One of MY favorite parts of Christmas is the LOOT! It’s not what you think – I’m talking about the free gift wrapping paraphenalia after all the presents are opened! Seriously, if I never received one present, I’d be content with scavenging all the completely useful wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and gift bags from other people’s gifts. Those things are valuable to me – they save us so much money every year – and every one of my children knows how to unwrap a present so as not to ruin the “goods”. I’ve probably only bought gift-wrapping items maybe 5 times in the last 16 years.
It all started when my husband and I were opening our wedding gifts – he teased me about how I was saving everything – the paper, tissue, real ribbon, and even silk flowers. He doesn’t tease me (much) anymore, since we have never had to buy wedding paper for gifts, and still have a little left! The game has now spread to our children. They used to giggle, trying to tear and wrinkle up the paper from their gifts before I could snatch it from them – until they wanted to wrap gifts and I told them how much wrapping paper costs. Now the game goes like this, “Hey, these are my gifts, Mom – don’t I get the wrapping paper? How about you trade me some of that shiny stuff you have over there…”
Here’s 5 creative ideas for recycling an entire gift bag:
1. Reuse it for another gift-giving occasion.
Obviously, this is the simplest, most common way to reuse a gift bag – not exactly new or creative, but definitely practical and frugal. We save gift bags from all events, along with their accompanying tissue paper. These get recycled sometimes for many years, especially if the gift goes between local family – I still have some from over 10 years ago. Grandma has her “birthday bag” that gets handed right back to her after one of my children pulls out their gift. In my circle of friends, we often ask each other, “Do you want the bag back?”
In the past, when gift bags began to get a little too wrinkled for gift-giving, I used them to store and organize gift boxes, other folded gift bags, and ribbons in my gift-wrapping stash. Last week, however, I discovered some beautiful ways to use up the rest of the bag and save even more money!
2. Make reusable paper stars.
These origami Christmas stars are absolutely stunning when made from a shiny gift bag. The two large stars were made from the front and back of the bag, and the seven smaller stars were made from the sides. I put together a video tutorial that shows you how to make these simple stars that can be used one season, then folded up and stored for the next season. Now that I think of it, this would probably be the only reason I would actually buy a brand-new gift bag – to cut it up and make these ornaments, either for myself or for gifts. I’m thinking of different sparkly colors and garlands of small stars…
3. Use the cord handles to hang the large stars or other homemade ornaments.
While folding the large stars, I was considering how to hang them up – when the sparkly gold cord caught my eye. Perfect! I snipped the bag to release the cord handle, poked a hole in the top of one of the stars, and pulled a loop of the cord through. I didn’t even have to tie any knots this way.
4. Make your own fancy gift bows.
I’m positively giddy over this new skill I learned just today! After making stars from most of the gift bag, I was left with several large scraps. I thought of using them for short ribbons, but they were a little too wrinkled to look nice that way. An idea popped into my head, and a quick search turned up this pictorial on how to make your own gift bows from old magazines – I’m absolutely hooked! The large bow is my very first attempt ever at making my own gift bow, and I’m pleased with the results. The little bow is half-finished, next to more gold strips waiting to be added. I didn’t have any brass fasteners at first, so I finagled a paper clip with pliers to work well enough for me.
5. Use the remaining scraps and cardboard for other crafts and projects.
After finding some brass fasteners and making a couple other bows from glossy newspaper inserts (told you I was hooked!) I wanted a way to keep the bottom of the bows flat – they were “poofy” and would have been difficult to attach to a present. Ding! The remainder of the gift bag finally had a purpose – the thin cardboard support from the bottom of the bag. I cut a square of cardboard and attached it to the bottom of each bow and they are just perfect.
All of this came from one gift bag! The small white pieces of cardboard and edging will probably be thrown away. The extra gold pieces will go in the “scrap box” for my children to use in paper collages.
How do you recycle and reuse gift-wrapping items? I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!