The Art of the Surprise Note

For those of you lovelies who may have missed my guest post last week:

When Jessica and Linz generously invited me to share something on their blog Sweet Athena on the theme of celebrations, I got to thinking not just about the grand fanfare celebrations, but the little ways one feels celebrated in a day.  You know what I mean?

Like that hug that you get out of nowhere from a friend.  Or that tilt of the hat from an older gentleman as he opens the door for you at the post office.  Or perhaps that surprise note waiting for you on the counter when you get back from grocery shopping.

And then it struck me:

The Art of the Surprise Note by The Thinking Closet

And I bet you do, too!


I grew up in family of surprise-note-writers.  My Mom loved surprising me with a note in my lunch bag (even through high school), and my Dad would often leave notes on the counter wishing blessings upon my day.  Then, at age 25, surprise, surprise, I fell head over heels for a note-writer named Mark.  He takes surprise notes to all new levels.

There’s just something so wonderful about receiving even the simplest of notes when it’s unexpected…uncalled for…and totally “just because.”  I think we appreciate those little celebrations all the more because it’s often on those un-birthdays and un-anniversaries when we need a little pick-me-up the most.

So let’s dive into exploring some tips and tricks for mastering the art of the surprise note, shall we?  

The Art of the Surprise Note by The Thinking Closet

Tips & Tricks:

1) Surprise notes should be just that – – a surprise.  Try your best to sneak your note in its spot without your victim catching you.  And if you’re in the room when they find it, you should act as surprised as they are.  “What?  Where did that come from?” (spoken with feigned shock…followed by a sneaky smile).

2) Ordinary days are the best days for surprise notes.  That and job interview days.  Because job interviews are scary, and we need all the encouragement we can get!  Can I get an “Amen”?

3) Less is more.  I often find that just a few carefully chosen words on a scrap of paper or a post-it are just as effective if not more than a sonnet on fancy stationery.  The key is to celebrate your recipient…not your mad writing skeelz.

4) Location, location, location.  The possibilities are endless for where you can leave your surprise note.  Have fun with it!  Here are a few suggestions:

Inside the lunch bag:  

A classic move.  Never gets old in my mind.

The Art of the Surprise Note via The Thinking Closet

Between the pages of a book:

Once you’ve chosen your victim, figure out what they’re reading, find their bookmark, skip twenty pages ahead, and stick your note inside.  Post-its work well for this method since they’re not likely to slip out accidentally.  (P.S. Bonus points for anyone who can “name that book” pictured below without the assistance of a Google search.  Anyone?  Anyone?)

The Art of the Surprise Note via The Thinking Closet

Atop the countertop:

Nothing fancy, but it has its benefits of being a prime check-in spot, so your victim is not likely to miss it!

The Art of the Surprise Note via The Thinking Closet

On the bathroom mirror:

The mirror is one of my favorite backdrops for the surprise note, especially when having house guests!  My college friend Crissie introduced me to this method when she brought Crayola washable window markers into our apartment culture senior year.  In the photo below, I used washable chalk paint markers, but if you don’t have markers on hand, you can always use eyeliner or lipliner.

Disclosure: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link above, I may earn a small commission, and I am very grateful for your support of this site. Thanks! (Read all the fine print here.)

The Art of the Surprise Note via The Thinking Closet

Inside a balloon:

This is a fun one…especially for kiddos (or adults who are kids at heart).  Imagine coming home from a long day at school or work and seeing a bright balloon inviting you to pop it.  I know this would make my day!  Here’s a visual tutorial to feast your eyes on:

The Art of the Surprise Note via The Thinking Closet

What are your ideas?

Where are other fun places to leave surprise notes?  Or other tips and tricks?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section.

{Update: Thanks for everyone who already commented on this post when I first shared it.  Some of you shared that you enjoy leaving surprise notes on someone’s phone in the “notes” section…or through a screensaver…on a chalkboard inside a child’s lunchbox…under pillows or in suitcases before a trip…in a day planner…even public restrooms!  This is fabulous.  Keep the ideas comin’.}

And now, a charge.

Here is my charge to you: You just took 5 minutes to read this post.  Now, take 1 minute out of your day today to write a surprise note to someone…anyone.  It could be your significant other, your roommie, your mother, your mailperson, a co-worker, your cat…anyone!  Scribble a few celebratory words on a piece of paper, leave it somewhere surprising, and then sit back and watch as you make their day just a little brighter.  Or maybe even a whole lot brighter.

And just because I recently saw The Hobbit and found this quote quite apropros:

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

-Gandalf the Gray

No person is too ordinary, no act is too small, no note is too simple.  So, let’s get scribbling.

