This story was published on Food52 on December 3, 2020, and we’re so excited to share it with our readers!
By: Antonia Debianchi
Many people save used gift supplies, but my mom is really dedicated to this practice. She has an entire closet devoted to recycled gift bags and accessories, and if we’re being honest, she probably still has a Barney and Friends bag in there. Kind of a tough one to reuse, I know.
Becoming an excessive reuser is generational, says Amanda Walker, DIY and lifestyle blogger behind Dwell Aware. Like me, she got the trait from her mom, and now at parties when people bring out the big black trash bag to throw away gift supplies, she always offers to take it all home.
It’s not a bad thing, either. As consumers—especially around the holidays—we can get pretty wasteful. However, there are many simple ways to make a big impact on how much we’re consuming and throwing out at this time—saving gift supplies included. From ribbon and twine to wrapping paper and boxes, here are Walker’s simple tips to reuse gift supplies…just in time for gifting season.
Start Your Collection
1. Never Throw Away Bags Or Bows
Make this your golden rule. If it’s in semi-decent condition, try keeping every gift bag or bow you receive. The gift that keeps on giving are those bags that you can tuck away neatly in storage until the next holiday arrives. As for bows, Walker says to simply re-tape them onto gifts.
2. Look Out For Jewelry And Shoe Boxes
Jewelry boxes, canisters, and shoe boxes are so easy to reuse. “If I have space I try to hold on to all of those types of items, especially if they’re cute,” Walker says. “The holiday comes around, and you always have the need for those.” Especially when kids start making small handmade gifts for grandma: you’ll always have a box just right for the purpose. And if you don’t think a Nike shoe box is the best gift holder (you’re probably right), use leftover gift wrap to stylishly cover it up.
3. Keep A Space Dedicated To Gift Supplies
When space is at a premium, it could be tricky to hang on to these items. Fortunately, most supplies are small or thin enough to organize into one space. “Have a bin for each type of item,” Walker says. For example, she has a craft bin devoted to housing strings and ribbons. The best way to store extra gift bags and tissue paper is by folding them flat into shallow storage bins without lids. You can even stack them on top of each other to help flatten out items—not to mention you’re saving extra space by foregoing a top. You might not have space for an entire closet dedicated to gift supplies, but you can still tuck gift wrap away neatly in its own storage section.
Keep Wrapping Simple
Since she has young kids, Walker doesn’t go the traditional route when it comes to wrapping their gifts. “When your recipients are young, there’s often no need for wrapping paper just because it’s really wasteful,” she says. However, even though she goes wrapping-free, she still makes her packaging pretty. Keeping boxes that were shipped to the house, she simply ties a whimsical ribbon (reused from past gifts) to create a minimalist look. If you must use new wrapping paper, she suggests using brown craft paper. It’s easier to reuse than a Santa print, and you can personalize it.
Some of the gift tags retailers offer are difficult to resist, but trust me, whipping up your own makes any present more special. Walker suggests cutting shapes out of wrapping paper and gift bags—a simple way to reduce single-use waste.
When You’re Done Wrapping…
Got excited and ripped open a present too fast? Don’t fuss! You can still save the wrapping paper. In fact, it’s probably better now it’s got some wear and tear. Walker recommends shredding old wrapping paper to make decorations. “I’ve seen people take empty glass or plastic balls and fill it with strips of different paper,” she says. Tie it with recycled ribbon and voilà, you’ve made an ornament.
If you have little ones at home, turn your old supplies into decorating activities. “Use tissue paper to make a garland or a pinwheel or different types of bows to put on the wall to decorate,” Walker says. This is the perfect opportunity to make those tassel garland banners that are currently trending. Cut tissue paper into a fringe and simply connect each tassel with twine.
Food52 was founded by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs—two authors and opinionated home cooks who formerly worked for the New York Times—to celebrate food as the center of a well-lived life with recipes, books, home goods, and more.