Decluttering seems to take many, many forms. Not that long ago, a friend of mine was telling me about her issues with sentimental clutter.
She brought up an interesting type of paper clutter that I’d never even considered – saved birthday cards. Here’s what she wrote:
I also still have all the birthday cards both of my sons have received from each birthday they’ve had….It sounds ridiculous, but to me those cards represent their lives. Right now I’m considering creating digital copies of the cards, and parting with the paper.
I don’t know if my friend is the only one who saves birthday cards (my mom didn’t, and I certainly didn’t – I have very little time for cards), but an idea popped into my head when I read this post.
The Twin Problems
Digitizing isn’t a bad solution to this problem, assuming you have the time and equipment to do so. But what you don’t want is to turn this clutter problem into a “someday/maybe” problem that never actually gets dealt with.
On one hand, there’s something about actually holding paper that digital photos just don’t quite match. Digital is great for most things, but certain items really do bring back more memories if you’re holding them in your hand. Cards are one of those items.
On the other hand, I know that if I saved every card I’ve ever received I’d have a large, large box full of old cards! I also know that, for a fact, I really couldn’t care less at this point about having every card I received when I was 5 years old.
An Interesting Idea
Why not create a “best of” collection? This is easier if you’re doing it as you go, but it can certainly be done after the fact too. Here’s how I’d do it:
- Get a shoebox (or a box big enough to hold the largest cards)
- Open all the cards, read them all, do whatever you normally do with the cards.
- Within a few days, while it’s still fresh in your (and the child’s) mind, get them to pick out their absolute favorite card. Then you (as a parent) pick out your favorite card. Pick something that represents something in the child’s life, or something with a nice hand-written note, or whatever will be memorable.
- Save those two. If you want to scan the rest, go ahead – but hang on to those couple of cards.
- Sock them away in the shoebox.
On their 18th birthday, go through all the cards with them. It’ll make an interesting visual record, and it’ll probably provoke some great memories of when they were younger!
Yes, This Really Works
The odd thing about the approach above is that, by removing items, you’re creating value. A big stack of old cards is just a big stack of old cards. But a carefully-selected stack of your absolute favorite cards ever (36 total, 18 picked by you, 18 by your parents) has value.
And getting yourself to make decisions and prioritize in small areas will help you develop the habits that will let you deal with larger, more important areas in the future.
Incidentally, this also works for adult card clutter. Christmas cards, birthday cards, papers from vacations (programs, brochures, etc.), flyers from events, cocktail napkins where you sketched out your next million-dollar business idea, they can all be gone through and curated.
I’d suggest a higher limit (maybe half a dozen items per year?), but the number isn’t important as long as it isn’t “everything I’ve ever received”. You might even decide to get some 9×12 envelopes and label them by year, so it’s easy to remember when things are from.
Questions? Comments? Hop over to the Facebook group and let’s talk about it!