Greeting Card Declutter

I have avoided doing much decluttering of the keepsake boxes in my home so far. And yes I did say boxes as there is more than one. My husband did a once over of them quite early in our mission and then once or twice again of his own stuff since then but I have kept busy with everything else. I have focused mainly on the more obvious clutter but in all honesty I don’t relish the idea of sorting through all those fiddly bits. We have tackled photos one or twice as well but the bulk of that task is still ahead of us. It is not that I am emotionally attached it is just that it is a lot of faffing about and I prefer to deal with the other stuff right now.

Now the thing is, that not only have I not done much to sort and declutter in these boxes I haven’t even looked in them. The question then has to be asked ~ How much do we really need or cherish these items if we don’t even care to look at them. I would ultimately like to narrow down the collection to one box because, in reality, that is probably all that is in them that is important historically or personally.

So a Saturday I removed everything from the box that contains the items I have kept pertaining to my son. This is what was there…

  • Glow in the dark dummy (pacifier)
  • Baby hospital ID band
  • Birth registration confirmation
  • The identification card from the end of his hospital crib
  • The calendar page from the month of his birth
  • The ultrasound scan of him in my womb
  • Hospital account for phone calls made ( that was pre-cellphone days)
  • Baby cards
  • A little outfit he wore as a baby
  • Christening & holy communion cards & memorabilia
  • First birthday cards
  • School work samples

The first thing I did was take all of the items to Liam and asked him to go through them with me to decide what he wanted to keep. He took a look at the inside of a few cards and said ~ “Let me see, they say to us from someone and nothing else really.”. I showed him the birth registation document and he said ~ “If you want proof I was born I’m sitting right here.”. He looked over all the other items and said he didn’t want them except the ultrasound which he is going do some sort of photographic project with. That is the photographic/arts student coming out in him.

Now it was up to me to decide what to actually get rid of. Just because my son doesn’t care about these things at the young age of twenty doesn’t mean he won’t think differently when he is more mature. So I have set aside the first five items on the list as keepers and they all fit into one Ziplock sandwich bag. What I then worked on was the greeting cards. This is where the soul searching came in and there were a list of thoughts that ran through my head…

  1. Do I really need to keep these?
  2. What is important, a cute piece of cardboard made in a factory or the message inside from the person who gave the card?
  3. Would a scan of the card suffice for historic and sentimental purposes?
  4. Why do we even save these things, when did this tradition begin? Some of the people who gave these cards are no longer even in our lives.
  5. If every generation saved these things what sort of cluttered mess would a family be in in six generations from now?
  6. If I don’t want them and he doesn’t want them, what am I keeping them for?

In the end the decision wasn’t a difficult one. I cut the cards in half, flipped the pieces so I could scan the message and the cover at the same time, scanned them all and threw the cards into the recycling bin. The digital file of these cards will take up a lot less physical space than the cards themselves.

I will do the same thing with his school work samples because I don’t think we really need to keep the originals but some of the stuff he wrote was hilarious and will be fun to share with his kids if he ever has any. He has always has a cheeky sense of humour that one, I wonder where he got the from? 😉

Oh and I almost forgot to tell you the funny ending to this story. When we were going through the cards to scan them I found two cards from Liam’t great-grandma one had $5 in it and the other $20. The money has been there so long that it is no longer in circulation. Back in those days we had paper bills but now we have plastic one. See sample below of the change in the $20 bill. I don’t even know if he can cash them in for the current money. I’ll have to go to the bank to find out.

New currency at top

Today’s Declutter Item

Naturally my offering for today are the cards that I decluttered in the post above.

Greeting Cards

Something I Am Grateful For Today

A clean house, four loads of clean washing, some rearranging in the garage, a couple of extra small jobs around the house done and I am grateful to sit back now and enjoy an evening of relaxation. It is so nice to be surrounded by a clean home even if you did have to do it yourself. In fact I think that makes it even more satisfying.


“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I too have revisited this area on several ocassions but feel i need to do it again. I decluttered the cards on the last round. If i was to make a master list (i have four kids 🙂 ) it would be
    1) Newspapers from day they were born
    2) Baby development record
    3)Scan pictures
    4) Lock of hair from first haircut
    5) A special item for my eldest son this was a babygro, for my second son it was a hat (he was a premmie) for 3rd son can’t remember 🙁 and for my daughter it was a pair of pram shoes.
    Each child also has a record of achievment to which some of their school certificates and school reports are in. Also their hobbies are in their aswell. My eldest son is an accomplished member of the RAF air cadets and has gained several certificates and My daughter is working towards a gcse in Ballet.

