Holiday Cards: Sentiment, Clutter and Time

Holiday Cards: Sentiment, Clutter and Time

Let me insist, before you read this post, that I am not a holiday card scrooge. I love holiday cards. I really do.

I personally don't have time to send them. And when the winter holidays are done, I take the ones I received down and put them in the recycling without a second thought. But in my line of work as a personal organizer, there are other stories.

The story of people who receive so many they don't even open all the cards in December. They might get to it in February. Or maybe in July?

The story of a client who feels she gets so many that she wishes she could unsubscribe. After all, she sees updates all the time on Facebook, why bother with the cards?

The story of a client who spends the time to send them out but it's so stressful to hire the photographer, get the kids outfits, organize the right day to do it and navigate the site to customize the cards that she wonders why she keeps doing it since she is very active on Facebook and would rather not send them this year. Still. It feels like a traditional way to keep in touch with everyone.

There is the story of a single mom whose life is so frenetic we open the cards come summer time, retrieved from a recycled slightly battered holiday gift bag, and find money in some of the envelopes. Cash and sometimes checks. Neither of us knows whether personal checks expire.

Last night when I went through my mail I found this catalog.

Ah, here is the source of the beautiful cards. It occurred to me that I have gone through probably thousands of these cards with clients as a personal organizer. 

Take note if you are a dedicated sender of holiday cards, you should review the list of people you send to because in some cases you are creating clutter in the homes of friends and family. 

Inside gargantuan piles of neglected paperwork we find cards addressed to the client. Sifting through old correspondence is often a slow process. It's also one that most clients will procrastinate, I think because it is less gratifying than say, emptying a junk drawer or reorganizing the hall closet. To help speed up the process of review and discard or file, I help open the envelopes and make piles of these cards. The choice is to file in a folder meant to archive the cards or the recycle bin. My preference, is of course, for the latter.

I know when I receive these in my own mailbox I feel happy at seeing the children grow and change and remark on how happy they look. But I also feel a bit of envy. Envy that they look like they are having a magnificent time while I am only having maybe one or two magnificent minutes sandwiched between big hunks of obligatory everything else.

We barely have the time now to send out handwritten greeting cards to immediate family like my parents and grandmother. I rarely have a chance to send my own niece and nephew anything because time is usually tight and money is scarce. On the other hand, I love sending holiday cards. For a long time I collected a large box of stationary. Usually, I'd buy cards from Museum of Modern Art's Museum Shop after the holidays when they were on sale. But then the kids came along and I no longer had time to swing by the MOMA store in January.

Of course, like everyone else, I'm on Facebook and send my parents texts regularly with photos of the kids. So maybe the change in the way we share images and correspond has changed my behavior, not just the lack of time.

What do you see? I see closeness and leisure. I see time.

What do you see? I see closeness and leisure. I see time.

But while we are here on the topic of time, let's think a minute about what we make time for... 

What am I making time for in life, this very short life that is speeding by at a rate I never consented to? My time does not always include the things I want. The things I want in a magnificent life like the ones pictured in these holiday cards.

Now that I think about it, wouldn't it be funny if I sent a card that had a collage of me:

  • sitting in an all white waiting room reading old travel magazines for 6 hours to see an oral surgeon who is behind schedule
  • sitting in a broken rental car on the side of the road
  • smelling the  6 day old pot roast in the fridge and wondering if it could be dinner tonight... maybe not
  • standing in line for the many things I stand in line for on the train platform, grocery store clerk, department store check out, picking up my kids outside school
  • waiting for my turn at the parent teacher conference that has fallen behind schedule
  • sitting with my laptop trying to figure out which password I used for my Shutterfly account so I could make the personalized calendar I promised my grandmother a year ago.

I long for time. To write to family. To print and send the latest photos to my grandmother who sits watching TV in a nursing home while her dementia worsens. To see old friends more often. To take a walk in the beautiful park 5 minutes away from my apartment.

I suppose it's not a surprise that global sales of paper greetings cards are steadily falling. the rising cost of wood pulp makes them more expensive to make and with the rise of e-cards and other ways of sharing the latest news and photos, it seems inevitable. It's the end of an era, I guess. Until then, I'll keep seeing these in client's piles. Sometimes long, long after they were sent.

Please drop the "Professional" in Professional Organizer

Please drop the "Professional" in Professional Organizer

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