Organize Greeting Cards: the Stack Method

“Do you have any tips on how to organize holiday cards, birthday cards, postcards, and other special cards in a meaningful manner? Aside from putting them all in a box, I don’t know of a good way to keep memorable cards (ones with real messages, not just a signature on the bottom).”
- Grace




Good question! After I’ve looked at and enjoyed the cards and letters I receive, I put them in a stack.

Yes, really.

I’m too sentimental to throw cards away right away. My husband doesn’t have a problem with reading a card and then recycling it, but then again, he never thinks about topics such as “how to organize greeting cards.”

The stack method really does help me to keep them at a reasonable amount. Though I can’t look at one card and then toss it, if I’m looking at a stack of cards that has accumulated, it’s easier to let some of them go.

What do I do with the cards I save? I tie them with ribbon and put them in a wooden box with other sentimental things. I don’t scrapbook them, and the reason why is because something I decide to keep today might not be so important to me later.

20091213-letters

A few tips to keep your card collection manageable:

If you save only the cards and not the envelopes, you reduce the storage space needed by half.

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.

When I’m going through cards for my kids, I set aside some as keepsakes for later and some to use now for decorations and activities. My daughter likes to tape birthday cards to her bedroom door or color on them.

We treat Christmas cards a little differently. They are displayed during the holidays, then I scan the ones with photos and save them on the computer with the rest of our December photos. Cards with illustrations are later cut up and reused for gift tags or decorations.

The most important thing to remember whenever you go through sentimental items is this rule:

The fewer things you keep, the more special they are.

When you save fewer cards and letters, you are more likely to enjoy looking at them later, which is the whole point of saving them in the first place. Just save the ones that are most important to you.

Do you have a stack of greeting cards too?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I can’t throw cards away right after reading them either. I have a bowl in my entry way and after the birthday or holiday has passed, the cards that were on display go into the bowl. I sort through them once a year and only keep the extra special ones.

    I had been hanging onto all the cards from our wedding until I went through my grandfather’s trunk and found just the wedding cards from his and my grandmother’s parents. I’ve since decided that the cards from close family and those with personal messages are really the only ones I need to keep. Still learning that less is more when it comes to the sentimental.
    Diane´s last post…Weekend update

  2. I have a big plastic tub full that I need to sort through. I am hoping to find some that will be suitable to send to the Recycled Card Program at St. Jude’s Ranch. Here’s some of the submission guidelines:
    Only the card front can be used (please check to be sure the back side is clear of any writing, etc.)
    We can not accept Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting cards.
    5″ x 7″ size or smaller is preferred.
    Here’s a link to their website: http://www.stjudesranch.org/help_card.php
    Cindy May´s last post…The Lost Art of Letter Writing

    • Thanks for linking to that! I knew there was a program that reuses cards, but I couldn’t remember the name.

    • Same here. I knew there was one but forget about it when I have a ton of cards to go through. And just curious but why can Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting cards not be accepted? If it because of copyrights they almost all have that unless they are homemade.

  3. This is a timely post for me, as I have many places that are “holding” these cards, and it’s starting to feel like clutter. I love the idea of scanning the photos of Christmas cards. I can let them go after doing so.
    Sharon´s last post…February Challenge- Februarys No Spend Details!

  4. I have a small basket that I keep only the most meaningful and special cards and letters. It sits on a corner of my sewing/scrapbooking table (so it’s not out in the open rest of the house), and when I need a pick-me-up I pull something out and read it!
    Carrie´s last post…One month in

  5. I only save greeting cards with handwritten, personally special greetings. Except for the kids, I saved all their birthday cards (there weren’t many) from their first 8 years or so in their memory bins. And I saved all our wedding related cards.

    I have a small plastic bin and all the cards, except ones to the kids, go in there. I wrap a large piece of paper around separate piles, ie: to renee from damien, to renee from parents, to renee from friends etc.. And every 6 months of so I clean out our card bin, that sits in our living area, and file those I want to keep.

    I used to save a lot more but don’t so much anymore.

