6 Ways To Creatively Wrap Gifts (And Avoid Paper Waste)

One way to cut down on curbside garbage come December 26th is to think outside the wrapping paper & gift box. There are plenty of things that are destined for the garbage bin that can be repurposed into cheeky and sweet holiday wrapping paper (their last hurrah, if you will). And some prezzies can even multitask as the packaging themselves. Why not earn a few “you’re so creative” comments and save a few bucks while you’re at it?

Map It Out– Our first instead-of-wrapping-paper idea actually came from the fact that John is a map freak. No matter the region, the color, or the type (geographic, topographic, weird and crusty) John is all over ’em. So when we decided to buck tradition in the gift wrap category,  we immediately thought of John’s heaping pile of mostly free maps from rest stops, state capitols, and cross country road trips of yore. Some tape and scissors are all it takes to turn a map into some worldly (or local) gift wrap in a snap. And it’ll keep your guests entertained (and searching for the capitol) even before they rip it off to reveal the real prize inside.

Wrap Your Wrap- You may have noticed our pashmina-as-gift-wrap idea back in last week’s Gift Guide, but in the interest of being thorough we’ll revisit it for a sec. Gotta love an affordable scarf that’s useful ($3 at Walmart!), one-size-fits-all, and can serve as the “wrapping paper” for any number of other items from cookie tins to games and even navigation systems and other grown up toys. And what other form of gift wrap comes in handy on chilly nights?

Go Paperless- In the vein of other gifts that provide the decorative packaging themselves, anything from a blanket or a cardigan to a sweater or even a stack of dish towels needs nothing more than a simple ribbon and a gift tag to cut down on your wrapping time (and your Christmas Day trash pile).

Brown Bag It- Of course there’s always the classic brown paper bag packaging idea. It may sound strange (and you may lament that all your bags are printed), but if you snip them apart and use them inside out they’re chic little butcher-paper-ish gifts that look jolly with some simple ribbon (we also love the natural look of $1 twine from the craft store).

Leave Your Mark- We also loved the idea of leaving hand prints with paint on decorative paper (spotted here) since we’re always suckers for personalization (we actually did something similar with Burger just last month). Doesn’t it look like a super fun way for your little ones to make their mark this Christmas? Stamping a few handprints on butcher paper (or even printer paper for smaller gifts) will definitely create something adorable in an instant. And grandma just might cherish it more than the gift inside.

Tote Time- Lastly, there’s always the fabric or woven bag option. From cotton totes to little straw carry-alls, there’s no shortage of cheap and always-useful bags at places like Target to stuff with goodies for the ones you love. Some of them are so deeply discounted that they rival the cost of a one-time-use paper gift bag. And it’s always fun to get a gift that’s useful through and through (and again and again).

We hope you guys have as much fun packaging your gifts as you do opening the ones with your name on ’em. Happy wrapping… and ribboning… and repurposing!

Be sure to check out more fun and fabulous wrapping ideas on BHG here , MyHomeIdeas here, and on thenest.com here.


  1. Kirsten says

    Love those maps! My hubby’s in the navy and brings home old navigation maps…we’ve used those before. Didn’t think of old travel maps though, we’ve got lots of those. Great idea!

    This year me and my 3 year old painted wooden frames and used the “drop-cloth” paper as the girftwrap. It’s awesome splattery, fingerprinty, smudgey colour goodness. We already opened with one Grandma (we have 3 Christmas’) and she coveted the wrap as much as the gift.

  2. says

    I love your “wrap” post…

    On another note:

    I am holding a blog “Christmas Open House”

    Check out my post: Christmas Decorations

    It would be great to have you participate. If you don’t want to add your link to Friday’s post, be sure to stop by to see all the other decoration posts!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. says

    Great Ideas! Every year my parents give me an Easter basket (yes, I’m 24 and married and still get Easter baskets from my parents) and the ‘basket’ is always a purse! I always look forward to the Easter bunny. haha!

