Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – Alternatives to Gift Wrap

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


I am coming to the end of a multi-year Use It Up Challenge: To use up all the copious amounts of wrapping paper that I purchased on sale after Christmas like clockwork every December 27.

TreeHugger has a great article on holiday waste and sites estimates of 4 million tons of wrapping paper and gift bags thrown away.

My girl friend Corinna has made cloth bags that she reuses year after year. She does a lot of sewing and cloth crafts so my guess is that she was able to make these bags with remnants. Here are great step-by-step instructions; even a non-sewer can follow along.

My sister-in-law, who lived in Taiwan until fairly recently, sometimes wraps her gifts in cloth, using a Japanese technique called furoshiki. Apparently the origins of this art for were to carry one’s lunch or other personal items – basically a tote sack made from a piece of cloth. There are lots of instructions on the Internet as to how to wrap differently shaped objects.

The simplest recycling/wrapping project I know is something we call Map Wrap. Map Wrap is a variation on the once popular Sunday Comics wrapping, but it uses old maps. As part of my decluttering, I cleared out all maps that were more than 10 years old, which was a big handful. I’ve been using them to wrap and I love the intricate, cheerful designs and colors. Most people seem to think that they look pretty cool.

I have also heard of taking a chip bag, which usually has a shiny silver interior, wiping the oil away, and wrapping the gift silver side out. I’ve never done it, but the ladies who told me about it do it regularly – especially for kids gifts. They say that most kids tear off the wrapping so quickly, they never even notice that it says Lays Potato Chips on the inside!

Have you thought of ways to reduce your wrapping clutter?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that can be recycled or repurposed by someone else. (Newspapers, magazines, old sheets, old pillows, old towels, bicycle parts, pieces of timber or metal…)

Today’s Declutter Item

Bath Products

Eco Tip for the Day

Greening your workplace ~ If you use a printer in your workplace, only print what really needs printing and print double sided if you can.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Simple Saturday ~ Scary Halloween   The October issue of Real Simple magazine reveals a grim statistic: 6,250 tons of landfill waste “could be avoided if half the kids in America traded Halloween costumes […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.


  1. Hi Cindy! I really liked the idea of a reusable gift bag. It is a lot of paper every year.

  2. Hi Cindy, I like the idea of reusable gift wrapping also. I personally have a lot of success saving on wrapping by just not giving material gifts. My family and I have an agreement of not exchanging gifts with me and I give gifts of experience and time to my friends nearby. If for some reason gift giving is unavoidable I wrap the gift in the same brown paper I use sometimes for wrapping eBay parcels and embellish it with something among my overabundance of craft supplies.

    • Sounds like a good way to use materials you already have. Sometimes I get packages that are padded with plain brown paper, but it’s always really, really wrinkly. I wonder if it can be ironed. Tissue paper can.

  3. FedEx will recycle your packing peanuts. I also found out that some companies use nontoxic, starch-based biodegradable packing peanuts that you can use in your compost or dissolve with water. It’s easy to tell them apart from the plastic ones, and if you aren’t sure, you can test them by seeing if water dissolves them. FedEx won’t take the biodegradable ones, but they are easy to dispose of.

    • The biodegradable ones are super fun for kids. You can lightly dissolve the ends with a little water and stick them together. My girls use them as boats when it rains. We live on a very sloped street, and water pours down in when it rains. They race the biodegradable peanut boats; if one gets away or they get too soggy and sticky, it’s no big deal because the peanuts are made from vegetable starch.

      • How fun!
        I was also happy to learn from looking at that website that there is a biodegradable packing material that is similar to styrofoam.

  4. The two things I have tried for the few gifts we might give during the year is the brown wrapping paper like Colleen mentioned (and then a bright ribbon and bow) or something that goes along with the gift (like a receiving blanket wrapping a baby gift or a elegant towel wrapping a wedding gift).

  5. I love the television commerical showing all sorts of weird things wrapped – golf clubs, chain saw, the dog – but large gifts don’t even need to be wrapped. Hide them somewhere (the trunk of the car for instance) and then make up a series of clues that will lead the recipient to find the gift (clue #1 sends you to the shower where a card with clue #2 sends you to the cookie jar, etc.) This is particularly good when the number of gifts is minimal – stretches out the time and makes finding the gift a bit of fun.
    In the past I have used a basting stitch to sew two tea towels together as a gift bag for a kitchen gift. You could also fold one in half and stitch two sides to make a smaller bag.
    I had only one gift to wrap this year. It went into a Ziploc bag, into a Christmassy envelope (re-used) and then into a mailing envelope (also re-used).

