Holiday stress? No thanks…
I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face the year I told her we were “skipping Christmas.” Matt and I just couldn’t handle our regular 4 Christmas celebrations that year so we just stayed home and had our own. Since then I’ve learned to overcome holiday stress by making homemade gifts. Most of our family members agree to skip any adult gift exchanges to focus on the kids, but Matt and I love creating homemade gift baskets for all our parents.
Why give gift baskets?
If you’ve ever been given a basket full of goodies, you know how fun it is to be on the receiving end. Variety is the spice of life, right? Especially if the items in the basket are colorful, well-arranged, and tailored to the recipient’s taste, the basket is bound to be a hit.
It’s convenient to give a basket with a variety of items when you may be unsure of the ONE perfect gift that will delight someone. Your odds of giving something they like are better when giving multiple items.
Putting together a few items in a gift basket can also save you money. If including edible items, make treats using ingredients you have on hand. If you have another talent like sewing, knitting, candle-making, or painting, there may be a small cost involved with materials, but you can still create awesome gifts for cheap.
If you’re making several gift baskets, items can be made in bulk. Then, small amounts of each item can be divided up for each basket. There’s no need to give large quantities of things in a homemade gift basket – consider it a sampling of a few fun things.
If your gift baskets were put together with much love, care, and creativity, friends and family will look forward to getting more in the future. Matt and I have given our parents gift baskets for the past several years, and we frequently get requests for items they would like to see repeated in their baskets for the coming Christmas. (My father-in-law frequently brings me empty containers from past gift baskets for “refills.”)
Guidelines For Assembling Gift Baskets
There are no rules. A gift basket doesn’t have to be in an actual basket. Use the bottom part of a shoe box, covered with pretty paper. Use a large bowl from the dollar store and nestle items in tissue paper to set them off in an appealing way. Use a shallow reusable tote or pretty plastic basket with a large bow tied around the handles. I love giving items in a container that people can actually use again.
Presentation is everything! Well, not everything, but a strategic arrangement can help small ordinary items look more appealing. I always stuff the bottom of my container with repurposed tissue paper, making sure at least the top layer is pretty and colorful. Arrange the basket so that each item can be seen, giving smaller items priority placement toward the front or top.
Sometimes it’s nice to show off individual items by packaging in clear bags or containers. You can wrap colored tulle around small things and gather at the top with a ribbon. Labels can be a cute touch, and will help add a little more personalization to the gifts. We like to give fun names to the items in our gift baskets and attach sticky labels or tie on small paper labels with ribbon or wire garland.
Think about your recipient(s). If they love sweets, include some edible goodies. If they just moved, give something practical they can use in their new home. If the recipient has a stressful lifestyle, put together a spa basket with pampering items. If he/she is a child, fill the basket with kid-friendly items.
Matt and I typically fill gift baskets with whatever fun projects and treats we have enjoyed making, eating, or using during the previous year. We normally choose between 2-4 items for baskets, but do whatever strikes your fancy! Here is a list of possible items to include and ways to show them off:
- homemade granola – scooped into a small clear bag or small holiday-themed bucket with lid
- homemade cookies – in a clear bag or container
- cinnamon roasted almonds - in a glass jar or small clear bag
- chocolate-covered ANYTHING – pretzels, cherries, peanuts, etc. wrapped in clear bags or glass jars
- cookie mix in a jar – layered attractively in a mason jar, with baking directions attached
- homemade vanilla extract – wrapped in colored tulle and tied at the top with sparkly ribbon
- handmade soaps – wrapped in some clear plastic wrap with ribbon around it (Unless you already know how to do this, we recommend purchasing from a farmer’s market or local soap makers.)
- hand-knitted ANYTHING – dishcloths, scarves, pot-holders, etc.
- homemade cloth napkins – choose a festive material and bundle a set with a thick ribbon
- homemade body scrubs – in a small glass jar with a pretty spoon and label attached
- homemade bath bombs – stack 3 or 4 in a clear bag tied with ribbon and a label
- homemade laundry soap – in a clear plastic container (This was a HIT with our families even though it sounds strange for a gift basket!)
- homemade play dough – for the kiddos, make a few colors all in separate plastic containers
- homemade lip balm – in small tins with labels
- handmade ornaments – decorated and dated
- personalized letters/cards – use pretty stationary or hand made cards to tell the recipient why he/she is special to you
- hand crafted candles – wrapped with a thick ribbon
Use this list as a starting point for ideas… just remember to be creative and have fun creating your own original baskets.
Exercise your creativity this year
Use this article as encouragement to make personal gifts for loved ones this year. Time spent exercising your creativity is more rewarding than wandering a bunch of stores hoping to find something they will like among the heaps of impersonal, cheap gifts. They’re sure to be touched by the time and thought you put into their personalized gift baskets.
It’s awesome to watch their reactions as they open them!