Reader question: How to store favorite correspondence?

Reader Angela sent us the following:

Hi! Thank you for your delightful blog. Do you have advice for dealing with greeting cards you’ve received? I have boxes full of cards I received back to my toddler-age birthdays. It seems that the usual process for paper clutter is to scan what you want to save and then shred it. Do people actually scan thoughtfully written greeting cards? I was thinking of keeping one card from each person who has impacted my life. If they send a better card next year, it will replace the card I keep, so I have a “best-of” collection. But if I keep anything physical at all, I’ll still have to figure out where to store it. Also, I have a box of event tickets and show programs. The only time I look at them is when I’m moving and then it’s a little sentimental “oh yeah! I remember going to see this!” trip but really it’s just more stuff to move. Any better way to commemorate the performing arts you’ve enjoyed? Your ideas are appreciated!

Angela, you have a few good questions here about how to store mementos. As you anticipated, I do support letter scanning and photographing objects like birthday and holiday cards, ticket stubs, playbills, etc. I’ve written about this idea a few times in the following posts: Photographing your mementos and Paper clutter begone.

If a minimalist approach isn’t your preference, though, there are a number of options available to you. The one I want to focus on today, though, is one I’ve picked up from a number of commenters on the site. That suggestion is to create a correspondence notebook.

Start by obtaining a three-ring binder, archival quality sheet protectors, and index pages. If you’re a creative type, decorate the index pages with images or stories about the people whose letters you’re saving. Then, in the following pages, store a letter or card per sheet protector. If you don’t want to organize by person, you can organize by event: first birthday, hospital stint 1989, whatever is relevant to your collection. Try to keep your saved correspondence to one notebook, the “best-of” collection you described.

I hope this suggestion helps! Keep us posted on your storage decision.

16 Comments for “Reader question: How to store favorite correspondence?”

  1. posted by adora on

    I do scan my cards, so much easier to look them up now that they are labeled properly.

    I have a Best-of-box for all the sentimental things. It’s a 14″x12″x8″ box I got from IKEA. I call it my Wagamama-box, Japanese for “willful”. This is my destinated location for useless but loved items.

    My friend was actually more sad when I decided that I will only keep one box of sentimental items. There are only about 20 items in the box, but each of them mean so much more now that I can see them clearly. I’m happier for it.

    I move a lot, I have moved 10 times in 12 years. It’s easy to get rid of junk when I remember how heavy they can be.

    I hope it helps your storage decision. The fewer things, the more love to the remaining items.

  2. posted by Kris on

    I have a shadow box of all the Grateful Dead ticket stubs I kept from college, along with a tie dyed scarf I used to wear, a patch I wore on my jean jacket, a signed napkin from a band member, artwork from one of their albums, etc. It was a big part of my college experience and I didn’t want it sitting in a box somewhere. So it’s displayed.

    We also have shadow boxes for our pets who have died. We have four right now .. two cats and two dogs. They have photos of the animals, a small book on the breed, favorite toys, their collar and tags, etc. Each animal is remembered daily when we walk by the grouping of shadow boxes.

    Works well for us.

  3. posted by sillahee on

    I save my favorite correspondence in a small antique suitcase which my television rests on. I have grouped letters from one person together and tied them so everything isn’t just loose in there – I have one category of items I save (friends’ wedding invitations) in the satin pocket attached to the inside of the lid – and the rest in the body. This solution works for me because they aren’t things I want to look at frequently but they are stored out of the way and available if I want to find something. It also serves a purpose (elevating my small television) and I can get at it relatively easily to add new things. I go through about once every 2 years and toss things that are no longer meaningful. I do find that for me, having the physical cards and being able to see the actual handwriting, especially of people who are no longer living, is more meaningful than a scanned electronic version would be.

  4. posted by Gretchen on

    My Mother has framed playbills from a huge number of Broadway shows on a wall in a media room. They are all framed the same in black with a neutral mat so there is some uniformity with the playbill adding the splash of color. It looks really cool and is a great way to remember the shows and not have a big box somewhere hidden away.

  5. posted by Faculties on

    Scanning in all your cards, or arranging them by date in archival notebooks, seems like a way to clutter up your time rather than your shelves.

  6. posted by George K. on

    As far as greeting cards are concerned, if you have “boxes full of cards I received back to my toddler-age birthdays” I urge you to rethink your need to hold onto that many of them. Maybe you grew up in a different kind of family than I did, but I can say for sure that the number of “thoughtfully written” cards I received as a toddler = zero.

    I have a similar feeling about your concert ticket collection: if you’re only looking at them when you move, how valuable are they to you? Most concert ticket stubs aren’t particularly attractive, either. They just contain data–performer and data. You could easily compose a brief diary listing that data and then adding a couple sentences of memories for yourself. That might be more meaningful.

  7. posted by angela on

    Thanks, Erin and Unclutterer Readers!

    These ideas and perspectives are helpful. I now have the courage to open up those boxes and re-evaluate what I need to keep or capture.

  8. posted by Debbie M on

    I save the cards I most like to look at and bring them out to decorate with during the appropriate season. That sounds like I have loads of them, but really I have two Christmas ones, one birthday one, and two Halloween ones.

    I also keep postcards I like on the walls in my office.

    The thing I never get rid of are many certificates that can be framed. Part of me thinks I should have one of them framed at all times, and thus have a certificate du joir (often something silly) hanging somewhere, like the hallway or bathroom. For example, I might display the certificate I got for completing a beginning ski class, and then switch it out when I get my next years-of-service award at work. It’s something people could check out when they come over to see what’s in there this time. I haven’t done it yet. Meanwhile, they’re in a large envelope.

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  11. posted by Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer on

    I tape greeting cards to the inside of our kitchen cabinet doors, where we can “feel the love” all year long. When the door space gets full, that’s my cue to pare down to the most meaningful ones.

  12. posted by A Williams on

    My father recently passed away and I am in charge of archiving his papers and correspondance. I am also involved in genealogy so many of the cards and papers he had are a glimpse into his life. I want to find a way to store these items for my children. Right now I’d need about 10 photo-storage boxes to accomodate the cards alone. Any ideas?

  13. posted by Bianca on

    Another item to add is archival spray. This will keep letters from yellowing.

  14. posted by Carla on

    I found the best use for pretty Christmas cards! I save them in my Christmas storage box and cut off the front page (usually has a blank back) and tie them to large gifts with pretty Christmas ribbons as gift tags. They really stand out, esspecialy if you write on the back with red or green markers. For my six Grandchildren, I got one huge gift bag with a different theme for each and lots of gifts were inside, some wrapped, some not. It made handing out their presents so easy. Another thing I do with cards is let the children cut out figures from them to glue to the wrapped gifts they give to others – individually decorated. A small Santa , snowman, holiday wreath, etc. looks cute at the end of wide ribbon. So many of these cards are just too pretty to chunk away after Christmas!

  15. posted by FrugalNYC on

    Thanks for all the great ideas everyone. I’m still working on uncluttering paper. Time to unclutter.

  16. posted by kim on

    I found a small binder and small sheet protectors (5.5 x 8) and use them to store cards I really like. You can find them at Staples.

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