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Paper Source Subscription Box Review – Winter 2020

Christen Russo
ByChristen RussoNov 12, 2020 | 17 comments

Paper Source Winter 2020 box

Paper Source Lifestyle Box
3.3 overall rating
6 Ratings | 3 Reviews

Paper Source has a quarterly lifestyle box that includes some of their favorite items from popular brands like Rifle Paper Co., ban.do, Paddywax, and Lilly Pulitzer and runs $49.95 per season (with free shipping). Expect candles, stationery, and items for your home or office that coincide with each season. By the way, our readers voted this box as one of the Best Stationery Subscriptions of 2020!

Paper Source Winter 2020 unboxing

This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)

Paper Source Winter 2020 all items

About this Colorful Home and Lifestyle Box

The Subscription Box: Paper Source Subscription Box

The Cost: $49.95/quarter (a minimum one-year commitment paid in quarterly installments)

The Products: A mix of 10+ stationery and lifestyle items from Paper Source as well as popular home and lifestyle brands.

Ships to: Contiguous U.S. addresses only, for free.

Paper Source Winter 2020 Review


Paper Source does a nice job of making you feel like you're opening an awards ceremony winner announcement by tucking its info card into a beautiful envelope. Perhaps I should expect nothing less from a subscription from a stationery company, but it's really just a fun touch. The front of this season's card announces a Staycation theme, and the reverse side breaks down the 13 lifestyle items included within into three categories: indulge, live, and luxuriate.

You may have seen a sneak peek of this box in our article about subscription box regifting, wherein we show how some of our favorite quarterly subscriptions can save you time and money on your holiday shopping. Unlike with the other subscriptions included in the list, the individual items inside this box are generally smaller, more stocking-stuffer-friendly gifts. Unless you combine a few to curate your own multi-item gift, or if that type of thing is not your forté, Paper Source has already divided the items up into the categories I mentioned above. While the Paper Source card doesn't actually suggest gifting these items, it seems clear to me that they've still tailored the box to that potential purpose. (Plus, if you compare this quarter's items to what was sent in last year's winter box, there are a couple of repeat themes like slipper socks and a candle, which in my interpretation is because they make good gifts that could work for a lot of potential recipients.)

A final note before I show you the box items in all their glory: in past Paper Source reviews we've mentioned that PS has a way of showing inflated prices on their info card. Well, this quarter there are no prices listed at all! I prefer that over inaccurate info since I always try to find each item from its original seller (or, when not available, elsewhere online) and note the regular retail price.

Okay, here are the items that arrived in this quarter's Paper Source box, grouped together in their respective categories as listed!


"Indulge" items:


The Artisanal Kitchen: Baking For Breakfast Cookbook — Retail Value $12.95 ($11.99 on Amazon)

I am giddy over the first item from this quarter's Paper Source box: a cookbook filled with brunch recipes. A quick flip-through reveals that the recipes represent a healthy mix of unique recipes and classics. I also like the size, which is small enough to have on the countertop without encroaching on your baking space. This is exactly the type of gift I would give to a friend for a birthday or holiday, perhaps paired with an exciting kitchen gadget or tool, but I'll just have to buy a second copy for gifting—I saw far too many recipes I liked in there to give this one away.


Actually, I made one already! The very first recipe in the cookbook is for "Buttermilk Biscones," a cross between a biscuit and a scone. I have made scones once before and tried to wing it with something other than buttermilk, but I wanted to do it right this time around, and I'm so glad I did. The consistency was the perfect mix of each type of bready treat. I took the blueberry variation listed in the cookbook, which calls for a lemon glaze that is perfectly light and bright. With a toddler in the mix, I decided to keep the glaze on the side for adults-only enjoyment, so these photos are sans-glaze but know that the outcome was absolute perfection. I can't wait to bake my way through this book.


Twine Living Co. Rose Floral Corkscrew — Retail Value $16

Seeing that a corkscrew is an item that manages to make itself scarce right when you need one, I say you can never have too many. And, I know I'm not the only one who's had the idea to keep one in my car for road trips. Not for using it in the car, but for when you decide it would be a good night to hang in the hotel and enjoy a bottle of wine. The floral pattern on this one is sweet, and I like that it has a flip-out serrated part for cutting the foil. This tool doubles as a bottle opener, of course! Another item that would be just as reasonable to gift as it would be to keep.


