Thursday, February 23, 2012

What to do with greeting cards?

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what to do with greeting cards if you tend to get sentimental.

When I got married, everyone who gave me a wedding gift also included a greeting card. Some of them were really pretty. And of course, I was just plain starry-eyed about my wedding and so I wanted to save things that reminded me of that special time.

How did I deal with all those greeting cards? It took time--at least a year. I went through several stages, and I did different things with the cards at each stage.

Stage #1 For the first six months after my wedding, I wanted to keep ALL the greeting cards. So I did. And, to make sure that I continued to appreciate them, I taped them all up on the wall of our study in a big greeting-card-collage. I thought of it as our “wedding shrine.”

Eventually I got to the point when the greeting cards weren’t giving me the same happy emotional jolt of remembering my wedding as they first did. (I realized this wasn’t because anything was wrong with me, it was just that I had emotionally moved on to other things, like our actual marriage.) So, it was time to get a little more selective.

Stage #2. I decided I would take down any cards that didn’t fill at least one of the following criteria:

  • They had to be pretty. Like knock-your-socks-off pretty.
  • They had to have something meaningfully personal written to us. (“Meaningful” being defined as something that would not also apply to any other newly wedded couple.)

Cards that I took down were sufficiently boring to me by that time that I was able to just put them in the recycling bin without a pang.

Stage #3. After another few months, I was ready to decorate some other way, so I took down those greeting cards, recycled the pretty ones, and put the meaningful ones in a box. This reduced the stack substantially.

Stage #4. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what happened at stage 4, but I have a vague idea that I decided to recycle all the rest of the greeting cards. Knowing me, I told myself that I probably wouldn’t read them over again and I wanted the space to be free for other things. The shrine stage (stage 1) had already validated my sentimentality all that I needed.

So that’s how I dealt with the highly emotionally charged wedding day greeting cards. It’s about giving yourself time to savor them by display, and then getting more selective when you start to take them for granted.

How about letters from friends and family?

About a year ago, I went through a box of letters that I saved from back in high school from old friends. (Ahh, the good old days when people still wrote letters and put them in the mail!) I read through them all and looked for the extra witty or interesting ones to keep. Then I tossed the others.

The blog Small Notebook in the post “Organize greeting cards: the stack method” has some good suggestions for how to deal with greeting cards:

Once you’ve built up a stack, separate them into little piles according to who gave them to you. It’s easier to throw away a few Easter cards from your granny when you can see that you have six of them, and then you can pick your favorite.

Save the cards from the people who are closest to you, not every acquaintance who ever sent you a thank you note.


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