  4. ann says

    My husband only wants presents in solid color paper — usually brown craft paper with ribbon. It sort of drives me crazy to not be able to use fun printed paper, but I will admit it looks really nice under the tree.

  5. says

    My sister (the clever, creative one in the family) often uses glossy ads torn from magazines for wrapping paper. She will tape together a couple if she needs to wrap a larger gift, and surprisingly, it doesn’t look all ghetto and strange.

    I have wrapped gifts in inexpensive fabric picked up from the fabric store, which is an especially nice way to wrap gifts with odd edges that might poke through paper. You can use double-sided fabric tape or no-sew glue (or even hot glue) instead of tape to secure the edges.

  6. Lisa says

    I am a bit obsessed with fun and colorful reusable bags, such as those from Envirosax (http://www.envirosax.com) and RuMe (http://www.rumebags.com). If your gift is too small for the bag, simply tie the top with ribbon or string…. or if you have a boxed or nicely shaped gift, used the reusable bag as wrapping paper, since most are made of fairly thin, slippery nylon. Enjoy!

  7. says

    I’m planning on wrapping almost all of my presents with a new dish towel. I’ll be most likely be putting them around books, knotting them at the top, and tucking a wooden spoon or other little knick-knack though the knot.

    Pretty dish towels look just as nice as fancy wrapping paper, but they are 100 time more useful! I just saw this idea on a blog, but now I can’t remember where.

  8. says

    I love the map idea! My husband’s a huge map guy too so I’m sure he would love the wrapping just as much as the gift! I grew up with my parents wrapping gifts in the Sunday comics section, which my brother and I loved. It’s amazing that some little colorful pics could totally entertain us, especially when they were of Garfield…oh the little things :)
    – Adrienne

  9. Blayne says

    I wrapped a few gifts in the handle bags from the stores… When I purchased my sister’s Christmas gift, I thought “hey thats a pretty cute bag.” So I took the receipt out and threw some tissue paper in, and, voila! I used that inspiration for a few more gifts, using store bags that were brown rather than colored.

  10. says

    I love wrapping gifts with brown craft paper and then playing with the ribbon colour. It makes for cheaper wrapping and still looks very pretty under the tree.

  11. Jody says

    I love buying reusable store bags and putting gifts in those. They can be used over and over again and I hope that it encourages some of my friends and family who don’t use reusable bags to start. The bright red ones at Target are especially cute and festive for the holidays!

  12. Heather says

    I also use the brown kraft paper to wrap my gifts, splurging on gorgeous wired ribbon to tie them with. This year everyone is getting a bell/ornament on their gift as well since I found them for $3 for 25 at k-mart!

  13. says

    I love repuroposing – especially in giftwrapping! A friend of mine wraps nearly all of her presents in brown butcher paper, and I look forward to them every time, they are just so gorgeously done!

    My favorite gift-wrap idea came to me this past Christmas, when in the middle of a move, I realized I had several large glass jars I used for dry goods storage in the kitchen (like Burken and Slom from Ikea). Instead of adding extra space and weight packing the heavy glass jars, I stuck some tissue paper into it so the gift wouldn’t be visible, and then put the gift in the middle. A tag tied on, and it was done! It made for an unusual wrapping that gave the recipient a little extra something, while helping me out too!

  14. says

    I like that you mentioned this – this year I’m using newsprint leftover from shipping materials the presents came in! I stamped it with some cute pinecones and made a little green gift tag and it looks adorable. Much classier than shiny dancing Santas or something.

  15. says

    Oh! I remember all the presents wrapped in the comic strips from the newspaper when I was growing up! *sigh* good memories! My grandparents would always wrap our gifts in newspaper, and use yarn to tie bows.

    Also, I love the idea of using containers that cost about the same as wrapping materials – great thought on the tote! In the past I’ve also had luck in the Target $1 section when they have spa-like items… they sometimes have little wire rimmed baskets and such. Then I make up a little gift package, and wrap it in clear cellophane with a ribbon to tie it all off!

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