Silly Season Series Part 2 ~ Christmas/Hanukkah Gift Wrapping

This post was contributed to 365 Less Things by Deb J

Gift wrapping is one of the big “chores” of the Christmas/Hanukkah season.  A later post in this series will talk about alternative gifts for adults but for those who take part in gift giving among family and friends decluttering wrapping supplies can make a big difference.  Every year as you walk through the stores you see a big assortment of wrapping papers, bows, bags, gift tags and gift boxes.  I remember a time when we had a huge storage tub of wrapping supplies we would buy in the after Christmas sales and hold over for the following year.  We no longer have any of that.  We are gift wrap free and have been for about 10 years.  Of course, as I have shared before, we no longer give gifts as our family and friends have decided to “get out of the habit.”  Still, I’d like to share some ideas we used once we realized how much time, money, space and effort came with shopping for and storing wrapping supplies.

I think the biggest change we made was when we decided to no longer store wrapping supplies.  We decided to pick a theme color each year for paper, ribbon and bows.  We bought one huge roll of paper, a huge roll of ribbon and made our own bows.  Most of the time, we bought white paper or craft paper and then came up with the “color of the year” for the ribbon.  I especially liked the year we used craft paper and plaid ribbon. Even the gift tags were made of “craft paper” card stock with a swipe of color around the edges by a marker and tied on with thin strips of the ribbon.   Whatever you decide, it is much cheaper to buy supplies in bulk with the idea of buying only what you need for the one year. 

Many people have resorted to using gift bags.  We found a place where you can buy various sized ones in one color.  Then you can embellish them with stamping, stickers, rick rack, ribbon, etc. to fancy them up.  I know friends who make bags out of the paper sacks they get at the grocery store.  You just turn them inside out and either cut them to size or use them at their original size.  Lunch sacks work well also.

I think the best idea I have seen is a friend who made a variety of bags out of holiday fabric.  Every year she gives gifts in these bags.  She tells the receivers she will gladly take them back if they don’t want to reuse them.  She has found really cheap fabric in after Christmas sales and takes her time over the year making up the bags.  Another friend uses fabric to make pillow cases and then gives away gifts in them.  Nothing like giving two gifts in one.  She especially likes to make the cases in material that reflects the recipient.

Do you have any cheap, easy ideas for holiday gift wrapping that helps you with the prevention of storing wrapping supplies from year to year?

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

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I admit to storing wrapping supplies. It takes about 25% of a closet. I’ve got boxes, paper, tissue paper, its a hard to break habit 🙁

    • Lorena, it is hard to break a habit. How about trying declutter as you go this year. Use up as much as you can and determine that you won’t buy any more for next year. Next year use up as much as you can again with nothing new coming in. Another idea would be to donate to a charity that gives presents to the needy. You have to decide how you will do it and if you will do it then make a plan. Good luck.

  2. Hi!
    Maybe this isn’t really preventing storage, but:
    I usually save the pages of the old calendar and use them as gift wrapping, also I re-use bows, gift bags and partially also paper I have been given and in the rare event that that doesn’t do it, I use newspaper or brown paper as well as twist-off glasses and other things that would go into the recycling anyway. This said, the presents I give are usually not that large and/or only partially packaged. (like: I might embellish a glass of self-made jam with a bow, tag or some stickers, but I don’t wrap it completely) I do store a little amount of wrapping materials that way, but it’s not a very large number. Most of the presents I give go out of house to friends or far away family, so fabric bags aren’t really that practical.
    In the last years, I find it relaxing to sort through this paper amount during the christmas holidays. I also cut cute motives from small scraps of wrapping paper or cards and make christmas cards for the following year using that.
    It’s really small amounts though and fun for me and prevents me from producing so much trash as well as from buying any craft materials.

    Especially for families who give a lot of gifts within the same household, I like the idea of fabric as a gift wrap. There’s the sewn bags or just squares folded in furoshiki techniques. I think it may be also fun family tradition when every member of the family knows the traditional wraps, maybe even has their “own” fabric pattern so they can recognize which present is for them, even when children aren’t yet able to read.

    • Usually, the paper I receive for christmas one year is sufficient to wrap next year’s presents. The year round gifts are fine with the calendar pages.

