Did Dante Designate a Hell for People who Throw Away Greeting Cards?

As I organize, and I am using the term rather loosely at the moment, I run into the perpetual issue of cards.

Birthday cards. Valentine’s wishes. Christmas greetings. Sympathy noted. Wedding congratulations. Merely thinking about you missives.

Cards coming out the ying-yang here and some going back years.

I even have a gift sack full of sympathy cards from my late husband’s visitation that I ransacked for cash and abandoned – unread for the most part and most definitely never responded to. Cue Miss Manners her tongue cluck.

“What should I do with them?” I asked Rob. “Someone paid money for them.”

I think it’s the money spent that stops my hand at the shredder more than the thoughts or motives behind the mailing of them.

Not long ago, I bought a mess of the darn things myself at the grocery. Summer birthday wishes and Father’s Day.

“Look at these!” exclaimed the cashier. “Cards! I haven’t checked any through in I can’t remember when. People just don’t send this stuff anymore.”

I felt like a relic. An antique who hordes them as well as perpetuates their tribble like accumulation in society.

“Well,” Rob said in response to my query, “I can’t help you. I have a bunch of yours myself.”

Now I am slightly offended. Of course you have mine!

“I keep yours!”


“Because you gave them to me and you wrote little notes in them,” I said, snuggling under his chin.

And there is the crux of the matter.

I keep cards and notes of those I hold dear and consider the paperstock of others to be no better than unsolicited junk mail.

However, I can’t keep every card that is sent to me, my daughter or Rob and I. There is an “enough” point and I have reached it. The problem is to avoid the whole “guilt” thing. And it’s tricky.

For example, I feel not the tiniest bit of guilt for not responding to the sympathy cards that are sitting still in that sack, but I feel guilt about throwing them away. The cards themselves mean nothing, but the reason they were sent does. Therefore, the cards endure long after they should have been recycled.

The idiocy of this is not lost on me because not only did I keep them but fifteen months after the fact, I packed them and transported them to another country, where they continue to not be replied to or looked at or do anything other than take up valuable space. Space that is premium – as all space is.

The same can be said of paper in general. We keep far more than is necessary. I have two file folders full of the daily reports that Dee’s daycare kept, recording what she ate, when she slept, and anything of note. I have nearly three years worth of these reports.

Why? Because I stopped journaling her daily activities at the end of the first year. Un-coincidentally this is when her father took quite ill. In my mind, the reports are part of her “baby” record. I was too preoccupied to keep obsessive track of her “firsts” and thought I would go back later and scan the reports for highlights and compile them.

Dee is eight years old. The reports are still in a file cabinet – which also traveled internationally .

The madness!

“I just want to rent a dumpster and pitch everything in without stopping to look at it,” I told Rob.

“Okay,” he agreed. “Let’s.”

It’s not really that irrational a solution. I have, after all, purged an entire house of possessions. Literally given away thousands of dollars in furnishings, clothes and household goods without really blinking or looking back in angst. It’s not so silly an idea.

What is it about paper? Whether it’s words or photos, it’s so much harder to part with.

12 thoughts on “Did Dante Designate a Hell for People who Throw Away Greeting Cards?

  1. We live in a digital age… don’t forget that you can scan and save digital copies of everything! Museums and Libraries do it with older and fragile pieces. If you have an all-in-one printer at home it is more than likely able to scan and save documents directly to your PC or lap top or memory stick or iPod etc…

    I don’t have a scanner at home but my boss allowed me to take my cards to work and scan them using the Xerox (which can also email to me instantly).

  2. Scrapbooks and photo albums. That has been my answer to keeping and still organizing. This past week I have been looking through albums for photos my future daughter-in-law requested. I am so glad I have those photos, dated and organized, because they capture the most special moments when my family “grew up.”

  3. Hi. My name is Catherine and I am a hoarder. I haven’t looked but I’m sure there is something similar to AA for hoarders, and I should be a member of it. I am shocking at throwing things out, although I am better at it than my parents – the two spare rooms are the stuff made of nightmares. On the issue of cards, I like others who have commented, am only keeping cards with personal messages on them. I keep them in a box with things I want to keep for memory’s sake. These include poems and letters from friends and former paramours, brochures, etc. from trips taken, and tickets to the theatre, sporting events, concerts, etc. I have no problem keeping these things as I have a shocking memory and find it enjoyable to look back over them. The hardest part is deciding what is worth keeping and what to throw out. That’s the part that leaves me with excess stuff.

  4. I always feel so much better after I toss. I find not only is my desk, files etc. cleaner, my mind is free. My spirit is free from being bogged down in useless items that serve no purpose but to make us feel guilty. Drop the guilt and be free.

    1. My late husband’s mother had a crawl space just off the stairs leading up to the bedrooms where she stuffed every paper he ever brought home from school – I kid you not. It was a horror. By the time she had to leave her home, there were literally paths meandering around stuff from room to room. My sister-in-law is even worse. After her husband died, she simply let life pile up around her and her two children. I remember listening to her explain how she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of things that hadn’t moved an inch in five or six years simply because they belonged to her late husband – no sentimental value really – just an ownership thing.

      I can’t hold a candle to these people.

  5. I would love to toss all my cards. I never reread them. But Mrs. Wife and Daughter are both \sentimental fools and I think they’d be supremely insulted if I didn’t keep them. It’s a little thing and it makes them happy.

  6. i’m becoming colder. hanging onto new cards for maybe a month, then tossing them. keeping the ones that make me laugh… i just need to go back through the scattered archives all through my house and start the massive purge… it’s just stuff. it’s JUST stuff…. my memories, and the meaning of the stuff, is in my head. at least until i start to forget…

  7. I went through all the cards from Nick’s death at about 6 or 7 months. If it had only a signature, or a “thinking of you” or a “call me if you need anything” I threw it out. If it had anything written about Nick in it I kept it thinking that someday the boys might want to know what their dad meant to other people. I kept all the mass cards as well, for much the same reason: These people loved dad enough to have a mass in his memory.

    And I still have 2 folders of daily reports from pre-K, one for each boy. It’s a piece of their childhood that they will see one day and shake their heads over. They won’t believe how sentimental their mother was.

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