Dear readers, I hope you have a celebratory day.  {Linking up here.}

This is Lauren, signing off.

Lovely comments so far...

    • says

      Amen to that! Sometimes I think it’s easy to lose sight of the power of the little things…to think of things like making lunch as a chore rather than a point of connection with those we love. Andres Dubus wrote a powerful chapter in his book, “Meditations from a Movable Chair,” on that very concept, and he discussed the powerful act of making his daughters’ lunches each day. I’ve thought about that chapter several times in the past week now…I think it’s time to pull it from the bookshelf and re-read it!

  1. says

    HaHa Lauren. I did leave my hubby a surprise note to remind him that we need extra $$ to pay the real estate taxes, two mortgages and two food licenses this month. Of course I told him that I love him too! I just made sure first that I had the freezer stocked with ice cream and cookies – I should attach a note to those too!
    Just having fun –
    His note to me, each morning is: “Honey I love you, You are beautiful, and I’m sorry.

    Just to let everyone know, I met my best friend 30+ years ago and have been working side by side every day so at times things do get tense. Not many people could stand each other for a solid 24-7 but we manage. So when Lauren’s post about the special notes was written, it hit home because we do write notes to each other. It part of how we tolerate one another when things haven’t gone as we wanted.

    • says

      K, I’m amazed that you two have worked side by side each day for 30+ years! Congrats! I’m sure that takes a lot of patience and perseverance…and probably a lot of “I’m sorrys.” Just at small group tonight, we were talking about the importance of being able to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship; and how we need to let go of our pride and admit we’re wrong when we’re wrong. It can be so hard to do, though, can’t it?

      And it’s fascinating to hear how you’ve used “surprise notes” to express your true feelings or even practical reminders when spoken words have been exhausted. Those are other great uses for notes. I’ve done the same.

      The idea of a surprise note in the freezer with the ice cream and cookies is a delight to me. Makes me smile! (And crave ice cream.)

  2. says

    I know this is not the proper time to ask this and I appologize because it is not related but
    I just wanted to ask about something else that you mentioned a few blogs back. It is related to helping others with tips and tricks for starting their own blog.
    I was wondering if you could provide a type of tutorial showing how you set up to take your photographs and what you do to add the slogans to them etc. Maybe you could use one of the pictures from today’s blog or a recent blog to go step by step.
    Maybe even have your followers suggest what they could use advice with.
    I know you have so little time to add another project, but I know I could use some help at times. I don’t blog but there are times when some of the tricks that bloggers use, apply to some of the things I do.

    • says

      No apologies needed! And I’m glad you brought this up, K! In fact, I already had an idea for a future post brewing in my head where I could share some basics of how I use to edit and enhance my photos. There are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in these past few months of using that website…and now, your comment has urged me that it might be a post folks would enjoy and appreciate! Thank you.

  3. says

    I love this post Lauren (so much so that I’m typing this comment twice … my crazy trigger finger somehow deleted my last one!)! My mom was a great note-writer and I love to put words of love or encouragement in The Boy’s lunch bag or backpack. But now that I think of it, he may be getting too used to that … I’m off to slip one under his pillow right now! xo

    • says

      Hate that nasty trigger finger! I have one, too! (Though mine likes to type words twice or type random words in lieu of the ones I’m thinking in my head. A rogue finger, perhaps!) And I’m so glad that this post prompted you to leave The Boy a surprise note in a new location. Under the pillow is a fun one…reminds me of the magical tooth fairy days!

  4. says

    Gosh, you’re great! I love the balloon idea and will be using that today. Such a cute post. I must admit, your posts are my absolutely my favorite to read. I consider your my blogging role-model. Thank you for being you!

    • says

      Thanks for all of your encouragement, Dusty! It delights me to hear how much you’re enjoying my humble posts. I feel to much of a “young” blogger to be a role-model, but I’ll just shush and receive the compliment…I feel the love. Hugs!

    • says

      Thanks for your sweet comment! I loved hearing about the “surprise notes” left by your kids in your day planner, and how you’ve grown to appreciate their scribbles. (And you could never bore me, Jessica…even if you tried!)

    • says

      How wonderful! I would have never thought to mail a surprise card to my spouse! Your hubby is genius-pants.

      I visited the site you linked to and all I can say is WOW. What an incredible story of surprise notes left behind. I definitely got teary-eyed watching the video about Elena. Thanks for sharing that, Alex!

    • says

      It is a bit startling, isn’t it? A little trick about popping balloons, if you don’t want the loud POP, just prick the balloon by the knot where the material isn’t stretched so tightly, and the air will escape slowly. Random fun fact!

  5. says

    Surprises are hard to come by but this year our
    family will be surprised in March.. my 4th grandbaby
    will be born and no one knows the gender.. not
    even mom and dad… Love your post.