    • Sanna, it looks like you have found a good answer for your needs. I like your idea of using cuttings from the wrapping paper to make cards. I also like your idea of the furoshiki techniques and fabric patterns that are specific to a person. Each person will find what best works for them and their needs just like you have. It’s interesting what people come up with.

  3. We exchange very few gifts and for those we do buy, have the store wrap them for free. Value added and nothing to store.

  4. When I worked as a map maker I used to use the throw maps as wrapping paper. They were colorful & usually 4 x 5 ft, so I could get several gifts out of one map. After people at work found out about this use several others started doing the same thing.

    Also at the end of the map plotting paper roll there was usually several feet left no long enough to plot a map. It was plain white so it could be stamped or colored.
    Of course I don’t work any more & I have cut my gift giving by 3/4, so I don’t wrap many gifts these days.

    • Calla, what a neat idea. I think one could probably find old maps cheaply and use them. It would be a great idea.

  5. I like all your ideas for using gift wrap and bags and adding personal creative touches. I still have too much gift wrap and I might well donate some as you suggest. One thing that I do from year to year is cut up the Christmas card fronts to trim and use as gift tags or labels on gifts – I haven’t needed to buy labels for quite a few years. Sometimes I’ll pack the gifts into reusable shopping bags; some have such nice designs on them these days that they make a good and useful gift in themselves.

    • Christine, I like your ideas of using the old cards to make labels and the pretty shopping bags from stores.

    • Hi Christine, I read somewhere a number of years ago about cutting up the front of Christmas cards for to/from labels. I have enjoyed doing that ever since. I especially liked using the front of someone’s card for their name tag the next year. I donated almost all my wrapping paraphernalia a few years ago since now we only give money or gift cards. For many years now we have gifted the children in the family with money stuffed inside of balloons…they love it. However, the oldest is almost 18 years old now, so I’m considering using cards with money inside.

      • Deanna ar USA, I like the idea of using a persons card from one year to make them a label for the next. I have a friend who made some really nice name tags out of white board stock. It is made like paper but is much stiffer and about one eighth inch think. It’s like the stuff they use for single use coasters. She paints them a different color for each person. Paints their name on them and embelishes them then shelacs them. They use them over and over each year. She made about 10 per person.

      • Hi Deanna. To give money to teens, try putting it in an old CD case. If they still use CDs they’ll think that’s what they’re getting. If they don’t still use CDs they’ll be both pleased that they got cash and that they DIDN’T get a CD!

    • 2 Christmas card fronts can also be folded to make a gift box a little bigger than a matchbox (obviously depends on the starting size of the cards). When I was a kid this was the perfect size for me and my friends to exchange little gifts like jewellery, a few lollies etc.

  6. I am pretty sure there is no Christmas gift wrapping supplies in my house. There is however a couple of pre-used gift bags up in the cupboard ready to be recycled for the rare material gift that I give. Outside of that I usually improvise like many of the comments have mentioned or simply buy bags that fits the gifts I am giving so I don’t have leftovers.

  7. A couple of years ago I got rid of 2/3 of my wrapping supplies (donated to Goodwill). I had to keep some because my daughters use it. I bought a couple of small sheer pink fabric gift bags several years ago. (I think they were meant for shower favors or some such thing) Anyway, I tend to give my daughters gift cards, artisan soap, socks, etc. These things are all small enough to go in these bags. So after each birthday or Christmas, I ask for these bags back. Haha! They don’t care because they know they will get gifts in them again 🙂

    • Peggy, I like the small sheer gift bag idea. A friend told me recently she prefers gift cards as that gives her an excuse to go out shopping with friends. I had never thought of that.

  8. Over the years I’ve managed to whittle down my rolls of wrapping paper to just a few of gift specific patterns. I like the idea of plain white wrapping so I think I’ll just use the inside of these rolls then it doesn’t matter if I only have birthday paper left. I too have a few preused gift bags waiting to be recycled, they seem to multiply in the wardrobe.

  9. I enjoy wrapping gifts but we don’t give gifts anymore. A couple of years ago I thought I’d be clever and offer a free gift-wrapping service (to use up my paper) but everyone said “we don’t give gifts anymore!”). So much for that idea. When giving a kitchen gift I buy two tea towels and baste them together (large stitches, contrasting color) so they only take a moment for the recipient to turn into useful items. You could give sheets inside a pillowcase, gloves stitched inside a toque, any method of using the gift itself as part of the wrapping.

