A Simple WrapWhat does wrapping paper go for these days? Not the flimsy stuff from the discount shop, but the good stuff that doesn’t rip when you look at it. Five, nine, twelve bucks for a roll of paper that maybe covers a board game and a book*? And that doesn’t include the matchy-matchy ribbon or tags. Or the cute, stick-on package accessories, which aren’t cheap, I can tell you.

Back in the day, in the two week window before Christmas, you couldn’t drag me out of the shop known for greeting cards, but which also offers maybe the most deluxe, readily available wrapping paper sets around. I’ll bet half our Christmas shopping budget was spent on the wrappings. I wanted my children to experience awe when they came into the living room on Christmas morning. And they did! The vision of a sparkling tree amidst an abundance of beautifully wrapped gifts took their breath away. Mine, too.

Then they tore in and by lunchtime, as the sounds of carols, giggling and whining dressed the day, wrappings were collected and crumpled for the landfill. Even before I was conscious of “green,” the moment of throwing out the bags full of trash kinda made me gag. It was all too much. Too much money and too much money deliberately thrown away.

So although I believe that a thoughtful gift should be thoughtfully presented, I made a change that generally saves money and definitely saves space on the garbage truck. I quit paying for very expensive wrapping paper to throw away. These are a few of the approaches I use instead.

Packaging, Part I: Whenever possible and as the budget allows, I make the container part of the gift. There are some beautiful boxes out there, the kind that would be pridefully repurposed in a bookshelf, on the vanity or in the office. There are leather boxes, bamboo boxes, silk covered hard-board boxes, cigar boxes that scream for a happy crafter’s special touch, even boxes that are meant for storing sweaters out of season. Tie the box up with a satin or grosgrain ribbon and you’ve made a lovely presentation that won’t end up on the next run to the dump.

Packaging, Part II: We accumulate metal containers, maybe you do, too. Loose leaf tea and other specialty foods are often packaged in metal containers. Buy Scottish oatmeal. Eat Scottish oatmeal. Good for the heart, good for the soul. Save the tin for later. Gifts are now whimsically presented in containers, maybe with a bit of colorful tissue for fill and are then finished off with complementary ribbons (silver or gold go with darned near any metal container). Repurposing again! Love it. Those tins might eventually end up in the recycling bin, but at least they got a couple of shots at usefulness.

Packaging, Part III: Gift bags sold as gift bags and meant as gift bags. I’m done buying those. On the other hand, if a gift arrives in one I certainly save that lovely bag to reuse when the next holiday rolls around.

Packaging, Part IV: Sometimes a gift needs to be wrapped. I once bought a collection of cloth dinner napkins that were on sale for a silly-low price. A beautiful cloth and ribbon makes a beautiful presentation.  A nice cloth screams for repurposing.

Packaging, Part V: As we see, I’ve minimized the use of paper. But sometimes an occasion arises unexpectedly and I’m not prepared with boxes or tins or a proper sized-cloth. I keep large rolls of inexpensive brown kraft-style mailing paper and white banner paper (available at office supply stores, the post office or The Container Store) on hand. Really inexpensive, and many, many gifts are wrapped before reaching the end of the rolls. I’m not an artist, but I can imagine a clever person drawing something lovely on the plain-wrapper or maybe running a cut sheet through the ink jet to give it a little zip. But I don’t do those things. I just finish the wrapping by using the most beautiful ribbon on hand, oftentimes something that has been rescued from other occasions.

Tags, Baubles and Ribbon: I am done with the expense of coordinating paper-and-tag sets. Every few years I buy a 100-count package of white marking tags from the office supply store for about three bucks. Plain tags match any package presentation, and at the flourish of a pen, identifies recipient and giver.

And somehow — I don’t exactly know how — but bits and bobs appear in our worlds that have no particular purpose. It isn’t mandatory to add anything to further adorn a package, but a piece of broken costume jewelry, the decorative attachment from an old key chain, maybe even an old key if it’s fine! All those sparkling bits and bobs around the house can be collected over the course of time and used as decorations for your presentations. No bits and bobs? A fresh sprig of something from the garden works, too.

Finally? Ribbon. I buy yards of it from the fabric store for much less money than anything on sale in the wrapping aisle of a department store. Ribbon should be bountiful (I love lots and lots of curling ribbon) or exceptional (I love silk toile or gold satin tied into simple bows). And as shown in the photo, even a piece of twine can set off a beautiful box.

Presentation isn’t everything, but it is the first thing. I like to make it count.

*I know. It should say “…that maybe covers an X-Box with Kinect and a Kindle…”

Meg Livergood Gerrish

Meg Livergood Gerrish

Partnered with her husband, Meg Gerrish has combined their love of a specific social beverage and her compulsion to give opinions whether anyone asks or not into the website Unoaked Chardonnay. Their review approach is unorthodox, compared to most, but their passion for finding and trying all the unoaked Chardonnays available is unwavering. It’s a mission: “Our hobby, our job, someone has to do it.” Meg worked many years for an ad agency that became wildly famous as soon as she retired. She is currently working on a novel, as are most people.