The Sentimental Saving Of Wedding Invitations, Christmas Cards, And Other Treasures

Is it In our Southern nature to save everything?

Box Full Of Old Love Letters
Photo: Axel Bueckert / EyeEm

Given that my dad recently found his first-grade progress report at my grandmother's house, it's little wonder that I still have nearly every birthday card ever sent my way. I come by my paper-hoarding habit honestly. While saving notes and mementos isn't a habit limited to Southerners, I do think we tend to award them a certain value that some folks don't. And when it comes to our editors, at least, this love of forever keeping sentimental things seems to be a common thread binding all of us together.

"I have Rubbermaid tubs of this stuff all over my house," says Nellah Bailey McGough, our business manager. "I'm in the process of decluttering, but I'm leaving the paper decluttering to last because these sentimental items are the hardest."

We tend to hold onto these items for a variety of reasons. For some of us, it's because our own parents inspired the habit. "My mom always 'helped' my sister and me create scrapbooks after big family trips. We looked back on them so frequently that the memories seemed to never fade," says senior digital editor Brennan Long. "As an adult I've started saving thank-you cards, wedding invites, and concert programs by year with the intention of pairing them with printed photo scrapbooks. Some years I am more successful than others, but I will eventually get to them all!"

For one of our editors, it's become a sort of tradition. "I keep all the Christmas cards and then bind them at the end of the holiday season," says senior digital editor Kimberly Holland. "The next year, I bring them out and look through them as the new cards arrive. I have photos of some kids from birth through their 10th or 11th year now."

Ultimately, though, it's because we feel attached to the people who thought of us and took the time to send encouraging words or season's greetings our way. "When I moved to Birmingham, my dad slipped an index card in my suitcase with a note saying he was proud of me," says editorial fellow Hallie Milstein. "It's the absolute sweetest, and now it's hanging on my wall so I can see it everyday. I don't save everything, but some things are just too sentimental to part with!"

One word to the wise, though: If you are a paper-saver, remember that those who come after you may one day read what you leave behind. "When my great aunt died several years ago, her grandson went through a chest she had, filled with papers and mementos," recalls Holland. "There were so many good things in there—it was like a time capsule! There was a graduation invitation from my aunt, and that's how we discovered she had a middle name…which she made up entirely for the sake of graduation."

My own paper-saving habit is so deeply ingrained that I've even figured out how to apply the same ethos to my digital mementos. In my Gmail inbox, I created a folder called "Nice Things," where I store anything positive, kind, or gratitude-filled. But as I file away these little cyber tokens, my appreciation only grows for those things that can't be stored on a computer hard drive or somewhere in "the Cloud." My small tin box stuffed with all the analog stuff—birthday cards and handwritten notes and memorable messages—is nearly too full to close, and one could make the argument that it's time to go through them and toss some in the trash. But I'm not about to do that. As Nellah reminded me, that's what Rubbermaid tubs are for.

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