Remember postcards? That you send through the post? I still see them for sale, but does anyone send them anymore? I certainly don’t. I remember a short phase where e-postcards were created. But it was still easier to just find an internet cafe, and send a bunch of e-mails from a foreign locale. And these days, since you can facebook your photos as they happen, as well as send cheery holiday SMS’s, why would you bother?

But there was a time when it was fun and easy to send postcards. There was a sort of ceremony about sending them too – a quick reminder to family, friends, or someone you’ve just met that you existed; a report of a new site or experience; the idea that this thin piece of cardboard would arrive more quickly than a letter.

A few days ago, I finally looked at my old collection of postcards. I brought them back from Canada nearly a year ago – and then just hid them away.

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I come from a family of people who keep stuff, and was pretty much one myself. But moving from country to country, I did have to sort out my possessions regularly. Over the years, I’ve learned to give away unneeded clothes to charity, trade in unwanted books at second-hand stores,  and generally pass on things I don’t need or use.

More recently, I finally tossed out my old tape cassettes (but not before transferring some onto my computer and downloading track lists onto itunes), traded in most of my CDs, threw out and archived old letters and memorabilia, and have now been tackling old slides and photo negatives.

Dave Allen’s book, ‘Getting Things Done’, talks about clearing out clutter; otherwise, it simply stays somewhere in your brain. I agree with this, but also, for someone like me, who has tended to be nostalgic, clearing out allows me to more readily live in the present.

Still, I won’t be too hard on myself. As a traveller and a letter-writer, postcards were a fun and easy way to keep touch with my friends and contacts from around the world, and they also made inexpensive souvenirs for when I didn’t have money or was being cheap. They were easily portable, sometimes beautiful, often amusing, and before digital cameras became such good quality, they sometimes provided an image or view of landscape or scenery or a city that just couldn’t be taken with the cameras of the time (or at least, the cameras I was using).

During the early nineties, I discovered, starting in Denmark, but continuing in places like London and Brussels, the Free Postcard, where advertisers were using postcards and distributing them in cafes and restaurants and other public places – the images were cool (to grab attention) and the advertising itself was often very subtle. Or the city or company just did cool ones to add to the ads. I started grabbing ones that I liked, with the intent to send them off to friends, but of course, I never did.

So, now I’ve got a stack of over a hundred postcards. They roughly divide into:

  • The largest stack, of postcards that I’ve received, that had some sentimental value or I liked the image
  • A huge stack of free postcards with amusing images
  • A few dozen postcards with gay-themes, picked up through various workplaces
  • A handful of advertisements to events or exhibits that I went to (that actually don’t have anywhere to write on the back of them, as they’re taken up with info about the events)
  • A handful of art photographs, since I thought it was a great way to remember museums that I’d visited, and favourite artwork.
  • Some rather generic postcards from places I’ve lived or visited (Danish royalty, Ecuadorean images, Spain)
  • A handful of postcards from the times when organisations and people used them to advertise – so from the international college in Denmark, and Canada World Youth, and then friends who had exhibits or were advertising their photography skills.

What to do with them now?

I’m happy to find that a friend here in Sydney has a niece who collects postcards (and won’t mind the ones that have been written on).

And the rest? Well, I can give them to David’s niece too – but minus the ones that I send out now.

If you want a postcard (for a limited time only…) send me your address (privately), and I’ll drop one in the post for you.


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