unwrapping the holidays: alt-gifts, d-i-y wrap and……… cool blogs

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

If you start with the idea that the holidays are about really giving a part of yourself rather than STUFF, and spreading joy, and celebrating what we have, you instantly start to eliminate the nonessential and stressful. These are the things that are more obligation than fun – too exhausting, too expensive, or just TOO MUCH – like shopping for the perfect gift for too many people, or giving the perfect party with a million homemade hors d’oeuvres. Where do we get these notions of how the holidays are supposed to be?

I’m all for deconstructing any part of the holidays that drives you crazy, to strip it down to its heart.

Instead of buying lots of presents nobody needs, I love alt-gifts like charity gift cards, and homemade food gifts (we’ll blog these next week, with recipes). They have real meaning and connection in wild times like these.

You can even deconstruct gift wrapping IF you chuck the usual notions of what a wrapped gift is supposed to look like…

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

Instead of spending your hard-earned dough on wrapping paper, I recommend d-i-y wrapping made of found, free, repurposed or cheap materials. You’ll begin to see interesting gift-wrap everywhere that can make for wonderful-looking gifts – like fleeting works of art; it can make the gift inside seem like a great deal more than itself.

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

I usually remember to wrap gifts while I’m rushing to get ready to go out. Half-dressed, I’ll use whatever alt-wrapping I have around to make one-of-a-kind packages that are as odd as they are beautiful. Like just about every other creative endeavor, this involves listening to the materials, but alt-wrappings speak LOUD so it’s easy to do…

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

D-I-Y gift wrapping can be ANYTHING, like:

…out-dated subway and other maps…
…wall paper…
…pages ripped from magazines or comic books…
…foreign newspapers…
…die-cut paper used to wrap fragile things like glasses…
…fabric scraps…
…dish towels…
…dollar store finds: shopping bags, colored tapes, tissue…
…inexpensive rolls of brown paper, cooking parchment, wax paper, tracing paper…
…boxes, paper and ribbons salvaged from wrapped gifts you’ve received…
…cigar boxes…
…cheap flea market (or Ebay) boxes, fabrics, ribbons…
…mesh bags that onions or clementines come in (they make dandy bows)
…colored tape from the hardware store (yellow, orange, red, blue, green)…
…wire (thin brass wire, green coated wire, armature wire…)
…colored thread or linen twine…wrapped round and round the gift…

….here’s a package wrapped with a napkin I brought back from a Finnair flight…

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

What I love most about this very improvised gift-wrap approach is the message it carries (and reminds me of): that there are abundant resources all around us, if we can just clear the path to see them….

….and speaking of resources….

…since ‘the improvised life’ was invited to be part the NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays group post, I couldn’t help but poke around the archives of the wonderful New York-centric blogs who have created special posts for the occasion. (Boy, are we in good company!) I found lots of resources that are useful and/or illuminating for wherever you happen to be. Clicking on a blog’s name will take you to a special holiday post:

Brooklyn Based features lots of unique Brooklyn-made gifts bandanas,  bicycles, and housewares, many by mail-order.

Give and Get NYC has loads of ideas about volunteering in their open forum. Check out an inspiring  Interview with a Volunteer Leader and How to Give a Have a Successful Winter Coat Drive.

Manhattan User’s Guide has a terrific holiday gift guide. Their Food & Drink archive is another great resource of mail-order gifts, like esoteric sakes, chocolate,  and all things bacon.

Mommy Poppins has lots of ideas for kids, including How to Have a Great Cheap Christmas and How to Volunteer with Your Children.

NY Barfly‘s regular column Drink of the Week features recipes for drinks I’d never think of myself, like A Proper Flu Shot and a Cider Manhattan.

At NewYorkology, THE New York travel guide, I found a trove of links to New York shopping sites, like Manhattan Portage Bags and Russ and Daughters.

offManhattan has a great Home Exchange Review, strategies for swapping your home with someone in some OTHER swell place, and even info on how to get started foraging.

Patell and Waterman’s History of New York has a splendid list of novels set in and around New York (always a good gift or guide books) and a beautiful reminder of the lost  tradition of  New Year’s Day “calling”.

The Skint is a daily reminder the free and cheap that is available just about everywhere if you really look (and specifically New York). It’s non-New York-centric resources include 50 Albums for $5 available every month at Amazon, and a good Blogs and Sites We Love page that sent me to RecessionWire.

At The Strong Buzz, Andrea Strong’s food blog, you’ll find mail-order food gifts at 10 Unique (and Edible) Holiday Hostess Gifts, and The Strong Buzz Guide to Holiday Giving.

Walking Off the Big Apple‘, a Strolling Guide to NYC has a Literary Holiday Gift Guide features a really amazing array of books about New York, and  is generally a nice way to walk New York without actually doing it. Check out Mapping Holly Golightly: Walking Off Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog, is a trove of music and video. (You can stream it while you browse these NY blogs.). Check out this swell little animated film made over a 1969 interview with John Lennon, and Discover Your Own Lost Sounds.

(If you have a NYC blog or website and would like to participate in a future group post, please contact Manhattan User’s Guide at [email protected])

13 Responses to unwrapping the holidays: alt-gifts, d-i-y wrap and……… cool blogs

  1. Lynne 12.13.2009 at 5:54am #

    would be a great family challenge, to get everyone involved. just love it!

  2. Jean 12.14.2009 at 1:43pm #

    I use tissue paper for wrapping and cut from catalogs the appropriate images, then decoupage with modge podge.

    Dolls from the American Girl catalog, wine bottles, etc. Sometimes I make entire scenes of skiing or beach scenes. I enjoy it a lot and so do the recipients.

  3. Sally 12.14.2009 at 2:06pm #

    I love the idea of getting the whole family in on the act. Imagine the creations…

  4. Sally 12.14.2009 at 2:07pm #

    Well you really put your finger on it: you enjoy doing it, and the recipients enjoy getting it: gifts all around!

  5. Lilli 12.16.2009 at 11:45am #

    I keep the white paper that comes inside Ikea furniture packages for gift wrap – and then decorate it with something creative I have around the house!

  6. Melanie 12.22.2009 at 1:03am #

    You totally inspired me! I didn’t have any gift wrap, so I started combing the apt. for candidates. I ended up finding some old calendars with great pictures of bugs that I turned into funky entomological gift wrap! The little thumbnails in the back of the calendar make great gift tags too.

  7. Sally 12.23.2009 at 4:25pm #

    Totally cool idea! Now I’m inspired…

  8. Martin Do It Yourself 02.11.2010 at 12:38am #

    Many times , I couldn’t buy a gift for someone cuz I didn’t want to pay extra money for the fancy gift-wrap or I didn’t like the wrap for that gift, I would do it myself now , thanks a lot. see you again, love the blog.

  9. momzed 04.21.2010 at 7:14am #

    When it is time to throw out a colorful piece of clothing—especially a print, I keep it instead. I cut it as appropriate and use it to wrap smaller gifts by gathering the fabric ends to the top and securing with yarn, ribbons or bric-brac–whatever is on hand.

  10. sergio mannino studio 02.11.2013 at 7:58am #

    Great Idea…….. Thanks for sharing


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