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What To Do With Used Christmas Cards: Declutter, Upcycle, Donate?

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One of the daily decluttering missions here on the site is to declutter used Christmas cards sometime after the holiday each year, typically in early January.

While this task may seem easy to some, there are typically a lot of questions and comments each year about this mission from participants in the Declutter Your Home In 15 Minutes A Day Missions.

I believe the reason for that is because these cards, like all greeting cards, really represent more about the special relationships we have with our friends and family than the cards, themselves, would seem to otherwise indicate.

That doesn't negate the fact, however, that after Christmas is over we often have a huge stack of cards laying around on counters, or covering the refrigerator, and they really become clutter instead of something to enjoy anymore.

Therefore, here's my advice for what to do with them after the season is over, plus additional suggestions and ideas from readers.

Things To Do With Your Cards Before Getting Rid Of Them In Some Fashion

Before you declutter, up cycle or donate your cards make sure you look at each person's contact information that came with the card to make sure you've got their most current address.

Make sure to update the contact information you find in Christmas letters, return address stickers, etc. so that you have the most current information for your friends and family whenever you need it.

Next, lots of cards these days are photo cards. If you don't know anyone in the photo you really need to feel OK with tossing it.

On the other hand, if it's relatives or good friends these photo cards are
a great way to keep treasured memories. Instead of throwing these away I suggest saving them with your other photos.

You may also want to place in a scrapbook any Christmas letters you receive (if you actually know those people well, and want to save it. However, if you have no idea who the people they're referencing are now, TOSS IT!)

After you cull out these few special cards or items what you have left are mainly stock cards with a signature, at most, from someone. These are not something you need to hang onto indefinitely.

So what are your choices for what to do with these used Christmas cards? The choices include:

Option 1: Declutter Them

Throwing them away could include trashing them or recycling them if that is an option. (It depends on what materials the card is made typically.)

Option 2: Upcycle Or Repurpose Them

We'll talk about this more below where some readers have shared ideas of what they do with old Christmas cards, which can have very cute or pretty pictures on them.

Basically, this is a craft option. It might not be the best option for you if you don't actually take the time to make the paper crafts suggested, because then you're just left with craft clutter instead of holiday clutter.

where to donate used Christmas and greeting cards

Option 3: Donate Them

If the idea of throwing them out just really bothers you, but you know realistically you are not going to get all crafty with these cards this may be your best option.

So where can you donate Christmas cards? I've written an article on this topic because so many people just really don't want to throw them in the trash.

3 ways to declutter used Christmas cards, including recycle, upcycle or donate {on Home Storage Solutions 101} #Declutter365 #DeclutterCards #ChristmasClutteruse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Photo courtesy of karen.tkr

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More Ideas On Recycling Old Cards

by Sally
(Norfolk, England)

We save the childrens/parents and keep with the family calendar. It's fun looking back over the years especially for the children.

The other cards I tear the backs off and put in my recycle bin, unless they are completely plain.

If the card backs are plain I add to the pile in the kitchen to write my shopping lists on.

The fronts my younger children don't craft with goes to school for the younger Reception class children to practice their cutting skills on.

We do this with birthday cards also.

The reception children (aged 4/5 in England) love cutting out little pictures to make their own new ones.

Being backless also makes the teachers happy because they can just use / store what they need.

Photo courtesy of amy gizienski

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Transformed Christmas Card Clutter Into Scrapbook Of Memories

by HSS101 Reader

Okay... I did this a few years ago.

But, I put them into one of those giant popcorn tins that seem to get gifted at Christmas.

Then, one year, when I was bored, I took them out.

So many families share their stories and a family photo. Well, I made a scrapbook. It was a blast.

I did it by family, not year. Collaged the photos, sometimes cut out a stamp or address on their envelopes. That sort of thing.

It really made each family collage personal, and the cards more fun to look at.

I was able to put a decade into one scrapbook by adding pages. I figure one decade is enough.

Some friends had passed away. Other families moved, and I noted the address changes...etc.... AND it's all in one book that I can get out once a year and reflect on the blessings of the love and friendships that have been in my life.

A Similar Scrapbook Idea From Another Reader

This HSS101 Reader said, "my family bought a red and green scrapbook and we put all the pictures that we get (cards) and put the year on the page. It is fun to look back and see how much kids have changed, etc."

