By Samantha Papesch
At Christmastime in 1917, a speciality store in Kansas City, U.S.A. ran out of red, white, green, and holly embellished tissue sheets (sold as gift wrap).
The owners of the store were brothers, J.C. and Rollie Hall who improvised by bringing in French decorative ‘envelope lining paper’ from the manufacturing plant of their greeting cards. It sold out so quickly they decided to produce their own sheets, and this marked the beginning of the modern-day gift wrap industry.
Fast forward almost 100 years, and according to Hallmark research in 2011, the gift wrap industry accounted for approximately $3.2 billion a year in retail sales*. This is a staggering figure, but it doesn’t come as a surprise, because up until a year ago I’d been a keen consumer myself.
Habitually, like many people, after purchasing a gift I’d head off to find gift wrap. If time was on my side, I’d pore over the elaborate designs before making a (sometimes pricey) selection. If my kids were in tow, I’d grab the most practical one within reach and be on my way. Either way, there was never any question for me about buying it.
This notion is the polar opposite for my husband. When it comes to ‘lovingly concealing’ his presents he likes to use a tea towel or a pillowslip. Previously, this would grate against my inner conventionalist, but as I’ve come to learn (and love), conforming to anything mainstream is not high on my husband’s priority list, and retaining his own ‘amusing’ tradition is much more important.
I’m sure if Western culture did adopt his preferred Furoshiki method, there would be enormous benefits to our lives, and our planet. But for now, my quest to simplify gift wrap starts with humble kraft paper.
According to my parents, back in the 1950s in New Zealand, these basic forms of gift wrapping were common-place. The standard for most children on their birthday was to receive “two bob tied up in a handkerchief”, and at Christmastime, presents were dressed in a brown paper bag.
Life was certainly much simpler in those days. Today we suffer from choice paralysis at every turn, and our homes are overrun with more than we need because the ‘consumer machine’ tells us we can’t possibly lead meaningful lives with less. The irony then turns to purchasing storage systems to organise it all.
I know this, because I was once a victim of this very insanity. When my stash of gift wrap got so big, instead of cutting it loose (or even some of it), I invested in a ‘Pinterest-inspired’ structure to manage the situation.
Fortunately, on my journey to becoming a minimalist I realised that owning less of everything meant there was less organising of everything, which meant there was more time, space, energy and freedom for other things.
Soon after this revelation I put the kibosh on buying more gift wrap. I concentrated on using up what remained, and then, I gave away my storage system. It took a little while to whittle down the stockpile, but one day there was literally nothing left.
My thoughts then turned to what I would use the next time I needed gift wrap. The call was answered with a leftover roll of ‘natural kraft paper’ my husband had used at a trade show.
The idea of using kraft paper for gift wrap definitely wasn’t new to me. I’d seen it before, and with a touch of ribbon or other adornment, I liked its rustic appeal. But, the extent of the benefits really became clear when I started using it regularly:
- it was extremely economical
- it could be conveniently bought in bulk
- it took up less cupboard space overall
- it was more friendly to the environment, and
- it provided an opportunity for creativity
These days, my children love creating gift wrap with their drawings or paintings, and although this won’t last forever, I love that they’re engaged in the joy of giving – something that will hopefully continue throughout every aspect of their lives.
For me, kraft paper offers a simplified and timeless way to manage the practical aspect of gift giving, but whether it’s tissue sheet, a pillow slip, gift wrap, or kraft paper, when it comes to expressing our love there is no right or wrong how it’s wrapped.