    Christmas cards are only saved to read again if there is a significant personal message (I don’t understand the point of mass mailing a card with your signature) or family photo, in both cases it goes in our family memory album for the year. We’ve even amassed too much creative christmas papers that I don’t need to keep cards for that supply. So, I read the greeting and then recycle it.

  6. I also love the idea of scanning Christmas cards.

    I keep the cards out for a month or so, sometimes less, but never longer than a month, and then I toss everything that just says “to D & M, love from ____”. And then of the ones left (usually only 10% at this point) I go through for the REALLY meaningful messages. And then I toss them into my memory box.

    I need to go through that memory box…
    Marcia Francois´s last post…Using your natural flow

  7. First I organize my holiday cards by shape and size. I punch a hole in the upper left corner of each and use a large metal binder ring from Staples to hold them together. I fill the ring up considerably and hang it on a hook or put it on the coffee table for a while for people to peruse and flip through. My family loves it!

  8. I’m not sure if I should be ashamed or not, but I don’t really have a problem with throwing out old cards. I believe that cards are for an occasion, and once the occasion has passed, so has the need to keep the card.

    I used to be incredibly sentimental and I kept every scrap of paper that had any meaning. But I realized as I was simplifying my memory boxes that the memories of moments past are enough. In fact, as I thought about it in the really really long term (as in the afterlife) we’ll have a perfect memory of all those moments anyway. I’d much rather spend my life living it than continually reminiscing about how much of it has passed.
    Jennie´s last post…Simplifying Your Availability

    • I’m with you. I have one of those clear shoe boxes plus part of another one and that is ALL the cards I have saved in the last 35 years. I would throw more of those away but my husband is more of a keeper than I am. I agree with the full memory in the afterlife and I would also rather live in the present. Not that it’s wrong to save them. It’s just that it’s one more way I simplify my own life.

  9. Good one! I’m always waffly on this myself. I like giving myself permission to keep a small stack of special cards.
    A tip for those photo cards at Christmas. When our son was about 2, we started putting them in a cheap “magnetic” photo album just for him (along with pictures of other favorite things – fruit, football players, etc. cut out of magazines). Now he’s 4.5 and his sister’s 2, and they both still love this album. Adding new pic’s to it each year makes it extra fun.

  10. I put them in scrapbooks BUT I viciously cull them first. Photos, keep; handwritten stuff, keep; the rest, toss. Granted, we had a smallish wedding, but I got all of our wedding cards on one 2-page spread, right in the album. Same goes with Christmas.

  11. Great post! I have one box where I put all my cards and letters in. It works great for me, because whenever the box get full I know it’s time to throw out some of them.

    I really agree with you about keeping fewer things so they become more valuable. Thinking about that makes it so much easier to let go of things. I’m currently working on a series about decluttering in which I will address this topic as well.

    By the way, whenever I get a card I put it somewhere in my living room. After a couple of weeks I decide whether I will throw it out or put it in my box. That way, all my cards will have some display time :)
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…How I got rid of the clutter in my home and how it returned

  12. I don’t have any problem throwing away cards. It seems to me, that these days, most of the cards I get are the photo-variety, with very little, if any personal messaging. I’ve actually, recently started writing “thank you” notes for the sentiment of the card, and in the process have asked that people kindly stop sending me holiday cards, in an effort to help out the environment a little bit. As for family cards which contain “letters” that fill me in on the year, I like reading those, but when done, I also just toss them. If I do really LOVE a card, I’ll post it on our corkboard in the kitchen for a month or two, and then I feel ready to let it go. For REALLY special occasions, like our wedding, I cut out the hand-written sentiment from the cards and included them in the scrapbook. I’ve put a very few cards aside for my son and have a few from my own childhood. Mostly, it is SO true, that the fewer you keep, the more valuable they are ! Great post!
    Ami´s last post…Want to blog better in 2011 We’re here to help

  13. I love your process. It is very doable and sensible. I sometimes just don’t take the time to actually think through something like cards and come up with a system. Without one, though, I end up with different piles that mean different things. I really like how simply you explained this and it makes great sense to me.
    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…A Blessing in Discipline