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Ideas For Upcycling Or Repurposing Used Christmas Cards From Readers

This isn't a craft blog, but I am aware that lots of people love to use old Christmas cards for paper crafts because of the pretty pictures many of them have on there.

Here's some ideas from readers, plus others I've encountered recently. (Hint: You'll find all kinds of gorgeous ideas for using these cards in a crafty way on places like Pinterest. Just do a search and be amazed!)

Make Gift Tags:

Karen says: Something I picked up from my mother when we take down the Christmas cards is that we cut out the pictures and words from them with decorative scissors to make gift tags for the coming Christmas.

Then we use an empty card box to store them with the spare wrapping paper.

Not only is this saving money but also recycling the cards.

The scrap bits of card are put into the cardboard recycling bin.

Many other readers have shared a similar idea. This is perhaps the most popular way to recycle these cards.

Another reader said, for example: I save the front of the cards and reuse next year as gift tags. I live to match the card with the wrapping paper. No ribbon necessary!

Make Into Next Year's Christmas Time Planner:

Kris Deters says: I pick the prettiest ones and use as a cover for my next year's Christmas time planning.

Add a few sheets of paper, tie or bind with a ribbon and add some fun stickers. Keep your Christmas lists, events, meal plans tucked in your bag when the holiday season comes back around.

Make Ornaments:

Ang says: Sometimes I cut them out and make ornaments.

Make A Prayer Book:

Joyce says: We made a prayer book out of the photo cards this year. The family loves to look through it and remember fun memories we have made with our friends and family.

Create To Do List, Shopping & Errands Lists:

Roberta says: I usually cut the front off the back if there is no writing on it, and I use any 1/2 of the card that is blank for a to-do list, grocery list etc. They are sturdy.

Make Placemats:

Nikki says: I've not done this with Christmas cards, but with cards and tags after my first baby I cut out my favorite pictures and notes, glued them on construction paper and then covered that with contact paper to make placemats. My son (now 13) is embarrassed if I put them on the table, but I like them. Having casual Christmas placemats would be fun to have.

Make Bookmarks:

Barbara says: We save the cards, slice the pictures into bookmarks, add ribbon!

We drop them off at our Christian school for the library to distribute in the month of December! It is an advent activity for us, joy for others!

You can make a fun box or container for the media center desk so the ribbons are waving for the give away!!

Other Cool Ideas

Make Christmas labels, or even paste onto plain brown bags to make pretty homemade gift bags.

The sky is really the limit for what you can do, craft wise. Just think long and hard before you save them all because if you never do the craft it is still just clutter!

So what do you do with your used holiday cards? I'd love to hear from you with your ideas (and your pictures if you've got them) and I'll add them to this page. You can share your ideas here.

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Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

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Photo courtesy of Mosman Library

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Comments for Ideas For Upcycling Or Repurposing Used Christmas Cards From Readers

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make gift tags
by: Juli

I love taking the cards and making next year's gift tags with them. I cut them creatively. Sometimes I get 3 or 4 tags out of a card. Better than throwing the whole thing in the trash.

donate to schools
by: Patricia

I have recycled my Christmas Cards by giving them to a lady who collects for schools in my area. She also collects crackers, where the school reuse them.

I make gift tags too
by: Mary Ann

I save my cards and use them the next year as gift tags. Sometimes I can get 4 gift tags out of one card.

just throw most away
by: Anonymous

I only save letters and photo cards. One year we made circle ornaments but the girls have outgrown those crafts. So throw away! They take up room.

how I recycle cards in my community
by: Sandra White

For the past few years I started collecting Christmas cards by writing a letter to the editor about what I wanted to do and announcing it in any organization I belonged to. Made arrangements with local library or businesses to collect them, made a box for each. Then cut off the fronts from the back and used glue stick to paste a small Christmas message from the Bible with the name of our church. I have been doing this 4 yrs and now getting 3,000 cards last year to distribute them to the local homes for abused women, nursing homes, women's prison. So few ever get even so much as one card. I do this so they know they are not forgotten and somebody cares. This project has grown so that others help me. So much fun to look at the cards as we prepare them for others. If you can get envelopes from a store that discards them, fine, if not, just use them as if they were a postcard. Be sure to put the glittery ones in something though.

how I save my cards for the memories
by: Cary

I punch a hole to the top left of my Christmas cards and keep them all together with a metal hoop. Bring them out every Christmas adding the new cards at the end of the season. I have two hoops for Christmas and one each for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. That way I get to see all of the cards my great grandparents gave me as a child every year at the same time.

make a game for the kids with them
by: Anonymous

One year I took the fronts of the cards and cut each into 6 pieces and randomly hid 5 of the pieces. Each kid got the one piece and had to find the other 5 to make a complete picture. It was something different and they had fun.