  6. says

    What a great idea 😀 I particularly like the Balloon notes. I can guarantee that it will be tried and tested by me at some point this year.
    Although they are not ‘notes’ as such, my hubby is a sweetie and every time he wants to surprise me with something, like if he has secretly booked days off work for us to spend together, or he wants to tell me how proud he is of how well I am doing on placement, he will get me a little card and write the most adorable messages.
    They are always unexpected and always make me smile xXx

    • says

      My bloggy friend Jessica was saying how she started leaving “surprise notes” in public places for strangers to find…it was part of a campaign by her local radio station…but she said it gave her so much joy to do and she even came across a few surprise notes, too!

  7. says

    What a fun post! I love getting and giving surprise notes, but have not done any for quite awhile. Your post has inspired me to write more notes! Thank You.

  8. Kelly says

    “Do no great things; only small things with great love” (Mother Theresa).

    When My kids were young I wrote them notes…in their lunch boxes, bedroom doors, etc.

    Now I think I should re-invent them. Thanks for the reminder.


  9. says

    I really love your post. What a great idea to make the day of those you love. Thank you for sharing this marvelous idea and I cannot way to try it out on my boys!

  10. says

    Ummm . . . I have never thought of putting notes in balloons! Ingenious, my oldest son (2 and a half) loves loves loves balloons! You have just inspired a really fun rainy day activity!!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Hooray! I love the idea of turning this into a mother-son activity. Maybe he can draw pictures that you stuff into balloons and then hide them around the house for him to find. That sounds fun to me! (Maybe rainy days aren’t so gloomy after all….)

  11. says

    Very Cute! I like to leave notes for the hubby on napkins in his lunch and I look forward to leaving some for my son in his lunch box when he starts kindergarten this fall. Love the balloon idea, might need to try that one.

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Yay! Another fan of surprise notes! Lunch box notes are the best. My Mom did them for me all throughout primary and secondary school…looking forward to continuing that tradition when I have little ones!

  12. says

    K that balloon idea is the cutest idea! Definitely going to have to remember that for my nephews and nieces. Thanks so much for all the great ideas.

  13. says

    One day I cut up an add in a magazine and wrote one sentence love notes for my boyfriend and left them in his pant pockets, in drawers and other little places around his room for him to find for a few days. I think it took him a couple of weeks until he found them all. But it was nice to be covered for a couple of weeks and not have to do anything nice for a while haha just kidding it was fun!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Ha ha. Such a cute idea! And one I might have to try out on Mark one birthday or Valentine’s Day. I could see that being so thrilling for the recipient (and thus, for the giver, too!). Thanks for sharing, Kim!

  14. K. says

    I absolutely love this! My mum used to do notes in my lunchbox growing up, then I got wonderful surprise when I found out my boy is a letter-writer (handwritten, occasional doodles, messy, lined paper goodness!) I was delighted and my roommate tends to use notes as well to let me know there’s fresh coffee or text her if I need anything while she’s out grocery shopping anyway.

    One thing you may enjoy is that she and I took magazine cut-outs of minions from Despicable Me and hid them around the apartment just to make life more fun-inside closet doors, on the smoke detector, the side of the fridge just to get a bit of giggle in our days. Come final weeks of school she found cute facts (mostly about animals, dand fun words) and began posting one a day in the kitchen. That turned into a post-it madness of Disney quotes, lyrics, corny jokes and goofy drawings that made the stress bearable and became a fun game to see what else we could add. It’s a tradition I’m doing every year from now on and the other roomies absolutely loved it too :)

  15. says

    This was such a fun post to read…..and now I’m trying to think of a surprise note to leave for my husband! We’ve been together for over a decade now, and we used to leave little notes for each other quite often, but sadly that’s slowly faded away, especially now that we have our little man. I remember leaving the hubs a lovey dovey note in his wallet next to his cash, fully expecting him to find it within a couple days, but you know what? He never found it until I told him about it…..SIX MONTHS LATER! Yes, six months! I guess he uses his debit card more than I thought. :) I’ll have to use some of your tips next time and make them a little more obvious….and I can’t wait for my son to get a little older so I can surprise him too! Thanks again for sharing!

  16. gayla says

    I know this is an old post but I’m hoping it’s monitored some way. I’m dying to know – what is the title of the book?

    • says

      Ha ha. I’m so glad you asked, Gayla! Since no else has guessed it in all this time, I’m happy to divulge the answer. It’s Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott, and is my favorite book on writing. Even if you’re not much interested in writing, Anne Lamott is such a fantastic writer, you’ll probably WANT to write after reading it. Enjoy!


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