Quick survey: Do you save old letters and correspondence?

I hope everyone’s Sunday has gone well! Even though this quick post has nothing to do with what many have been focused on today, I will feel remiss if I don’t address it. So if Easter was a part of your day, today, please do hang around, but you might want to check out any one of these first (in fact, check them all out):

Sorry — given the day, I couldn’t help myself!

However, that really is not what this post is about. Rather, I have a question: Do you save old correspondence, at all?

That's right, kids. This is what e-mail used to look like! (Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
That’s right, kids. This is what e-mail used to look like! (Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I’m a pretty sentimental sort. I save letters and cards. Cards I will eventually throw away before letters, but letters — I mean, real letters, handwritten by friends and loved ones — I usually cannot bring myself to throw away. Not entirely sure why, but it’s certainly true.

This has been brought to light by a little water damage part of our belongings experienced not too long ago. Here were we are staying while we are “between homes,” we were storing some things in a room that allowed some water in (totally our fault!) which our stored belongings in their cardboard boxes dutifully soaked up. (Good job, stuff!) Much of the newly soggified items were, thankfully, items that I had only packed up out of laziness and which I should have gotten rid of in the first round of moving — items in my library that I will never read again, nor care all that much to keep, some old schoolwork from my kids from years ago that should have been thrown away (not the cute little essays or writings; more like the boring, fill-in-the-blank worksheets). Some of the items were or more importance (some old photos and some actually worthwhile books), but not that big of a deal.

However, one thing that did get soaked that caught my attention were some old letters. Just this morning, I was going through some of them, and they included, for instance, some of the letters the Now-Mrs. Wallace Smith and I had exchanged during our early friendship and dating in the pre-Mrs. Wallace Smith days. These things are precious to me, and — again, as a sentimental sort — I hold on to stuff like this. I see them as “the historical documents” (I think I got that phrase from the movie Galaxy Quest). I imagine my kids one day reading through them after I’m dead (hopefully later than next week, by the way 🙂 ) and seeing how our family came together. Needless to say, I am letting them dry out and planning to keep them, even if the ink is a little blurred, now.

Other letters are there, as well — from back when I was in high school, or on the other side of the child/adult divide, from friends after college. Of course, with Gmail, one can keep everything, and I keep way too much out of laziness. But all of these are from a day when writing someone took more effort, and first drafts were often the only drafts.

I often question whether I am too sentimental about such things. Maybe all of it should be chucked. Or maybe none of it should be chucked. Or maybe those notes to my sweetheart should be kept, but the others should go the way of my decades-old tax records. (Actually, come to think of it I still have those. I’ll try to think of another example as I warm up the shredder…)

So, let me turn it over to you: Do you hold on to your old correspondence? That is, your non-email correspondence? If so, do you keep it all? Do you keep some? Is there a date when it becomes “old enough” to throw away? Do you keep only special letters, or is it a matter of keeping letters from special someones, whether significant in content or not?

Let me know, below, if you’re in the mood. It’s a lot faster than writing me a letter. 🙂

16 thoughts on “Quick survey: Do you save old letters and correspondence?

  1. Shawn McMilln

    Although I’m the kind of person who absolutely detests “clutter” (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gotten myself in trouble for throwing out something I should have kept)…I’ve kept ALL of the letters and cards written to me by my wife (pre and post wedding) and the cards, letters, notes, drawings, etc. from my daughters. These are indeed a way that my children and grandchildren can better understand where and how our family began – and hopefully they will be meaningful to them (perhaps not as meaningful as they are to me) – but meaningful and valuable nonetheless.

  2. Chris Sookdeo

    Yes I do keep all but due to the mail getting lost when reaching my country and in some cases reaching my address a year after, I’ve decided to discontinued my subscription so that it won’t be wasted. It’s better to view online since I can read it the same day it was posted so that it can be most relevant. I know that my aunt also kept hers from Worldwide. God used that to call both her and husband and later on myself to the Living Church of God.

  3. Sharon Rosenmeier

    I’ve kept most cards, children items and letters that I’ve received over many many years. I’ll look at my children’s poems, letters and report cards and they bring tears of joy. I have every card and letter that my husband wrote to me before and after our marriage, these I can never part with. I’ve often pulled out the greeting cards that I’ve and wondered if it was time to part with them, and I can’t. These cards are part of another person’s life, they took time out of their busy day to think of me and it’s a part of them that I still have and will be an ever lasting memory.

