Maybe Matilda: The Lost Art of the Thank You Card

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. All opinions are mine.

Growing up, my mom was always very firm about writing thank you cards after Christmas and birthdays. We were always told to make a list of anyone who had given us gifts, then dutifully work our way through it and send each person a note to thank them. Bonus points if we included a drawing or a particularly thoughtful note (not allowed: “Thank you for my birthday present.” High fives for: “Thank you for the book you sent me! I started reading it right away and my favorite part was  ____________.”).

And the tradition goes back (at least) two generations . . . I remember spending a weekend with my grandparents when I was in middle school, during which a friend took me out for the afternoon for lunch and a movie. When I was dropped back off at my grandparents’ house at the end of the day, my grandma had already set out a stationary set in my bedroom with a little note to remind me to write a thank you to my friend before going to bed.

What a nice lesson to teach your kids—to take a few moments to express gratitude for someone who has gone out of their way to do something special for you.

I’ve tried to keep this tradition going, especially since it seems to be getting more and more rare to get thank you cards. (Are they in fact becoming less common, or is it just my own guilt manifesting itself since I know for a fact I didn’t send out thank you cards for many of the sweet gifts given to Darcy when she was brand new? It’s been almost a year and everyone has probably long since forgotten about it, but I can’t remember who gave me what and I haven’t stopped feeling guilty about not sending out thank-yous yet.)

It seems to be getting harder for me as the years go by to stay on top of sending thank you notes, even though I feel they are important. Our lives are constantly getting busier, I have more to distract me than ever before, and I always seem to remember a month too late, ‘hang on, did I thank so-and-so for Forrest’s birthday present?’

But I try.

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card //

In case you’re wondering what makes a thank you card particularly nice (although I do believe that any thank you is appreciated, even a hastily-written, overly-late one), I’ve done the dirty work. According to Martha (the queen of all things homey and domestic and polite), thank you notes should:

- identify the gift
- state why you appreciate it/why it has personal meaning for you
- how you plan to use it
- if a gift was given in person, thank the person for their presence/attendance at your event

The Lost Art of the Thank You Card //

And if you happen to be in the market for a lovely set of thank you notes, might I recommend the Mix & Match Stationary Sets from Shutterfly? There are 7 themed designs to choose from, and each can be completely personalized with your own name, initials, and message. And within each set, you can mix and match cards to your hearts desire—get multiple copies of your favorite card design, or up to 12 different coordinating cards.

I thought it was really fun to shop the different designs and put together a set that looked just right for me. I think this would be a fun gift for a bride or newly married couple, personalized with their names. You can check out the Mix & Match sets here (my set is the Vintage Fleur).

Writing a lovely thank you note

Do you write thank you notes? And if you have kids, how do you encourage them to write thoughtful thank yous? I’m running late on thank you notes from Forrest’s birthday, so heaven knows I could use a little inspiration to get moving.


  1. Yes! I didn't realize what a big deal it was until I got married and sent out thank you cards. I couldn't believe how many people thanked me for my thank you's saying they just don't receive them from young people anymore :) Now I've been trying to teach my 3 little boys the importance of it. They hate it but hopefully it will stick with them as they get older.

  2. I have always been very adamant about getting thank-you cards out...and also teaching my boys the importance of them. I think when someone takes the time to do something kind for you (be it a material gift, a meal, a kind gesture...anything) it is important to take a few moments to pen them a nice thank-you card. And I know we live in a world full of technology, but there is something special about a hand-written thank-you card. :)

  3. Those notes are so cute! Like you, I'm not as "on top" of thank you notes as I used to be, but I really really try. I love getting them, though I never expect them. ; ) With my closest of friends, I sometimes skip the cute stationary and send an email--but with the older generation I keep it very formal and traditional. I think really I just like getting "real mail"--thank you note or any kind of note--it's just special.

  4. Hi Rachel, I love reading your blog posts, but have been a silent post "stalker" until now. My parents instilled the thank you note tradition in us with an added rule: the gift/money wasn't allowed to be used/spent until the thank you note was written. Of course, the rule was bent at times, but it made an impression on me nevertheless. To this day I still try as much as possible to write my thank yous in a timely fashion...and I love receiving them, too!

  5. I did not grow up doing thank you notes. But my husband did, so I've been doing my best to do them now (even though my husband doesn't anymore lol) Plus, who doesn't like snail mail?!