    • Hi Wendy, my kids used to love the hide and seek method for gifts that you just mentioned. We used to do it especially at Easter. I had a bunch of those plastic eggs and would put $1 coins in them and hide them all over the house. Making up the clues was the tricky part but they loved to solve them. One year I thought they had gotten too old for it but I decided to ask them at the last minute. Needless to say I went scrambling the night before Easter trying to come up with the clues. Luckily I had the coins.

      • I use a towel, sheet, or blanket to wrap really large gifts, which I usually keep hidden until the night before Christmas, so they aren’t investigated too closely.

  6. I read a very similar post from another site this morning – great minds think alike! She mentioned the ones above but also decided to utilise her calendar that is almost finished. I like the chip packet idea.

    The most infamous gift I have ever received, because he forgot only me and realised it when it was too late, was from my son (I think he was about 10 or 11 at the time) and he rode his bike to the petrol station first thing and bought me a TV Guide. On the plus side, it was probably the most effort he’d put into acquiring a gift as our nearby petrol station was shut for renovations and he had to ride to a much further one.

    • That’s hysterical Moni. My girls banned together and bought me a gift this year on their own – they picked it, bought it on-line, paid for it, etc. They even got their Grandmother to help so that I wouldn’t see the charge on my credit card statement. I am completely thrilled, as this is the first time they’ve done that. (I hope it’s not a TV Guide!)

  7. I have a lovely piece of Japanese fabric which I reuse every year to wrap my daughter’s new books in! Plus there is a collection of Christmas gift bags I’ve accumulated (never bought! waaaay too stingy to actually BUY wrapping!!) which I use every year then carefully store them till the following Christmas. However, this year I made an exception and bought a large Christmas box to put a group present for Mum’s nursing home staff (was looking for a pretty basket but couldn’t find one anywhere.) I also used to use the Astor theatre movie sheet that was sent out to me quarterly. It made for beautiful wrapping paper.
    PS That just reminded me to email them and get myself off their mailing list!

    • Great reusing Loretta! Old picture calendars are another option for smaller gifts.

    • I have a friend who wraps her xmas pressents in something useful too. Either a enviro bag that can be used in the future for shopping, themed teatowel etc. Also she uses xmas ornaments that can be used on the tree the next year as gift tags.

  8. I like the shops that offer Christams wrapping of my purchases. The wrapping is not actually Christmas specific and can be reused during the year for other gifts.
    I love the alternate wrappings, like maps and brown paper and string. I can remember brown paper and string being the standard wrap for all purchases in the 1960’s in my country town. The most fascinating part, was how the person wrapping the parcel would break the string.
    Wrapping paper serves no purpose really , as most products come in their own packaging.

    • I wrapped a gift for Clara to give in Sunday comics once, and I was afraid she was going to be embarrassed, but all the girls loved it and thought it was “fun” and “clever.” Who knew thrifty was chic?

      • A friend of mine wraps her xmas presents in newspaper (used) and then adds a colour ribbon . Each person receiving a gift gets a different colour.

  9. Can’t be any worse than when one of my brothers “wrapped” our Mom a gift in tinfoil & then cutout a few triangles in a scrubby sponge so it kinda sorta resembled a bow or flower.
    All of that would be super cute & adorable had the boy been 6 or 7 years old…but he was more like 25 at the time.

    • Hi Jane, ever since my children saw Ozzy Osbourn’s son wrap a gift in aluminium foil that has been the standard for our kids. It doesn’t happen often because they usually don’t buy us gifts (on request of course). However I never got a fancy scrubby sponge flower. Now I feel ripped off. 😆

      • Jane, That was totally hysterical! I read it to my daughters, and we all had a good laugh.

        Colleen – Sorry you got gipped on the sponge.

  10. I love the idea of the chip packet for kids gifts! I also use fabric gift bags of various sizes for my family. Plus I have a couple of Christmas gift bags I have been reusing for a few years. It saves buying paper but is so simple to wrap odd shaped items. Just pop in the bag and tie the ribbon! No sticky tape needed. My son likes it since he knows which bags are his.
    I only have to wrap a few gifts for my nieces/nephews.

  11. I am still in the use-it-up stage. We are down to the plain white wrapping paper I “inherited.” The kids will be stamping on it as a craft one day after we get the presents wrapped. Other than that, I re-use the bags the in-laws always give us. I even supply my friends with all their gift bag needs! I love the chip wrapper idea, although I never buy chips. We used the comics a lot, but we don’t get those anymore, either! I’ll have to start on the maps next!

