What To Do With Cards

by admin on April 11, 2013

What is the proper etiquette for receiving and keeping cards? Whether birthday, Christmas, anniversary cards? My husband finds it really odd that I almost immediately throw away any card I receive. He thinks I should at least “hold on to it” for awhile. But I see no point in that; I am never going to look at it again. Is it improper etiquette to promptly throw away a card/letter when received? Should one hold onto a card for a certain period of time? 0409-13

Cards and letters are little postal gifts, a momentary sharing of good thoughts, wishes and intentions.  Once you receive it, you are free to do with it as you please, just like every other gift received.   I personally save all cards given to me, particularly thank you notes.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

PaigeofMaces April 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I tend not to keep cards very long, around two weeks, then stick them in the recycling. I’ve always felt cards are a little like bouquets, nice to look at for awhile but eventually they start turning into unneeded wilty clutter.


Margaret April 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

There was a Seinfeld episode about this very topic. Jerry tossed cards immediately, Elaine said one needed to hold on to them for 3 days. Both were totally arbitrary decisions. Jerry, of course, lost a girlfriend when she saw the card she had sent to him in his wastebasket.

After my father died, we found bags and bags of cards he had received. After checking them for letters, cash, etc., I threw them away. Recycle bin.

I personally hate cards. I hate shopping for a piece of stiff paper costing $3.50 or more with sentiments written by someone else. I would rather write someone a letter.

Card companies routinely rotate their stock and do you know what they do with the discards? They throw them out. They’re not even valuable enough to the company to ship them back. I know this because my neighbor used to have a job restocking cards and she would give me the discards. I’ve saved a ton of money this way in the cases where a card was required.

I have saved a few that were embelished by DD when she was younger but that’s it. If I get a particularly funny one, I might keep it as a bookmark; otherwise, it’s the recycle bin for it!


Daniel February 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Actually it was George who made up that rule. Jerry asked him what the rule was on keeping a thank you card, and George said, “The rule’s a minimum of 2 days.” And then Jerry asked him if he knew what he was talking about or if he was making it up and George admitted he was making it up.

Then later Jerry’s girlfriend found the card in the trash and was upset because she put a lot of thought into it for him to just toss it away carelessly.

It is an interesting topic though. I guess people are all different.


Hannabobama April 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm

@ Bint: There may be no etiquette, but it’s pretty sad that you don’t even keep it for as long as it took someone to buy it, write it and send it to you.

Why? Is it any of your business what someones chooses to do with any gift item? Especially one that is ultimately useless for any purpose other than to keep in storage? Do you keep every facebook or email message sent to you?


Anonymous April 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I like the scanning idea–that way, you can save the content of the cards, while eschewing the clutter.


Carrie April 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

For truely special occasions where I’ve received a lot of cards (like my wedding, I have about 40 cards) I’ve created a scrapbook to display them along with a few other momentos (like the program, invitation, etc.) For Christmas cards I get that year, I’ll display them until the holiday has passed then get rid of them.. Other than that, however, I toss them after I’ve written a thank you or reciprocated.


Hannah2 April 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm

@Margaret – I agree totally with you. Not a thing wrong with anyone who wants to buy them and send, but I refuse to spend upwards of $7 on a card that probably will get thrown away. That’s a huge waste of money and I do not want to waste money.


momofeveryone April 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

my mom keeps the cards my sisters and i give her. we have a contest about who’s card makes her cry the most. thank you hallmark! ( i know it sounds wierd but we go with it)
i keep cards from important people like my sisters/mom/grandmas ect. but the car dealership sent me a holiday card? in the recycle bin.


Lisa April 11, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Old faded cards from my grandparents and parents, all deceased, mean the world to me. Don’t throw them out, even though you might not see the emotional value right now. My dad, who wasn’t much of a writer, never wrote more then 2 words, but to see ‘love, dad’ is still such a great comfort to me when I look at them every once in a while.
Christmascards from colleages, vague friends, and so on, should be discarded the moment the season for it is somewhat over, to prevent clutter.


Bottlecaps April 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I keep every card sent to me. I’ve been doing it for years. I have a pretty big box in storage full of cards, and I have a large gift bag that is slowly getting filled with cards here at my house. Someday I’d like to make a scrapbook out of them. I love going back through them and thinking of the people who sent them to me. 🙂


Goodness April 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I don’t keep cards, as a rule, though I have a couple of my husband’s best anniversary cards to me on display from a few years ago. Eventually, they’ll go, too. I get terribly frustrated trying to figure out what to do with things for which I have no immediate purpose, but I know that as soon as I toss anything potentially useful, I’ll need it; happens every time. A greeting card that’s been read has no such urgency.

DH, on the other hand, saves not only all cards but every other trinket and scrap of paper he gets — on his 50th birthday he finally threw away all his old homework & newspaper clippings from high school! He thinks I’m hard-hearted…


The Elf April 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm

About discarding it immediately: I don’t do this, but I don’t see anything wrong with it either. You opened the card, smiled at the message and was touched that the person gave you the card. Done and done. It’s not uncaring to throw it out right away. The gift is ephemeral in nature.


Stella April 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm

If the cards come with ready-made texts and are only signed, I keep them for a week or few before trashing. If they have hand-written things I can keep them displayed on my fridge door for months, because they tend to make me smile.


