Friday, April 17, 2009

No wrapping required

I am terrible at wrapping things. It stems from the dreaded school notebook wrapping of my childhood when I would mess up so much brown paper that my mum would give up in exasperation and do it herself. Gifts were the same story. I would botch it up big time; crooked cuts in the paper, uneven bulges and the crushed look reminiscent of having opened a gift and re-wrapped it to give away. My mother, on the other hand, had a bag of ribbon, a selection of tissue and coloured, patterned paper and would craft beautiful bows and frills and every gift ever given would be admired for its packaging in equal measure to the gift itself.

The wrapping of things is not a skill I can even pretend to have. As a result I spend too much time looking for innovative gifts to give that involve minimal or no packaging. And in an attempt to re-stock my idea cupboard with gifts for the next year I am sharing the 10 things I am proudest of giving – in the hope that my 5 readers will leave me a comment each on what their most innovative gift ideas with minimal wrapping are.

Here are my top 10 minimalist-wrapping ideas:

1. Plants (& the odd Balloon): For his 30th birthday I woke V up to the smell of freshly baked chocolate cake, a chilli plant in a terracotta pot and a ‘happy 30th birthday’ helium balloon. Have subsequently given and received potted plants that have thrived (mostly!) – and this can be done fairly economically. I try and get mine from our local nursery or Columbia road market and then re-pot in an inexpensive terracotta/ flea market pot, tie a ribbon around the lip of the pot and viola!

2. Baby blankets: To friends with newborn child. Gift-wrapped in 4 sheets of tissue and twisted at the ends to resemble a giant toffee. This toffee wrapper trick is easy and works every time as ribbon at either end can take care of disastrous tears/ unsightly tape.

3. Jewelry, knick knacks and books: To nieces, little girls. Can be disguised in Princess themed knapsacks. Or young charges can be taken to shops and allowed to choose (under some guidance and supervision) their own gifts. This involves no gift-wrapping.

4. Desk Calendars: Make excellent New Years gifts. Small, snazzy and easily bought and shipped off a designer at Etsy, this has been my top gift to give my close girl friends for the past two years. And since they come in snazzy CD cover cases they need no additional wrapping.

5. Tickets to a musical: Can be slipped in with a card. Or else left in ones wallet (seeing as you have gifted yourself the accompanying seat) and accompanied with a meal makes a great gift. This is a rather expensive option though…

6. Cooking class voucher: Given as a Christmas gift to a friend, in a card - which finally last night she redeemed by attending an hour long class of her choice at L’Atelier des chefs. She was gushing about it via text last night and then all this morning. Says she hasn’t had such a good time in a long long while. I might use this one again.

7. Baked goodies: A small basket of home baked muffins or brownies or slices of cake. Inexpensive basket lined with parchment paper usually works a treat. Although to be fair I have only done this twice because the other few times we ate the goodies before we could leave to gift them away.

8. Wine: Needs no wrapping. Or else a fancy £1-2 paper bag from any supermarket which fits the bottle and has handles for ease of carrying it. I’m not a huge fan of this gift but have resorted to it when less than organised.

9. Jewelry: When on holiday in India I buy a lot of inexpensive jewelry, beads and silver and random materials crafted into bracelets, earrings and necklaces. My favourite haunts for these are SilverLine, Dilli Haat, the emporiums and now Fab India. I gift these away to friends in little silk cloth bags, a steady stash of which I get from India (usually free with the jewelry) or little coloured boxes from Ikea which cost about 20p.

10. Time: I have often offered my services as a babysitter by way of coupons to new mothers. I have only rarely been taken up on the offer. I have offered wandering days and evenings to friends as gifts – helping them hunt for things, wander new areas of London, organising something they need or paying for some element of a day out. These have always been accepted generously. And this is my favourite gift to give.

Now tell me your favourite gifts to give/ receive – specifically those which require minimal or no gift wrapping. Please.


  1. Book in a gorgeous bag. I still have the bag (and the book, of course) :)

  2. I'm partial to coarse brown paper and have been meaning to buy slim silk scarves which cost Rs 30 to 50and use them in place of a ribbon.

  3. Really loved Poisonwood Bible, and have no memory of how it was wrapped or not. It was the present that mattered :)
    Hate wrapping too-so just stock up on gift bags when am in India. A wonderful invention that can be reused.

