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Your Best Holidays Ever – Week 3 and a Paper Plan

Homemade wrapping paper at Happy Simple Living blog
Homemade wrapping paper – photo by Jimmie Homeschool Mom

Welcome to the third installment of “All Done By December 1,” our group effort to get organized for the holidays early so we can enjoy the month of December and actually experience the joy and wonder of the season. Last week, we created a grand plan for gifts that included simplifying, whittling down the gift list, and getting started by acquiring and wrapping at least one gift.

To finish our gift plans, we need to take one final step. Look at  your master list today and divide the number of gifts by 7. We have about seven weeks until December 1, so to stay on track we’ll need to gather gifts each week. Look at your list, jot down your weekly goal and get started. Hopefully the number is smaller this year!

This week, we’ll be focusing on paper: wrapping, packaging and Christmas cards.  Let’s begin by considering the subject of wrapping. Each year, we discard tons of holiday wrapping, bows, tissue paper and gift packaging. Much of it is not recyclable, and the waste factor is insane. How can we help? Here are some alternatives to fancy, non-recyclable paper and mylar bows:

~ Reusable fabric bags for gifts (Green Gifts Guide has a great tutorial if you want to make our own or you can buy homemade bags on Etsy)

~ Reusable grocery bags (TJ Maxx has really cute ones for 99 cents)

~ Gift bags (the dollar store is a good source)

~ Recycled wrapping paper

~ Repurposed paper, like old maps or newspapers

~ Handmade paper, like the sweet hand-painted paper above

~ Natural materials for adornment, like raffia, twine, string, etc.

I tend to do a combination of these materials, using gift bags for odd-shaped items and recycled paper for books and other easy-to-wrap items.

One technique that has helped me with wrapping is to wrap a bunch of gifts at one sitting and write the recipient’s initials on the end of the package. Then on another day, I tackle adding gift tags and decorations to the package. It’s sort of like using the assembly line process for wrapping.

In order to be All Done By December 1, you may wish to wrap or otherwise package our gifts between now and then. So Part #1 of your Holiday Homework (HoHo!) is to begin finding and assembling some wrapping materials, and wrapping gifts as you acquire them. To keep everything pretty, store wrapped presents in a box or trash bag under a bed, in a closet or even on a shelf in the garage or basement.

If you ship gifts to people in other places, those should be your first priority. Start scouting for boxes you can reuse when you’re out running errands. Write the shipping labels now. Plan to go to the post office before December 1 and avoid the crowds. So what if your relatives think you’re a little nuts for sending everything early? You’ll have the last laugh when you’re sipping eggnog in early December with your feet up.

Christmas card at Happy Simple Living blog
Photo: Kevin Stanchfield

The other paper-related Christmas task we’re going to begin this week is holiday cards. I personally love Christmas cards, both the sending and receiving. I love seeing family photos, reading the notes and letters, and reconnecting with family and friends. To offset the unsustainable aspects of sending Christmas cards, I keep my list as small as possible, use recycled cards and in turn, recycle the cards I receive. Other eco-friendly alternatives include:

  • Send an online Christmas card via e-mail.
  • Set up a holiday website.
  • Reduce the number of recipients.
  • Send a postcard instead of a traditional card. No envelope stuffing or licking, and postage is cheaper, too!
  • Forgo cards and connect with loved one on the phone or in person.

If you’re planning to send traditional Christmas cards this year, you can begin some of the related tasks now:

– If you want a special holiday photo just for the card, schedule the appointment to get the photo taken this week. Or gather everyone in their Christmas sweaters before the fireplace and take the photo this week.

~ Alternately, create a collage-style card with photos you already have. Gather the photos this week.

– Create your card list. A computer program can save you lots of time. Whittle down your list.

– Make, purchase or order Christmas cards.

– Purchase stamps.

Part #2 of your Holiday Homework (HoHo!) is to tackle as many of these tasks this week as you can. Now that we’re halfway through October, I encourage you to report your progress in the comments section below. Even if you haven’t done as much as you like yet, don’t fret! With 7 weeks until December 1, you still have plenty of time to make a big dent in your holiday tasks. Just join in wherever you are in the process, and begin.

Here’s to your most relaxed Christmas season ever.

P.S. After the holidays, you may want to package up the Christmas cards you received and send them to St. Jude’s Recycled Card Program. They accept greeting cards year ’round, too.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is the author of 16 books, including Small Bites, 101 Things To Do With Bacon, and BERRIES. She enjoys sharing ideas to simplify cooking, gardening, and home projects. She is also the owner of Cross Media, Inc. and founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society.

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7 thoughts on “Your Best Holidays Ever – Week 3 and a Paper Plan”

  1. I acquired three gifts over the weekend: one for Kat’s teacher (purchased), one for Kat (purchased), and another for Kat (a very nice item passed down from a family member).

    I haven’t wrapped any of them yet, but plan to do so this weekend. A few years ago, before I was wholeheartedly into the “green scene”, I bought several rolls of clearance gift wrap. I’ll be using it until it is gone, along with gift bags that we try to reuse as long as possible.

    After that (which might be another year or two), I have plans to use cloth bags, cloth yardage and other useful items for wrapping, such as colorful scarves, functional jars and boxes, etc.

    We haven’t sent holiday cards in years, and each year we receive fewer and fewer from family and friends. Maybe we’ve just been taken off their lists because we don’t send any, but I like to think instead that folks are reducing the number of cards they send for financial and environmental reasons. 🙂

  2. These are all good ideas, but I’d like to add one more. When it comes to wrapping gifts I wanted to have a zero waste holiday. I pulled out my bag of fabric and fabric scraps and made several bags of all different sizes and shapes that can be re-used every year. Now all I have to do to wrap is pull out my stash of fabric bags and put the gift in. Some have ties, some use velcro to close. They look so nice wrapped this way and save me lots of time now that they are made.

    • What a great idea, Lois. A perfect way to use up some scraps or yardage you can’t remember why you purchased. I think I will use your idea after the holidays when I’ll have a little more time for sewing. Did you line your bags so they would be reversable? I think I might make mine in that fashion so I can have two bags (say Christmas and birthay) for the space of one. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: Happy Simple Living Christmas challenge week 3 – Challenge de noël semaine 3 « Ma tanière… My den…
  4. Here are two ideas on reusing holiday cards:

    One thing I have done with Christmas cards my family has received is turn them into a garland. I simply cut out a 3 1/2 inch diamater circle from the card making sure I capture the best part of the image, punch a hole on either side and then tie the circles together. This way I continue to enjoy the lovely pictures year after year and I have a fun decoration that has cost me nothing.

    My friend takes her old cards, cuts off the fronts and then pastes them onto blank cards to make new ones.

  5. LOVE the idea of using the craft paper to make unique, one of a kind wrapping paper. I will use this as one of my Christmas crafts with the kids during our 12 days of Christmas this year! Thanks for the great post!


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