Should you save old greeting cards?

Greeting cards hold special memories and can be incredibly sentimental. Many people have stacks of old cards received over the years from loved ones for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and more. But at some point, those stacks may get unruly. So should you bother saving greeting cards or just recycle them? There are good arguments on both sides.

The case for saving greeting cards

Here are some of the top reasons why you may want to hold onto greeting cards:

Sentimental value

Greeting cards are keepsakes from loved ones. The handwritten notes and personal messages inside make them special and irreplaceable. Over time, the cards serve as reminders of those people and the care they showed on special occasions.

Meaningful memories

When you stumble upon an old greeting card, it can transport you back to the time you received it. You may remember who gave it to you, what was going on in your life then and how you felt. The card captures a memory in time.

Artistic value

Many greeting cards showcase beautiful illustrations, designs or photographs on the outside. The images complement the occasion of the card – whether it’s a holiday, birthday, anniversary or other event. The artwork is worth preserving just like you would hang onto an art print or calendar.

Historical record

Your collection of greeting cards documents personal history over the years – milestone birthdays, graduations, weddings and more. One day, you may enjoy looking back at the cards and reflecting on the major events they represent.

Crafting potential

Whether you scrapbook, make collages or craft, old greeting cards can be incorporated into projects. The card designs and snippets of writing can add character and a personal touch. Repurposing cards this way gives them new life.

Environmental sustainability

Tossing greeting cards adds to landfill waste. By hanging onto them, you’re reducing unnecessary refuse. If you won’t keep the cards forever, you can at least try passing them onto crafters or recycling them responsibly when the time comes.

The case against saving greeting cards

Here are some of the top reasons why you may want to purge those greeting cards:

Takes up space

If you save every greeting card you receive, they will pile up quickly and take up considerable space. All of those cards stored in boxes or baskets can clutter your home. If you’re looking to declutter, greeting cards are an easy target.

Lowers re-read value

Be honest about how often you actually look back and reread the greeting cards you save. Chances are low once they’ve been sitting in storage for a while. And the emotional value diminishes over time too. If the cards are out of sight, they may be out of mind.

Hard to organize and display

One struggle greeting card savers face is how to neatly organize and display their collection. Shuffling through a box of cards isn’t very enjoyable. And most homes lack ideal spots to highlight cards on shelves or walls. So the cards languish out of view.

Challenging to cull

It can be tough to decide which greeting cards to keep and which to toss when you save them all. Choosing to get rid of cards from close family members can provoke guilt. Trying to cull through a huge card collection is often an overwhelming task.

Not eco-friendly to keep forever

While giving used greeting cards new life through crafting or passing them along is eco-friendly, keeping greeting cards forever isn’t. Eventually, the cards will be tossed and still end up in a landfill. It’s better for the environment to dispose of them responsibly sooner rather than later.

May contain outdated contact information

Years back, greeting cards frequently included the giver’s mailing address or home phone number inside. If you haven’t stayed in touch, that old contact information won’t be current. The card loses utility from that perspective.

Tips for keeping greeting cards organized

If you want to save greeting cards but stay organized, try some of these helpful tips:

Sort cards by year

Group your greeting cards together in large envelopes or boxes by year. This keeps all the cards you received during a certain time period together for easier browsing down memory lane.

Utilize photo album pages

Many greeting cards have front images perfect for displaying in a photo album. Carefully tape or glue the cards onto album pages in chronological order. This protects them in a binder you can flip through.

Scan into digital archives

Convert physical greeting cards into digital form. Scan or take high quality photos of the cards and front/inside images. Save the files in cloud storage or on a hard drive you back up so they’re preserved digitally as well.

Label storage boxes and bins

Whether you sort cards by year or occasion, be sure to label the outside of the boxes, bins or bags you use for storage. This makes it simple to identify and access the greeting card collection.

Store horizontally in shelf boxes

For easy retrieval, use acid-free shelf boxes to store greeting cards flat rather than stacked. Label the end of each box with the category and card range. Slide boxes off the shelf to flip through specific cards.

Get specialty greeting card albums

Consider investing in a specialty photo safe album designed to store greeting cards. These have protective sleeves to insert cards in. Like a photo album, you can showcase the cards and turn pages easily.

Assign categories

Group similar greeting cards together in separate envelopes or containers – such as birthday, holiday, anniversary, wedding/baby shower or sympathy. Categorizing makes the cards simpler to file.

Use dividers

Within wider categories, use dividers to organize your greeting cards further. For example, separate holiday cards into Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter etc. sections using tab dividers.

Contain with acid-free materials

Ensure your greeting card storage system uses only acid-free, archival quality supplies like boxes, album sleeves, dividers and tissue paper. This helps preserve the cards in ideal condition.

Creative ways to upcycle and repurpose greeting cards

Before pitching old greeting cards, consider these crafty ways to give them new life:

Gift tags and bags

Cut out images or messages from the front of cards to use as gift tags. You can also glue cards onto plain gift bags or boxes to make the wrapping more decorative.


Punch a hole in the top of greeting cards and run ribbon, string or decorative cord through. You can hang your DIY ornaments on a small tree, wreath, garland or gift package.


Trim greeting cards down to bookmark size. You can laminate or mod podge them to make them more sturdy. The designs will peek out when used in books.


