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(useful at any time of the year, but particularly at Christmas)

by Sarah Nicholson

For that birthday or anniversary that creeps up on you, or when someone you didn't expect gives you a Christmas present, keep a small stash of items suitable for presents. These can be picked up during the year, perhaps when you see sales bargains or special offers. Try to choose items that are suitable for a range of ages and either sex. Examples: photo frames, general interest books, toiletry sets, book or store tokens, stationery sets. 

carrier bag full of decorations Also keep a stock of gift bags, in a range of sizes and of neutral design (for example, plain or geometric patterns) for instant packaging. To be super-prepared, add to your store a few greeting cards of the "blank for your own message" type. 


If you are giving a bulky, heavy or otherwise impossible-to-wrap present, simply apply some decoration appropriate for the recipient and occasion - for example, a bow, ribbon, streamers, tinsel or balloons. 

Then at the relevant time hand over a wrapped small box containing a clue as to where the present is, in code or riddle form if the recipient is games-minded. 

Works particularly well for children (from 5 to 95) and if you want to create a diversion to occupy some time, can be turned into a treasure hunt, with a chain of clues leading to one another.

cartoon dog wearing a bow

The other day I needed to pack a fragile ornament in a box for posting but found I didn't have enough bubble wrap to completely fill the voids.

What did I do?

I went into the kitchen and got a couple of freezer bags and inflated them;  just like blowing a balloon up.

They only needed to last about 48 hours so they were perfect.

Pip Neal (male)


Emergency substitutes for wrapping paper (particularly useful if you run out when wrapping those last few presents on Christmas Eve after the shops have shut!):

gifts and presents gfit wrapped with bows - on a green theme

brown parcel paper or newspaper, tied with string. 

For children, you can add stuck-on pictures of toys or gadgets cut out from magazines or catalogues. 

For adults, decorate with foliage or flowers added just before delivery (holly and/or ivy at Christmas), or cinnamon sticks and/or star anise tied on with wire.


- or for a more glamorous touch

kitchen foil or left-over wallpaper, tied with ribbon (fabric or curled paper) or braid, decorated with real or fake flowers, feathers, beads or, at Christmas, tinsel and a couple of small tree baubles.

heart shaped necklaces

carrier bag full of decorations Wrapping the inevitable mound of presents takes ages and wastes precious time in the hectic run-up to Christmas. Save time by using gift bags with a tag tied to the handle.

 Environmentally-friendly, too - they can be salvaged and stored with the Christmas decorations to be recycled next year. 


elderly lady and gentleman in the nightwear exchanging gifts





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