Suggesting disposal

Professional organizer Scott Roewer sent me a Christmas card this year with an uncluttered message printed on the inside of the card. After the seasonal greeting and his signature was the phrase:

“This card expires January 2, 2010, at which time it should be recycled.”

Scott got the idea from Jill Revitsky, a professional organizer from Pittsburgh, who produces a line of greeting cards for organizers. On the inside cover of each of her Clearly Noted cards she includes the phrase:

“This card is good for one week — Then you have my permission to toss it!”

Unfortunately, I’ve already mailed my holiday cards, so I can’t do something comparable this year. However, I’m definitely going to add a similar sentence to my cards in years to come:

“You should immediately recycle this card or run the risk of it turning into a monster that will eat your arm.”

Okay, so maybe not exactly that, but you get the idea.

45 Comments for “Suggesting disposal”

  1. posted by Jenna on

    Clever! I think I might have to add something similar to mine next year.

  2. posted by ElZarcho on

    Sounds a little preachy for a holiday greeting. I’m not against liberating someone from making a note into a keepsake, but I think the method is a little overbearing.

  3. posted by Michelle @ [ real neat ] on

    Ha! Love it!

  4. posted by Dawn F. on

    My son’s preschool teacher asked that we save all of our unwanted holiday cards (the front page illustrations only) because she uses them for children’s Christmas crafts. So, I plan to remove all of the front covers of the cards for her and then recycle the inside part (that has the writing on it) – except for 2 or 3 cards that I plan to keep in my keepsake cedar chest.

    What if you printed something simple and cheery like “Recycling = Smiling” on the back of the card AND envelope?

    Happy Holidays, Unclutterer!

  5. posted by Peg Bracken Fan on

    I just recycled a bunch of last year’s cards into this year’s cards. Next time I do this, I’m adding a tagline on the inside with wording to the effect of, “Bonus points if I have resent your card from last year back to you!”

  6. posted by Plain Good Sense on

    Hilarious!! I just posted something myself at about ways to re-use Christmas cards. Because….let’s face it. Do we ever go back and really read the Christmas cards we receive when the holiday is over? No. Keep a few from family and friends if you must, but then please – let them go.

  7. posted by Suzanne on

    2nd January?! It ought to be Twelfth Night, surely!

  8. posted by Kira =] on

    I have a friend that spends a part of New Years turning them all into small gift boxes that she sets aside in her Christmas stuff for use next year. I love getting them from her.

  9. posted by Rod Walker on

    Your friend needs a hobby.

  10. posted by OogieM on

    To Plain Good Sense

    um yes, I actually do go back and re-read them, fairly regularly. I keep the ones I save in my scrapbooks at the end of the year and we look at and read the scrapbooks all through the year. I don’t keep every one but I have a few people where I have them for 20 years or more. It’s fun to see how our lives have changed over the years.

  11. posted by Anita on

    I agree that people shouldn’t feel obligated to keep a card if they don’t want to or feel it is in any way special. That being said, I think sending a card with the intention of having the recipient toss it without giving it a second thought is very cold. At that point, why not pick the ugliest card you can find, and make the recipient WANT to recycle it?

    Also: I’m an amateur photographer, and I make my own photo cards. I actually do want people to keep my work, if they like it, so I’ll never put such a suggestion on any card I make πŸ˜›

  12. posted by Amy on

    This person’s line of work makes this card perfect!

  13. posted by Plain Good Sense on

    Re: OogieM

    Yes, I agree. I have a box of cards that have been kept from when my parents – and even GRANDPARENTS! – were young, which are fun to look through and to have. Some of them date back to the 1920’s. In fact, I’m continually looking for a way to display them in my home, so they can be enjoyed on a more regular basis (rather than taking out the box every 5 years or so).

    But it’s important to note that we’ve whittled it down to ONE box. Certainly, if we had kept every card we received for every birthday, Christmas, wedding, graduation, and funeral – we would have 20+ boxes of cards! So if a close friend or family member has written a meaningful message inside, then by all means – I would advocate for keeping. But a simple “Merry Christmas from the Johnson’s” card? That becomes clutter, in my opinion.

    Photo cards are more difficult for me to throw away — but even then, I have to think back to my parents’ and grandparents’ collection, and keep only those that are most meaningful to me. A photo card from someone you are only somewhat close to? Probably not worth keeping every year. Perhaps keeping a card from EVERY OTHER year would be a good compromise. Otherwise, they tend to stack up pretty quickly.

    And, even though I LOVE sending and receiving holiday cards, I find myself wondering if I should be whittling down my Xmas list to only those whose cards I would TRULY value? Hmmmm….