  4. Teresa Fischer

    I keep pretty much all of mine. Ancient ones are in a box or bag somewhere. I seldom look back at them, but occasionally run across things from the past that are fun to look at. Sometimes I put things in places that I’ll have to clean, or books I’ll have to open so that it makes a pleasant surprise and remembrance at times. 🙂

  5. Thomas

    As someone who is into genealogy and tracing family roots let me just say that those of you who keep documents, especially letters from loved ones, are doing future generations a real favor. Once you have the bones of someone’s life (provided by birth, marriage and death certificates) then documents fleshing out who an ancestor was, what type of person they were, who was important to them and the relationships that gave their life meaning will mean a lot to descendants down the line. Most people when they reach a certain age do tend to look backward a long the family tree as they contemplate the type of legacy they will leave their family going forward. The Bible does teach us to be mindful of the legacy we pass on and that is what people are looking for when they research their roots. The character of those who have gone before. Were they like me? Are there parallels that can be drawn between their character and mine? Of course, the other question is how much of this world is going to survive into the millennium? That includes our family histories. How much needs to survive? I’m guessing that there will be resurrected saints from all periods of history plus, of course, the Father and Jesus Christ who have watched it all and know all the family histories and characters. Still, having a genuine piece of family history in your hand can be quite a thrilling and moving experience. Even the Bible will still be around for those in the second resurrection despite having the people whom God used to author it (and live it!) also being around, so maybe some cherished pieces of family history will be deemed worthy of preservation.

  6. I’m a sentimental person too. I read over the letters my wife and wrote to each other and the promises we made to one another. I just myself by what I wrote to her in those letters. Am I and have I done what I said I would do? It keeps me on track. I also read the notes that we wrote during our marriage counseling to our minister during that time. It is encouraging to see we are doing exactly what we said we would do. I also keep the hand written notes, letters and cards that my wife and children have given me over the years and sometimes I think back to those special times in my life with them and ache for to hold my babies in my arms again to say it’s going to be alright and I love you. I have kept letters from HQ and re-read them from back in the 80’s especially around the end of Mr. HWA’s life. I also have a video tape of the day he died that was on the news. January 16, 1986. Yes, history is a wonderful thing.

  7. Kathy Williams

    INDEED I do, keep ALL of my NON-email correspondences!! 🙂 I’m one of those “tie it up in a red velvet ribbon” & keep it in a shoebox type of women!! It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s old man friends, letters from my parents, my children, or even my ex-husband. . .I keep them ALL and I don’t think there’s an expiration date, when someone took the time to transfer their thoughts on paper, or a card to me! It’s a GIFT, and I treasure them all, so thanks for asking, & a special hug to Mr. Riggs today, (yes, I have the note from Mrs. Riggs) since we’ve corresponded after Ethan and I came to Charlotte!!! (=^_^=)

  8. Lisa

    My mother recently shared a new perspective on sentimental keepsakes after being forced to sort through my grandfather’s possessions after he developed dementia. She now says her goal is to not keep anything that us children would not be interested in sorting through, or that would not be valuable to us after her and my dad are gone. So on-track church literature for sure, 30 year old bills and paperwork, not so much. However, the love letters between my grandparents from the 1940s provided some embarrassingly interesting family history…

  9. Richard Soule

    I am one that cannot keep hard copies of letters, cards, or anything on paper. I do not keep emails unless they are of importance. Not that I dont appreciate anything sent to me, but when the time comes to move or something, I dont want to reminisce about old times.

  10. Glory

    Since I met my husband first online, I have saved a lot of our emails. They are printed out, holes put in the side, and then put into a folder. I review them from time to time. I save other things, too, depending on how much I value them or if they’re important.

  11. Robert Petry

    Ah yes, keeping stuff that seems to clutter into piles of stuff. My wife and I keep more than letters, we have books, literally everywhere, boxes of things (undiscovered for a long time) and old computers. Even my old Amiga C64. However, one thing we do not have are letters to each other. From pre or post Mrs. days. That might seem strange, but when we dated we were at college, AC. She moved off campus but I still saw her daily & walked her home a few blocks. I thot this funny when I read the posts here mentioning letters from future mates. Then, it dawned on me…we’ve never been that far apart. 51 years this month. Hmm…maybe I’ll write her a surprise letter from this address to this address.
    Now… what’s in this box????

  12. Absolutely we do; it’s not just me either. Steve likes to keep cards we give each other. When we first married I would always make a little note for his lunch box and we have a box of those, cards from people in the church we get, I have a ton of them and I just can’t seem to bring myself to throw them away. They are precious pieces of care and love and prayers that people took the time to sit down and send to us. Every now and then I come across them and I may not look at them all but it presents an opportunity to ask God to bless them again for such loving kindness. So our answer is YES.

  13. JDC3

    I do keep letters and cards, etc. I have a correspondence file for each year into which all personal correspondence goes. At the end of the year I review it, discard some, but keep most of what I have received. It’s nice to “re-live” the moment when I get the chance to read again what some one took the time to write to me.

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