I save mine for a year, and then purge or save as desired
by: Chris Taylor

I save all the greeting and Christmas cards for 1 year. At the end I go through the cards saving those with sentimental notes, special occasion cards like "big" birthdays, communion, etc., and any card received from someone who may have passed. This way I will always have a last birthday, Christmas card, etc. from say my father who passed away this October. Then the Christmas cards come out as part of my decorations. The rest I give to my niece who's a school teacher.

make nice recipe cards
by: Anonymous

They make nice recipe cards. Cut to fit a box and write the recipe name on front and the recipe on the back.

where could I drop them off locally?
by: Anonymous

Postage is too high to send the cards to someplace at any distance. I'm trying to find someplace local that I could drop them off at.

gift tags and craft projects
by: Anonymous

I have made gift tags from many cards. When I was teaching I used old cards for many craft projects.

gift tags
by: Kim

I tear off the card front, store them in the Christmas tote, and use them as a gift tag for next years presents.

I also don't want to mail them in
by: Anonymous

I have been just trying to donate them for years, finding a place to drop off location is not easy, and have not found any. St. Jude's Ranch just offers a mail in address. Costly, yes!

I like to upcycle them
by: Tonya

I like to upcycle my old Christmas cards. If the picture side (front of the card) is not indented and has no writing on it, I cut the card apart and turn it into a postcard for sending next year. It saves money on buying cards and postage on mailing.

where I donate
by: Ruth

I have a friend who make cards for Missionaries, so usually all of my cards go to her. A great ministry opportunity!

Changing into ornaments
by: Lauren Ann

My daughter went some old Christmas cards and made ornaments for me. Some are pyramids while others are linked. We enjoy these cards because she has included signatures. These are really special because most of the people have passed on.

Unused cards - holiday, thank you, sympathy, etc.
by: Anonymous

I love reading your uncluttered help & have vowed to start 1/1! As we unearthed some boxes, I'm finding unused cards (Hallmark,) 1/2 used boxes of thank you cards, etc. I did find 5-6 large boxes of Christmas cards that we donated to the Midwest Veterans Closet, but still have cards I'd rather donate than recycle. Happy New Year!

Function from Christmas cards
by: Michelle

For the photo Christmas cards I take s picture of it and use it as the persons contact photo in my phone. For Family and special friends I cut out the family picture and made a photo collage that I hang in the hall. Each year I layer on the current picture. When people come to visit they are excited to see their picture on the wall.

Nursing Home
by: Anonymous

Most nursing home do crafts activities. The coordinator of those projects will gladly use the front of greeting cards to make new one for residents or family members. This is an excellent art activity for day care facilities and elementary schools especially Pre K too. Even your small children or grandchildren can use the front of an old card and paste it on construction, stock or typing paper with a personal message inside. Enjoy recycling your greeting cards.

by: Jean Grey

Cut pictures, verses or signatures you like. Resend them as "Thank You" notes, or post cards. As bookmarks they can sit in a favorite dish, or envelope on your bookcase. Tuck them into books and magazines to be given or loaned. Write a note or stamp your return address on the bookmark.

Give to kids
by: Jean Grey

Give them to your children or older family members, church or school, etc. for crafts to be shared. Add glue, paper, scissors, etc. where appropriate - in a box or baggie for storage between uses.

Christmas cards idea for non crafty folks
by: Anonymous

I tear off the back/message section and discard it. Then I stand the pretty card fronts (yes, pitch the one from your dentist with teeth on it) in a shoe box. When I wrap a gift I stick a specially chosen card front on the wrapping paper and use it as the To/From gift tag. You don't need fancy paper, solid colors look great, and the gift looks special.

how I reuse cards the next holiday season
by: Christiana S.