  6. Yes, I am definitely on the "send thank you notes" side of the fence. I make my own boys (ages 6, 4, and 3) write thank yous after someone gives them a present or does something nice for them. However, I'm worried all this training will be forgotten after they grow up leave home--my mom was very diligent about making my siblings and me write thank yous when we were growing up, but now my brothers rarely (if ever) take the time to write a note.

  7. I can absolutely relate to what you are writing about. My son is 20 months old and we call him Turbomouse. He will only do what he wants, no matter what I need to do at that moment. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to handle him with enough care, so that he grows up in a nice, confident and caring person. But there are certainly moments, when I have the hardest time to stay calm and explain and explain and explain, while my Adam is screaming from the bottom of his lungs, because he can't play with something usually very dirty or dangerous or... Of course, I am very well acquainted with all the (pardon my French) stupid glares of people, who have long forgotten that their kids (or they themselves!) were once 20 months old as well and try to do everything to make me see how unable I am to handle such a situation with my own kid. You don't have to TRY, I feel already bad enough even without the staring, thank you very much.

    Having said that, there is just one 'solution' (I think), - don't care what all the people may or may not think. I know how terribly bad one can feel, 'cause it's not in my nature either, but I have to learn that - if not for myself, then for my son. I don't want to be disrespectful, but it DOESN'T MATTER what they think, the only think that matters in the situation is you and your son. He doesn't behave bad, he just doesn't enjoy what you are doing right at that moment, like shopping or whatever and he doesn't want to do that and he doesn't care what other people think about his aversity towards the shopping. In fact, while these situations are just terrible for me as well, I even admire my son's ability to 'speak up', because that's what he is in fact doing. And I don't want him to 'behave', but only to teach him how to say all these things in a more articulate way than screaming, because I want him to be able to speak up when he's older as well. Not to shut him up. But at this age, it just won't happen yet.

    It is true, that preparing the child for any activity - like described in the previous comment, can work. I do that and making my child my partner in any activities, from cooking and cleaning to shopping etc. makes it for him more enjoyable and there is a better chance that he will feel comfortable and happy (= not the very loud opposite :). But I believe, that once the kid doesn't want to do something at all, it will only help to some extent. I try to think about it this way - there are sure activities that I loath to do (but still need to) and if I could, I would probably scream from time to time 'THAT I JUST HATE AND HATE AND HATE DOING IT AND I WON'T WON'T WON'T), but as an adult, I just overcome the frustration quietly and do what it's needed to be done. Little kids don't have this ability (or will) to 'not complain', so they just complain loudly (well, LOUDLY :).

    Please, don't think I am trying to 'be clever' here, I am not an expert, but looking at it from this perspective may be helpful (it was for me). And it will pass once the kids, who are naturally egoistic beings, are old enough to understand these activities (like shopping etc) from our (grown up) point of view as well.

    Just my point of view :).
    Wish you many happy days with your little one!


  8. Rachel- I am hoping (with fingers and toes crossed) that you saved a copy of the pdf for this. It is not on the page noted anymore and it is absolutely perfect for my friends new granddaughter due next month. I would be ever so grateful if you have it you would be willing to share!! My email is thelewisgirls at gmail dot com. Thanks again.

  9. Such pretty cards!

  10. I'm sort of thank-you obsessed. And often I talk myself out of writing them. ("Is it weird to send a thank-you note because the person did or said something that particularly meant a lot to me?")

    But, I actually just got a mix-and-match set myself and love it! I loved picking my favorites.

  11. I've had people act surprised when they've gotten a thank you note from me, too. I guess it must be a dying art!

  12. I agree! Emails/texts/etc. are nice, but there really is something special about getting a card in the mail.

  13. Seriously, getting REAL mail is so fun! In middle school, a friend and I sent each other letters all summer instead of talking on the phone or chatting online, because we both loved getting mail :-)

  14. But maybe their wives will do it instead! ;-)

  15. Hi Barb--the pattern is still available here! Let me know if that doesn't work out for you--I have a copy, but it's printed out (I guess I don't have the PDF on my computer), so if you need to, I can scan and email it to you.

  16. I was just remembering today that I once wrote a thank you note to someone who invited us over for dinner, and wondering if she thought it was weird to get a thank you for it. The mix-and-match's are so fun, right? I hope I get to see some pictures of how you personalized them :-)

  17. Ooh, that's a very clever rule--I like it!


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