What to Do with Old Holiday & Birthday Cards

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What do you do with all those holiday and birthday cards you have received over the years? Do you keep them in an organized filing system organized by year, toss them in a drawer or box somewhere, eventually throw them away, or something else?

Today, I would like to share my system for keeping (kinda) old holiday & birthday cards.

Options for Dealing with Cards

I have heard of people who throw away cards after reading them. The first person I ever heard say this was Jane Lynch on an interview on TV. I had already come up with my own method of managing them by then, but if I hadn’t I probably would have strongly considered her system.

Who doesn’t love receiving birthday cards, holiday cards, thank you notes, and any other personal, friendly mail? It’s great to receive them, but six months or six years later, they have to live or die somewhere.

When I came up with my own strategy for dealing with the backlog of years worth of cards, I couldn’t bring myself to just throw everything away. I probably sorted through them at first and threw away cards that didn’t have personal notes or didn’t feel particularly sentimental, but that takes time and can be confusing.

My System for Saving Cards

I eventually decided to scan in all personal cards we receive. I even scan in cards I give to my fiancé and cards he receives!

After I scan, I rename the files “Card – [name of person who gave the card]” and file them in folders with the photos from that event. For example:

  • Christmas (2014)
  • Christmas (2013)
  • Birthday – Annie (2014)
  • Birthday – Michael (2014)

For non-Birthday or holiday cards, I started to create folders by year for all the other cards we receive throughout the year, such as thank you notes, housewarming cards, and other cards that aren’t necessarily associated with a particular set of pictures, as follows:

  • Cards & Notes (2015)
  • Cards & Notes (2014)

It was difficult to make the decision to scan, because after I scan the cards I either shred them or throw them in the recycling. In the end, I decided this was the right compromise for me and my vision for an organized, streamlined, minimalistic home. I enjoy having the cards on display during the holiday season and for about a week or so around whatever event the cards are associated with, but when the Christmas decorations come down, the holiday cards go into a “to-scan” pile.

Letting Go

It can be hard to let go of things, especially things as personal as cards. But, when considering the alternative option of having a huge box of cards weighing me down, this felt right for me.

It might seem pointless to scan in cards. I have to admit that I have yet to go back through my folders to look at past cards. But it’s nice to know they are there, and if I had them in a huge box somewhere it would be difficult to find cards from specific people or years. This way, I have them if I ever want to look at them, but don’t have to lug a huge box around if I want to reorganize a room or if we move into a tiny home someday. 🙂

This is one of those projects that has been haunting me for the past few years. This week, I finally got through all of my backlogged scans. I was scanning in birthday cards from 2011!

Now that I am officially through my backlog of scans, I am planning to be overly on top of my scanning queue as I try to figure out the right frequency of scanning in stuff. If there is any interest, I would love to share my new system for maintaining my scanning queue to empty. Let me know!

I would love to know what you do with old cards! Do you keep, recycle, or something else? Please share your thoughts!

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  1. Meg Evans Feb 28, 10:33 am

    I have to confess, I’ve been tossing all my cards in a box for more than 30 years! Scanning them and then discarding the originals makes perfect sense, and it’s on my decluttering to-do list. One of these days I’ll get to it — and yes, I agree that leaving cards on display for a few weeks before scanning them is a good timeframe.

    Reply
    1. anniehurley Mar 1, 6:57 am

      Haha! Actually, I remember when I was in high school or something and my mom pulling out this box overflowing with cards from forever! I remember thinking omg is that what happens to cards over time? I think this is probably a common method 🙂 The scanning of just a few years took me forever to complete – it is one of those one of these days kinds of projects 🙂 pairs well with a glass of wine and sometimes a great 80s movie 🙂 happy scanning!

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