Tea Forte Tea Tasting Set, 2 pyramids — Buy a set of 10 for $20 here

How cool are these mesh tea bags? I love the little leaf tags. The set of two organic teas comes with an English Breakfast and a citron chamomile tea. This would make a nice morning/evening combo for a committed tea drinker, or otherwise just two nice options that are commonly liked. I couldn't find this two-pyramid set on the Tea Forte website—the fewest I could find was 10 (linked above), but at $20 it's an affordable gift with a quality presentation for a tea-lover.

I tried the black tea first, and interestingly the teabag floats even after steeping. That said, the woven stem of the leaf is lined with a fine wire that enables you to bob the pyramid into your mug effectively. The leaf looked so pretty sticking out of my mug! I let it steep for a little longer than I usually do to compensate for the floating, and it still tasted very light. Nice flavor, though!


"Live" items:


Hey Crush Pom Pom Slipper Socks — Retail Value $16.95

On paper, these slipper socks have all the makings of a really cute giftable item. They're festive and their knit-and-fleece combo is really cozy. But they're pretty narrow! I wear size 7 shoes, and this pair hugged really close as I slid my feet in. My toes and heels were poking over the soft soles a bit, which wasn't a huge problem until I started walking and these slippers just slowly slid off my feet. In theory, one could say they'll only wear these slippers while curled up on the couch, but in reality, you're definitely going to be grabbing a cup of tea or running to the bathroom at some point! I was planning on keeping these for myself, but they're too high maintenance (or maybe just too small). They'd make a great gift for a pre-teen or a woman with very small feet. I'm not sure I have someone in my life who falls into those categories—at least who I'd be getting a Christmas gift for—so I suppose I'll donate them.


Paddywax Prism Candle in Evening Fog, 2.5 oz— Retail Value $19, no longer available.

Over my last four years of receiving subscription boxes, I've developed a real love for Paddywax candles. These hand-poured soy candles are reliably beautiful and they smell wonderful in a very contemporary sense of the word: their scents are fresh and complex and generally unisex. Their containers span a range of decor styles and are always ones that I end up cleaning out and repurposing after the candle has lived its life.

This specific prism candle isn't available on the Paddywax site (and actually there doesn't even seem to be a similar offering at the moment), but I recalled reviewing it for the former Nosejoy subscription, which is where I got the tip on the retail value. You can read that review here. This Evening Fog scent is different than the one I was sent through Nosejoy—that one was fruity, but this one is musky, with hints of the tobacco scent I love encountering in candles these days.


Talking Out of Turn Twist & Shout Reusable Tote, Tiny Terrazzo, Small — Retail Value $8

This tote bag is much like the standard Baggu totes we've probably all encountered by now. It's sold in over a dozen different patterns, but if I were to have chosen a pattern myself, I probably would've selected this one. So that's a win! Lately, the grocery stores near me haven't been allowing the use of reusable grocery bags due to COVID safety precautions, but did you know that you can ask the checkout clerk to place all your items back in your cart loose so that you can bag your items by your car? Definitely not something I do when I'm in a hurry, but on top of the eco-friendly aspect I personally think the experience of hauling my groceries into my house is much improved by durable reusable bags with straps you can easily sling over your shoulder. This small tote is great for produce or to pick up a loaf of bread and your local bakery!


Rifle Paper Co. Checklist Notepad in Great Things — Retail Value $8

I was a bit surprised that the only stationery item included in this quarter's Paper Source box was this notepad. That's not to say I don't love it and haven't already put it to use! I currently have it stationed at the end of my kitchen counter, where I have a list of meal ideas for dinner this week. It's perfect for life on the countertop with its gorgeous flower borders, and its little checkboxes are satisfying to mark.


Talking Out of Turn Velvet Scrunchie — Buy a set of 3 for $12

This is the second quarter in a row that Paper Source has sent a scrunchie. You may recall the last one was a satiny pink one with a tie attached to it (see last quarter's review here), while this one is blue and velvety. This one is a bit more my speed but I was still surprised to find basically a repeat item. All the more reason this box seems catered to gifting. As for the actual functionality of it, it holds even my very fine hair securely. To me, that's the sign of a good scrunchie!