    It’s a constant battle against the clutter. πŸ™‚

  14. posted by Mikey's mom on

    I’m conflicted about this. If he’s really suggesting that his cards are clutter for the recipient, why not really go new millennium and send a email letter with some photos. That can be saved without [physical] clutter. Sure, e-cards can be considered rude by those who are old school (i.e. moi), but so is suggesting that I throw out your card on a certain day. WWMMS? [what would Ms. Manners say]

  15. posted by Christine on

    I don’t feel guilty at all when I recycle my cards. I don’t save any of them nor have I ever regretted it. As a child I saved cards. Now I have one or two saved from my husband and a best friend, and that’s it!

  16. posted by Britta on

    I think it apropos for someone in the industry, but I think it should be up to the recipient as to how they “organize” their card. My mom has always cut the fronts off and used them as gift tags on presents. Some have made for some sensational present decoration! Occasionally she’ll use one as a post card. She has also sent me cards and purposely left the front flap blank with a stamp affixed and a hand drawn dotted line to cut and send a post card back. It was great when I was in college and getting stamps seemed like such a chore! Oh, those were the days.

  17. posted by Britta on

    yes. WWMMS?

  18. posted by Kris on

    January is too early though, if it’s a Christmas card, I would think not throwing it away until Epiphany (the end of the Christmas season — the “twelve days of Christmas”) would be more appropriate.

  19. posted by chacha1 on

    We really solved this one: we stopped sending out cards. Eventually other people stopped sending them to us. Really, did we need a photo of our old friends and their kids every year to remind us that we never actually see them any more? Do they need to hear about what we did that year? If we all still really cared, we’d be at least getting together for dinner once in a while. Sad but true.

  20. posted by Lynne, Olney Maryland on

    um, not everyone even sends Christmas cards! Not everyone is Christian, some of us are Jewish, remember? LOL! I get tons of Christmas Cards, what am I supposed to do with them? I get Hanukkah, New Years, Happy Holiday, Seasons Greetings, etc. etc…if I were to have saved ALL those cards over the years..I’m 56, you know.. I’d be in a heck of a lot of trouble!! Handmade or not!!

    Recycling paper, any kind, is the BEST thing YOU can do for this EARTH.. PERIOD. Anything pretty or colorful, if not written in, donate to you local charity so THEY can sell it, for a WORTHY CAUSE. I see that stuff in the thrift stores where I shop, people buy them for crafts!

    If you think your artwork is so great, then donate it to the thrift stores as craft supplies or frame them as art work for the thrift store to sell. There are needy folks out there who will benefit from your artistic skills!Meanwhile, don’t get so bent out of shape over recycling Christmas Cards. People recycle good books now too!

  21. posted by phoneill on

    I am unapologetic about recycling holiday cards in general (although this year I will be giving the “artwork” portion to my son’s pre-school teachers as someone else mentioned).

    But we figured out a good way to handle all the picture cards we get from buddies: we cut down the picture part to fit in a 4×6 photo album. Now that my kid is 3 we have pictures of his buddies going back three years in the same album and it’s great fun to go through them.

  22. posted by Christian on

    I received my card from Scott last night and immediately showed this great feature to my roommates. Scott’s cards have always been great, and this year it’s a little better.

  23. posted by L. on

    I’m all about recycling/tossing cards, except for a very few photos (especially of new babies) I keep on my fridge because I enjoy looking at them daily. However, I’d consider it kind of rude and weird to receive a card carrying instructions about its disposal. A card is like a small gift, and the rule about gifts is that once it’s out of your hands, it’s no longer your decision about what to do with it. To think otherwise has an intrusive and bossy tone, and misses the point of the card. It says that your way (simplicity, uncluttered) is right and other values are not as right. Of course you think so–otherwise you wouldn’t run this blog!–but a holiday card is not the place for instructing others how to live. If I weren’t already a card-disposer, receiving such a card would make me feel guilty and judged. I doubt it would suddenly free me of my habits.

    That said, such a card makes much more sense coming from a specialist in organization or simplicity, and the humorous phrasing helps a lot. Still, if I were an organizer I would send such a card to clients or business partners, who are paying for/investing in your way of thinking–but not to family or friends.

    My five cents, anyway.

  24. posted by Mike on

    It is not uncommon for atheists to celebrate the Festival of Lights (12/21, the date on which the days start getting longer again), which, for convenience’ sake, is celebrated generally around four days later with the rest of the Western world and involves gift-giving and decorated trees. Holiday cards are welcome additions to the Festival of Lights, as they commonly make excellent tinder to fuel some of the very Lights that are used to celebrate. Luminariae, etc.