  12. Thank you for all the ideas! I wish I had thought of using old maps, I just recycled a few recently. I often try to use reuseable shopping bags when giving gifts. Thanks also for the link about the Japanese wrapping cloth; I was given one in Japan in the summer and have been wondering what to do with it, now I have my answer!

  13. As much as I like reusable gift bags etc, this often isn’t doable for me, as I send most presents with a parcel and would have to produce new reusable gift bags each year, which certainly makes no sense.
    Like many others here, I’m also reusing all kinds of packaging that find their way into my home. I save ribbons and bows from presents I receive as well as gift bags and reuse both. In addition I use all sorts of paper (magazines, newspaper, envelopes, paper grocery bags inside out etc) and fabric scraps I have around. If the gift allows for it, I’m also often skipping the wrapping altogether, and just attach a little bow or other adornment. This usually is the case with gifts in mason jars, things made from fabric (which I roll up in a fashion so that you can’t see what exactly it is before you open the tie)

  14. We just don’t wrap! So far, no-one (kids or adults) notices or complains that something is missing. Sometimes I put a pretty paper band or some funky knitting yarn around the present, that’s fun too.

    • No wrap at all? Interesting. I like the surprise, and I can appreciate a very fancily wrapped gift, but I don’t think it’s necessary at all.

  15. For many years now, I keep and reuse any tissue paper and gift bags that are in decent shape. I limit the amount that I keep, as I don’t need or want to have an excessive amount. If they are plain bags, I have scrapbooking stickers, etc., that I can use to embellish them with. I am trying to give more consumable gifts or gift certificates this year, though, so that I do not add to other people’s clutter.

    I have also reused cardboard boxes, peanuts, and bubble wrap, especially when I was doing a lot of shipping. Otherwise, I do try to recycle what I can. I love the idea of using maps, since I have used comics many times in the past. In addition, I have used other items to hold the gift items instead of a bag or a box. Like a laundry basket for baby items, or a pretty pail that doubles as a trash receptacle. I do like the fabric bags as well, especially if they have a draw string, they can be reused for many things.

    • Good job in thinking about what you’re using and recycling. I, too, have a box of bubble wrap, padded envelopes, etc. that have been sent to me and that can be reused.

  16. We don’t exchange gifts anymore, so I’ve donated or recycled a lot of our gift wrap. I still like our Christmas tree to look like it has gifts under it. Several years ago, I bought gift boxes with the “gift wrap” printed right on them. I put the pretty (but empty) boxes under our tree. It looks nice, and the boxes fold flat for storage after the holidays.

    • Well aren’t you clever. I agree that a decorated tree with no presents underneath does seem a bit bare.

  17. thank you for the shout out cindy! i must admit i did buy holiday-themed fabric for my bags, but at least it was after christmas at a greatly reduced price. i like the tutorial you selected. i also made my bags reversible, with two contrasting fabrics for variety. i made these bags so long ago, we used to put them under the tree empty on christmas eve for santa to use… (ours girls are teens now) i even send them to far-flung relatives and they have come back to me – i highly recommend reusable bags!

  18. Furoshiki looks really cool, and you could make a quilt with the fabric after Christmas or make some pajamas for little kids.

  19. As for holiday themed: I have gone for plain or versatile gift wrap a long time ago. This can be the plain brown wrapping paper, but I also like for example bright red or dark blue. (stripes, squares or polka dots are fine as well). This can be all christmassy with a white bow (looks like Santa in the red case and like a snowy night in the blue one) or a little adornment like a star shaped gift tag or something.
    You can still use it for birthday presents year round though if you choose more colorful bows then (like say yellow and orange or blue and green) and even for wedding presents with a little lace or heart-shaped adornments.

  20. For big presents I often use a colorful blanket or a table cloth.
    Also a good way to use up any rolls of paper table cloths.

    I also think reusable ribbons are so much nicer than the disposable ones.


  21. This year, I have wrapped cookbooks in aprons and used twine to tie them with. I have used bandanas to wrap small gifts. My granddaughters’ books are going into small inexpensive fabric tote bags. I have also made good use of my computer and printer — printing out a Christmas quotation to cover the top of one present wrapped in plain brown paper, and also making bows with strips of typing paper that have names printed on them. (Just type a line , cut and paste until you get a page full. I discovered that one sheet of typing paper will wrap a CD or DVD nicely, and printed it out with the recipients name in alternate red and green lines — then wrapped at an angle. It has been fun and cheap.