"Luxuriate" items:


Oh K! Tech Neck Sculpting Face Mask — Retail Value $7 (similar mask found here)

This sheet mask is meant for the lower half of your face, and it has bottom panels that wrap around your neck. Its purpose is to lift and firm the contours of the chin and neck, which I can't help but find a bit comical. If you've been reading my reviews for a while you already know that I have a fraught relationship with sheet masks, which is to say I don't find them relaxing; just wet and stressful. So wrapping one around my neck just wasn't going to happen. But I recognize that I'm in the minority for this stance (I definitely have a little sheet mask FOMO), and for someone who is into them, I imagine this out-of-the-ordinary sheet mask design would be a really cool new one to try.


Oh K! Gently Warming Facial Steam Mask — Retail Value $6

Again, if you're a lover of sheet masks, this one is pretty unique. It's a pore-clearing mask that works by gently warming your face. Despite the concern that whatever chemicals make this mask "warming" are also going to be touching my face, I actually decided to give it a go! I figured since it's meant to be used in the bath or shower (that's where the "steam" part comes in), I could easily wash the essence off when I was done. I waited until I was in the shower to pull it out of the package, and I could feel the mask beginning to warm right away. It was covered in a thick gel that didn't have much of a scent. If I were to do it again I may go the bath route instead of the shower—you're supposed to leave it on for 10-20 minutes, which is just a little more reasonable of a thing to do in the bath than during a shower. Anytime I moved or tried to wash a part of my body, it slid off my face.


Oh K! Caffeine Body Mask Treatment — Retail Value $7

Yep, we're in sheet-maskers paradise. Everyone's "luxuriate" looks a little different, I suppose. (Mine looks more like prolonged silence, freshly baked cookies, and an evening by the campfire, but I do see how an at-home spa day would be magnificent for some!) As with the above two masks, this one—actually, it's a pair—offers something different from the norm. They're fabric-backed patches that you can stick to your arms, thighs, calves, or anywhere else you want to give a little lovin' to. The patches are infused with caffeine and noni fruit to firm and hydrate your skin.


The Good Patch "Be Calm" Hemp-Infused Body Patch — Retail Value $12 (currently on sale for $7)

Transitioning away from masks, this is a CBD patch that can be worn for 8-12 hours. The patch itself is clear and meant to be worn on the inside of your wrist. My husband was about to go into a stressful workday, so I asked if he wanted to give it a try, and he agreed! He has pretty hairy arms, so finding a place where the patch could sit comfortably on skin meant overlapping the fold of his wrist. Because of this, it didn't last the full 8 hours before causing a distraction and needing to be taken off, and unfortunately, we were only sent 1 to try. As with all CBD products, there is no "high" that comes with wearing this patch, and any feeling you do get from it is very subtle. My husband reported that he didn't notice any effects, though he would've been happy to try it again with a slightly different placement if he'd had the chance.


L'Occitane Almond Delicious Hands Cream, 2.6 oz — Retail Value $24

Ooh! My eyes widen at anything from L'Occitane. I've received their products as gifts many times over the years and I've always found that the quality is fantastic, and their scents are so tasteful. The cream is not greasy, it absorbs well, and it smells wonderfully clean, natural, and neutral. Major score.

Verdict: This Paper Source subscription was filled with a variety of lifestyle items that are just as well-suited to gifting as they are to keep as a treat for yourself. I really like how they pre-categorized this spread into three groupings as a way of subtly offering ideas for nicely curated gift experiences. That said, once I really dug into the individual items and tried some of them out, I was left questioning what demographic this quarter's box was curated for—it seemed tailored to a younger crowd with the small slipper socks and the scrunchie and the series of sheet masks (I know lots of adults like sheet masks, but these weren't as elevated as others I've seen). Perhaps that was the goal! Maybe the average Paper Source subscriber has daughters or nieces that these things would be great for. For me in this season of life, they just felt a little random. However, there were plenty of items that I really enjoyed and will use, like the cookbook, candle, tote, notepad, and hand cream. This quarter I received a total of 13 items with a value of $142.90, using an estimated cost for the tea pyramids, past knowledge for the prism candle, and the full price of the CBD patch. This isn't as high of a value as last quarter's box, but still a good deal for a $49.95 box. I enjoyed exploring the spread of items in this season's box, but I really look forward to next quarter when Paper Source is back to business as usual and sending items that are all more overtly intended to be kept!

