Every season when the holidays approach, I contemplate how I can make them better. I want more meaning with less money. I yearn for deeper connections with my friends and family and reduced time at the mall. I crave nourishment without added calories. Basically, I want Santa Claus to slide down my chimney and make everything perfect.
But the truth is, the holidays will never be perfect. It’s not wrong to want better things for my family, but it’s unhealthy to obsess over details that don’t matter, like how my living room will never look like a page from the Pottery Barn catalogue, even if I buy the expensive flickering candles.
This year, I decided to pick one thing about the holidays that I could actually improve on all counts, and that focus is wrapping paper.
Wrapping paper? That stuff we crumple up and throw away? Yes, wrapping paper. This year I’m ditching wrapping paper to save money, connect with family and friends, nourish my soul and be environmentally conscious all at the same time.
The plan really started last year when my husband pointed out that the beautiful wrapping paper I’d purchased couldn’t be recycled because it was metallic. I was ashamed of the huge pile of trash my thoughtlessness had produced.
For this Christmas, instead of buying traditional wrapping paper, I bought a large roll of brown craft paper that is both recyclable and made from recycled paper. Instead of buying ribbons and bows, I purchased compostable cotton twine. For decorations, I bought an inexpensive pack of paper doilies. But the best decorations of all come from an old box of photos gathering dust in my closet.
You might have a box of photos like this, too. It’s a catchall for pictures that never made it into albums, or that we have duplicates for, like extra Christmas cards and old school pictures. My box even has a few candids from my wedding, 19 years ago. Almost all of the photos have digital backups on my computer, so there’s really no reason to hoard them. They’ll have a much better purpose if I give them away.
It’s amazing how a present wrapped in simple brown paper becomes elegant once you paste an old picture on the top. A twig of fir tucked into a doily, or a sprig of pine wedged underneath the twine elevates everything to Instagram-worthy levels.
When you see pictures of what your family members looked like 10 years ago, you’ll be flooded with memories. As the presents stack up underneath your Christmas tree and you see the faces of people you love, it will feel like a mini family reunion right there in your living room.
At least that’s how it feels in my living room at the moment — especially since I put the Christmas tree up early. When Santa comes on Christmas Eve, he won’t think he’s in a Pottery Barn catalogue, but he will feel at home.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.