Mail friends and family repurposed greeting cards as postcards. Trim down thicker cards with decorative edges using pinking shears. Address the back and add a new message or note.

Gift boxes

Glue brightly colored or patterned greeting cards onto plain jewelry, trinket or gift boxes using decoupage medium or glue. The cards transform the outside of the box.


Cut your favorite greeting cards to note card size then use the backside to handwrite new notes to loved ones. It’s a way to keep sending cheer in recycled cards.


Mod podgegreeting cards onto the tops of plain cork, ceramic or wooden discs to create custom drink coasters. Protect with another coat of mod podge once dry.


Connect greeting cards end-to-end by punching holes and stringing ribbon through to make a garland. Hang across a wall or mantel for color and flair.

Table décor

Make place card holders for your dining table by folding greeting cards tent-style. Or glue cards onto plain glass candle holders for bright patterns.

Cards into canvases

Cover mini canvases with an all-over collage of cut up greeting cards to make decorative 3D pieces of wall art. Use decoupage or mod podge to adhere the card pieces.

Luminary lights

Cover the outside of glass votives or hurricanes with greeting cards cut to fit. The designs glow through when candles are lit inside.

Mix media art

Incorporate cut out greeting card images and text into mix media art pieces. Collage onto canvases, wooden blocks, frames, vases and other surfaces.


Glue greeting cards onto basic wreath forms made of foam, wire or twigs. Overlap the cards to cover the form in color and pattern.

Gift wrap

Upcycle greeting cards as gift wrap by cutting open the envelopes and flattening. The inside messages become part of the outside wrap design.

Which types of greeting cards are worth saving?

You may want to be more selective and save only the most meaningful cards. Here are some types that might be at the top of your keeper list:

  • Cards from close family like parents, siblings, grandparents
  • Cards marking major milestones like high school graduation
  • Cards received during tough life events like an illness or loss
  • Handmade cards from the kids in your life
  • Cards from important friends that are like family
  • Cards received during special relationship moments – a first date, an engagement, wedding showers
  • Holiday and birthday cards once you’re older with limited celebrations left

Creative ways to organize and store greeting cards

Beyond basic boxes and albums, get creative with how you file cards for preservation. Ideas include:

  • Hang on a clothing rack with binder clips
  • Display in glass fronted cabinet with mini easel stands
  • Adhere to wall in collage designs
  • Store in clear zipper pouches, sorted in a binder
  • Hook onto strings draped across a room
  • Tie onto piece of chicken wire to create wall art
  • Showcase in shadow box frames and rotate seasonally
  • Clip magnets/clothespins to hang on fridge or magnetic boards
  • Slide into shelf liner pockets stuck inside cabinets
  • Layer between sheets of wax paper in a ring binder

Keeping greeting cards more minimal

If you want to pare down while still saving some cards, here are tips:

  • Snap photos of cards then recycle originals
  • Only keep very recent cards from loved ones (ex: last 1-2 years)
  • Save signed cards but toss unsigned ones
  • Keep a few cards in each category, rotate annually
  • Shred cards and use snippets in new handmade cards
  • Have family members pick out a handful of favorites to keep

When is it time to let greeting cards go?

It’s a personal choice whether to keep or toss old greeting cards. But signs it may be time to declutter your card collection include:

  • You never or rarely re-read the cards after initially receiving them
  • The cards sit out of sight in storage most of the time
  • Trying to cull cards feels like an overwhelming chore
  • The cards take up valuable storage space needed for other items
  • You forgot you even had some of the cards saved
  • The cards have faded, ripped or otherwise deteriorated over time
  • The original giver has passed away or you are no longer in touch
  • The cards feature contact information, dates or references that are outdated
  • You snapped photos or scanned your most important cards to have digital copies

How to responsibly recycle greeting cards

If you do opt to get rid of excess greeting cards, recycle them thoughtfully:

  • See if a school, nursing home, library or charitable organization has an arts and crafts program that could use donated cards
  • Offer the cards for free on sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace for crafters or teachers
  • Bring cards to a thrift store that accepts paper donations like St. Vincent De Paul
  • Find local paper recycling resources through sites like
  • If you have a paper shredder, you can shred cards to produce packing material
  • Use paper wallet to remove glue, stamps, etc. then recycle cards with other household paper
  • See if cards are accepted in office paper recycling programs at your work


Greeting cards can be deeply sentimental keepsakes for some people. But at a certain point, the volume of saved cards gets unmanageable for others. Whether you carefully preserve special cards over the years or periodically purge your collection, the most important thing is to do what feels right for you. Marie Kondo’s advice to only keep items that continue to spark joy is wisdom greeting card savers should embrace.

Let the emotional value you do or don’t still feel guide your decisions. Don’t force yourself to store cards out of guilt and don’t prematurely toss cards you’ll later regret recycling. Be honest about your actual desire and ability to revisit the cards. And look for ways to responsibly repurpose or recycle cards you’re ready to retire from your collection.

By periodically pruning your greeting card collection and keeping it organized in the way that suits your lifestyle, you can achieve a balance. You’ll have space left for the greeting cards that matter most while minimizing clutter from the rest. The process of looking through your collection to make thoughtfully curate keepers and goners can even be rewarding.

Saving greeting cards isn’t an all or nothing decision. Find the middle ground with how many and which types you keep so you can treasure the nostalgia and memories without being overwhelmed.

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