Thank You Card Tip: How to Remember the Gift Details

It seems today that everyone is busy. No matter if you are a career person, working parent, student, or stay-at-home parent, many of us are guilty of letting a part of our lives take over every minute of our lives. It’s no wonder that there are often simple things that often do not get done because we are too busy focusing on something else.

One important task that I think is often ignored is the act of saying thank you in return for receiving a gift. At some point in the recent past, people started to think that it was ok to receive a gift without reciprocating with a thank you. In some cases a verbal thank you is ok. For example, you receive a birthday gift from a close friend while the two of you are out to dinner. Gifts received at other times deserve a written thank you note. These times include birthday gifts that are opened without the giver present, shower gifts, wedding gifts, and gifts and cards received as congratulatory, condolence or during a time of illness.

When you’re always busy, it is sometimes hard to carve out time right away to write the needed thank you notes. Etiquette says that while you should write thank you cards as soon as possible, in most cases you have two to three weeks to write thank you cards. Etiquette also says that you should write about the specific gift(s) received.

To make sure I can include the needed detail in my thank you cards, I always try to write them before I put away the received gifts. As I check a thank you card off the list, the new items get organized into the house, money deposited, or in some cases, items returned.

However, there has been those times where this method does not work. There have been times when the gifts needed to be transported and keeping them in their original bags or boxes is not feasible. If the gifts are for a young kids birthday, it is hard to tell them that they cannot play with their new toys until the thank you cards are written. Then there are other times where the need to organize and clean the house is higher on the priority list.

Putting gifts away before the cards are written can make it difficult to be specific about the gifts. Even when there is a written list of received gifts, as is typically done at baby and wedding showers, you might not be able to connect the note to the gift. “Clothes? I received multiple clothing items.” or “Which cookbook?” A better system is needed to connect the received gifts to the giver for the purpose of thank you cards.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a baby shower with my family in New York. We were living in Florida and leaving the day after the shower to return home. Knowing that we would not have a lot of time before traveling home, I did not bring any thank you cards with me. I figured I would keep the gifts as received in the gift bags or boxes with the giver’s card attached until I arrived home. I would then write the thank you cards before organizing the nursery. As we were trying to pack everything to go into the car, I quickly realized that if I wanted to get everything home, it was not possible to keep all gifts packaged as received. If I combined items into bags or boxes, I could fit everything. However, this meant I might not remember who gave me what when I went to write the thank you cards.

That’s when the idea hit me. Instead of relying on written notes that might not be as detailed as I needed them to be, or keeping everything in the original gift packaging, I could take pictures. One-by-one, I took a picture of each set of gifts. In the picture, I placed the card received opened with their name visible. This allowed me to connect each item with the person who gave me the gift. I could then mix the gifts together as I needed for the drive home. When I had time to write the thank you cards, I would simply review the photos.

This method worked so well that I have been using it for every gift event since. It allows me to organize and put away gifts before writing thank you cards. Having the pictures gives me the opportunity to include as much detail as possible whenever I happen to get around to the task. Many times this method has helped me because let’s be honest, between kids and work I never finish writing my thank you cards as quickly as I should.