking at all your unpacked cheap moving boxes, and regretting what you just did if an apartment still makes more sense.

The Era of Quick Shipping

Today’s gold standard for shipping is getting tougher and tougher to refine simply because we’re maxing out the speed at which an item can be bought online, packaged, and shipped to that person’s front door. It doesn’t get much faster than 2 to 3 days without expecting someone to pay a ridiculous amount of money for one-day shipping.

Recently, my mom sent me a small parcel as a joke based on something we had just talked about a few days prior. I was so surprised that the package made it in two or three days time, simply because it wasn’t labeled as having been shipped on one or two days shipping but was merely priority mail through the post office. Yet still, here the package was in just a matter of two days. While the contents weren’t anything special or a must have for me, it was just funny how quickly it got to my doorstep without having extra postage on it for quicker shipping.

Much in the same way, I recently bought gifts for my girlfriend since her birthday is fast approaching, and those shipping boxes arrived at my doorstep two entire days before they were supposed to. Was I bothered by this? Not really at all, no. Sure, I had planned on them arriving two days later, so I wasn’t even looking for them on my doorstep in the snow this past weekend, but nonetheless, they made it to my door on a “non business day” and came as quite the surprise to me. I was pretty happy to have them safe and stored inside rather than having to worry about it sitting out in the open on my doorstep while I was at work two days later.

It ultimately surprises me how quickly items are shipped without paying extra for shipping these days. If we wanted things this fast just a decade or two ago, the price for shipping would’ve increased significantly. But again, today’s gold standard is just two or three days with hardly any extra cost, making online shopping seem as if it were on par with shopping at the mall.

Shipping boxes need merely a label and their contents to get out on the road and onto your doorstep nowadays, especially with streamlined shipping processes in bigger companies. If your shipping setup has a hitch in it or seems outdated by any means, customers will move on to other companies, because today’s era is one of demand and impatience.

The Usefulness of Random Supplies

The other day my parents were over dog sitting for me and my girlfriend while we were out of town. They live 2 hours out of town in a small rural town, so coming to the city for a weekend has been their little getaway from the rise and grind of their jobs. I was happy to let them stay at our place for the weekend.

While they were at our place, I asked my dad if he would install a steel tip dartboard cabinet that we got for Christmas. I would’ve done it by now, but the problem was we were going to put it in our basement, but the walls are concrete. So, we were pretty reliant on the tools he had at home, meaning we had to wait for them to make their way to our place at some point to help put it up.

Anyway, they were able to eventually get the board and cabinet up, but not without some hitches in the plan. Apparently we were missing some sort of screws and the alignment of the board was off in such a way when it was hanging that we needed to shim the backside of the board it was adhered to.

Luckily, we had some random shipping supplies laying around the apartment that he was able to use to make final adjustments, even if it was a bit of a roughshod piece of work.

I couldn’t believe he made it work with mere shipping supplies. Somehow, though, it worked, and that’s all I really care about. It just goes to show that having some things laying around can be used in a pinch.

It reminds me of the usefulness and utility of other common items we overlook all the time. For example, cardboard can be used in so many different ways that you’d never really think about. I’ve made compost with cardboard, shredded it up and used it as mulch, and even used it to soak up things like oil leaks in the garage.

All of this is just proof that you can make something out of seemingly nothing. By giving your house a quick sweep through anytime you’re missing an item or need something in particular and don’t seem to have it, you’ll be able to find a lot of things that may actually be of use to you in your current situation. It only takes a little bit of creativity and a will to get the job done.

The Evolution of Industry-Leading Materials and Items

Since the dawn of time, humanity has always had a way of getting a message or even a gift to other people long distances. Whether it’s through word of mouth and a runner who traveled long distances, someone on horseback to get somewhere farther away even quicker, or even machinery that creates parcels and other machinery that carries them across the world, we’ve always had something in place in order to send messages and packages long distances.

So when you stop to think about how shipping boxes are the current “best” option for packages in today’s shipping standards, it really makes you wonder what the next step is. I mean, really, if something as simple as a cardboard box is the best we have, what’s the next rung up? What’s the next evolution in the shipping industry that will change the world? Will it be a new material that is even lighter and sturdier than cardboard? Will that material take too much money to produce or too much time in comparison to cardboard? Will it be as environmentally friendly and recyclable as cardboard?

There are a lot of questions surrounding the future of packaging and shipping, but the reality is that right now, shipping boxes are the best at what they do. So until we discover a way to refine those boxes or create something entirely new, everything is good where it’s at.

