I think over the past seven years, I've learned a lot about how wasteful I am. Over time, we've done a lot of transitioning from disposable products to reusable ones. We occasionally still use disposable items, but I've tried to do my best to limit how much garbage we create. After all, the garbage situation can get out of control with a family of five.
One of the most satisfying transitions to reusable products that we've made has been to switch from wrapping paper to reusable gift bags.
I'm not talking about the paper gift bags that you fill with tissue paper. Those survive a few rounds, but in the overall scheme of things they don't last very long. If your family is rough on them, they might not even last one holiday.
What I'm referring to is a reusable cloth gift bag. Often they come with a drawstring that you can close, eliminating the need for tissue paper or anything to cover up the gifts inside.
If they get wrinkled, they can be laundered and/or ironed. Usually this won't be necessary. They don’t tend to get dirty and if you pick your fabric wisely, they won’t wrinkle much or at all. Canvas (or using a drop cloth) is a good wrinkle-free option.
They're the perfect reusable product because they don't require much effort at all.
While I know many people use the paper for burning, reuse it, or recycle it, wrapping paper creates a lot of waste, and for many people on the homestead, disposing of that waste costs extra effort, time, or money.
I've bought reusable gift bags to use, I've made my own from scratch, received some with gifts that others have sent off Amazon, and I have also embellished bags like these canvas laundry bags. We keep quite a few bags that we use for all the holidays, but in particular Christmas.
Tips For Making DIY Bags
Upcycle old pajamas, linens, or other seasonal decor items to sew your own bags — or cut the fabric to wrap the gifts “the traditional way.”
Some fabrics, such as fleece and knits, don’t fray (you can cut them and they don’t have pieces of fabric falling off them) so they don’t even need to be sewn. You can simply cut a large square and wrap the present with the fabric. If you use a fraying fabric, such as quilting cotton, it’s a good idea to finish the edge so there won’t be strings hanging off.
Nothing to upcycle? Hit up the thrift store or the craft store while holiday fabric is on sale. I stocked up after Christmas one year and that allowed me to make bags to add to our collection!
I use a lot of scrap fabric left over from making other Christmas and holiday items, such as tree skirts, winter pajamas, and table runners. This allows me to make a lot of smaller bags. Usually I try to find discount fabric for the larger bags.
I’ve been adding drawstrings to mine, but in the future I think I’ll lean more towards tying them with a ribbon. It looks pretty and it makes sewing the bags a couple steps quicker and easier.
Wrapping Gifts with DIY Wrapping Paper
My favorite part about using reusable gift bags is how quick it is to wrap everything on Christmas Eve — or before. As I make or buy gifts for my family, I generally put them in a bag, add a tag, and hide them from the kids. We leave out our Santa bags empty for Santa to use, like you would stockings.
My second favorite part about these gift bags is how easy they are to clean up.
On Christmas morning, after a gift has been opened, I fold the bag and set it aside. All of the bags are stacked to be put away later.
When we go to wrap up our seasonal decorations, I often use those gift bags to wrap around fragile items to protect them in their storage bin.
Those gift bags work for us all year long.
On the homestead it's really important to work smarter, not harder. While hard work is encouraged and admired, there's a deep satisfaction to finding a new trick to make life easier. This opens up time to do the things we love and to be with the people we love.
Danielle Pientka is a stay-at-home mom to three boys and a blogger at DIYDanielle.com. When she's not chasing children, goats, or ducks, she's gardening, reading, sewing, or brainstorming her next DIY project. She is the author of How to Sew Cloth Diapers, as well as a few other sewing books. Her husband and she developed a sewing phone app, Sew Organized, available for iOS and Android devices. Connect with Danielle on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.