  14. I recently posted something a little similar, although about organizing new cards (to send) rather than sentimental ones (to save). I ended up creating a really easy and simple “card box” and organizing all my greeting cards by occasion. Here’s the post if you’re interested: http://lifeblessons.blogspot.com/2011/01/steps-toward-hospitality-creating-card.html
    carmen @ life blessons´s last post…Cultivating Gratitude for the Smallest of Things

  15. hi there everyone. i have a string line on my pantry door. we enjoy the cards for a few weeks – then i sort and cull, keeping precious (into a precious box) and a little stack that need to be replied to. we have six kids and the pictures drawn and given to mum became overwhelming, until i used a similar idea as the cards. display for a week or two, cull, keep the precious (with a date written on) – hole punched and into an A4 arch folder. it’s taken many years to fill one folder for each child. and they’ll have all their particularly good early drawings/artwork.

  16. I have a small stack, including the last St. Paddy’s day card my Grandpa sent me before he passed away 14 years ago.

    I keep mine in my stationary drawer, and keep the stack small enough to fit with all the other blank cards and things in the drawer.

    The only exception was I kept all my bridal shower and wedding cards the first year. Most people really took the time to write something meaningful. After two years I went through the stack again and tossed half of them, but kept the other half in a “Wedding Memories” Ikea storage box that also has things like the bells that hung in the getaway car, a candle from our community candle-lighting, antique ribbon from my bouquet, a few copies of the invitation, program, menu, table names (I designed them all), and the box that my ring came in. Its like our wedding contained in a shoebox!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Doing What You Love

  17. I’m with Ami – I enjoy the cards for a short time, and then out they go. If I feel a need to keep a card, it’s usually for the great artwork on the front, rather than what’s inside.
    My question for people who save many cards is, how often do you look at them… really?
    The English Organizer´s last post…Interview- One Year- Two Suitcases

  18. I do two things with cards… if they are really special, I cut them up: the cover goes in the wrapping paper box, (more on that in a minute), and the wonderful sentiment on the inside gets scanned into my computer and filed by person (or event, or year…). If they aren’t really special, I still cut off the front (if it’s cool and I like it). This also goes in the wrapping paper box.

    Then, when it’s time to wrap a present, I use plain ole brown paper, and glue a pretty card to the top, throw a ribbon on it, and I’m done. Or, I glue a pretty card to a store bag (the fancy kind with rope handles)… makes a great christmas wrap…

    • Love the wrapping idea. I have used fronts for tags or cards on packages before but not actually as part of decorating the wrapping paper. I will remember that one!

  19. Scanning the holiday photo cards is genius! I am totally stealing that idea. I keep a small shopping bag and toss all cards in there and once a year go thru and weed out a few special ones to keep (and they go to our basement) and the rest are recycled.
    For the holiday cards we send (we do the photo ones) I have a lovely photo album that my sister gave us for our wedding – I put the holiday photo card in there each year – I love that when we are old & gray we will have that book of cards to look back at and share with kids/grandkids…
    Robin´s last post…What we did on our snow day

  20. I save the card fronts (that have nothing written on the back) to re-send as greeting postcards to children, grandchildren, church members and friends I don’t see often enough. It gives space for a brief message to let them know I think of them, without requiring a long letter. My grandchildren will get pictures that I can tell short stories about or ask questions about.

    I save personal messages (I have a dreadful problem with throwing away letters — I feel like I am throwing away the author!)

  21. Great Post! I’m not into saving “stuff”, but I do keep a few important “love notes” in a file in my filing cabinet. These include the card from my boyfriend on my birthday when we first started dating, then on our 1 month-aversary. Then the card he gave me on the day we got married last year :) Also in the file is a card from my best childhood friend that she gave me on my wedding day. I like what you said that the fewer you have, the more special they are. I treasure that file with only a few cards in it :)
    Tammy Hawkins´s last post…Why We Aren’t Buying A Home

  22. I decoupaged a box for large index cards and save all the nice notes my husband writes or meaningful cards from family and friends. I also use tabs to separate the cards in the box for each year, so I can look back at our notes from our first year of marriage, etc…

  23. “The fewer things you keep, the more special they are”. What a prefect statement.

