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Happy Holiday Card Recycling

Our mom's columnist talks with other moms around town about what they do with old holiday cards.

—Originally ran December, 2011

Somewhere along the line, the holiday card evolved into one captioned picture or collage designed to capture the essence of an entire year. 

I find myself stressing about my holiday card in early fall. I search for the perfect picture. I try to catch my kids playing in the leaves, jumping on the trampoline or in those rare moments, being nice to each other. I spend hours on the computer formatting my card and thinking of a cute caption or saying. Crazy? Yes!

My borderline obsession with my own family card has filled a drawer in my china cabinet with hundreds of other families' cards. I can't bring myself to dump their works of art into the recycling bin. Many women I spoke to feel the same way. 

Most of us pack the cards away with our decorations or stuff them into a drawer like I do. I asked around town and this is what I found.

Jen H., a reading teacher and new mom, keeps all of her old and new cards in a pretty snowman box. She takes it out each holiday season, adds the new cards and looks through cards from years past. She enjoys seeing how kids and families grow and change.

A busy working mom, Jodi L., from Medford, cuts the pictures and fills a photo album with them. This seems to be a common practice, especially among those who enjoy scrapbooking.

Maryanne A., a Cinnaminson mom, used to live in an old farmhouse and displayed her cards on a beam that ran the length of her dining room. It was a charming display and she received so many compliments that she left the cards up year-round. She has since moved and tried stringing the old and new cards into a pretty garland using a fuzzy red ribbon.

Katie C., another local mom of four, has a pretty frame homemade by her sister with ribbons running in different directions and pretty material. It hangs in her dining room and she displays her favorite pictures and cards all year.

Kristine F., a mom of three who grew up in Cinnaminson but currently resides in Marlton, keeps the cards she receives and stores them with her decorations. She does display her own family cards from recent and past years.

"My kids get a kick out of seeing themselves change over the years. I love when people stop over during the holidays and tell us their favorite or how much someone looks like my husband or me," she said.

My sister-in-law, Marie C., a busy working mom of three teenagers here in Cinnaminson, does not fret over sending holiday cards. She just doesn't do it. She is a smart lady! She does, however, keep cards received and stores them by family. Each year she displays other families' cards together with previous years' cards.

A longtime friend of mine, Mary B., another Cinnaminson native, who lives in North Wales, PA, simply recycles hers. She told me, "I don't have a creative bone in my body." I would bet that most people fall into this category. 

My other sister-in-law, Ramona T., reminded me that I could scan cards into the computer and then toss the paper in the recycling bin. That is probably the most practical thing to do with cards if you have scanning capabilities. Think of all the things you could make with the picture cards on the computer.

If that is not an option, throw practicality out the window. Make something fun! Some people use decoupage to craft boxes, trays and even tables out of their old picture cards. Imagine storing your decorations in a box covered in old holiday cards or presenting a gift to someone in a box covered with their old family cards. A table top decorated with holiday cards would make a unique and pretty focal point to be used for holiday gatherings. What a conversation starter.

Place mats made by gluing pictures on to poster board and covering with contact paper are great for toddlers and preschoolers. They love to look at pictures of other kids. Who am I kidding? I wouldn't mind enjoying my Christmas cookies while looking at cute pictures of pets, family and friends. 

A quilt type of decoration can be created using laminated picture cards strung together. A pretty garland is easy to make by stringing cards with velvet ribbon and hanging along banisters and doorways.

In addition to recycling into new personal items, there are some charities, churches and hospitals that accept old cards and picture cards to make into new ones. I would recommend searching online to find information on this.

There are many creative ways to use the card-sized glimpses into the lives of our friends and family we receive each year. I am going to try and empty my china cabinet drawer and make something fun to showcase the memories in there. I will let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, please comment if you have any fun or interesting ways of recycling old holiday picture cards. Thanks to all of you who shared your ideas with me. I appreciate your input. Happy holiday recycling and maybe I'll see you around town. 

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