Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project

What Do You Do With Holiday Cards?

Should you keep, toss or store?

Posted Dec 08, 2015

Photo [cropped] by Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ted Geisel, American writer and cartoonist, at work on a drawing of the grinch for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Source: Photo [cropped] by Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This week, we started getting holiday cards in the mail. I love it! I love seeing photos of people’s families, and I love the friendly feeling of getting all that good mail (for once).

But here’s the question: What do you do with the cards?

I admire the cards, keep them on the table in the hallway for a few days so that my husband and daughters can admire them — and then I toss them.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she literally gasped out loud. She was shocked. She keeps cards through January before she throws them away, and she thought it was callous and disrespectful of me to toss them so quickly. (She didn’t say that to me, in just those words, but I got her drift.)

Some people display cards, on the fridge, the mantelpiece, the bulletin board. But I like a bare fridge, and we don’t have a mantelpiece or bulletin board to use. So if I kept them, they’d just be in a stack on a counter someplace.

I started asking friends what they did, and I discovered that one friend keeps the cards. Indefinitely.

Now, I do keep a copy of our annual card — which, as I explain in Happier at Home, we send at Valentine’s Day, because life is so crazy in December. If my sister or my parents sent cards, I’d keep those cards. But to keep every card we get? Even from close friends? In a New York City apartment, every inch of space is valuable. And even if I lived in a giant barn in the country, I wouldn’t keep the cards. It would be too much space, devoted to items of too little personal value.

I don’t want to sound like the Grinch.  As I said, I love seeing the cards, and I appreciate the effort that people go to, to send them. Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that relationship are a key — probably the key — to happiness, and holiday cards are a tradition that helps to keep social bonds going. And it makes us happier to be reminded of the people who are important to use.

But I feel like once I’ve seen the cards and been reminded of the relationship, they’ve done their work.

Are you shocked by the idea of throwing them out after just a few days? If you save them for a certain amount of time, how long?

What do you do with holiday cards?

Also ...

Gretchen Rubin
Source: Gretchen Rubin

The paperback of Better Than Before hits the shelves on December 15. To celebrate, I’m offering a special deal. If you pre-order the book now, I’ll send you a special email package I created: “21 Days, 21 Strategies to Change Your Habits.” 

Every day for 21 days, you’ll get an email from me, with a description of a different habit strategy to try.

So let’s say you’re trying to get yourself to go to the gym regularly. Each day’s email will outline a different strategy you might consider, as you’re searching for ways to help yourself stick to that good habit.

It won't stay free forever -- soon will be a charge, like there is for the other 21 day projects.

If you're inclined to buy the book, it really does help me if you pre-order. And I hope you'll find the emails useful.

Tags: family holidays relationships rituals traditions

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Podcast 40: Holiday Episode: Cornucopia of Try-This-at-Homes from Listeners, and Thoughts on Decorations.

The Secret Weapon to Help You Stick to Your Good Habits.

“How Does One Find One’s Identity?” What’s Your Answer?