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Moving out of a house after 28 years is an involved process. We started by cleaning all the obvious junk out of the basement and the closets, which took us about eight days (spread out over three months of weekends). One pile of stuff was designated “garbage,” another was labeled “give to family,” another “give to charity,” and another pile – ideally, but not always, the smallest – was labeled “keep.”

Except for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows. Those are always in the “keep” pile at my house. We have carefully packed, and will take with us to our next house more than a dozen partially-used rolls of gift wrap with patterns to cover every conceivable occasion. Probably 80% of our collection is Christmas wrap, because we’re so heavily invested in that particular holiday. But if you need birthday wrap, we have both juvenile and grown-up patterns available. Fancy metallic wrap suitable for anniversaries or everyday giving? Yup – gold, silver and multicolored varieties can be found in our basement. We even have some Halloween wrap that features pumpkins and skulls on a black background pierced by glaring “spooky eyes.”

The rolls of wrap are jammed into shopping bags on a shelf, jumbled together like festive baguettes. Nestled among the bags of wrap are other bags jammed with pre-tied ribbons (the kind with sticky paper stapled to the bottom, often with bits of colored paper still attached from when they were ripped off their original packages), as well as rolls and rolls of string ribbon that you peel off and tie yourself. Some of these come in small spools where the ribbon is looped around itself, just like rolls of kite string. If you tied all our spare ribbon end to end, you could fly a kite on motley string from here to Milwaukee.wrap

But we wouldn’t waste ribbon like that. After all, we might need it someday to garnish a gift we’ve wrapped with one of the multitudinous scraps of paper lurking in our basement.

Don’t get me wrong. I love nicely wrapped and decorated gifts. But it seems to me we’d all be better off if we recycled that old wrapping paper – not by using it to wrap gifts for years to come, but by tossing it in the municipal recycling bin. We’d help the economy by buying new paper (and ribbon) for every wrapping occasion, and we’d help the environment by letting that valuable paper be made into newer, more exciting and vibrant patterns to delight new generations of gift-givers and recipients everywhere. Best of all, we’d avoid the ever-growing encroachment of clutter in our basement created by all that wrap, ribbon, and bows.

Before you know it, there won’t be any room for my wine cork collection. I’ve been saving them for years because they seem so damn useful. They’re dense and waterproof, with solid structure and character. They’re decorated with writing and artwork, and have colorful stains to remind us of the wine we enjoyed with them. They float.corks

And you can do any number of cool things with them. Sliced in half, lengthwise, and fit into the proper wooden frame, they can be turned into lumpy message boards or wobbly trivets. Thinner pieces cut across the diameter of the corks are ideal for making sturdy, slip-resistant (and maybe a bit uneven) feet for wood cutting boards. Or you can just toss them, whole, into a jumbo decorative jar, and enjoy the ambience and personality that flows from their collective presence in a room.

Someday I’ll make all those things, and more, with that fine collection of corks, and give them away as gifts. I already know how we’ll wrap them.