To Keep or Not to Keep (and how?)

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably noticed a post about greeting cards. More specifically, cards received and the question of whether, or how many, to keep. All who commented were adamant that the cards be kept. After all, they are keepsakes, mementos. As one friend pointed out, the hand written note, sadly, is becoming rare. This is true. I’m giving away the ending here so you don’t fret – I kept them. Not all, but many of them, and I’ll show you what crafty little project ensued in organizing them. However, I may not keep them forever, and here’s why.

Pile-O-Cards to keep (and fit in that box)

Those who had strong feelings for keeping the cards all have one thing in common: they have children. Some have grandchildren. They have someone to whom to leave a legacy. I don’t have children, nor will I ever. I am younger than all of my siblings by quite a stretch, so if we all live the average lifespan, it stands to reason I’ll outlive them. Also, I live nearly 1,000 miles from my nearest niece or nephew. I realize that could change, but given the winters back home and the mild and beautiful weather here in North Carolina, it’s not likely.

For several years I’ve contemplated the fact that when I’m old and gray and it’s my time, all of my stuff will be just that. Stuff. There really is no one to leave a lifetime of living to, and even if I tried to push my treasures onto my family, I don’t see any of them making a thousand mile trek with a U-Haul to collect Aunt Kelly’s said treasures. And the practical, somewhat minimalist in me is pretty much indifferent about that.

Realistically, I don’t expect anyone to sort, ship, and store my belongings that they may or may not appreciate as I did. And after it stews in their attic for 30 years, then what? I have a couple of Rubbermaid Totes full of things I feel obligated to keep because of who gave it to me, who made it for me, or who isn’t with us any longer. I often wish I could let go of that stuff without feeling guilty; it’s as if the giver would know! I don’t mean to sound callous or ungrateful, but for me it’s the relationships, memories, and photographs, those are what bring me joy and help me to feel connected long after the moment has passed.

I wasn’t sure if it was just me or if it was a common feeling among those of us who will remain childless, so I talked with one of my non-mommy friends, and she feels the same. She has just a few cards from a close family member, but beyond that, she does not keep every little thing for the very same reason – it’s only going in the trash one day anyway when she is no longer.

I ran this post by Ken to be sure I’m not coming across as depressed or morbid, because I am neither. He agreed that it is not depressing at all, rather, it is the reality of who I am – a woman who will not have children. A reality with which I am entirely at peace. So please don’t read this post as melancholy; it’s just the facts Ma’am!

Now, with that said, here’s the flip-side. I really enjoyed reading the notes written in those cards! Haha! I have a couple of cards from the 80s, but I began more consistently keeping them in the late 90s (I used to be more of a keeper of things than I am now). I enjoyed my stroll down memory lane, but it took me 20 years to finally take the trip. If that’s my benchmark, I’ll be looking at them again as I retire! Suffice it to say, I threw out some. Cards from old boyfriends who wrote nothing more than “Love, _____.” Cards from people whose names I didn’t recognize, or who didn’t bother to sign the card. But all of the others were kept, and here’s what I did (finally, the good stuff!):

The few that were tossed

I bought a single hole punch and some binding rings from Archiver’s. I could have used the two-hole punch at the office, but the holes are much bigger and would have taken out more of the hand-written notes inside. So I opted for the single punch that left more of the note intact. I separated the cards by person/family, sorted them into date order, and started punching.

Binding rings
Finished product! This stack is from Mom and Dad 🙂

The box started with a few things in it already – copies of old photos, photography awards, concert tickets and bracelets, etc.

The box already in progress
And now with the cards placed on top
all sorted by family
From L to R: Christmas, stationery and note cards,
and cards received

So, even though I try not to keep a bunch of stuff hanging around, at the end of the day I really enjoyed reading what folks had to say to me throughout the years. Even Miss Practical gets a little sentimental every now and then. I won’t say I’m keeping them forever, but they do have a place for the moment. Someday it may simply be in my heart, but for now their home is right there on the closet shelf.

I’d love to hear what you all have done with your cards; how you’ve organized and preserved them, or whether you’ve kept them at all. I agree the written note seems to be going the way of the dinosaur (makes me sad), while space is always at a premium. How about we write more and save less – no rings attached 😉