    I have a card pile and a not so fancy rubbermaid container to keep them. I do try to go through them every so often. Really need to do that again now that the holidays have passed. I’ve bookmarked one of your previous posts about using dropbox online and my goal for this month is to declutter and decrease my paper trail.

    Love your organizational tips! Keeping things simple is key for me.
    Nicole´s last post…naptime project – take 2

  24. good ideas here- now can you help me with all the cards and stationary that I have bought (it’s embarrassing)

  25. I am not terribly sentimental when it comes to cards. But what I did for my wedding cards was to crop them, just as you would pictures in a scrapbook album, and I made a couple of pages of cards with signatures and well-wishes instead of pictures in my wedding album.

  26. I only keep my husband’s cards, but there are a lot of those since our first year of dating we were long-distance. I have all of them in plastic sleeves in a binder, but I wish I had a way to display them while still keeping them nice (not bent, faded, etc.). I like being reminded of those nice thoughts.

    Any/all other cards (Christmas, etc.) I unceremoniously throw away after my husband and I have read them and I have updated addresses.

  27. If I’m anything to a fault, I am a purger rather than a saver. I rarely keep cards for more than a week or two; if they have pretty fronts I’ll sometimes display them standing up on the mantel for a week or two, then recycle them. I love two particular things about your post: one, I’m totally with you on the philosophy of “The fewer things you keep, the more special they are.” Bingo! Second, I love your idea of cutting up the illustrations to use as gift tags. What a great way to re-use beautiful cards!
    Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…February is Clean &amp Simple Month

  28. I have more than a stack…a tupperware full of bridal shower and wedding cards, a magnetic photo album full of Christmas picture cards and a basket full of miscellaneous fun notes, birthday cards, etc. I just went through a shoe box of notes from high school, and man were they hilarious, but over half of them got recycled. You’re right–over time they lose value! I had 4 or 5 letters from one girl I couldn’t even picture. How sad!
    Minnesotamom´s last post…Valentimes

  29. So is it stupid that I’m more inclined to save a card that may not have that much sentimental value if the writer had lovely handwriting? Ha ha I can probably eliminate some paper clutter.
    Heather´s last post…MAXXED OUT!!!

  30. I used to save every greeting card I received! until I saw how much physical and emotional baggage I was holding onto. Now I have a box with cards from my wedding and my daughter’s birth, and most other cards get recycled. Of course I save a few special ones — but if I am honest with myself, I realize I do not want to spend many hours poring over events past, but would rather focus on making the present the best it can be.
    jennifer´s last post…On my needles

  31. “The fewer things you keep, the more special they are”.

    I agree! I just went through some old journals (so very very cringe-inducing) and got rid of a few. Seems like a cardinal sin to do that, but it means the ones I kept are- like you said- much more special.
    Kat@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…Bring It- J-Mike

  32. I’ve never really had the problem with saving cards (actually I always laughed at my mom because she saves everything!) Now I’m getting married and people have sent me cards that have very meaningful messages and adivice that I don’t want to forget. Needless to say I’ve started saving cards too!
    These are all great ideas and I guess I’ll just have to try a couple different things to see which one works best for me.
    Thank you all!
    Becky´s last post…Help Mandy!

  33. I have been going through some ‘stuff’ I was keeping and found a ton of cards. Some were well written and some were simply the signature at the bottom. I was able to slim down the stack quite a bit. The rest I have scrapbooked, but trimmed the card a lot by cutting it all to pieces! I have started working through various stacks of cards and random photos in this way and it is working well for me.
    Suzanne´s last post…Wordless Wednesday

  34. Funny you posted this. I thought I was pretty good at being able to throw away cards and notes and such. Then I was organizing my files (thanks to you motivating me) and I found at least a hundred birthday cards and postcards. Oh my!!! I went through each one and picked out only the very special ones. Like a secret admirer or a note from my best friend when we parted after graduation. It IS so much more special to have a few that I can easily look through and enjoy and maybe a shed a tear or two than a huge amount that’s a chore to even look through!
    Melissa Haws´s last post…Girls Clothes