If you're interested in more great lifestyle subscriptions, check out our list of the 19 best subscription boxes for women in 2020!

To Wrap Up:

Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Unfortunately the Winter box is no longer available. If you sign up now your subscription will start with the Spring 2021 box. [updated 11/12/20]

Value Breakdown: At $49.95 for this box, you are paying approximately $3.84 for each of the 13 items.

Check out our other Paper Source subscription box reviews right here.

Keep track of your subscriptions by adding this box to your subscription list or wishlist!

Do you like what came in the Winter Paper Source subscription box? Do you have someone in mind for gifting these items?

Starting at $49.95
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"Paper Source Lifestyle Box is a quarterly subscription that delivers exclusively curated lifestyle products. Each of the four boxes contains $200 in retail value."
Christen Russo
Christen Russo

Hi there, I'm Christen. I am all sorts of things: a writer who loves to convey feeling, a mother who wants to have just as much fun as my kids do, an outdoors-lover who's achieved #1000hoursoutside with my family, a low-maintenance self-carer, and general hungry person with a sweet tooth.

You'll find me collecting stationery and squirreling away stickers, riding bikes and swimming with my family, creating outfits in colors and silhouettes that make me feel amazing, wearing big earrings, drinking beer and asking my husband to feed me harmonies to sing, taking my vitamins, living for dancing to live music, roping everyone into a craft, being human and vulnerable, and celebrating the phenomenon of being alive.

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This was my second box and I found it very disappointing. I’ve been watching it since it first launched and had finally decided it was a good bet for me… with the year commitment I am regretting it now.

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Christen Russo

I’m there with you, Emily. I have high hopes for next quarter, though, once they’re back to “business as usual” rather than the seemingly holiday-leaning curation. Fingers crossed!

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Thank you for the super detailed and fun review, Christen. I think we are on the same wavelength with this one. I’ve been a subscriber to this box since the first (a year ago, I think) and this is the first box that I wasn’t very excited about once the spoilers were released. I actually cancelled my sub because I didn’t want to get this box and plan to resub for the spring box. Fingers crossed it is a winner!

I am a big fan of using sub box items for gifting but nothing in here seemed very special to me. All of the masks seemed more like filler than anything but, as I am not much of a mask person, they would not have the same value to me as they would for someone who truly enjoys them. I just don’t have many giftees that would be suitable to receive these.

I, too, was very disappointed in the lack of paper and stationary items! That is my favorite thing about Paper Source and why I adore it so much. I certainly also love their luxe lifestyle and kitch items but the beautiful paper products and pens are my favorite things about this box and the reason I subscribe to it specifically.

The workshop vouchers are always a great value item for me and I’ve enjoyed them all. I also really liked the voucher for the personalized journal that was offered a few seasons back. I hope Paper Source brings to the next box more of the items that set it apart from others. This felt like a somewhat generic subscription box assortment than an on-brand Paper Source selection.

But that brunch book sure looks great. I wish I enjoyed cooking more to take advantage of it 🙂

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Christen Russo

Stealth move with the cancellation & resubscription, Nicole! In terms of the paper/stationery items, I personally hoard them, but I feel like they make wonderful gifts, too, so it didn’t make a ton of sense to me that they scaled back on them this quarter. I would be over the moon if they offered another voucher for something personalized again—that would feel really special. Thanks so much for contributing your detailed input here!

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Joy-Not the Other One

Okay so I have been wanting this subscription forever and a day. I am a stationary and office supplies FANATIC (I mean I truly think I might have an actual problem, I like my paperclips to match for heaven’s sake) so this box has always been at the top of my wish list. And now, thanks to this site’s commenters introducing me to Mercari, I feel I can finally justify the price because I’ve recently been able to unload all of my unused beauty box products (of which there were plenty!) so I have some extra cash. 🙂

After saying all that, I was BEYOND disappointed in my first box. ONE NOTEPAD as the only stationary product in box called PAPERSOURCE?!?! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I went back and read all of the reviews before I signed up so I knew it was going to be a mix of stationary/paper products and lifestyle items, but I was just at a total loss with this box.

