I will be the first to admit that I used to be a wrapping paper junkie. As a girl I loved gift wrapping so much that my mom used to let me wrap all the gifts for our family including my own, trusting that I wouldn’t peek. In college I worked at the gift wrap counter of a department store, creating seamless packages with perfect corners and hand tied bows for tips. I couldn’t resist the rolls and rolls of shiny, patterned, colorful paper. This year will be candy canes and Santas, then next year will be pine boughs and holly berries. Oh yes, so beautiful and sadly so temporary.
When I became a mother, I started to see how this gift wrap love was sending a contrary message to my kids. Reduce, reuse, recycle, except for the holidays. I started making a change with some baby steps. First I tried wrapping everything in recycled paper. Brown grocery store bags with lovely trim, holiday magazines, seasonal junk mail, and even an old torn up book from Goodwill were cut and taped into giftwrap. But in the end I still didn’t feel right about the pile of paper that was used for less than 24 hours before heading to the recycling bin.
A few years ago I finally learned to sew and one of the first projects I attempted was a simple sack. I also call them fat quarter bags because you can buy a fat quarter of fabric and just sew it up, no cutting, no measuring, no problem. This time of year most fabric shops will have a sections of festive, holiday looking fabric already cut in fat quarters for about $1 each. Just fold over the top inch long ways and sew a straight line. Then fold in half the other way and sew the bottom and the side opposite the fold. Finally use a safety pin to feed a ribbon through that top hem you created at the start and voila! You have a little, reusable gift bag.
I have started to get a little bolder and more creative about the fabrics over time and now we have a nice steady stash of holiday gift bags in all shapes and sizes. Some are fat quarters, some are tea towels or cloth napkins, some holiday tablecloths found at consignment shops that were ready for a new life.
These days I don’t feel a hint of yearning for those paper filled gift wrap days. I love our set of cloth bags and look forward to pulling them out each winter. And I love that when the holiday giving is finished, there isn’t a scrap of garbage. It’s better for the earth and it’s one extra little gift I am giving to my kids by setting a good example even during the holidays.
Cindy Wallach lives aboard a 44-foot catamaran on the Chesapeake Bay with her husband and two children. She can’t knit, bake, carve, or cook, but she can rebuild sailboat winches, repair a marine toilet, and raise the anchor with a toddler on her back. She blogs about homeschooling, sailing, and their life afloat at her blog.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.