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Earlier this month we started getting holiday cards in the mail. I love it! I love seeing photos of people’s families, and I love the friendly feeling of getting all that good mail (for once).

But here’s the question: what do you do with the cards?

I admire the cards, keep them on the table in the hallway for a few days so that my husband and daughters can admire them — and then I toss them.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she literally gasped out loud. She was shocked. She keeps cards through January before she throws them away, and she thought it was callous and disrespectful of me to toss them so quickly. (She didn’t say that to me, in just those words, but I got her drift.)

Some people display cards, on the fridge, the mantelpiece, the bulletin board. But I like a bare fridge, and we don’t have a mantelpiece or bulletin board to use. So if I kept them, they’d just be in a stack on a counter someplace.

I started asking friends what they did, and I discovered that one friend keeps the cards. Indefinitely.

Now, I do keep a copy of our annual card — which, as I explain in Happier at Home, we send at Valentine’s Day, because life is so crazy in December. If my sister or my parents sent cards, I’d keep those cards. But to keep every card we get? Even from close friends? In a New York City apartment, every inch of space is valuable. And even if I lived in a giant barn in the country, I wouldn’t keep the cards. It would be too much space, devoted to items of too little personal value.

I don’t want to sound like the Grinch. As I said, I love seeing the cards, and I appreciate the effort that people go to, to send them. Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that:

Relationships are a key – probably the key – to happiness. @gretchenrubin
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And holiday cards are a tradition that helps to keep social bonds going. And it makes us happier to be reminded of the people who are important to us.

But I feel like once I’ve seen the cards and been reminded of the relationship, they’ve done their work.

Are you shocked by the idea of throwing them out after just a few days? If you save them for a certain amount of time, how long? What do you do with holiday cards?


Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than BeforeOn her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of picography.co.