So not to sound like some kind of weird groupie or anything, but I read all of Christen’s reviews, (even the mommy/children ones regardless of the fact that I am not currently the mommy of a toddler myself) because I really appreciate her writing style and the fact that she does not sugar coat things that aren’t up to par. I also feel like she does this in the nicest way possible which is refreshing so I have been waiting on this review ever since I received my Winter box. I have to say, I am relieved to see she also felt this box had a few issues.

One thing that I really agreed with her on was the intended audience for this box. To me, it felt very all over the place. A velvet scrunchie and 3 k-beauty masks next to a wine opener and a book about breakfast (which was also my favorite item in the box!)? Honestly though, I had never thought about the fact that they might have intended this box for you to split up and gift but after she mentioned it in her review as a possibility that is literally the only thing that makes sense as far as the contents to me. The only issue with that is, I don’t buy boxes to use as gifts and I don’t expect the company to make that assumption for me.

After receiving this weird (to me) assortment, I had to go back and read last year’s review of the Winter box. Here is some of what was in last year’s Winter box:

A small book
A pair of slipper socks
A Paddywax candle
A wine opener
A tube of L’Occitane hand cream
A canister of tea

I mean that is a A LOT of repeats (even though they are different scents, colors, etc.), so I am guessing Christen is right about them expecting you to gift these items.

I always hesitate to comment on here when I am being critical of something because first of all I do realize there are a ton of actual problems in the world and my receiving only one notepad in a stationary subscription box ranks exactly nowhere on that list and second I also know a subscription box is technically a mystery box and that is the chance you take when you sign-up for one. But this is the comments section of a subscription box website so I am just here to chime in with my opinion of my personal experience. I hope everyone else who receives this subscription is very happy with this quarter’s box and can fit their regular, non Fred Flintstone size feet into those otherwise darling slipper socks! My fat feet lost that battle! 🙂

I am looking forward to the next quarter and hopefully more stationary type items. 🙂

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Christen Russo

Hi Joy!! You made my heart smile! Thank you for your support and for following along with my shenanigans. I’m so glad you find my reviews informative! And while I wish we’d both had a better experience with the PS Winter box, I’m also glad to hear we’re aligned. It can be really reassuring to find that this was a shared experience. Your own mini review here is so helpful. Here’s to an epic Spring box!

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Those socks! 😲 I agree with you, Christen, this was definitely a bit random of a box….only one stationary item?

And yes, prolonged silence is my dream evening, too, lol.

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Christen Russo

Thanks for reading, Snow. I do tend do love the full curation that Paper Source provides, but I’ll be spending the next three months wishin’ and hopin’ and prayin’ for a greater volume of stationery items next quarter!

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Christen, you have such a pleasant disposition I must say 😊

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I tried to purchase early this morning, and it is no longer available. Bummer! This box is great.

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Christen Russo

Oh no, Kerry! This must have just happened! I’m so sorry to have misinformed you of its availability in my review; I’m going to update that now. But seriously every box is so great, I think you’ll be happy if you sign up starting with next quarter!!

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This looks like a great box. Too bad they don’t send them to Canada.

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Christen Russo

I wish I could mail one to you personally, Nancy!

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The l’occitane hand cream was my favorite item in this box. I have never received a full size of this in any sub box in all the years I’ve been receiving boxes. I haven’t tried the masks yet but I do like masks and I like that these are different. This was my first box and I was a little (okay, more than a little) disappointed to not see a coupon for a workshop.

I wish I had read your review before I opened the slippers. I have them in the laundry and didn’t try them on first. If they are small for a size 7 that doesn’t bode well for my size 8 feet. Dangit.

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Christen Russo

I missed the workshop coupon this time around, too! I’ll betcha it’ll be back next season. I hope you can find someone with small feet to enjoy your slipper socks, and I’m so glad you were as excited as I was about the full-size hand cream!

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I always keep a corkscrew in my glove box. Not because I drink in the car… It has always come in handy for tail gates and after hours office celebrations.

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Christen Russo

You get it, Gloria!

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