  35. OH! and also, the hardest ones for me to get rid of are the ones I made for my husband. I don’t think he cares so much. lol.
    Melissa Haws´s last post…Girls Clothes

  36. A friend of mine saves her Christmas cards until the next holiday season. Then she makes things to return to the sender – like a new card featuring part of the card sent by the sender last year, or a bookmark from the card or something special. She said it means a lot to her friends and they often tell her they know she treasures the cards they send.
    ~Adrienne~
    Adrienne´s last post…A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That

  37. I have just moved away from my home town for my first job. I decided I wanted to diplay a selection of my cards and keepsakes in my room, so that when I feel down I can look at them. I hinted to my mother that I wanted a corkboard for Christmas – she handpainted me one with messages of love and pride and inspiration around the borders. Now I smile whenever I look at my ‘card board’. :)

  38. Hi Folks-

    Love all the suggestions for organizing those special holiday/greeting cards. Want a few more ideas from a teacher who loves to recycle? Just follow this link.

    http://bagitup4me-neko.blogspot.com/

    Cheers and Happy New Year to all.

  39. I do not keep greeting cards, but I do keep letters. How tragic it is that letter-writing has fallen victim to electronic mail. The importance of written correspondence was driven home to me recently when I received a stack of old papers from my grandmother’s estate. In it I found several typed letters from her father, who wrote them to his grandmother (my great-great-great grandmother) as a sixteen-year-old living away from home for the very first time. How precious those letters must have been to her!

    I was so inspired by the find that I am now encouraging my children to write letters to my parents, who live on the other side of the country. Yes, we e-mail and Skype and talk on the phone, but a letter is something special, and I just know that my parents will treasure these sweet missives from their grandchildren.

    As for the special correspondence I receive, I keep them in a small wicker box, separated by sender and tied with ribbons.

  40. Oh wow, part of me wanted to say, um, throw them away! I guess I have lost some of sentimental side as I have gotten older, lol! In reality though, I don’t want to throw them away, but I do want to keep the memories. I like the idea of having them hang around a bit. Maybe saving the ones that a personal message was written in.
    I went thru a bad time last year emotionally and mentally and still have the cards that were sent to me by coworkers that month. It was sweet of them to think of me!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…A break from our regularly scheduled programming…

  41. oh man this is timely! i have a huge box of every card that i’ve gotten since i was pregnant and my son was born. it’s yelling at me from the other room……but i can’t decide what to do with it. sometimes simpler is better. i kept thinking of grandiose scrapbooking, etc, but i just need to be simple and concise.

    The fewer things you keep, the more special they are. — i love this!
    carly´s last post…mostly wordless thursday

  42. I recently saw a great idea on a friend’s blog (that she had gotten from somewhere) for organizing cards for your kids. My kids love looking at the cards they receive for their birthdays, but I never knew what to do with them all. The idea was to use a binder clip, punch holes in the corners of all the cards, and thread them onto the binder. Then my kids can carry them around and look through them all they want without me picking up cards from all over the house. My friend had done one whole clip with cards from when her daughter was born, and had another clip going with birthday cards, adding more each year – you can get as big or as small binder clips as you need. So just a very clever idea, I thought, to contain cards yet let them be enjoyed as well.

  43. We had a box full of special cards and notes – and are too sentimental to throw them all away. I made a ‘happy book’ for my husband full of the more meaningful ones, along with little post-it notes and drawings from our kids.

  44. I had a shoebox (which was big, probably a boot box) full of letters and cards and movie stubs that I accumulated during college. I finally went through it the other day (I am 10 years out of college) and I only kept about 25%. I found myself looking at items, thinking WHY IN THE WORLD did I keep this?

