This year we're all apart, living in our own little bubbles, but the holidays will arrive whether we're together or not, and many of us will be sending gifts to loved ones who live far away (or even just across town). In some cases, we'll order a gift, it will be delivered by a service and we'll never actually even see what we've sent. But in other cases, we'll wrap presents, box them up and send them on their way.
Because this year is so stressful, I'm hoping to make that gift wrapping a bit less crazy-making. Many people are short on cash, so spending money on things like wrapping paper is out of the question. Here then are some ideas to make things a bit easier and--in some cases--more economical. Some of these are tried and true things we've all heard of. A few might be new to some of you. At any rate, I've tried to amass a brief collection as a starting place. (For fun, I've added an intriguing gift-wrapping video at the bottom. Even if you're a gift wrapping gold medalist, scroll down. You might enjoy watching it).
The Wrapping Paper Itself
If you're short on money, are running out of paper and don't want to venture into a crowded store just for paper, or if you're just looking for ways to get out of the wrapping paper rut, here are some suggestions for alternatives.
Road Maps - Most of us have some. Many may be out of date or not in the best condition or maybe you just don't use paper maps anymore. They make colorful wrapping paper. Tape small construction paper flags to the packages to serve as gift tags.
Fabric Scraps or Scarves - These are often colorful and, even better, reusable.
Newspaper or paper bags - You can dress these up with stamps or stickers, and the white lunch bags make an especially pristine surface for whatever types of decorations you want to apply (sequins, ribbon, marker, crayons, stick-on letters, clip art images you've printed from the internet and so forth).
Large envelopes, especially used ones - decorate them with ribbons, stickers or last year's Christmas cards. If the envelope has been used and has address information on it, place a picture from a magazine, the internet or even an old calendar over the address/postage sections and everyone can feel a bit better about helping to save the planet by reusing something that would have otherwise already ended up in the trash.
Used printer paper, card stock or used pocket folders - double up the sheets to strengthen them and place the unused sides outward, use a hole punch to make holes around three sides, string the sheets together with curly ribbon, yarn or twine, decorate the plain outside (see suggestions above), place a small gift in the sleeve, fold the open side over and tape shut. Again, an aid to the planet as well as a clever Christmas wrapping.
Scraps of Extra Wallpaper - When I was teaching, I used to sometimes use wallpaper remnants as bulletin board backing. It's a bit stiff as a wrapping paper alternative, but still malleable enough to do the job.
Leftover shelf paper (see wallpaper above)
Reusable Grocery Bags (the kind made of non-woven fabric) - When reusable grocery bags first became a thing, it seemed as if everyone was giving out those non-woven fabric bags. Some of them have either become too worn to hold anything heavy or I just have too many, especially since I've switched to a different type of reusable bag. On the other hand, they make wrapping very easy, since they're soft and usually large enough to hold a decent sized gift. Also, if there's writing on the bag, just cover it up with a picture, a bow or a (very large) gift tag.
Ribbons and Bows
I confess that I don't use much ribbon, but there are lots of choices if you want to go that route but don't want to invest in actual ribbon.
Yarn or twine
Fabric cut in strips - no need to stitch the edges unless you want to. This is a great way to reuse older clothing that is no longer being worn or to use up fabric scraps from other projects.
Draw a ribbon directly on the gift if you're using plain paper
Cut strips of paper from colorful magazines and glue them on
An artificial flower for a bow (if you have any)
A pine cone instead of a bow
Any small toy or figure as a replacement for a bow