Chores take the merry out of Christmas

Sunday, December 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:28 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

I’m in the frantic mode of Christmas preparations, so I’m a little cranky these days. I can’t figure out why decorating and wrapping presents is such an ordeal.

Whoever invented the ornament hook has made millions, but if someone could come up with a better way to package these thin metal gadgets, I, and about a billion others, would really be appreciative. I’d even pay double for hooks that come out of the package one at a time. Sure, they look as if they have been placed in a single line, but try taking one out and you get 150. I spend what seems like hours untangling the darn things.

Wrapping paper is another sore spot with me. It comes in two sizes: 30- and 40-inch widths. I would suggest two more. A 6-inch width for all of those little boxes would save me from cutting off a third to half of the paper. I try to save the part I’ve cut off for another box, but invariably it’s about a half inch too short to cover the next package. I also would like a roll that’s 60 inches wide. That way it would cover the bigger boxes with one swoop instead of using 6 yards. I know there are BIG plastic bags to cover unwieldy items such as a tricycle or drum set, but not only are they ugly, most of them are so thin you can almost see the item within.

Next I’d like prefabricated bows that really stick. The manufacturer puts just enough glue on the back of the bow to make it an effort to peel off the protective paper cover. When I try to stick the bow on the present, it stays just long enough for me to pick up the package. Once I’m in transport toward the Christmas tree, it falls off. I then attach some tape to the back of the bow, but apparently tape and glue don’t mix — I have witnessed bows sliding off presents that have been sitting under the tree without anyone touching them.

I’d also like the prefab bows to come in colors and sizes I can use. I just bought a “large assortment” of red, green and gold bows. Stuck in between those colors were six silver bows. If I wanted silver, I would have purchased the “large assortment” of silver and blue bows, which I discovered had a half-dozen gold bows included. Most of these assortments give the illusion that most of the bows are fairly big. But I just dumped my bag out on the counter, and there are more than a dozen teeny bows that would only work on a teeny box.

Speaking of boxes, I never seem to have enough of them. And the ones I do have on hand are usually the wrong size. I find myself stuffing the items in the box and then nearly sitting on it to make it close. I grab the tape and secure all four sides, and when the recipient opens the gift, it darn near explodes. The other problem comes when I can’t find a box small enough. That’s when I use dozens of pieces of tissue to make sure the item doesn’t rattle around inside.

Gone are the days when I could ask for boxes at the counter where I purchase my gifts. I have to trudge to the “service” center and nearly beg for a cardboard container to house my presents. Because it’s such a chore, I usually do what I know many of you do: I ask for 10 boxes when I really need two.

I think coat boxes (they’re the biggest offered) are like sacred cows. If I don’t have a coat to wrap, I have to prove to the clerk that the sweater, blouse or skirt won’t fit in the shirt box. And what I hate more than anything is to have to actually buy boxes. They usually cost 50 cents apiece (the coat boxes are two bucks!). And what sick person decided to put a Christmas scene on the cover so I won’t be able to reuse the box for a birthday gift?

Another new annoyance is the gift receipt. For those of you who only purchase 15 gifts, they might be a nice convenience. But for me, who buys gifts in the thousands, it’s a bookkeeping nightmare. Because the receipt does not have the amount of the item, I have to match the inventory number with the gift. And several stores put all of the items on one “gift” receipt, making it a waste of paper for both of us.

Every year I keep thinking that I should simplify my life and give everyone gift certificates. Last year someone gave me one for dinner at a local restaurant. I was going to go there later this month, but I just noticed that the certificate expired last week. Sigh!

If you have a comment or want to tell me why vendors put expiration dates on gift certificates, please e-mail me at

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