Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buying new gift wrap is a little ridiculous

As I sat wrapping gifts this evening, it occurred to me that I'd like to write about gift wrap.

See, people laugh at me. At Christmas, I gingerly split the tape from the edges of the paper and fold the gift wrap up so it can be reused. I love tissue paper, too. My favorites are fancy bows and nice, thick Sally Foster-type paper that looks new, especially when it was used to wrap a big gift. Most people save gift bags and fabric bows, but I take it to the next level. I take longer to open things, and I never just RIP IT OPEN, as people are always nagging me to do. By the time all the gifts are unwrapped, I have two piles at my feet: one of my gifts, and another of my gift wrap for next year. We practically never buy any, and if we do it's a supplementary gift bag or packet of tissue.

When people see me do it they roll their eyes and chuckle awkwardly, as if I'm dumpster diving or gnawing chicken bones clean. Well, I'm laughing right back at you. Do you not like money? Gift wrap is expensive, and it's terrible for the environment to throw out a giant trash bag of paper every year! Why not make it just a little bag, and save the difference next year?

I'm pretty sure both my grandmothers did it. I know for a fact Mama Susie does, because she still gives Christmas gifts wrapped in vintage, old-fashioned paper. Jordan's grandparents recently sent over several boxes of used bows and tissue paper because they didn't need them and they know I collect them. I think gift wrap conservation must be a facet of frugality which, like so many things, skipped a generation. Our grandparents who practice this lived through the Great Depression, during a time when you didn't waste resources on frivolous items. I could do a whole post on Mama Susie (my mom's mom). We used to think it was funny that she reused things like aluminum foil, but now Jordan and I are the ones rinsing out our Ziploc bags. When we don't have to buy gift wrap, we have more money to spend on the gifts themselves or give to charity.

One thing I've found intriguing but have not yet taken to using is reusable gift wrap which is actually intended to be reused. Basically, this is a square piece of fabric with a pretty design on it that you tie your gift up in. The only reason I haven't used any is because it costs almost $10 for one piece. This website, where many such products are sold, already answered my question. Yes, you are intended to let the gift recipient keep the reusable gift wrap. I concur; asking for gift wrap back would be like asking for part of a gift back, and that would be tacky. My hope would be that the recipient would save my reusable gift wrap and use it the next year to wrap someone else's gift, preferably mine--but what if they didn't? If they just threw it away or stuck it in the back of a closet it would be even more of a waste, and we honestly wouldn't be able to afford decent gifts if we spent so much money just to wrap things each year. Sure, I could make my own out of remnants from the fabric store, but I really do like my fabric stash and prefer to use it for other things. The only answer I can think of is a gift wrap revolution in which everyone switches to cloth wrappings, but I doubt my friends and family are ready for that.

This year I will be dipping into our little secondhand stash. Not one penny has been spent on gift wrap this Christmas, and we plan to keep it that way. Don't be offended if I give you a gift and it's in the same paper you wrapped my present in last year. Just be glad that I am getting a little extra use out of what you gave me.


Rissa said...

So, I LOVE gift wrap, but I also love to save it and reuse it. It just makes sense!
One thing I wanted to mention - my mom made fabric gift bags for our family a long time ago. She made them all different sizes and bought nice ribbons to tie them closed. Each Christmas, we chose our own ribbon color and that's how we knew which gifts were ours. Then, after all the festivities were over. We gave the bags back to my mom for the next year.
I'm telling you this because it's definitely the kind of thing I think is appropriate among family {and some extended family}. Maybe not all friends will get it, but EVERYONE in my family knew my mom would need the bags back and no weird comments were ever made. Plus, my mom had some of the prettiest wrapped gifts of us all. :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't bought new gift wrap in around a year and a half. Pretty much everyone gives gifts in those dollar store bags now, so we just keep them and re-use them. They wouldn't be my first choice, but since they're coming into my house anyway why not run with it?

Happy re-using!

Jenny said...


That sounds like a great idea for family! I could definitely see doing that through the years with my husband and kids, and probably even with my parents and brothers. It's kind of like taking the idea of stockings (which are always sentimental and reused in my family) a step further. We're done with almost all our wrapping this year but I'll have to remember that for next year and especially when we have a few more kids and more gifts to wrap.

Julie said...

I haven't bought any new wrap this year either. I also won't be buying tags as I printed small photos of family members to put on the packages so that Suzi can be "Santa Claus" and hand out the gifts. If you like, a message can be written on the back of the little photo. Suzi's going to love it! Mama Susie has already said what a wonderful way this is to share some photo with the family after all the gifts are opened. I can just see her collecting pics of everyone.

I have one more package to wrap for YOU. I couldn't find a box the appropriatae size in my stash, so don't be too surprised if you find it wrapped in a piece of my fabaric stash. I love the idea!

Anonymous said...

I usually wrap all my gifts with scrap fabric. Print a tag from a free crafty mom site. And decorate with some live holly or evergreen and hemp string. I think it looks better than paper anyway!

And I loved getting gifts back last year wrapped in the same fabric I'd gifted with the year before.