  25. posted by C Bennett on

    A local organization supports a school and village for AIDS orphans and widows in Zambia. The organziation encourages you to write a simple message in English on the back of the front of the card, and tear off the second page where there’s already writing. This saves on postage weight and gives the kids an unblemished card that no longer looks like a hand-me-down.

    The kids at the school get a “gift” for Christmas (a pretty picture is better than nothing), they get to practice their reading, and you get to recycle your cards in a meaningful way! I’m sure you could find an organization near you, or begin the initiative for a school in another country.

  26. posted by Julie Bestry on

    As a professional organizer, I smiled when I got my card from Scott and read that message. I’ve often added a little note to cards I send my clients to say something along the lines of “OK, now you’ve read it, you can feel warm and fuzzy and toss out the actual card.” It’s not a love letter, it’s a holiday card, and unless you’re actively artsy-craftsty with cards, why not be encouraged to let go of the holiday thoughts when you’ve let go of the holidays?

    In other words, it’s the thought that counts, and I’m shocked by the few comments here which imply there’s anything wrong with someone, but especially a professional organizer, saying “It’s really OK, and if you need permission to let go of this, you’ve got it.” You wouldn’t tell someone to whom you’ve given a perishable food gift that they must keep it forever; you’d say “these yummies should be good for about 10 days, but after that, go ahead and toss them”.

    Scott’s card rocked for its humor, philosophy and inclusiveness. May we all be so lucky as to receive only cards this worthy of a look-see. πŸ™‚

  27. posted by infmom on

    We have recycled the cards we receive for years. I do keep photos from my relatives and newsletters from elderly relatives who might not be around to send one next year, but the cards go into the recycle bin with no regrets.

    To save a lot of space on the sending end of the spectrum–Avery note cards are less than $12 for a package of 50 at any office supply store. You can pick your own photo and write your own greeting and print only the number of cards you need, instead of buying a pre-filled box. The free Avery Word template for the cards works perfectly.

    When I cleaned our our supply closet over the summer I recycled five partial boxes of holiday cards. Storing one partially used box of note cards takes up a lot less space.

  28. posted by RV on

    The worst cluttering holiday cards are those that have only a signature inside. They are so impersonal and hardly worth the effort (or postage if they are mailed).

  29. posted by Kel on

    I love this idea! It’s cute πŸ™‚ I have a small box (about the size of the Cranium game) any card that doesn’t fit either gets tossed or once a year (usually on our anniversary) I go through the cards and any that no longer make me smile or feel happy reminiscing about the person gets recycled.

    It works for us living in a small apt.

  30. posted by Erin on

    Love this idea! I’ve taken to sorting through all of the cards we’ve received (for all occasions) at the end of the year and scanning my favorites into a “Card” folder and recycling the rest. We end up scanning very few – I like remembering our grandparent’s handwriting.

  31. posted by Anita on

    Somehow the topic of cards keeps coming up today, so I thought I’d share two more card-related AND charity-related ideas:

    1. My mom is a big fan of Unicef cards, and now that I think about it, a lot of charities I know of make cards for people to buy (or that they send out as promotional items for people to send out). Would be a good way of supporting a charity and sending your cards.

    2. One law firm I am in contact with through work sends out cards to its clients/partners every year. This year I got an electronic card from them, along with a message saying that, with the money they saved by sending e-cards instead of paper ones, they were making a donation to the local food bank. I found this to be a great idea, especially for firms with a habit of sending out massive amounts of cards to clients.

  32. posted by Blair on

    I was at a friend’s house for her birthday when she was opening her mail. She opened her cards over the recycling bin, read the card, and dumped it straight into recycling. At first it seemed a bit cold, but then I realized that she wasn’t going to read them again, so why bother hanging on to them for even a week?

  33. posted by EAChase on

    Families where sentiment and uncluttering battle might find out family’s tradition useful.

    After an event (birthday, Christmas, birth (or adoption!) of a child….) we place the cards in a basket kept near the kitchen table. Each night when we say grace before dinner, we pull out one card and pray for that sender as part of the prayer. The card can be re-read and savored on that evening – then recycled. I think it’s a nice balance of honoring the gift of time and effort sent in mailing the card without becoming a slave of saved sentiment.

  34. posted by Adrienne on

    I believe a card that has a message like the one described abovie might make the recipient feel uncomfortable if they had chosen not to obey the instructions. The sender should not be giving any instructions to the recipient about whether they should save or not save the card. There is no need for anything to be said at all. If the recipient wants to save it, they should be allowed to save it, and if they want to recycle or otherwise dispose of the card, they should be allowed to do that, too, without any judgement — it should the recipient’s choice, not the sender’s.

