What To Do with My Old Letters and Greeting Cards

My old letters and greeting cardsThere’s a box of “things” that I’ve been moving around for years and before that, it sat in my parent’s basement. A storage room purge led me to open it up. Inside the box was a bag… a bag of old letters and greeting cards. The newest letter in this bag was 36 years old and some of the messages inside had been written 45 years ago.

Before you judge me, just know that letters and cards have always been my weakness. I think it’s because they don’t take up that much space. Besides this bag, I had file folders in a file drawer also loaded with more recent cards and letters. So I wouldn’t have to go through this whole process again, I grabbed those folders as well.  It’s sort of a cleansing exercise!

The first thing I had to consider now with all of this paper dumped out in front of me, was whether it would be worth my time (now or ever) to go through it. Something in me just can’t let go that easily. I at least had to look through it all. Something else in me screams – please don’t spend too much time on this!

The steps below are the ones I’ve already taken. I’ve also outlined my plan going forward and will hopefully finish this project within a month or two and be able to report back on how it turned out!

Step 1:

  • Cards – I started by looking at the signature in each greeting card and sorting them into piles. I have to confess that I caught myself reading some of the messages along the way, but mostly I resisted the temptation.
    • parents
    • grandparents and great grandparents
    • sisterPhoto of stacked old letters and greeting cards
    • other relatives
    • school friends
    • close friends each got their own pile
    • romantic interests
    • people I looked up to
    • trash pile for cards I’m definitely not interested in reading or preserving

Step 2:

  • Letters – Next, I sorted the letters into the same piles as the cards.

Step 3:

  • Decided what to do with my old letters and greeting cards. Here are the options I considered:
    • Read each remaining card or letter and then throw them all in the trash. Definitely the least time-consuming option.
    • Read each remaining card or letter and take notes on any memories that come to mind… and then throw them all in the trash.
    • Preserve some of the signatures. Cut them out and make a collage or take a photo of them.
    • Scan or take a photo of meaningful letters or messages inside greeting cards.
    • Save meaningful letters or messages inside greeting cards for putting in a scrapbook.

In the end, I decided to combine several of the ideas above and create a book for myself. I’m not a scrapbooker in the traditional sense, but I want to put together a memoir/scrapbook and use a print-on-demand service to create a single printed book. I believe this will take me less time, cost less, and take up less space when it’s done.

So here is my plan for the old letters and greeting cards…

  • Cut out any signatures I want to keep.
  • Photograph or Scan
    • Lay out all of my friends’ signatures on a single sheet of paper. Take a photo of it. This will become a single page in my book. I will add a title and maybe some notes once it’s on the computer.
    • On another page, I will put the signatures of special loved ones. I think I will leave space for a photo of each. It may end up taking more than one page.
    • Take photos or scan letters or messages that I want to include.
  • Write. Since seeing the cards reminded me of people, relationships, events, and more, I thought it would be interesting to choose a few and write about them. I had a fair amount of guilt and self-judgment arise in my initial look. Hopefully exploring the situations and the emotions tied to them will be therapeutic! To make the pages more interesting, I will also use photos or scans of the related messages to enhance the stories.
  • Put it all together in a document on my computer.
  • Publish it as a paperback book on Blurb* and have one copy printed just for me. I anticipate the cost being less than $10, as I will choose “trade book” instead of “photo book”. I don’t think I will feel the need to make it a hardcover book, but if I do, they have options for that too.

So do you have old letters and greeting cards hiding in a box, a bag, or a folder? What other ideas do you have for dealing with them? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. I have kept many letters and greeting cards because I simply don’t have the heart to throw them out into the trash, even those I don’t really want to keep. I would feel better if I had an incinerator to turn them into “burnt offerings”. Thanks for the many ideas and suggestions which give me some hope.

  2. My Mother’s old greeting cards from far-off friends and relatives would’ve been very valuable to me. As well as her 100th birthday cards. I never thought of gathering them all up for her. And now they’re all gone! I cry and weep for them. Written testimonies to how people felt about her. Am I the only one who sees the value and the worth in them?? They should’ve been mine!!!

    • Val Brennan says

      Hi Diane,
      I know for sure that you are not alone in seeing the value in the cards and messages and I am so sorry that they are not available. I think most of us have some regrets about the things we let get away or the moments we missed. What a special thing to have celebrated her 100th birthday. Maybe you would find some comfort in writing some stories about your mother and the things you remember about the celebrations and the people in her life.

      • Thankyou Val for your kind message. I’ve been writing mine and my Mother’s stories ever since she died. It would’ve been really nice to pore over her 100th birthday cards once in awhile and read all the sweet pretty things everyone wrote to her. I hardly got a chance to look at even one. So I cry. Back in the 60’s, she showed me an album she was keeping all her greeting cards in. And I gave her a Mother’s Day card when I was 14. And the card said how much I wanted to be just like her when I grow up. I still remember it!!! 44 years later. So I made a really sweet Mother’s Day card for her this year saying exactly the same thing.

  3. Val Brennan says

    LillianC makes a really good point in the article below. It serves as a powerful motivator for going through your old cards and letter. https://lillian888.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/letters-from-the-dead/


  1. […] feelings stirred up by unfinished business. If you just can’t resist, here’s a good guide for figuring out what to toss and what to […]

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