What to Do When You Run Out of Wrapping Paper, and Other Last-Minute Holiday Hacks You Need


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Photo: Earthly Anika (Shutterstock)

The holidays are upon us and we could all use a few ways to simplify the madness. A few hacks you’ve probably never thought of before—from gift wrap and ornament storage to making the roaringest fire and most effervescent New Year’s beverages—generated from easy-to-find household items? I’m glad you asked.

Remove price tags with vinegar

Honestly, is there anything vinegar can’t do? If you don’t have any Goo Gone laying around, try a vinegar-soaked washcloth to loosen sticky price tags and remove their gooey residue. Alternately, douse a wet paper towel in nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or use a hairdryer to melt the adhesive, but that’s time-consuming—and hot. A pencil eraser can get rid of any final streaks of stickiness.

Use fabric to wrap gifts

If you’ve run out of wrapping paper, or want to cut down your contribution to the estimated 4.6 million pounds of paper waste it produces each year, try the traditional Japanese art of furoskiki, or wrapping parcels in fabric. Gather large squares of cotton, silk, or synthetic fabrics (such as scarves, napkins or tablecloths) from around your home and begin folding for unique and beautiful low-waste packaging. Many online tutorials can tell you the best method for different-shaped gifts.

Store ornaments like a DIY master

Did you ever think to store small Christmas ornaments in egg cartons? What about in the drink holders Starbucks and fast food drive-thrus provide if you’ve got more than two drinks to carry? Or the piece de resistance—wait for it—plastic apple containers? Why have I been throwing all this stuff away? All are better solutions than my current “hack” of laying them in a large shirt box and hoping for the best.

Next: We need to talk about the utility of wine box dividers. I’ve already taken my own advice to use them to neatly separate socks and shin guards on my daughter’s soccer shelf—and it’s fantastic. They can also be used inside of plastic storage boxes to form nifty ornament compartments. Or, place one in the bottom of a tall plastic wastebasket and your rolls gift wrap will never get twisted again.

Start a kick-ass fire with cotton balls

Not just cotton balls (those will ignite, but turn to ash in less than a minute). The hack here is to unfurl the cotton balls and lather them in petroleum jelly, which isn’t flammable. While the cotton ball burns, the petroleum jelly melts, slowly converting into a gas that sustains the flame. (The petroleum functions as both a fire-starter and a flame-retardant, preventing the cotton ball from burning too quickly.)

Side note: Another great DIY fire-starter? Orange peels! According to Apartment Therapy, “the oil in the skin fuels the fires and in the process they release less creosote than traditional paper,” keeping your chimney cleaner and your home smelling like a citrus-kissed Shangri La.

Use raisins to revive flat champagne

If you started partying early and your sparkling wine of choice (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava) has lost its fizz by go-time, dropping one raisin into the bottle before pouring will give it back its sparkle. The longer a bottle of bubbly is open, the more carbon dioxide (which gives it its trademark fizz) it will lose. According to The Kitchn, the remaining carbon dioxide clings to the raisin’s ridges before being releasing itself back into the bottle as bubbles. And we’re gonna need all the celebratory sparkle we can muster to properly kick 2021 to the curb.

Rotate your ceiling fan for warmth

Help the warm air sitting close to your ceilings grace the rest of the room with its presence. If your house is full of people, you may not need any additional heat. But in between gatherings, save a few dollars on your heating bill by rotating your fan to run clockwise on the lowest speed. This, according to Home Depot, “pulls cool air up toward the ceiling, which in turn displaces the warm air that rises and collects near the ceiling.”

Put cooking spray on your snow shovel

Hopefully the weather gods will spare you the extra chore of shoveling over the holidays. But if you must, a generous dose of cooking spray on your shovel will help the snow slide right off. Depending on snow accumulation, a leaf blower or a push broom may work even better.