  10. I took Colleen’s idea she wrote in a post once, that while out buying a gift, buy a gift bag at the same time. Works much better than storing bags and wrapping supplies for me.

    • I agree Moni, shops do a better job of storing gift wrapping etc.
      And yes Beehive State, getting gifts wrapped at the store is a bonus. Sometimes charities do it to raise money which is a great idea also.
      Colleen’s handmade Christmas Cards are a feature of my gift giving at Christmas, they hold gift cards and cash very nicely :).

      • WendyF, you are a great advocate for Colleen and her cards. I like doing that too. I make cards and put the gift cards in them.

    • Moni, i agree with you. My problem is that I can’t stand to see gift bags only used once so when I get one with a gift I feel the need to hang onto it. Now I give them to someone who gives more gifts than I do.

  11. Especially for kids we use the Sunday funnies from the newspaper to wrap gifts.

    We have several rolls of wrapping paper and on are on a use-‘m-up quest, but it only goes so fast. I’m planning to take a large stack of reusable gift bags to a stuff-swap at the beginning of December (along with bows, of which I have too many).

    I can’t see ever not storing some bags & gift boxes. Wrapping paper is such an environmental waste to me, and non-reused reusable gift bags are even worse. So I will keep a stash of bags, boxes, and tissue paper but I want to bring it down to a lesser quantity than we have now. I’ll cede a bit of space in my basement to cut the costs of wrapping (by reuse) and the waste of the season.

    The stuff swap is the perfect time to back, and hopefully save some friend’s money and not have yet more new stuff bought to be tossed!

    • Kayote, I love the idea of a stuff swap. It is such a good way to give others a chance to use up the things we no longer want. The thing I like about our group here is that we can all take something from each post but we don’t have to all be alike. Each of us knows what we have room for and what is essential to us. Thus while we decluttered all of our wrapping supplies, you are comfortable with keeping a few things in order to have them available when needed.

  12. Hi, Deb J. We don’t store gift wrapping supplies at home as we prefer to get any gifts wrapped at the store or get a gift bag at the point of purchase.

    Apart from the great ideas already mentioned, pages from a glossy magazine or a catalogue, old sheet music, leftover wall paper samples or children’s art can be used to wrap gifts (doting relatives might be more thrilled with the art than the gift itself). I love the NYC subway maps or you could use any maps or tourist attraction brochures that you might have from your travels.

    • Nicole V, you have some great ideas here. I think gift recipients enjoy something wrapped in a distinctive way. I know I do.

  13. Most years I have saved the wrapping paper I have been given with gifts, and that is enough to wrap most gifts I then give the next year. Plus some stores insist on wrapping online purchases in layers of patterned tissue paper, which I see as pointless but the paper is always nice to use again. I do have however 2 partially-used rolls of Christmas paper that I bought, which have done for surplus wrapping requirements over the last five years.
    Well seeing as I am moving after Christmas, I am hoping I will be able to use up as much of this paper as I reasonably can, and will recycle rather than collect any nice pieces I receive. One of the op shops here resells pretty much everything so if I can donate the remaining new paper there I will, otherwise I will just be thankful that wrapping paper is recyclable and be done with it.

    • Amelia, we used to reuse wrapping paper too. When it got to where Mom had saved a huge tub of it I told her we needed to use it up and stop buying new or keeping more until we were done with it. Along the way the family and most friends decided to no longer give gifts. We still have about half a tub so we gave it to a women’s shelter. they were very excited to receive it and used it up on that one year.

      Moving sure does get us into a declutter mode doesn’t it. Mom had all of these ideas in her head of what she wants to declutter and is actually making plans for when to do it. She is having hand surgery on the 20th and says she will use the time where she can’t do much with that hand to go through everything and declutter. I’m happy dancing.

      • Yes, saving paper for reuse can easily get out of hand if you’re not careful. But then, it can make for some festive options if you end up decluttering it by using it for alternative purposes. When my mum was decluttering her wrapping paper and ribbons, the collection centres didn’t want it, so she started using these for all sorts of things – fancy ribbons instead of twine for training seedlings and vines, wrapping paper instead of newspaper in litter trays, etc. Good fun.