    I can’t help thinking that this is too much. All that my mother gave to me from when i was a child was my card from my crib when i was newborn and a small silver bracelet, i don’t feel as though i’m missing anything (thanks mum), but the problem is i have saved this stuff for so long wouldn’t it be silly to toss it now?? Drat, somedays i am so sure of my reasons for decluttering, then on other days the doubting Thomas creeps in……

    Sharron x

    • Hi Sharron,
      considering you have four kids that doesn’t sound like a lot of stuff. I am not against keepsakes altogether they are wonderful pieces of history and I think it is nice to keep a small selection. Look at each set of things and decide is it very much to hand on to your children when they leave home. If the answer is no then I don’t see that it is a problem to keep it. Let the children decide when you feel they are ready. I work on the idea that so long I am still decluttering something I can leave these more difficult items until later on. In the meantime I know they are there and can give it the deep thought that it deserves.

      • You are right Colleen, i don’t immediatly need to declutter any of the stuff i deem uneccessary, not now anyway, i can give it the tought it deserves! Thank you! The memory boxes are in the loft, with photos and christmas decorations. The aformentioned pram is up there too. All things that need dealing with, just not today.
        Sharron x

        • Mind you Sharron, you will have no excuse once you run out of other things to declutter. These are after all the things that others aren’t sure how to deal with once you are gone.

  2. Colleen,

    This is an interesting area because we are so sentimental about our kids’ stuff.

    Before my mom got sick and my FIL died in July, I was really rolling on the decluttering. I had even gotten out all of the photos and started to go through them. And then I got totally overwhelmed with life and everything got put on hold.

    I have made baby scrapbooks for each of my children and I have one box of clothing that was sentimental and a couple of books and toys that they particularly liked. I always got duplicate copies of the photographs, back before digital, and someone on here suggested that I use the duplicates to do second albums for each child to have. I think that is a fantastic idea, but the thought of actually doing it makes me shudder. In addition, my mother in law sent up a whole large box of photographs of my husband’s side of the family and I (gasp!) offered to organize them for her. I have no idea what I was thinking!

    I am trying to get back into the swing of getting rid of “stuff” but these areas scare the crap out of me. Before all of this sickness nonsense, I had gone through my middle son’s boxes of school stuff and narrowed it from three down to one. I threw away a LOT of stuff. I need to continue on with that task. I know the kids aren’t that interested in keeping all of their elementary school papers and I have no idea why I didn’t throw them away when they came home. Why do we hang onto all of this stuff???

    I need to do a “card sweep” and just get rid of them. I saved the letters my husband and I wrote to each other before we got married and really, aren’t those the things that really matter?


    • Hi Chelle,
      clutter isn’t a crime. If you have a lot of emotional clutter right now and dealing with physical sentimental clutter is too much for you then don’t. You are likely to make the wrong decisions if you do it in the wrong state of mind. Stick to just doing the easy stuff if you have any of that left if not take a well earned break. Sometimes we just need time to regroup.

      As for why do we keep too much school stuff, drawings etc of our kids. I think sometimes we make too much fuss over it in an attempt to make our kids feel special. Then they think the stuff is special and want you to keep all of it. I saw a piece on TV once where the expert said, don’t make too much fuss about your kid’s achievement, especially if it is just everyday stuff and nothing extraordinary. Not only might they place to much sentiment to the stuff but they may actually not push themselves to the next level because they are getting enough attention out of the simple things they are doing. Save the big praise for the extraordinary achievements. I thought that sounded reasonable and have acted on it ever since.

  3. I used to keep all the cards sent to me from my cousin: he lives in another country and wanted to keep us updated about my niece and nephew. At a certain point I had dozens of cards and while it was a pleasure to receive those cards, full of little drawings and often with photos of the children, I didn’t know what to do after having read them… It seemed unfair to recycle them, but I didn’t need to keep them either (the children are grown now…). In the end I threw them away and felt lighter 😀
    Now I always throw greating cards in the recycling bin immediately: it’s easier 😉

  4. I don’t suppose the banknotes are rare or collectable in any way?

  5. I decided a while ago to not keep cards. I had a big box of them and never, ever, ever looked at them. I’ve actually been busted once or twice by someone who’s seen a card they’ve given me in the recycling bin 🙂 Oh well, I just ask them if they ever look at old cards they got and the answer is always “no”. You’ve inspired me to attack the several sentimental boxes I have in my closet. Gulp.

    • Hi Josh,
      you probably did those people a favour by them seeing their card in your recycling bin. Maybe they returned home and thought twice about why they were keeping the cards they get. Have fun in those boxes. Don’t think of it as a chore think of it as an opportunity to reminisce while you achieve some decluttering at the same time.

  6. I went through and was tossing out all of these cards I have received over the years. Several of them I kept long enough to be able to put the sentiments into an Excel file I have of quotes and card sentiments so I can use them later on cards I make. Once I have time to do that i will ditch those too.

