Updated on 2/3/16 from an article originally published on 5/9/14.
Got Old Greeting Cards? Repurpose Them!
In this digital age, people really cherish items that are handwritten or handcrafted, especially when they’re from the people closest to you. Over the years, those cards and letters can start to pile up, leaving you feeling more overwhelmed than appreciated. That’s when it’s time to take charge and find a purpose for those sentimental cards and letters you’ve held on to. Sort through your cards and display the ones that make you happiest. Repurpose the festive ones and store the ones that you want to keep forever.
Displaying Sentimental Cards and Letters
Frame Your Favorites
Set aside cards that have the most meaning—the ones you want to see and remember most often. These are the cards and letters you want to display somewhere in your home. Gather inspiration from an art gallery and give each letter or card its own frame, then hang those frames on one wall for a dramatic impact. If you have keepsakes you want to display with the card, consider putting those items in a shadow box and displaying that on the wall.
How do you know what to display? “Obviously a very old love letter from an ex should not be framed, but one from your current partner could be framed and put somewhere discreet where only you might see it,” recommends Apartment Therapy writer Laure Joliet. “It’s a nice way to bring the personal into your home and to help tell the story of your relationship.”
Make a Scrapbook Album
Another option would be to turn sentimental cards into a scrapbook or a special album. Professional organizer Nancy McGivney recommends cards and letters be treated like kids’ artwork. “Keep only the best. Then make a holiday album you store with the seasonal decor to remember great holidays past,” she adds. With some chipboard, a hole punch and some rings, you can create an album of cards that is special to you.
Create a Sentimental Photo Mat
Choose a few of your favorite cards, and arrange them on a photo mat so the images you like the best are highlighted. Use craft glue to secure the cards to the mat, and then flip the mat over when it’s dry. Cut away the excess using a razor blade, and then insert the mat and your sentimental photo in a frame. See the full tutorial at How to Reuse it Creatively.
Highlight Cards in Mason Jars
This craft is so easy, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. Slide your favorite cards into mason jars, then put the lid on. Finish it off with some ribbon and some seasonal greenery, and you can display the jars anywhere in your house. Mommy Kat and Kids has the full tutorial, which you could modify with the seasons so you could keep your sentimental cards out all year long.
Repurposing Sentimental Cards and Letters
Create Personalized Magnets
Cut out your favorite images or notes and glue them to a magnet sheet, then cut the magnet sheet to size. That’s it! You can easily display this on your refrigerator for everyone to see. Motherhood on a Dime used this technique to create a nativity scene for her kids, but you can easily modify the steps in this tutorial and apply it to repurposing your sentimental notes and cards.
Create Gift Tags
For those cards that you’re just not sure what to do with, cut out the images and turn them into cute gift tags. When you look closely at a card, you can find all sorts of shapes that will make great tags. From hearts to leprechauns, you’ll have tags for a variety of holidays. Punch a small hole in your tag, then string some twine or ribbon through the hole. Store your tags in an envelope in the same place as the rest of your gift-wrapping supplies so you can easily find them when you need them.
Many people hang on to items thinking, “My grandmother would be devastated if I got rid of that.” That’s a good time to return the item to the person who values it. One neat idea you could use for cards and letters that are sentimental, but that you don’t necessarily want to keep, is to package them up and return them to the person who sent them to you. The Art of Simple writer Katie Clemons recalls when someone sent a package like this to her grandmother. “It was filled with about 24 letters and Christmas cards that she had written to her closest college friend over the years! Getting those letters back was like receiving a time capsule. It was the first time we got to learn about my dad’s first Christmas.”
Make Your Own Garland
Using a circle punch and some twine, you can create your own garland out of notes and cards that you have around your house. Take each circle, fold it in half, and then glue the right sides together. Bobbi Lewin uses five circles to create this design, but you can use however many you want. Let them dry, punch a hole in the center, and then string twine through each one.
Create DIY Postcards
Another simple way to repurpose your sentimental notes and cards is to create your own postcards. If the inside of the front cover is blank, cut off the front of the card. You can keep the note that was inside the card, or you can toss it in the recycling bin. Then, using a corner shaper that you can find at your local craft store, round out the corners so they’re nice and smooth. Add a note, an address, and a stamp and you can drop it in the mail.
Personalize a Wine Tag
Make a simple bottle of wine even more special by adding your own personalized gift tag. Cut a piece of cardstock in a 3-inch by 7-inch rectangle. Use scissors to score the card about 2.5 inches from the top (where you will fold it) and then use a 1.25-inch hole punch to create a hole large enough for the neck of the bottle. Now that your cardstock is cut and ready to go, cut a section of your greeting card to size. Secure the card to the cardstock, then hang the tag on the bottle when the glue is dry.
Storing Sentimental Cards and Letters
Create a Digital Album
Scan all of your sentimental cards into your computer, or you can find a company that can scan them for you. If you have cards that are three-dimensional or have a look that scanning can’t capture, set up a light box, and take photos of your cards. You can then transfer your images into a digital scrapbook. “Digital Scrapbooking is simply creating a scrapbook layout on the computer. You use paper and elements that are created digitally using graphic design software,” Michele McGraw writes on Scraps of my Geek Life. “There are many different programs available starting from $29 to over $500. If you are just starting out, I recommend you start with a dedicated scrapbooking program because the software will come with some digital kits to give you a head start.”
Use Digital Storage
Storing those items that are sentimental to you is easy with today’s technology. Scan items into your computer, and then organize them into folders. For example, you could create a folder on your computer titled “Mother’s Day 2014” and then store images of cards and drawings, and even photos of the kids holding their drawings in that folder.
Find the Perfect Storage Box
Storing the actual item is a little more sensitive because cards, letters, and ink can deteriorate over time. “If you would like to store some items in a box, make sure it is waterproof, sealed, and limited in size,” recommends Claire Kurtz. “In order to not grow beyond the chosen size box, maintain a strategy of removing one item before adding a new one.” Make sure to store this box in a climate-controlled storage unit to ensure your valuables won’t be damaged by heat, cold, or moisture.
Recycle for a Cause
If you’re not sure about storing your sentimental cards, consider donating them to the Recycled Cards Program offered through St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. They take your used cards and turn them into new all-occasional and holiday cards. The cards they create are then sold, and that money helps support their programs for homeless, neglected, or abused children, young adults, and families. “The program is beneficial to everyone – customers receive fun, ‘green’ holiday or other occasion cards they can feel good sending to their friends and loved ones,” according to St. Jude’s, “and the children at St. Jude’s Ranch receive payment for their work and learn basic job skills and the importance of recycling.”
When it comes to those items that are most precious to you, make sure you handle them with care. Take the time to display, repurpose, and store each card and letter to ensure it will last a lifetime. You’ll have the joy of pulling these memories out of your self-storage unit and sharing them with the next generation.