        It’s great to hear your mum is making more definite plans for decluttering. I can just imagine how happy you are!

        I also find it interesting how recovering from an injury or surgery can be a real motivation to declutter. That actually sparked my serious efforts in decluttering, when I had several months recovering from a back/shoulder injury. Silver linings and all that!

    • Amelia, perhaps when you move after Christmas some of your breakables will find themselves wrapped in colorful leftover giftwrap (which you can recycle when you UNPACK!)

  14. I am gift wrap free. It’s not the storage that bothers me but the waste of it. Gifts are wrapped in paper for such a short time and then the paper is thrown away. Now I use the following things to wrap gifts:

    * tea towels
    * pillowcases (handmade)
    * t-shirts (I buy a t-shirt for the person and then wrap the present in it)
    * zipped pouches (handmade)
    * draw string bags (handmade)
    * envirosax or reusable shopping bags

    I also use my children’s drawings and paintings as wrapping paper. They are prolific crafters so it’s good way to use them without feeling guilty about putting them in the recycling bin.

    • Jess, you have some wonderful ideas. I know it means something to everyone who receives a gift from you that you have used a different way to “wrap” their gift.

  15. Comment received from Tanya via email
    Do you have any cheap, easy ideas for holiday gift wrapping that helps you with the prevention of storing wrapping supplies from year to year?

    Yes, I do – I get sweaters that have no “up” in their design, from charity shops. Then I cut across under the arms, turn inside out, and sew across the bottom, and over-lock. The hem of the sweater can now be turned over and sewn, about 1 inch high, except for a bit on either side. Through the first hole, you put in a thick string / narrow rope, and bring it out from the other hole (use a safety pin to make this easier).

    You now have drawstring bags that are reusable, to take shoes to beach or gym, to carry books or toys, etc…

    • That’s a great idea Colleen. I hadn’t thought of repurposing sweaters like that. I have used the cutoffs from pants turned into shorts or capris, same principle of overlock the raw edge, make two holes on the inside of the original hem and thread through your drawstring – makes a great pair of durable bags for toiletries, shoes etc.

    • Tanya, what a great idea. I have been thinking about the clothes some people wear till they are worn at the seams and stuff. Many times there is still good material left usable for making a drawstring bag.

  16. Deb J,
    Like you, my favorite and go to holiday gift wrap is brown kraft paper and tartan plaid ribbon with a sprig of faux holly, pine, or mistletoe.
    Guess we are both mad about plaid 🙂

    • Kimberley, I have always been “mad about plaid” for some reason. There is something crisp and colorful about it.

  17. Also gift wrap free over here.

    I have made lots of fabric drawstring bags in all prints (not Christmas) in different sizes. They look so good under the tree! I also hem squares of fabric to use as furoshiki wraps, but I notice that recipients prefer the bags. If they don’t want to keep them I take them back, they take very little space to store.

    I also make gift tags out of old cards etc.

    • I have found that the bags go over much better too. I think it is because they can either use them the next holiday or they can think of other things to use them for depending upon the size.

  18. I’m gift-wrap free, but I’m also mostly gift-free. The only gifts I buy on a regular basis are baby shower gifts. And I just buy a bag when I buy the gift. Nice bags are expensive, though, so I can understand why people don’t like to do that.

    Personally, I like the all-white or all-craft paper look for wrapping paper. We used to wrap gifts in the funny papers when I was little. Standards weren’t nearly so fancy as they are now, but my Mom could make anything look nice. I like the idea of using tea towels or something functional.

  19. Idgy of the North

    So many great ideas! We are still on a use it up challenge from gift wrap bought 8-9 years ago. The ribbon was bought close to 20 years ago…I really hope to finish some of these supplies this year. On the good side, our gift wrap has gone from a 120L storage bin to taking up half the space in a 12 L box. When all this gone, I going to try to use up the paper for moving breakable a from our move 4+ years ago.

    • Idgy of the North, I sure hope you are able to use up the rest of it this year like you want. Use it up is a good way to declutter it if you can use it.