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I must be getting old. It is becoming increasingly difficult to open a gift and not carefully preserve the pretty wrapping paper and the “perfectly good box.” I have to stop myself from neatly coiling the used grosgrain and satin and stashing it for the next holiday.

When I was young, I ripped into things with glee, flinging ribbon and tearing boxes, then watched with disdain as my careful old aunties tried to rescue it all for future use. Guess who’s the old auntie now? What is it about bags, boxes and bows that eventually make hoarders of us all?

By all, I mean mostly women. During my childhood, as my sisters and I opened Christmas gifts, my dad would stoke a roaring fire with cardboard and wrapping paper before it even hit the floor. My husband has never untied a bow, he just pulls at the ribbon with brute force until it busts. It brings tears to the eyes of the older women in attendance.

Maybe it’s because women—still—do the majority of the holiday shopping and wrapping. By age 50 we know how hard it is to find just the right box for a gift, and so save a selection of sizes.

We’ve waited in line for hours to have a single book gift- wrapped, so decide it makes more sense to wrap at home.

It’s a trial to find just the right paper to suit our personality and that of the gift recipient. And ribbon is just plain expensive. The well-seasoned gifter knows the value of having a supply of wrapping materials on hand. So how much is too much?

I’ve cleaned out a few too many homes of the dearly departed recently. My own grandmother passed away as peacefully and sweetly as she lived. Healthy and enjoying her own home to her very last day, Grandma was my Numero Uno organizing influence and a beacon of simple, gracious living. So I was surprised to find dozens of empty checkbook boxes squirreled neatly away in a hall closet. A bedroom drawer was full of ribbon, another filled with wrapping paper, some dating to around the time the house was built, 1949.

Clearly, having all those supplies didn’t hurt anything—nothing overflowed its shelf or drawer or stole space needed for something more important. But what on earth was she going to do with all those checkbook boxes? Once my sisters and I were in our teens, she never gave us gifts, only cards and cash. I don’t think she’d wrapped a gift since 1978.

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There were more boxes of all shapes and sizes, some filled with the dreaded Styrofoam popcorn, in the garage. It took me at least an hour to break them all down. If you’re getting overwhelmed with boxes, set aside some time to break down most of them now—and recycle them. Most of us do so much online shopping that a new box is always just an Amazon order away. If you are one of those rarer birds that refuse to shop online, you can probably beg a box from a friend or Zappos-addicted neighbor.

If you think you need to save boxes from your tech devices, think again. The only reasons to save those boxes is if you are going to resell the item (like Louboutin shoes, the resale value is higher with the original box) or if you are planning on moving soon — a big TV is easier to move in the original box. Otherwise, you do not need to save these boxes, beautiful though they may be.

If you can’t stand to recycle the beautiful white Apple boxes, repurpose them. Comedian Stephen Colbert jokes that the appeal of Cool Whip is that the container is like free Tupperware, and the iPhone box really is a bonus for buying the phone. The lids from these very sturdy boxes make wonderful drawer dividers.

Designate one reasonably sized container for gift wrap and ribbon. Don’t let yourself over stuff or outgrow it. Clean it out every holiday. Be sure that whatever is saved is something you would be proud to use and give. As far as boxes go, I recommend not saving a single one. The next great box is probably on your front porch already.

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Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer living in the Napa Valley. For more about her services, go to