Hack the Holidays: 6 Gift-Wrapping Strategies for Busy Parents

Cut (perfectly-creased) corners this holiday season with these clever gift-wrapping hacks from experts.

gift-wrapping strategies use one color of paper
Photo: AlexRaths/Getty Images

Just as you're ready to kick back with a glass of eggnog and toast to being done with holiday shopping, you realize, "Oh, right. I still have dozens of gifts to wrap." While gift-wrapping can be a fun way to indulge your creative side, let's be real, it often winds up feeling like just another task to check off your list during a month when errands and projects seem to have no end.

This holiday season, dial down last-minute wrapping stress with these stylish hacks from experts.

Color Coordinate Your Holiday

Instead of using multiple papers—and tags—for each gift recipient, streamline the process by picking one paper for each person. "Gift tags aren't necessary if you get creative," says Sig Hafstrom, wrapper-in-chief at Ace Gift Wrapping in Oakland, California. "If you're giving a lot of gifts to just a few people, try using a different wrapping paper for each recipient to differentiate everyone's loot." Plus, think of how pretty underneath your Christmas tree will look with all the different colors and patterns.

Swap Labels for Chalk

Another way to avoid mixing up people's gifts—without adding the extra step of writing out labels—is to use chalkboard gift wrap. "Matte black chalkboard wrapping paper is very on-trend now," says Hafstrom. "Also, it's fun to write the recipient's name directly onto the paper with a white chalk pen, or use your favorite colored paper with a contrasting ink." Just be sure to keep chalkboard-wrapped gifts away from little ones who will instinctively want to erase everything!

Think Outside the Bag

While bags are convenient for hard-to-wrap items, they're not nearly as fun to open as wrapped presents. For large or awkwardly-shaped gifts that don't take well to traditional paper, get creative. "When tackling unusual shapes you may find it easier to use flexible wrapping such cellophane, tissue, netting, crepe paper, or even fabric," says Jane Means, London-based gift-wrapping expert and author of Giftwrapped. "These mold around the gift much easier than paper." Means also recommends using a paper tablecloth or large piece of fabric for huge gifts, as it will be much easier—and less frustrating—than joining multiple sheets of wrapping paper together.

If You Have to Use a Bag, Dress It Up

There comes a time in every tired, sore-backed parent's gift-wrapping session when they just Can't. Wrap. Another. Gift. Totally understandable. But if you're at the point of stuffing gifts into bags, it can help to jazz them up a bit. "Dressing a bag up with colorful tissue paper, ribbons, and decorative items helps make for a fun presentation," says Hafstrom. She also notes that not all gifts need to be wrapped, but there should be at least a small festive element to every present you're giving. "Bottles especially look great tied up in a scarf with a ribbon tied around the neck," she says.

Save the Bells and Whistles for Special Presents

No one can deny that gifts look more enticing with bows and ribbon, but when you're pressed for time, focus those special touches on special presents. "When it comes to late night speed wrapping sessions, it's OK to forgo the bows and ribbons, especially for kids who are just going to tear through everything quickly," Hafstrom says. "However, putting a lovely bow on extra-special gifts like jewelry and expensive tech gadgets gives them the extra something they deserve." So if you're down to the wire, skip ribbons for the socks and save them for the laptop!

Hire Someone

If the holiday season has you feeling more overwhelmed than festive, and if your budget allows for it, it might be time to outsource your gift-wrapping. Look for gift-wrapping services in your area (malls often have kiosks this time of year), and if you can't find anyone, websites like Taskrabbit and Thumbtack may be able to connect you with a holiday helper. And of course, if you still can't find anyone, your babysitter or the teenager next door might be looking to pick up a little extra cash. Win-win.

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