How to Process Greeting Cards

Some of us still receive and enjoy beautiful hard-copy holiday cards and letters each year. Some are customized with family photos and news of the year while others are simply lovely greeting cards with a short note from the sender. Many of us keep the cards, year after year, not knowing what to do with them and feeling guilty if we dispose of them. Here is a step-by-step guide for going through these special mementos:

1. Sort the Cards into the follow 4 general categories:

  1. Store purchased standard greeting cards with a short note from the sender
  2. Typed or handwritten newsletter detailing the year’s events
  3. Photo cards from family, friends, and associates
  4. Cards from family or close friends with a personal message or special meaning

TIPKeep all envelopes you receive, and take a moment and add updated contact info to your address list.

2. Review by Category

Now that you have categories of cards, pick a category and begin making decisions with these ideas in mind:

Standard greeting cards

Typically these cards have a short signature line from the sender and are more general greetings. We suggest quickly reviewing these cards (and adding people to your own Christmas Card list if necessary) and then recycling.


These letters chronicle the year in the life of the sender. Skim the letters and consider:

  • Your relationship with the sender (ie are they a close friend or family?)
  • Does it contain special facts or have personal historical interest or a special sentiment?

TIP: If so, consider adding these bullet point nuggets to that person’s contact information in your electronic contact record or date book (like kid’s names, pets, job changes, etc.)

  • Will you re-read the newsletters or use them in some way? Or will they simply continue to collect and become a paper backlog? If you won’t re-read them and you’ve captured key data, recycle.

Photo cards

Photo cards can be a special way to document a family through the years. And there is no “right” answer for dealing with pictures of those special to you. However, before reflexively keeping all of these cards, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to keep all photo cards or just those from certain senders?
  • How many years do you wish to keep?
  • Do you have ideas of how you will use the photo cards?
  • Are you keeping them out of guilt/sentiment or out of likely reference?
  • Can you get their picture quickly online?

Whatever you decide to do, revisit your stash of photo cards annually and toss those that no longer speak to you or the cards of those that you’re not that close to.

TIP: If you forgot about past year’s cards and never reviewed them, that’s a great sign that you can let go of this year’s cards.

Cards from family or close friends

These are cards that have a handwritten message from someone close to you. Take time to read over the card/note again to determine if it has special significance and is worthy of keeping. These can be very special to go back and read at different times.

3. Process and Store

Now that you’ve sorted and pruned your cards, it’s time to decide HOW you’d like to store them.

Do you prefer to look back by year or by person/family? Create a memorabilia box with hanging files labeled with categories you decide on (year or name). As you go through this process and determine which items to keep, put them in the coordinating file.

One of our clients keeps a memorabilia file on all her friends and family and drops each year’s Christmas cards received into their files. This is a wonderful and organized system, but it does take up a LOT of space and is ever-expanding.

For those cards you are not keeping (and without a personal message), you may decide to donate the cards to a school, church, or organization for craft projects.

I have often re-purposed the front half of a card (the part with no writing), punched a hole in one corner, strung it with pretty ribbon or twine, and used it for gift tags! This is an affordable and unique gift embellishment.

Here are few fun ideas for storing and looking back on the treasured cards you decide to keep:

  • Use a hole punch and a binder ring to create a Christmas photo card collection by person, family, or year. Put these out for guests to enjoy over the holidays while visiting your home
  • Scan the cards and save them electronically to free up space in your filing cabinet.
  • Incorporate photo cards into a photo book or scrapbook
  • As mentioned before, put the cards into a file system and then take a trip down memory lane each year through each file

We hope these ideas have helped you simplify and store your Christmas cards in a way that works for you!


Please share your own ideas in the comments!



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