    Perhaps the sender thinks that by including this message, they are releasing the recipient from an unwritten obligation to keep the card, but that kind of assurance does not seem necessary because the recipients are individuals who can make their own choices.

    There was an article on this site just a few days ago about how uncluttering isn’t for everyone.

    I think it is impolite to push your personal views about recycling and uncluttering on other people in a greeting card.

  35. posted by Dawn F. on

    I think saying something cheery and upbeat about recycling the card like “Recycling will bring holiday cheer!” or “Santa loves recyclers!”, etc. would be totally cool because it lets that recipient know that the sender is totally fine with their card/envelope going to the recycle bin or being recycled in some way.

    It doesn’t seem tacky at all – just a little reminder to be eco-friendly and gives “permission” and/or encouragement to recycle without hurt feelings, ya know?

  36. posted by Rod Walker on

    What Would Al Gore Do?

    (or WWAGD)

    I mean other than fly around the world to deliver the card personally, in his jet,all by his lonesome.

  37. posted by Sky on

    It’s nice to be remembered with cards but lets face it, if we all cut back sending them we would save tons of trees and the whole process. Recycling is great but it is better not to make the product in the first place.

    So, I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday or whatever you celebrate ’cause you won’t be getting a card from me….

  38. posted by Sooz on

    @ C Bennett, I love that idea and if you have a link to that organization or a similar one, it would be helpful if you posted it.

    I have reached a point of only sending about 4 cards, mostly to friends/relatives who are very elderly and who enjoy getting them. For a few years, I tried mailing those 4 cards, and then just sending holiday emails to the rest of my list, but unless one does a mass-emailing, that took just as much time as sending cards, even if it didn’t take up the resources cards do.

    I am now giving up on the holiday emails, and I also am not getting a tree. If someone asks where my tree is, I say “still growing on a farm somewhere”.

    All of this is NOT in the service of extreme simplicity, BTW — it’s just my way of dealing with holiday expectations that have become overwhelming, either in terms of the time they require, or, in the case of a tree, the actual monetary cost.

  39. posted by just me on

    What!!?? Get rid of my cards! NO! I still have just about every card given to me, including the little valentines that you get in elementary school. I love looking back on them from time to time.

  40. posted by Sue on

    I make my holiday cards. I have a wire “card wreath” for incoming cards. They get displayed until Jan 1, then I take down the wreath and most of the cards go straight into the recycling bin.

    I only keep a few special cards each year – the handmade ones like mine and maybe a store bought one or two that I really liked. I don’t keep the snapfish picture ones of kids I have never met, most of which went straight into an envelope without even a short hand-written message.

    I do keep the ones from a friend who always sends a picture of his horse. Those make me smile. His horse died last year, so this year’s card was a picture of his goat.

    After many years, I have one shoebox of the special cards that’s not close to full. I enjoy looking through that box every now and then, so I don’t consider it clutter at all.

    If people chose to recycle mine, that’s fine.

  41. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    I re-use holiday cards in a lot of different ways, and am glad to read of more. Thanks, all.

    My season’s greetings are sent on January 2nd, a Happy New Year letter. It’s a humourous look at the previous year. Both DH and I have family and friends all over the place, and the New Year’s letter is well received.

    I’m a professional organizer, too. I don’t think I’d send such a directive as ‘get rid of this card’, no matter how humourously phrased, to my clients or colleagues. My clients hear at practically every session the value of letting things go. To include it in a holiday message seems like overkill. And if I feel that strongly about resources, what the heck am I doing sending something with such a brief shelf life? And colleagues? I dislike preaching to the choir. JMHO.

    It’s not up to me, personally or professionally, to decide for others what is precious and what is not. My job is to encourage decision making, not to take it over.


  42. posted by Karen on

    I’m glad i didn’t toss the card my brother sent me early December 2000, because that was the last Christmas card I ever got from him. He died four days before Christmas. I still have the card.

    Sorry, this seems like a preachy idea. It’s up to the recipients what they do with your cards, not the sender! Nice holiday message. “Merry Christmas, now stop being a slob and recycle this.”

  43. posted by phoneill on

    I have to admit – every time I look at the card that is pictured I think, “When he sits up in bed he is going to bonk his head right into that light fixture.”

  44. posted by Aslaug on

    The best thrifty/recycling idea I heard was taking all the cards from last year, writing “right back at ya” inside and sending them back to the original sender πŸ™‚

    I stopped sending cards years ago, anyone close to me who I won’t see over the holidays gets a phone call or email from me. I also don’t use birthday cards, except on very rare occasions.

  45. posted by dini on

    I make a habit of saving the front of the Christmas card and cutting to use as gift tags the next year. That way I enjoy them again when I use them to decorate my packages.

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