by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I'm not talking about re-using wrapping paper, although it can be done. Young mothers-to-be used to carefully undo the wrapping on their baby shower gifts so as to reuse the pretty paper as drawer liners in the nursery. Creases could be removed from ribbons by running them around a hot lightbulb, but that won't work with the cool swirled tubes that are now in my lamp fixtures (although a quick pass with a warm iron would still work). I'm also not talking about the advice you'll see in just about every home magazine to "make the wrapping part of the gift." However, that is a good idea, especially if you're sending presents off to somewhere else.
What I'm talking about is starting some kind of tradition within your own home. My in-laws had a couple of brightly-printed Disney garment boxes that would end up under the tree every year. I have them now. They fold down flat for storage along with the rest of the Christmas stuff, and are the perfect size to hold a book or new shirt - no wrapping required. Gift bags, too, get used year after year.
You probably have your own traditional gift wrappers already - the kids' stockings you hang up every year as part of your decor. So now, just expand that idea a little farther. I know Julie, one of my co-writers here, wrote about sewing re-usable fabric gift bags not too long ago. Of course, she might have to tie some good knots into the ribbons closing them up to keep the kids from peeking, but it's a really good idea. If you're not a sewer, you might be able to do the same thing next year with Christmas pillowcases found on the January clearance sale tables. Canning jars are also great re-usable packaging - whether giving home-canned preserves or gifts in a jar. Maybe your recipient will reuse them, or let them know they can always return the empties to you. We often come home to find empty jars, ale bottles, and egg cartons left by our front door.
We have one more option here at our house. Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of Christmas tins. Some are used year round - the red one holds buttons, a tall popcorn tin holds toys for when friends with young children stop by to visit. During the rest of the year, some of them make crush- and dust-proof storage containers for my lights and Christmas linens; others all nest, one inside the other like Russian dolls, for storage. But at Christmas time, they all end up under the tree - so many that I purposely leave the bottom tier of branches in the box to have enough room (that's Aries' first bicycle, down out of the garage rafters, completing the display). Some will periodically end up on my kitchen counter through the season, holding home-baked goodies until I put together little gifts for the neighbors. But others we use to hold our gifts to each other. Of course, we're adults here, operating (I hope) on the honor system. If you pick up a tin to use, and there's something already in it, it goes back under the tree until Christmas. No peeking!