Keep or throw out letters and cards?

I’m in one of my once-in-a-blue-moon straightening modes right now and I’m trying to get rid of everything possible before the momentum wanes. One of my greatest uncertainties is what to do with all the correspondence – since I was little, I’ve saved almost all of my letters, notes, cards, and postcards, on the feeling that ‘someday’ they would be a valuable part of my past.

Every so often, I go through an armful and discard low-hanging fruit, such as birthday cards that only have the name written inside rather than a personal note, or letters from people I can’t even remember anymore, but I feel like I need to settle this once and for all.

Sooooo … what do you do? Preserve every written word ever sent to you, tied into neat bundles with color-coordinated ribbons by writer; barely glance at the letter as you toss it into the trash can; or something in between?

Please hurry! I can feel the organizing energy fading … fading …

Hang on, shantih! Just…a little…further…

I ditch the old cards and letters. In fact, I throw out cards about two minutes after I receive them. Message conveyed, their job is done, right? I admit there are exceptions, and I have a small box of papers I’ve saved, but just the stuff that actually means something to me right now. Possibly when I’m old I’ll sit around just yearning to read some Christmas cards from 1988, but I sure hope not.

Don’t keep everything, but don’t throw everything away either. I keep things that have a sentimental importance to me, for instance the note my mother-in-law wrote to me on my birthday prior to marrying her son. She didn’t make the wedding so it’s the only connection I have to her.

I keep papers and journals that my kids write.

get or make a pretty box. then put the things into them. worry about thinning when the box gets filled.

i have a lang box that i use for this. the box is pretty enough to have out on a shelf or table, and i can go through the stuff every now and again.

if you have more than a box full, there might be thinning issues.

I have *some *old cards, but mostly I toss them.

My vote goes to: keep the ones that are important to you and toss the rest.

Look through them, and throw out all cards that don’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling. That includes throwing out stuff from people you faintly guiltily feel you should contact again, but somehow never have gotten arount to contacting for more then a year.

Get a filing cabinet, divided into sections by year, then in each year section make alphabetical file folders and don’t forget to have an Undetermined/Miscellaneous section.
After you have sorted all items, you scan them onto a hard drive while concurrently creating a database with name (last name and first name fields), date (mm/dd/yyyy), category and misc info fields, so you can sort them multiple ways.
Some might assign a unique serial # to each item but I’m not obsessive that way. :smiley:

In came in handy when a former girlfriend said she’d never loved me and I could access the card “Girlfriend, Former 02-14-1987 Valentine’s Day Garfield hearts & flowers” and email the scanned file to her to prove (in her own handwriting) that she had indeed said she loved me.

Did that work? :dubious:

Originally Posted by dba Fred
…came in handy when a former girlfriend said she’d never loved me and I could access the card “Girlfriend, Former 02-14-1987 Valentine’s Day Garfield hearts & flowers” and email the scanned file to her to prove (in her own handwriting) that she had indeed said she loved me.

In a word … not yet (okay, 2 words). But when I find a court that will accept my alienation of affections case, I plan to subpeona her to testify under oath that yes, that proclamation of love is in her handwriting.
For some reason, courts haven’t been receptive to hearing a case involving a 21 year old Valentine’s Day card, but when I find a court, youbetterbelieve I’ll get her back! :smiley:

Toss them out unless they mark a significant event. I’ve kept only the cards given on the deaths of my parents (in '89 and ‘98), our marriage, and birth announcements from family and friends. I am grateful to have reminders of names to go with the faces I see in my parents’ photos. But never in 40 and a half-ish years have I regretted not keeping a birthday card. Not for my 16th, 18th, 20th, 30th or 40th. I will for my fiftieth. They’re bound to be hilarious and evoke good memories later on. :stuck_out_tongue:

So, my advice regarding birthday cards and notes? Get a 4 pack of those magnetic pinch clips for your fridge. As cards arrive, clip and display them on the fridge. Then you need only to choose which ONE to toss (recycle!) when the 4 clips are full.

shantih, half the battle with organization is having the urge to do so in the first place. You want to be more organized and live with less clutter, but your enthusiasm wanes. I am a clutter-free type but I don’t actually enjoy the process; I just love seeing the end result.

There is a method geared for your organization type: the 15 minute egg timer. Pick a small zone to tidy, like under the kitchen or bathroom sink, or that File 13 junk drawer, or just one shelf in any closet.

Set the timer to 15 minutes and go to it. If you don’t finish that one target before it rings, then you must try to be self-disciplined enough to (1) choose to finish tidying your target, or (2) carry on from there the next time the urge strikes. The objective from then on is to choose targets in the same general area, so that you are steadily working towards a completely reorganized kitchen, closet or room.

Great tips, thanks! I’ve finished going through my files, as in, opening each one and flipping through all the papers to see what I really needed and what was trash, and have lots of room in the drawers now, which is a good change from barely being able to jam another sheet of paper in.

Next step is to haul out the giant box ‘o’ correspondence and a monster trash bag and sort it down to what retains meaning. I like the idea that if I don’t get a lift from reading something, it goes straight into the circular file!

One thing that’s kept me from throwing certain things out is wanting to have them on hand if I ever need to look up the person’s address. However, now that I’m typing that out, it occurs to me that transferring those elusive addresses to a, what do you call it again, address book might be more practical. :smack:

So, tomorrow night’s project is set, unless I decide to take a tiny bit more time and go along with dba Fred’s suggestion there.

Ditto what others have said. If it’s less than what will fit in a shoebox, just throw them in there til it gets full, or organize them by date or occasion.

I keep cards up on a string or the fridge for about a month around the occasion as part of holiday decorating and in case anyone visits. Then I scan them all into the computer and recycle the ones that don’t have special meaning to me. I’ll keep ones from my SO if I have one at the time, or any that have long sentimental notes. I’ll also keep personal correspondence.

I used to save every card, every letter, everything. But the older I got, the more there were, and the more room they began to take up. So I tossed all the ones from people I no longer know or want to know. I tossed all the cards with just a name. I tossed everything that didn’t give me “warm fuzzies,” as someone put it. That still left a lot, so I sorted them by person/event, etc., and collected a sampling for each person/event, making sure that if there were any that I’d be devastated to lose they were included. Right now some are in file folders and some are in a really pretty fabric-covered box I bought at Hobby Lobby. Eventually they’ll be sorted again and will all go into that box until I decide whether to do scrapbooking projects with any of them.

I’m another tosser. I’ve gotten pretty brutal about it since I’ve done way too many moves. I’m always thinking do I want to carry this up 3 flights of stairs in summer weather. I really wish more people would just send me e-cards. The only ones I’ve kept are a very few from my high school graduation, first month in college, and a couple from friends when I’ve been in the hospital. Typical Christmas and B-day cards are tossed after about a month.