Lesli emailed me recently with this question.

“I have so many boxes full of cards & handwritten letters from my parents, siblings, and dear friends. Some of them are more meaningful than others but I have never really known how to sort them or what to do with them once sorted. I wonder if I would ever regret getting rid of them or if they might be interesting to anyone after me. So do you have any ideas of what to do with these lovingly handwritten letters? I know you are a scrapbooker and I have done just a very little of that on my own. Would your solution be something a novice scrapper could do? Am I crazy to think someone after me will want to read through any of them? I never do now except when I try to decide what to do with them!”

Great question, don’t you think? Here’s what I shared with Lesli. Be sure to comment and let us know your ideas for organizing precious keepsakes like letters and cards!

Thanks for such a great question. I think in this day of email, handwritten letters, notes and cards have definitely taken on an even more special role.

As I see it, there are four basic decisions to make.

Decision 1:  Where to store your cards and letters?

The reason for keeping items like old letters and cards is because they mean something to you. So, store them where you can enjoy them on a regular basis and keep them safe. Often times I find people store these items in a cardboard box in the basement. Which isn’t ideal. For one, the moisture and humidity is bad for paper, and second, hanging out on a cold basement floor sifting through old letters — well, probably not your ideal environment for a trip down memory lane. A file cabinet on a main level in your home is a better option … but again, perhaps not the most ideal for causal browsing and enjoyment of the contents.

So think about a location where you can hang out, pull out a few cards and letters, enjoy them, and then easily tuck them back away. Once you have a location in mind, consider a storage container.

Decision 2: What type of container would work well in that space?

If you decide to store your letters and cards in a closet, a plastic bin or a canvas lidded box would work well or even an archival safe paperboard box.

A more decorative container would work well in a living or public space like your family room, den or even your bedroom. Keep your eye out for an antique box like this one.

Antique box

A scrapbook is another terrific solution for keeping your cards and letters organized and easy to enjoy. Select a scrapbook that goes with the décor of the room where you’ll be storing it, so you can keep it out and flip through it any time you’d like to enjoy your handwritten treasures.

Decisions 3 & 4: What to keep and how to sort your keepers?

I love your question about whether or not these items will have meaning to future generations. There’s really no way of knowing. So I wouldn’t let that be your reason for holding onto things you don’t want to keep, nor would I let it be your reason for not keeping things you do want to keep. I think you should let your wishes for these items, since they have such meaning to YOU, guide your decisions. Keep the cards and letters that are special to you…those that you want read again from time to time…those that make you happy when you read them. You can decide which letters to keep as you’re sorting them.

You could sort your cards and letters by person (who gave them to you) or you could sort them by date (probably a bit harder to recreate if they aren’t sorted this way already.) If you chose to sort by person, it will be easier to decide which items to keep and which you can let go of. By having all your cards and letters from a single person together, it will be easier to recognize your favorites. Weeding out the others will allow you to access and enjoy your favorites more regularly and easily. For items you don’t keep, you could recycle them or perhaps use the words and images from the cards to make a decoupage project — like a box to store your keeper cards and letters in! 

Remember if you have ideas to share, please comment!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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