    Now I am getting ready to do something that would make most people gasp. I’m going through all of the 7 albums of pictures of family, friends and places I have lived to ditch more pictures. These are not scrapbook albums but just picture albums. I don’t think I need pictures from every year of life for my 50 year old cousin, etc. So we will see what happens. I jsut know that I seldom look at those albums and when I do it is because I am putting things in them not taking out.

    • Hi Deb J,
      Soon after we were married, a very elderly great-uncle sent my husband and me an envelope with quite a number of photos of me as I was growing up – all had been sent by my grandmother to her sister (since died) and him. I thought it a lovely thought on his part; they could have meant little to him, and meant a lot to John and myself, as we had few photos of those years.
      Maybe, if you cousin has family, they would like those photos.
      Good luck with the sorting!

    • Hi Deb J,
      I often think that we keep too many photos. Copies of the same photos, more shots than necessary of an occasion, bad quality photos etc. When you think about how few photos we have of our ancestors wouldn’t just one or two photos of each of our loved ones from each year and a few of special occasions be enough as a record of history.

      • Ann, you had a good idea. I will see if any of them want them.

        Colleen, I agree with you on taking too many photos. Unless a picture is showing something really special why do we need 20 pictures of Cousin “Splatt’s” 2 year old opening presents, etc?

  7. Colleen if you take the bank notes to your bank you can exchange them for new notes. Shops won’t accept them but the bank will change it. We changed some notes a couple of years ago.

    • …. and maybe coin and note collectors would even give more than their face value?
      Colleen I love the baby card montage photo – that should also go into the “Keeper” bag!

    • Hi Low income Lady,
      I had to laugh that neither of my children realised that we ever had paper bills. They were amused.

  8. I just recently went through the display folders that have this stuff in it for me. The things I found really interesting were
    – the fees structure for a private school they wanted to book me into. Hilarious 25 years on!
    – the letter from the heart specialist – for 25 years I’ve had a vague knowledge what’s wrong, and now I have doctors scrawl that i can’t read, that clarrifies it (hopefully) to someone who CAN read it!
    – the comment cards kids wrote in year 7 – you know ‘I’ll remember you as…’ It’s enlightening to read things from a while ago, and see which descriptions are still accurate.

    Isn’t it strange that the birth cert isn’t that exciting! I have my early vaccination books too?! I didn’t clear much of this out (ie throw it out). I feel like these trips down memory lane should be something we do regularly, to make the stuff worth it’s while. Whether it’s a birthday, or a cold winters day, or a public holiday, it’s nice to revisit stuff. Better than letting it sit there for years.

    Interestingly, I’ve only found one ultrasound in our house – for Rory, the youngest. And then there’s next to NO baby photos of him (poor kid!) I’m trying to do his 21st album, but the first two years are VERY short on photos – sucks to be the last kid!

    • Hi Snosie,
      I can’t believe you have some sort of heart condition and don’t know what it is. It might be a good idea to find out. I am not sure ignorance is always bliss. Perhaps you could take that scrawl to the doctors office next time you go and they may be able to decipher it. My dad should have been a doctor as his hand writing is fits the stereotype. Actually he is a lefty who the catholic school system wouldn’t allow to write that way and they made him write right handed. (Devils Child 👿 😆 ) I wish they hadn’t bothered because I worked for him for a few years and trying to decipher his smash repairs quotes into invoices was quite a challenge sometimes. One does learn to identify the scrawl with practice.

      i have a friend who until recently didn’t realise there had been a mistake made on her birth certificate until later in life. She had been celebrating her birthday on the 20th (she has the hospital info to prove her real birthdate) while the certificate read the 25th. It was easier to change all her legal info to the 25th than it was to dispute the certificate info. So for legal purposed she was born on the 25th but she celebrates on the 20th.

      I don’t have an ultrasound for my eldest who is 22 it must have been around that time that they began to use them. My son has one but these days they seem to do them several times during a pregnancy and the printed images are amazing.

      • That might be it – I’m too ‘old’ to have an ultrasound print out photo. Awww…

        I’ll look into the heart condition – I’ve always been told (from mum and dad) that basically I can’t have major oral surgery without antibiotics first. Did that with my wisdom teeth, without incident (well I don’t know, I’m still here, no heart issues, but the healing was horrendous!) I will give it to the GP next time i remember. He’ll work it out!

        Wow – your friend’s story reminds me of a school friend born in PNG. She had a passport that made her a year older – what teenager wouldn’t want that!! Lucky she’s an honest kid, the last one to drink even now!

        • Snosie, do you have a hole in your heart? My 3rd son has a VSD, ventricular septal defect, and what you describe about dental work is the same advice my son has been given. Just a thought and i could be wrong.

          Sharron x

  9. I am confused! Do you live in America & have Aussie relatives, I can’t figure it out? (Not sure why I need to figure it out either)
    I am not sentimental at all & have kept nothing from the birth’s of my boys, but one has some 6th birthday cards he said he wanted from a couple of months ago!
    I am enjoying your blog!