I save my favorite Christmas cards to kick start my decorating for the following Christmas season. I place a Christmas arrangement on a table in our great room and surround it with these cards. As new cards arrive in the mail, they are added to the table. When Christmas decorations are packed up, I cull through and save the ones I’ll use next Christmas.

Where to drop off used Christmas cards.
by: Anonymous

A school is a great option! As an educator we are always looking for items to craft with.

Made into postcards for Christmas
by: Karen

I used all my cards I received the last 2 years and used a paper cutter and cut the front page to a 4 x 6 1/2 so I could use a post card stamp. Used a stampin up stamp to make lines for the recipients address. I used another stampin up stamp with a Christmas message and signed our name. I saved a ton on cards and postage this year thanks to the ideas on this group.

card recycle
by: Amy

I hadn't thought of day cares and nursing homes--on the same line, maybe see if the Senior Center could use them.

For cards from all occasions, I remove the part with the verse which usually has a note and signature, and save the front of the card for the local Kindergarden teacher and what she doesn't use, takes to the church for Sunday School and Vacation Bible school activites. I also give her unused cards--for any occasions and unused thank you cards, etc.

Recycling xmas cards
by: Jana S.

My mother would always take the old Christmas cards and cut out the pictures on the front of the card in different shapes. Punch a hole in the top. Put a little piece of ribbon through the hole and use them as gift tags. She would use the back of the shape to writer the TO: and FROM: then tape it to the gift packages. I adopted this way of doing things and have been doing it that way for 30-35 years now. I have never bought gift tags from the store. She kept the cut out cards, a hole punch, scissors, ribbon and a pen all in one plastic bin, labeled "Gift Tags".

repurposing cards
by: Lucy Kemp

We get many lovely, handcrafted Christmas cards each year --although many now are ecards. I save the ones that I find especially nice and I place them into a clear plastic frame. Then I use them to decorate the small corners of our home where a larger decoration might not fit. I also put some across the top shelf of our TV/book shelf/cabinet piece of furniture. I save the ones with pictures of people we know. What is left I just throw away.

When I was teaching Sunday School many years ago I would save cards with any images of the nativity story -- traveling to Bethlehem, Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, sheep, camels etc. Then as we read or heard the Bible story with the children we would have them use the cards to retell the story. We would make placemats or collages or bookmarks that they could take home.

Tags for Christmas gifts
by: Anonymous

I cut the cards and use the pretty pictures as tags on my Christmas gifts the next year.

Double Blessing
by: Anonymous

My "Card Club" remade Christmas cards by gluing the fronts onto folded coordinating colored card stock leaving about 3/8" border around the picture. Then we stamped a saying on the inside. I had large envelopes that I had found at a church sale.

We called ahead to plan a time to go to the nursing home. We helped the residents with writing and addressing them. We provided the stamps. So many of the residents have trouble writing or seeing. It was such a blessing for us.

3D photo card art
by: Fran

We have had a tradition for a number of years to designate a section of the wood frame between our dining room and our kitchen to post all the new Christmas photos we receive in the mail. We keep them up until the next Christmas, and replace them with the new ones.

Now, to reuse our own many extra photo cards (sometimes it’s cheaper to buy more because they give you a discount). I make a 3D collage using multiple layers of the same image and placing 3D foam squares to the backs. Frame in a shadow box. I have enough extra cards to make each of my grandkids one!!😂

Recycling into Christmas tags
by: Anonymous

My mom started a tradition years ago, and I have followed in her footsteps. We cut out the pictures from the front of the cards and use them as Christmas tags the following year. Sometimes it's the entire front of the card, or it may be just an ornament or Santa Claus. Either way, we are reducing clutter and we don't need to purchase tags the following year!

Make into Christmas postcards
by: Kelly

I pack away and save my Christmas cards in my Christmas decoration box. When I get the box out next year I remove the front side of the cards that have no writing on the back and use them as Christmas postcards. Keep the cards intact until next year so you don't mistakenly send the card back to the person who sent it to you! Also a great way to let kids give greetings to their friends without breaking the bank!

collage of pictures and names
by: Heathaer

In the past I have cut out pictures and names from close family and friends' cards, placed them on construction paper collage-style, and taped the paper to my daughter's changing table hutch, or to the back of their bedroom door when they got older. It helps to keep names and faces of those who live far away top of mind.

