Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Hallmark Holidays and American Greetings: Card Clutter
A reader inquires:
I was wondering what should I do with my Christmas Cards. I really appreciate people remembering me and sending me cards but what do I do with them now?
The U. S. Postal Service delivered an estimated 20 billion cards, letters and packages this December -- do you feel like most of them are on your kitchen table? Depending on how sentimental you are about cards vs. how ruthlessly you want to eliminate clutter, you have a few options:
1) Throw the cards out!!!
A holiday card is like a phone message or an actual conversation you might have by telephone or in person. If someone wishes you "Merry Christmas" or "Good Kwanzaa" or "Happy Hanukkah", do you transcribe the conversation and keep the notes indefinitely? Of course not -- toss!
2) Toss most cards, but retain a few for sentimental and practical reasons.
Pour a cup of cocoa and reread your cards with an analytical eye. Was the message written by an employee of Hallmark? Did the sender write only a few words or merely scribble his name? Check the sender's current address against your address book and then toss it out.
Next, read through those annual newsletters. If you are close with the sender, nothing should actually be "news" to you; if it's genuinely newsworthy, you'll remember it and won't need the written record. If the sender is not really close, knowing little Jimmy struggled with potty training won't factor into your continued enjoyment of life. Toss!
Now, with only the most memorable and meaningful cards, think deeply about why you want to keep them:
- Do you feel guilty discarding the cards? Recognize that the vast majority of people do, indeed, just toss out all cards after January 1st. You have Paper Doll's permission.
- Do you fear you might be tested the next time you speak with the sender? As long as you don't forget your friend's children's name (make a note in your address book), you'll be fine. (With grandchildren, you'll get away with saying "...and how's the baby?" without specifying anything further.)
- Does the message make you laugh or fill you with joy, love and peace? That's a keeper!
With sentimental correspondence, I suggest keeping love letters, special letters from parents or grandparents, and cards related to truly momentous events, like 21st birthdays. As Christmas comes every year, even most hand-written messages would need to be pretty impressive to be worth keeping beyond January. :-)
Practicality -- A pile of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or New Year's cards can yield practical information: WHO sent you a card and FROM WHERE did they send it?
Compare the return address with the address you have for the person in your address book or PDA. If the address is the same and the message is not deeply personal or meaningful, the card can be tossed immediately. If the address is different, update your data and then toss the non-essential cards and envelopes. Lather, rinse, repeat.
If you "appreciate people remembering you", show your appreciation in one of three ways:
- Call long-distance senders to let them know you appreciated being remembered. Saving a card does nothing for the sender and clutters up your space. A 20-minute phone call costs less than a First Class stamp. Schedule one name on each Saturday of the new year to give an unexpected, cheery "hello" to those you really care about.
- Send a chatty email. Comment on something in the sender's annual holiday newsletter -- show you care without keeping the clutter.
Just because someone sends you a card, it doesn't mean you have to send one to them. The dealership that sold me my car in 1998 regularly sends me a birthday card. A dear friend gave up sending cards after her third child. I'm neither flattered by receiving a card nor offended if one does not arrive. Adopt that same "nice but not necessary" attitude towards cards.
- Add the senders' names to your own holiday card list, if you intend to send holiday cards next year.
3) Note changed addresses, toss the envelopes and then sort cards into categories like:
What does Paper Doll do? Mostly, I toss. I have one small keepsake box in which I keep special cards and letters, tied by a ribbon, so I can reread them on special occasions.
- Inspirational printed quotations--copy moving quotations into a Word file or individual signature files in your email software. Save the quote, not the clutter!
- Personal messages -- Depending on your personal style, either put the remaining cards in a "Christmas Card" album, as one might do for family photos, or store them standing vertically, in a photo box organizer (the kind that look like shoe boxes, also as one might do for photos) or flat in a keepsake box.
- Cover art that you love -- Truly artistic people with (I fear) too much time on their hands like to decoupage or gloss the cards and make ornaments out of them, storing the finished items with other ornaments. Recycle artistically!
- Nothing special--If neither the message nor the artwork/design is particularly meaningful, toss it away.
Just as you can appreciate someone calling you without keeping a tangible record of them having done so, you can appreciate holiday cards without keeping them. Feel the freedom, release the card clutter! Happy Holidays!
posted on: 12/25/2007 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
by Julie Bestry
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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.
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