    • Hi Karen,
      I lived in America for 7 1/2 years but returned to Australia four years ago. I am Australian. Cindy, who writes for me on Wednesday does however come from the USA. Maybe that is where the confusion set in. So where are you from Karen? And may I say welcome to 365 Less Things I am glad your curiosity brought you to leave a comment so we could get to know you.

      I am sure your son has a reason for wanting those cards so why not indulge him for now. I am sure if you ask him in six months time he won’t care about them any more.

      • I am in Crib Point on the beautiful mornigton peninsula, not far from Phillip Island…especially by ferry!

        • Well you could have joined Loretta and I for coffee the weekend before last. We went to Doyles at Mordialloc which isn’t that far away from you. My hubby and son caught the ferry at crib point I believe to get to Phillip Island for the motoGP. it is a small world isn’t it.

  10. This post and comments have reminded me of a lovely family Xmas we had 6 months after my grandfather died. My grandparents were always big on decluttering to fit into a retirement villa and when he married his second wife and moved into her house he gave family first option at the garage sale so we could pick up things that meant something to us. When he died we thought most of the family history had been passed down already.
    That Xmas my stepgrandmother brought over a SINGLE manilla folder from the filing cabinet of what my grandparents had kept over about a 30yr period that family had sent or given them. There was laughter and tears and occasional embarassment. Here is some of what we found. (Its more than five years ago and without looking at the few clippings I brought home this is what I recall)
    * a lock of my brothers baby hair
    * occasional newspaper clippings of family
    * a thankyou letter I had written to my grandma when I was ten mentioning seeing my baby cousin soon. The now late teens “baby cousin” was a bit sheepish sitting there all grown up next to his girlfriend.
    * my uncle’s late teens early twenties letter to them with his list of attributes for his ideal wife. His wife who he had met after the list was written remarked that she must have often sorely disappointed him.
    My 80+year old great aunt tells me that she has kept all the letters that we have sent her so that she when she is dead we can read through them and remember what we were doing at that stage in our lives.
    I guess there are two different situations where the things we keep can be looked at.
    One to physically remind us of how much life has changed and to be able to show our children how much they have changed. I prefer ultrasound pictures, an item of smallest baby clothes (I enjoyed even pre children seeing physical proof that I was as small as my mother said), a lock of hair (I enjoyed comparing my sons hair to the lock of my hair my mother had kept) and a sample of early drawing and writing.
    In general unless cards have something besides to and from in them I’m not keen to keep them, (I do keep my great aunts cross stitched ones) I think letters are more interesting than cards to look back on.
    I don’t know if its just me but I enjoy reading something I have written in the past more. I guess its natural to be interested in a written snap shot of your own life years ago as its more likely to jog an old memory.
    Soo, I guess I will make sure I keep a box/file of things people have sent me partly for them. It meant a lot to us knowing that our grandparents/parents who threw out a lot of things had kept (less than 5 per person) pieces of paper that we had sent them about our lives. One of the special things was that we had no idea they were doing that and it came as a total surprise. Had they been utter hoarders who kept everything ever given to them I think it would have been a very different experience.

    • Hi Esther,
      everything you say here is true. It is nice to share in that history and I like that your grandparents only kept a small slice of history of each of you. That is usually enough to look back and remember what you used to be like. One doesn’t need to keep every little thing just the select few.

  11. I think my mum kept only the little bracelets and the calendar paper of our birthdays. of course there are a lot of pictures, but I never saw a card.

    I found a new way to sort out cards. I have an aunt who is sending a lot of letters/packages and so on, and she ALWAYS puts in a self made card. So when I was searching for a card in my card-box (which obviously needs decluttering) for a friend, I found a card from my aunt that was just perfect. it was saying “Dear Lena, here you have a little something for your studies. Enjoy it well and lets talk soon on the phone”. I took a pen, crossed out my name and put my friends name into it, wrote a ending greeting (my aunt doesnt do that) and sent it as it was with the study book he wanted and the chocolate I gave him. He knows my aunt and got the joke. I think he has thrown it out, which is great with me, considering that the card had fulfilled its purpose TWICE .
    I am sadly convinced that this is a one time event and I will never ever find a card that fits to my purpose. So I will give my cards a declutter soon…

  12. My mother kept EVERY SINGLE LETTER I ever wrote her. I still have them in a box. To me they are precious and some of them I think my kids will enjoy reading because I wrote to Mom from Indonesia and kept her up to date on their growth and development. Scanning them and sending copies to the children is (fairly far down) on my to do list–one of these days…

    • Hi Willow,
      letters are a whole different kettle of fish than a simple card with a to and from in it. My hubby and I have kept our love letters and they will never be decluttered.