I'm terrible at gift wrapping. Here are some alternatives

by Bil Kanawati

It’s that time of year again; time for getting together with family and friends, for festive decorations, for office parties, and of course, a time for exchanging gifts delicately encased in paper and ribbon.

Every year I get to work, dutifully collecting supplies: Gift wrap in varying sizes and colours, ribbons, bows, glue sticks, Scotch tape. Every year I read articles like this one that offer “one life-changing trick” or videos like this one that promise perfectly-wrapped presents in 30 seconds or less. And every year, I end up with something that looks like this:

Somewhere in this dumpster fire of tape and wrapping paper is a copy of Adele's 25. 

Somewhere in this dumpster fire of tape and wrapping paper is a copy of Adele's 25. 

Nobody’s mom deserves to have their first experience with Adele’s 25 ruined by this abomination. If this is what you put under the Christmas tree for your in-laws, you'll be the one saying "Hello from the other side" (of the country, after they throw you out of their house and chase you out of the province). That’s why I’m not offering up gift wrapping “tricks” or “secrets” or “methods” or anything like that. My gift to you is total absolution from gift wrapping duty. Here are a few great ways to avoid wasting hours stuck in a nightmarish present-wrapping quagmire.

1. Gift bag

It took me longer to take this photo than to prepare this gift bag.

It took me longer to take this photo than to prepare this gift bag.

This is what celebrated New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo has to say about this option:

He’s absolutely right. Unless the gift in question is an unusual size or shape, the message that a gift bag and tissue paper sends is one of laziness or incompetence. But that’s absolutely fine! Don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of situations where that message is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged, like for an office Secret Santa or an acquaintance’s Yankee swap. Under those circumstances, an elaborately wrapped gift makes it look like you’re trying too hard. Gift bags are also infinitely preferable to the wrapping monstrosity pictured earlier. A gift bag tells everyone, “this is who I am. A person who is bad at wrapping presents. So I didn’t. You should be grateful! It could have been a lot worse. In the immortal words of Adele, whose blockbuster new album 25 is in this gift bag, 'At least I can say that I've tried.'”

2. Wrapped at point of purchase

A gift wrapped by Amazon.com. Image courtesy of ToastyKen on Flickr

A gift wrapped by Amazon.com. Image courtesy of ToastyKen on Flickr

This is my preferred option, because not only is it actually lazier than the gift bag - you don’t even have to go to another store to buy the supplies - but it looks a lot better. Higher-end stores like Holt Renfrew offer this kind of service, but you can get it through a lot of online retailers too. As of this writing, it’s not too late to order something from Amazon.ca and have it gift wrapped for only $3.99 by the magical elves at the Amazon Fulfillment/Distribution Centre in time for Christmas delivery (if you’re an Amazon Prime member - otherwise you’ll have to pay for two-day shipping). You should be aware that Amazon-wrapped packages have an austere, workmanlike look that attests to their factory floor origin, but if minimalism and muted colours are good enough to nab 770 million views (and counting) for Adele's "Hello," they should be good enough for your loved ones.

3. Wrapped at the mall

Wrapped at Square One IN the ScotiaLife Financial Holiday Lounge.

Wrapped at Square One IN the ScotiaLife Financial Holiday Lounge.

This ensures your presents are wrapped by someone whose sole duty is gift wrapping, and usually delivers the best results. The downsides to this approach are that you have to actually set foot in a mall during the holidays, you’ll usually have to leave your gifts and come back for them later (not great for those under time constraints), and this is by far the most expensive option.
At Erin Mills Town Centre, you can have presents wrapped for $5 each, with all proceeds helping to fund an expansion at Credit Valley Hospital. This is one of the most affordable mall wrapping options, and you’re helping a good cause.
At Square One, prices vary by size, and they’re pretty steep, ranging from $5.49 for an 'Extra Small' gift all the way to $10.49 for 'Extra Large' plus $2 per extra foot beyond the standard sizing. The good news is that this year, the gift wrapping station is sponsored at the ScotiaLife Financial Holiday Lounge, so if you fill out a short survey, they’ll wrap one gift for free. I did this myself, and ended up with something above and beyond my expectations, complete with the use exotic holiday materials like pine cones and different ribbon colours.

Don't waste time and money on the frustrating experience of uneven folds, wrapping paper that's a centimetre too short to cover the entire gift, tape that doesn't stay down, or any of the other nonsense associated with gift wrapping. After all, it's December 21st, and between you, me, and Adele, it's no secret that the both of us are running out of time.