What I do with my Christmas cards
by: Angie

I take them to the assisted living facility near my home. Every year the activity director allows them to cut them out and paste them onto paper to make cards for their family and friends, especially the ones that can't buy cards for whatever reason. I enjoy being able to help out in that capacity PLUS I take my own leftovers that I didn't use a full box of, because I don't want to send the same ones next year.

how I reuse
by: TR

If the sender did NOT write on the inside of the front of the card, you can cut off the card front and reuse it. I punch a hole in one of the top corners with a hole punch. Then use a string or ribbon to tie it onto another present. Write who the gift goes to (and who it is from) on the blank side.

ideas for reusing greeting cards
by: Betty Jo Rodgers

When I was a school teacher I used them to teach my students Geometry with paper folding and cutting geometric shapes.

I put my Christmas cards in a basket on my table and at each meal we pray over the person or family that sent us a card. Then I use the cards for one of the following ideas.

I fold greeting cards into tiny gift boxes.

I also cut out 20 circles of equal size from Christmas cards and use them to make an ornament that can be hung on a large tree or can have mistletoe attached to hang from the ornament.

Use as gift tags
by: Pat Burr

Cut 1 1/2 X 3 inch pieces with no writing on the back. Punch a hole in one end. Use as gift tags.

Upcycle Used Cards
by: Ruth

I like to keep the fronts of cards that look like art to me, then frame them for display in my home, or to give to senior housing for display in their apartments. I might also just mat them with no frame for display in work cubicles.

Small pictures are reused by double-stick taping a magnet to the back for the refrigerator.

Donate cards
by: Danette

You can also donate used Christmas, birthday or other greeting cards to some nursing homes or senior centers who would like them for in-house craft projects. You would just have to call the individual centers to ask if they would like them. I donate them and also certain old print magazines and illustrated calendars to these locations. The cards, magazines and calendars can be cut up for crafts, and often they will still hold interest just as they are for many seniors. I used to donate the magazines to the local library for their resale/fundraising program until they discontinued the program. That's when I discovered the interest at a local nursing and rehab center near my house. The activities director there especially loved the beautifully illustrated calendars and said she was going to frame some of these illustrations to hang in the resident rooms that lacked attractive wall decorations!

remake into gift tags
by: Deardra

I cut out the fronts of cards with pictures and/or wording and reuse as gift tags for the next future years. Hole punch and tie ribbon through. Some cards I can get multiple tags from one card.

projects from recycled Christmas cards
by: Mary

I've been making "Christmas Shoes" from old cards for several years. I use cards with vertical pics for the backs of the shoes and horizontal cards for the fronts. These are sewn together with contrasting ro coordinating yarn and can be hung on the tree or as I like to do -- hang them on neighbors door knobs with candy or other trinkets. This is my version of the tradition where children put their shoes on the doorstep with straw for Santa's reindeer and he then fed his troops and replaced the straw with candy or nuts. I have also used them as napkin and utensil holders for a holiday table. My neighbors all know to save their cards for me. I make hundreds of them and also sell them at craft fairs. I also make baskets and Christmas balls from these recycles.

Picture framing
by: Anonymous

For the last few years I have been saving either (and only) very pretty or very special cards. I have a binder with plastic pockets and they are sorted by color. Once I have enough gathered I will use one of those white multi picture frames and frame up one color group to use as wall art at Christmas. They won't have to fit perfectly and I can change the color group each year. I'm hoping it will be a really pleasant experience to frame a group up each year and look at when and who they came from. I've had a lovely reminisce just now sorting this years 'keepers' into the folder.

3-D Christmas Ornaments
by: John — Retired Teacher

Use the front old old Christmas cards to make ornaments. Punch 3 inch circles. Takes 8 per student. On back side of each circle, students makes a pencil mark at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions (hopefully?). Draw a line from 12-3, 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12. Fold on rack line. Using all 6 circles, students glue tabs to create a six sided cube. Use hole punch to make a hole in one of the tabs. Put a string through the hole and knot.

My problem ( now that I’m retired) is getting enough old Christmas cards for next year (Oops! I forgot I volunteer is 5 classroom on Mondays). Does American Greeting cards and the like donate Christmas cards that have misprints? If so, can someone let me know how to ask for them?

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