It’s that time of year again – Christmas present wrapping. Some people are able to easily create perfectly wrapped presents, with paper held tightly against the gift and tied with pretty ribbons and bows. I’m not. I rely on numerous strips of sticky tape to hold the wrapping together and stop loose edges coming away. It has been suggested that I don’t need to bother with a ‘from’ label on the gifts I give – it’s obvious from the way its been wrapped that it’s from me.
But I persevere. And although it’s a chore, here are a few of my tips to make it easier.
Firstly, to misquote Mrs Beeton, Choose Your Present. When I do my Christmas shopping, I look for items that are a regular shape – preferably cuboid. These are far easier to wrap. The reason I give so many books as gifts isn’t to increase the literacy habits of my friends and family; it’s because they are the easiest items to wrap.
Of course, if you do have an irregularly shaped item, you can put it inside a small box. But, to me, that’s just an extra chore in the wrapping process – and, if you use one of those shiny gift boxes you get from card stores, unecessary expense.
Remember, no one really appreciates the box the gift is wrapped in. Unless you’re buying for a cat – in which case you don’t need to bother with a gift, just a box.
Now I prepare my tools. I need: wrapping paper, labels, a pen, an envelope knife (the best thing I’ve found for cutting paper), and some sticky tape – all placed within easy reach. I use a tape dispenser rather than a loose roll. I only need one hand to pull tape from a dispenser (leaving the other free to hold the wrapping together), and the tape is less likely to stick back on itself and cause frustration as I try to free it. I recently spent so long trying to find the end of a roll of sticky tape that I seriously considered throwing it out and starting with a fresh roll.
OK, you could do without the labels and write directly on the wrapped present. Personally, I prefer to use labels – it makes the names easier to find on Christmas day. We’ve all had the experience of hunting all over a present looking for a name written in a similar colour to the paper. I also use the adhesive labels that stick completely to the gift – less chance of falling off while under the Christmas tree.
Speaking of labels – remember to put them on the presents as you wrap them. It’s surprising how a pile of dissimilar-looking gifts all look the same once they have been wrapped.
Next, I make myself comfortable. I can’t wrap presents while kneeling on the floor. I need to be sitting at a table. A dining table; a desk is too small. I’ll clear the desk of any clutter before I start. I need at least one-and-a half wrapping paper roll lengths’ depth.
Oh, and it’s Christmas presents I’m wrapping; time to dig out the Christmas CD for some mood music.
I need to be able to reach everything I need easily; I don’t want to be forever standing up to reach things. So, a small table near my side for presents waiting to be wrapped, and enough floor space (or a second small table the other side) for the wrapped presents. What is important is to have separate areas for unwrapped and wrapped presents. The roll of wrapping paper is on the floor, near my chair.
I’m almost ready to start wrapping, but first I go through the presents and make sure there are no price tags. I won’t remember as I wrap them. With bar-coded goods, price tags are more of a rarity, but they still do exist in some shops.
And now I come to the wrapping process. There’s not a lot I can say about this except: don’t use too much paper. I cut off just enough to go round the present plus a small margin. Trying to fold in acres of paper just adds difficulty and makes for an untidy result. There’s always a tendency to think “I’ve cut it once, I can’t be bothered to trim it again”, or “I’ll only end up throwing away that 3-inch strip; I might as well leave it”. Trim the paper – it works better that way.
But what if I accidentally cut the paper too small? There are three options (four if you include “wrap it up as best I can and hope no one notices”).
Probably the easiest, if not the most satisfying, is to cut a new piece of wrapping paper. But I like to try other options first.
First, I will try to wrap the object diagonally. This generally uses less paper, but is more difficult to gauge the amount needed.
If that doesn’t work, remember those strips I trimmed when making the paper fit the present? I slip one into the gap, under the wrapping paper. Slipping it under the paper means that it won’t look like it’s been patched – from a distance, anyway.
And that’s about it. Present wrapping made easy and tolerable.
Just one thing left to do: forget what I’ve wrapped up, so that the present opening on Christmas Day is as exciting for me as it is for the recipient.