NostalgicGal April 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

It varies, usually a few months or last season’s christmas cards are thrown when I get this season’s sendouts dealt with. A few I have hung onto for certain reasons (the one my dad sent me for my 40th, I kept…it was seriously humorous) but. In all the decades of my life so far, I have maybe 100 cards I kept, and a lot were very sentimental or otherwise stood out. Some are mementos of family and friends that are no longer with us… It’s up to the person who receives but if you have a Significant Other that might come over and get cheesed to see it in the trash, hold onto it for a few months.

Cost, yes they cost. If I send one it’s because it’s obligatory (congrats on your getting hitched, your new baby, condolences on your loss, a sincere thank you card) or the occasional offbeat one that I will send to a friend or family member as a cheer you up. Plus the contest with my dad on who can get the (most humorous, aka tease too) birthday or christmas card to one up each other. (the aforementioned birthday card ranks as about his best jab at me, and the one I sent him for his birthday a few years ago got pretty close as a counter… hehehe). As for cost, I rarely spend over $3 for a card. Some are totally outrageously priced, I’d rather buy them a gift instead for that price… so moderation, of course!


Daphne April 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm

If I know that the person who sent me the card will be stopping over in the next few days or so I might save the card so they saw that I kept it awhile and I appreciated it.
If it’s particularly funny or something I might save it for awhile to show other people.
I save Xmas cards from one year to the next so I can review any pertinent information (new baby, new address, etc.) before mailing my own cards out.
I will save a card that is very nice, or personal/sentimental. Or one that marks a very special occasion like a once in a lifetime trip or a particularly fun visit.

But I don’t see any problem with tossing them either. I would never be offended if someone tossed a card I had sent.


Marozia April 12, 2013 at 5:13 am

Scanning or scrapbooking. Whatever you feel like doing.


Bint April 12, 2013 at 8:03 am

Hannabobama: if you cannot see the difference between a Facebook message or email, and something that someone picked out, spent money and time on, spent thought on, and then went to the bother of posting, then no wonder you don’t understand why I think it’s sad the OP can’t even hang onto it until the next day but chucks it straight in the bin.

Every post you put up here begins with a direct attack on mine. You’re welcome to do it, but given you’re comparing apples to oranges, I don’t really see the point.


flchicka08 April 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

I’m a firm believer in do as you wish, though it does surprise me at the amount of people who immediately throw cards away! Our Christmas/New Year cards are displayed until the decorations are put away and other occasion cards are displayed on the coffee table for about a week or so, then recycled. Our nieces’ artwork is kept on the fridge – the older one BEAMS when she sees her pieces on display. I do save the sentimental cards or pictures with handwritten notes in them. My husband will save every scrap of paper we receive, so its up to me to edit what we receive.

The only exception: my husband was in the military and it was incredibly touching when he got home from deployments and a bag would be filled with all of the cards and letters he received while away. There were cards and letters from school children, my family (our first Christmas married, he was deployed and my mom’s side of the family sent him a box of cookies with cards and pictures of each family, so he got to “meet” aunts, uncles and cousins who couldn’t come to our wedding), his family and our friends. You could feel the love and care of his support system. We haven’t recycled any of it!


LawGeek April 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I save it until the occasion is over. So, I won’t throw out birthday cards until a few days after my birthday; until then they are on display. Those who have trouble understanding people who throw out cards have probably never lived in an apartment.


mumsyjr April 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm

My mother only saves Christmas cards…but she’s been saving them for about thirty years. So every Christmas she hangs them along the edges of windows and doorways and on strings along the wall like garlands. It’s really quite pretty. I agree that it’s often more of a sentimental decision than an etiquette one.


chechina April 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I only keep a card until I had a chance to thank the person who sent it to me, then I toss it. If the person gave it to me directly, I toss it when I get home.

To me a card is like a gift of chocolate; I enjoy it and then it’s done, so why hold on to the wrapper?


Danielle April 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Generally, I throw cards out after I’ve read them. However, last Hanukkah, a card sent from my grandmother was stuck in the container with our decorations rather than disposed of when it came down off the mantle. Her personal message, “I love all of you, and am always thinking of you” was a great comfort to all of us this holiday season, as she passed away this past year. Now, I don’t think I can bring myself to throw cards away anymore.


Enna April 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

Depends on how you feel about it. Keep them as long as you like – provided you are not tripping over them because you got so many!


June First April 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

If the cards have special sentimental value, then keep them. Just holding onto them for the sake of holding onto them doesn’t make much sense to me. We have a shoebox with our wedding cards that we might want to read later.

Two quick anecdotes in favor of keeping them:
-When my grandfather died, one of his caretakers recognized my name and said, “You’re the one who wrote him all the letters!” Even though he wasn’t able to respond, he kept them.

-When digging around in my (admittedly borderline-hoarder) parents’ closet, my sisters and I found boxes with christening dresses and congratulatory notes about our births. That was kind of nice to read, 30+ years later.


Arila April 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm

My in-laws save Christmas cards for 1 year. The following year, they take pinking shears to the pictures on the front, and use the (usually) blank opposite side to put the To:/From: information for that year’s packages under the tree. I thought this was so clever, because you get to appreciate the nice pictures that you’ve probably forgotten about in the preceding 12 months and reuse before recycling. This can be applied to other types of cards as well, for a unique and beautiful tag.

The only things I have held on to specifically is correspondence with my BF, then DF, now DH.


j-wo September 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I’m not much of a card-keeper, but my mom….oy. When cleaning out my parents’ house after my dad passed away (my mom died four years previously), I found not only all the RSVP cards from their wedding (in 1965) but all the cards my GRANDMOTHER got when she had my mom! It was a bit weird reading all these good wishes about my newborn mom, but kind of neat as well.


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