  4. chinchu2:02 AM

    My favourite gift was a scrapbook. It was made by my close friends as a wedding gift. It was a compilation of photographs taken over 5 years of all the fun times we had togethere with a little bit written to accompany each picture.The scrapbbok itself was made of beautiful handmade chimanlal paper. Its one of the best gifts I have ever received.

  5. i'm crap at wrapping and even worse at remembering to buy wrapping paper. so now i make my own! custom made is the way to go. and no one can tell me how bad a job i've done, because after all it's the thought the counts. HA!

  6. I err...actually love wrapping gifts(not to the extent that your Mom seems to!) But only if the object is of regular size. So everything goes into boxes.
    There's something so nice about nicely wrapped gifts.

    And I hoard used gift wrappers. I LOVE them, for some reason.
    Love the gift ideas here, especially the potted plant one. Think I'm gonna do that too

  7. I like getting bath soaps and shower gels and fancy beauty products which I'd never buy for myself normally. Love books too, but I'd be a bit disappointed if that was the only gift :) . I see books as a necessity, so they don't really count as gifts !
    And I (secretly) like gift vouchers though if someone where to ask me if I'd like a gift voucher I'd retort with a NO, THAT'S SO IMPERSONAL ! And I'd feel guilty about giving a gift voucher as well..
    The wrapping - I'm pretty bad at it. I just about manage the boxes. but the odd-shaped ones, its one big mess. So I just buy a a nice bad and drop it in that...
    Whew... I missed this post and read the latest one. And I HAD TO DELURK !

  8. Anonymous7:41 AM

    I ALWAYS resort to gift vouchers. The easiest and the best for me be it baby showers/birthdays/house warming/... They can go buy things they fancy :) and i do not have to worry if they liked/will use what i gifted.

  9. I actually read this post and didn't comment because I felt guilty. I identified with the first part of your post because I'm a terrible wrapper and my sis used to take over my schoolbooks because she was embarassed that her sister would otherwise have crappy looking books. I'm a younger child brat.

    So, while I love beautifully wrapped presents, I generally resort to the giftbag thing, but only if I have one I'm recycling. I never buy them. Since I'm mostly gifting to adults, if I don't have a gift bag handy, I just hand over whatever it is. I'm assuming the gift is more important than the wrapping and the thought more important than the gift.

    But everyone else who had commented had said the same so I thought, why repeat?

    And about gifts I'd like to recieve... I'm like a child, all gifts make me happy unless they're useless paperweight type things. Even then I probably feel happy.

  10. I love wrapping gifts and am good at it, so can't contribute much to the minimalist idea pool.

    In case you have the gifts wrapped & ready though, for kids- adding a maze/colouring worksheet (Help Barney reach his friends/Paint Winnie & his friends' dresses) on top makes for fun gift-unwrapping. I once also gift-wrapped a teen's present with hand-made wrapper- creamish chart paper on which I painted a creeper. Apparently she liked the wrapper more than the gift.

  11. Hii

    I love your blog. I just came across it randomly and read quite a bit of it. I can identify with so many things - books, food, gym goals :)

    The description of your India trip is awesome.

    Keep writing!!

  12. WA & Ra: Books and pretty bags are always a good combination. The key is to find something that the person will read and doesnt already own.

    Educated Tatya: Brown paper is an idea I am adopting - thanks. Will also stock up on the slim scarves as that sounds like a superb option that needs no cutting, tape and will survive my two left thumbs. You win!

    Chinchu: That sounds lovely! I once got a collage made by ex- colleague with messages from everyone behind. But now they read hollow and I've lost touch with most of them. The collage has lost its charm.

    menaka: Make your own? Pray do tell how? Actually don't as I am too lazy and never will....

    Shub: There is something about nicely wrapped gifts. Just not something I can manage even with the best of intentions. I used to like used paper but no longer...

    eee: Gift vouchers are best when you don't know the person well I think. As for beauty products - not sure I would use stuff someone else bought me - after all how would they know what I like using?

    Deepa: See comment re: gift vouchers above.

    Bride: I end up buying gift bags. Might take that page out and recycle ones I get though - sounds more economical and certainly more environmentally friendly. And nobody said the same as you!

    Cw: Good ideas there for kids gifts, thanks. Although I'm too lazy to make/ decorate my own paper!!!