Q: I've never really been into wrapping gifts — maybe because of my mom's beautiful and elaborate way of making everything perfect. We had to carefully unwrap everything so she could reuse the paper and bows. I always used old newspapers and ribbon, and this usually happens at the last minute. But now that there aren't as many old newspapers lying around my apartment (I read it all online now), how can I keep my gift wrapping simple, cheap, and fast, but still looking good?
A: The holidays certainly can bring out the best and the worst of gift wrapping in all of us. I have to say, though, I'm with you. I often leave my gift wrapping for any occasion until the last minute. It's not that I don't have a nice collection of wrapping paper and supplies around, but I also like to keep it simple. And your newspaper idea is a classic.
On my website, I have more tips about quick, last-minute gift-wrapping ideas. To keep it a little less frantic, however, stock up on a few supplies, and store them all together so you don't need to dig through every drawer to find something. At an art or office supply store, find rolls of butcher paper, newsprint, or kraft paper — what brown shopping bags are made of. Rolls come in different lengths and weights; heavier-weight paper doubles as packing paper if you have to ship something, but a lighter weight paper is easier to use for wrapping gifts. When you have some extra time, decorate this paper with holiday themes, in paint or metallic markers, and draw stripes, charming sayings, cute doodles, or whatever strikes you. Or make the wrapping part of the gift. Cloth napkins, dish towels, and decorative fabric can double as wrapping "paper." Just pull all the corners of the fabric together and secure with ribbon or twine. Or roll up gifts in a bamboo place mat or table runner, and tie with a bow.
Have a small collection of ribbons in a few different colors, and take notes from your mom and reuse pretty bows from gifts you receive. Mixing a fancy bow with simple paper is a fun way to keep your gifts quick and attractive. Raffia and twine are perfect for an earthy look, and you can even tuck a few twigs or a tiny pine branch into the knot to literally tie in the season.
If you already have a storage bin for your wrapping supplies, be sure whatever rolls of paper you buy will fit. Or buy the size roll you like, and then shop for a bin that will hold the rolls. Keep all your wrapping supplies in this bin for easy access, and consider including a set of scissors and extra tape. This is also a helpful way to make sure you don't accumulate too much. If your bin is full, there is no need to buy more.
Enjoy the season.