    I’m kind of in that decluttering phase of organizing everything from the first 30 years, and am determined going forward that I’m not going to create any more clutter for future me to deal with!!!

    jen

  45. Great post. I do the same thing; I go through them, and then save them in a box, grouped by sender !! how funny! I periodically go through them and cull them before adding more. I will *NOT* outgrow the box I use. (It’s about the size of a large shoebox).

    Christmas cards, I keep the photo cards and scrapbook them.
    Handy Man, Crafty Woman´s last post…Green Salad with Spiced Walnuts

  46. I keep postcards. I keep them in a drawer and use them as bookmarks. Then when I read I am reminded of my family and the love they send.

    I save only Christmas cards from close friends or family and recycle the rest as gift tags.

    We do not receive much post as we live abroad. Maybe moving country is a way of cutting down on cards!

    I am a teacher and have a large collection of cards made for me by my students. I plan to scan those but have not got round to it yet. At the moment they are sitting in ziplock bags.

  47. I do not keep all the cards, some selected close friends and family and I usually go through every 2 years to make sure they are still relevant to me.

    I have one box for us and one box each for each kids, so they too will know who sent them cards as they grow up (if they wished to know then). Good tips.

    Preeti
    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Is Both spouses working important in a family

  48. I have scanned all cards notes and letters… now I have them saved in PDF “Letters from Mum” etc. Also, since then I started scanning the cards and saving them in the same file as photos from the event (e.g. birthday 2010)… I also use google screensaver and the sidebar, which allows me to see a photo every few seconds from my collection. This allows me to keep keepsakes in my mind and reminds me of precious moments.
    angelvalerie´s last post…compassion and mercy…

  49. You are so right about only keeping the ones you really love and that will make them more special.

    I’m a sentimental kind of person but I have no problem letting go of greeting cards. Consequently, I don’t have a systm to organize them. The only ones I really keep are the mushy ones from the hubby (because they are so rare!)

    I do have a collection of letters from a dear college friend. They are kept just as you described. Tied with ribbon and stored in a special box (an old shoe box I covered with fabric). It makes me smile just to see the box when I’m rummaging in the basement for something else.
    Suzanne´s last post…Master Bath Mini-Makeover Part 2

  50. I am not quite there yet, but my husband scans all the meaningful cards he gets, saves the digital file and tosses the paper card.
    Clutter free for him!

    I still like touching the cards, and can’t bring myself to scan them yet… but I usually end up following him and his ideas so one day I am sure I’ll be doing it too :)

  51. I recently went through my box o’ greeting cards I’ve been collecting for a few years now and decided to make something from them – wreaths in particular. I found these easy instructions on Good Housekeeping’s website (http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/holiday-ideas/christmas-wreath-projects) and made a Birthday Wreath, Christmas Wreath and Baby Nursery Room wreath with the cards that corresponded to those occasions. I’ve still got lots of wedding cards so perhaps I’ll make another one…
    Joylynn´s last post…No Spend March- Part II – The Rules

  52. This is such a great collection of ideas. I did a mini-series earlier this year on organizing and letting go of greeting cards on my site. Just added this link to all the articles.

  53. You know what I am thinking. For each holiday i will paste my cards in a scrapbook and when the holiday comes up say Christmas, birthday, Halloween? I’ll leave the scrapbook out with the magazines so when i have guest they can go through them or i can go through them easily?? what do you think? good idea or too cheesy?

  54. Margaret Love says:

    I’m a little late to this conversation, but wanted to pass along a few more ideas…
    1) When I was a newlywed 30 years ago I started each year making one placemat from favorite holiday cards by cutting a card apart, gluing the message part to the back of the picture part and then using clear Contact paper to hold them together in the shape of a placemat. Alas the marraige ended before the 5th placemat was pieced, but I still think it was a good idea
    :-)
    2) I love the idea of connecting them with rings. I’m thinking of maybe cutting off the message part and scanning those (love that idea) and then using the other 1/2, connected with rings, as a log of some sort – maybe a guest book or something
    3) Love the idea of using the front part as a postcard – hey maybe even as next year’s cards!
    4) Could use the fronts in a Cricut machine to cut letters or shapes for whatever – gift tags, etc.