And when you think about the evolution of things, they only need to change when change is needed. When pressure is put on someone, something, or some being, things begin changing and that person or thing adapts accordingly. As of right now, there’s nothing better than cardboard in terms of how cheap it is, how sustainable it is, and how lightweight and strong it is. Once the next material just happens upon humanity, I’m sure we’ll adopt it slowly into shipping until it just makes sense to mass produce in favor of cardboard. But until then, cardboard will likely reign supreme for many years to come.

What’re some other items or materials you can think of that are the “best” at what they do currently and simply don’t have any competition to dethrone them? I can think of a few off the top of my head, but one that stands out for sure is the iPhone. Currently, there is nothing “more advanced” or “better” than the iPhone, even if it was considered luxury. It is the bar and always has been the bar for smartphones. Even if Google phones and Samsung phones are on par, they aren’t ever strictly better. I’m just curious to see what happens when the iPhone becomes obsolete when the next piece of technology comes out and blows it away for good.

When will that be and what will it be?

You Can Never Have Too Much Supplies

Growing up, I learned the value of work ethic applied to your life because of the diligence and respect that my parents treated their job with. They always made it a point to show up early, work hard, and put their careers at the forefront of their lives. No matter what happened, they never missed work. Heck, I don’t even recall them ever missing because they were sick. Work was, quite frankly, non-negotiable with other things in their lives.

Now, while I think that at some point they could have relaxed a hair, they had had this work ethic instilled into them through their parents (and their parents through theirs). It’s no doubt what has happened to me. I take my job seriously and realize that it’s a top priority in my life that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just like my parents, I don’t miss work just because I’m sick or something else has come up. I make it to my job no matter the cost.

One thing they also instilled in me is having an appreciation for everyday things. In particular, they always had an incredible stock of shipping supplies and the likes. (And I think it’s because they always had worked for the post office, because they never ran out of postage, cardboard boxes, or any other shipping supplies.) While these things seemed mundane to me when I was a child, I realize now that it’s the commonplace items that we rely on (otherwise they wouldn’t be commonplace).

Nonetheless, I now make it a point to keep my place stocked with all sorts of packaging and office supplies, because when something needs shipped, it needs shipped right away. And all of these supplies have served me quite well beyond just shipping things. I can use my boxes for storage, my tape for repairing small things, and labels for other projects, too.

Without fail, I come to think of my parents when I see who I’ve become. From day-to-day items to the common tasks involved in my dayjob, I know that my work ethic, habits, and ideals were bred out of their own hard work and ways. I’m definitely interested to see all the traits, habits, and preferences that my children take on from me, though there are a few bad habits that I’m hopeful they will drop, too. I guess that’s not up to me to decide, though, is it?

Ecommerce and Valentine’

Now that February has come around, you can focus on that one holiday that people love to hate and hate to love: Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday surrounded by loathing, love, and lust alike, but no matter how you regard the day of hearts and the color pink, it’s undoubtedly one that ecommerce businesses love to capitalize on.

If you’re someone who runs one of these online businesses, you know what I’m talking about. It’s so easy to market niche Valentine’s Day products to starry-eyed teens and college students who want to make a big impression on a crush or someone they’re recently in a relationship with. Or, even more, anyone selling jewelry knows that it’s a huge day for sales, as spouses come in to make big impressions on their husbands and wives or are even looking for tokens of forgiveness.

But as technology and society progresses, so too do transactions on the internet. Fewer and fewer customers are making trips to the store when they can simply buy things online and have them shipped right to their doorsteps. Why go out and make an effort in a big store when you can just pinpoint exactly what it is you want online (and often search for very specific and niche items) for less effort and sometimes less money?

A big part of this experience, then, is the cardboard box. All around the world, millions of shipping boxes will be in transit to arrive on Valentine’s Day in hopes of making it before “the deadline” of the exchange of gifts between two lovers.

Whether those shipping boxes make it in time or not, though, is up to the purchaser. Did they pay for same-day, one-day, or two-day shipping? Can they trust ground shipping or priority to make it in the 7 business days that was advertised at checkout?

No matter the case, business is booming in mid-February for all online businesses simply because of “love.” Whether or not it’s really in the name of love or not for those customers is irrelevant if it means business is booming for online retailers and distributors.

So, there it is. Just like other big holidays, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to cash in for businesses considering how crazy people can become during gift-giving season. If you’re an ecommerce company, you’re likely reaping the benefits of doing things electronically, because that’s exactly where the younger generation goes to buy their gifts nowadays.