Christmas in July? The How-To

Well, not exactly. And I’m not trying to be a season or holiday jumper here, but let’s face it– sometimes us crafty types get in over our heads. We have incredibly lofty visions of hand made presents lovingly assembled for our family and friends, each gift precisely matched to the recipient’s favorite interest or hobby. Fast forward to the night (okay, early morning– it’s likely 3 am) before Christmas Eve, and you’re having a break down in the middle of your living room surrounded by a veritable hurricane of snow globes that are leaking and the glitter is clumping to the sides, half-stamped gift tags with smudged ink and woefully inadequate brown paper bag wrapping paper that is suppossed to look rustic but really just looks sad. (True story). There has to be a better way. There is– it’s called organization. By taking an hour or two to plan who’s getting what in December, it will save you a lot of heartache later. And by taking advantage of the next six months by working some of these gift-giving projects into your regular crafting routine, you’ll be happy in December when you have time for more of the holiday fun stuff (like caroling, cookie baking or maybe even hosting a low-key holiday soiree) you might have missed out on otherwise because you were making mad dashes to craft stores or buying the dreaded back-up gifts. Here are a couple of tips for making this system work:

1. Think about who you are giving gifts to. This is not about being stingy; it’s more about engaging in meaningful exchanges with people you care about. You don’t have to give a gift to every single person you have known since the third grade; it’s okay. They’d probably be relieved as well to be let off the holiday-obligation hook.

2. Think about what your recipient would like to recieve. The worst gifts are wish projections! Just because you would love a gift set with an organic gardening reference book, snazzy new garden gloves and an assortment of heirloom seeds, it doesn’t mean your sister who HATES TO GARDEN would be equally as excited to recieve such a gift. Now if what your sister likes is some quiet time where she can pamper herself because she spends her day running around after a toddler, she might like a gift set with some hand-rolled beeswax candles, bath salts and lotions, a nice bottle of champagne (or her favorite drink) and a book by her favorite author. An easy way to brainstorm is just to make a list for each person, and list three or four of their hobbies or interests. And if you don’t know, ask– another benefit to doing this in July, as they’ll never suspect you’re planning holiday gift giving.

3. Be thrifty. There’s no reason to break the bank to give someone a gift that’s really excellent. This is especially true for wrappings. Never purchase gift wrap or boxes. Butcher paper and remnant ribbons with hand made tags looks quite fetching. Brown paper bags (when done in advance and sealed cleverly with heavy-duty tape–do not even bother with Scotch tape– it won’t hold and makes it look sad) tied with classic red and white kitchen twine or raffia looks awesome.  Keep your eyes open for interesting containers for gift sets.

4. Assembly line gifts are fantastic. These can take two forms– completely identical gifts or gifts with a common theme. An example of when you’d give completely identical assembly lines gifts is hostess gifts, or gifts for Secret Santa exchanges. Assembly line gifts with a common theme are great for big families or giving to groups of friends– each gift has a common theme (one I really like is filling a stocking relating to the recipient’s interest) but is customized. Assembly line gifts are economical (materials can be purchased in bulk) and efficient to create.

Okay, so sit back and relax. And with this much time for planning, it can be a lot of fun. There’s nothing I like more than planning and assembling the perfect gift!

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