The re-usable shipping suitcase


When I was in high school, a friend of mine had to move away with her family. She and I wrote letters back and forth for about a year or so, until we finally lost touch. I’m not sure who sent the last letter…but my guess is that life just put a pause on the touch-keeping for each of us. The exteriors of our letters were super creative. We drew little doodles on the front of the envelope. We attached random stickers to the front and back. I once used 1 cent stamps to cover the entire front of the envelope to pay postage. It was legal to do this…and I got away with it and never forgot it. This little interaction among creative friends helped to fuel the idea of the reusable shipping suitcase almost twelve years later.

I own a few online stores in which I find junk and re-sell it. One such piece of junk was a suitcase that I purchased from a thrift store for $3. I sold it online on my Facebook group page for $10. It cost about $10 to ship it. While I was figuring out how to ship this thing to the buyer, I thought of how ironic it was that I was shipping an item designed to transport and ship items. I wasn’t sure what the post office would accept as “correct” shipping procedure, so I decided that I would wrap the suitcase in a black trash bag and tape it over as a cover.
When I arrived at the post office, and the postal employee asked if there was any thing fragile, liquid or potentially hazardous inside, I told her it was a suitcase and giggled about it. I then asked her if one could just ship a suitcase without wrapping it in anything.

Her response was: you can ship a suitcase without it being wrapped in any paper or plastic cover packaging—as long as the clasps where the suitcase opens are taped down or locked with an airport lock & key (designed to lock suitcases during travel).  I’m assuming this is their policy so that it won’t pop open in transport. I envision a small/miniature lock with a combination…but that costs money and I don’t have money OR a lock. So, for now, I will probably just tape it down until I can invest in the lock.

The idea that washed over me was one of shipping the suitcase back and forth between friends or family as a re-useable package!!! Less waste will be accumulated by not using cardboard boxes, tape (after the lock is purchased) and other general packaging supplies. If you find a lightweight suitcase, that is a bonus move. Shipping a reusable package suitcase like this one will be a much cheaper shipment every time! You won’t have to find that roll of packaging tape when it is ready to be mailed.

Our Goal? Find one BAD ASS old suitcase and mail it to Grandma Cindy as a portal for all mailing treasures. She lives across the country in California, so we tend to send and receive many packages from her.
How to create your re-usable suitcase:

Step 1: Obtain a plastic report cover (the kind with the little plastic slider that holds the pages together along one long end)

report cover

Remove the slider tab {Can be seen on the left hand side (white) in the image above}

Step 2: Measure the length of one short side of the report cover and cut the same length in self adhesive velcro. An easy way to measure both at once is to adhere stick the velcro (the grabby side toward the soft side) together, then cut.

Step 3: Place the velcro, with the backing peeled off into the edge of the report cover plastic. Be careful! This stuff is VERY STICKY. Make sure it is where you want it inside the report cover before you allow it to touch the plastic or it WILL stick.

Step 4: Tape down or sew both long ends and one of the short ends, leaving one short side open. This will create a flap opening. When you get to the end where the velcro is attached, make sure you sew over the velcro if your machine will allow.

sew the report cover

Step 5: Write out both addresses onto one 8.5 x 11 letter sized paper. One address on top, one on the bottom: both on the same side of the paper. Fold the letter sized paper in half between the text of each shipping address. Fold so that each address is visible when the letter is flipped. Place the address sandwich into a laminating sleeve and laminate. Trim the edges of the laminate sleeve so that it will fit inside of the laminate pocket from the fourth step.

Step 6: Attach the plastic sleeve onto the suitcase. Tape the pocket down on three sides, leaving the velcro opening free of tape. If you wish, you may use some spray adhesive, hot glue or double sided tape to adhere the underside of the packet to the suitcase.


You now have a re-usable way to mail the suitcase or package.

Now, get creative with the process. Ask the person you are mailing back and forth with to attach a sticker, design or other artwork onto the suitcase each time they receive it. Make sure someone adds something new to the suitcase package before it ships each time. This way, when your treasure arrives in the mail…it will have a new addition of creativity and design. How exciting to get such a thing in the mail!

Our reusable shipping suitcase

Here is the suitcase package we created for Grandma Cindy. I purchased the suitcase from a flea market for 14 cents. It is very small and lightweight. Also, as you can see, the pocket has been adapted with a zipper opening instead of Velcro. Mix it up! Add your own flair!  Save some money.  Use less materials.  Surprise the postal worker with a little unexpected package 🙂


3 responses »

  1. I wrote this post while Aaron was away digging permaculture holes in Asheville . When he came home tonight, I showed him the suitcase. His first response was: “You could also use a gallon sized ziplock bag and just replace it when it wears out” (instead of the plastic report cover).

    Just a bit more proof that he is the technical mind and I am the creative mind 🙂


  2. Pingback: The re-usable shipping suitcase – Dandelion Soul Creative

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