T-shirts shred and Legos can be D.I.Y. gifts for roommates

Anna Anderson

It’s that time of year again. The temperatures are dropping and the leaves have mostly fallen to be replaced by holiday decorations. Yeah, it’s almost Christmastime.

I’ve always had a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I love the lights, the crisp chill in the air. I mean, what other time of year do you get to stop your daily life, see friends and family and eat, and eat, and eat? But I hate the commercialism and the obligation it brings.

For me, shopping sours the holiday season — manically speeding around department stores trying to cross each and every person off your ever-growing gift list, obsessing about getting the best deal, and growing resentful about the whole process.

By the time I actually exchange all the stuff I bought for relatives and friends, I’m frazzled and defeated. So what do I do? What do we do, Christmas lover-haters? How do we keep enjoying the holidays and keep giving gifts without playing a part in all the unnecessary, stressful stuff?

This year, I’m going to try something. I’m going to keep it simple, personal and handmade. I’ve been scouring the Internet for ideas, and I really think this is a good option.

When I say “handmade”, I don’t mean spending hours crocheting a scarf, painting intricate designs on ornaments, or making a leather-bound journal. I mean quick, easy and inexpensive crafts. You know, for people with semester projects, papers and final exams rapidly approaching.

After some intense Googling, I’ve found a site with heaps of ideas that fit this description. A blog called “The 36th Avenue” has published several lists of handmade gifts for less than $5, and a lot of the ideas can be made with stuff most people already have. Sounds too good to be true? Have a look.

For example, The36thavenue.com links to a tutorial for a braided jersey bracelet. I, for one, have an incredible amount of T-shirts I no longer wear. With a pair of scissors and about 15 minutes, you can convert that waste of drawer space into a gift for a roommate, sister or friend.

For something slightly less cute and a tad more nerdy, go to Instructables.com. Not only will you spend hours perusing entries about how to construct the perfect Princess Leia costume or a pretty sweet Tesla coil, but you will find great little gems like Lego cufflinks for the nerdy-chic men (or ladies) in your life. According to the tutorial, five sets of cufflinks can be made for about $15.

I’ve come to the realization that handmade bracelets and Lego cufflinks will almost always trump store-bought gifts. On a practical level, the difference of the price is attractive, and making your own presents keeps you out of the insane, overcrowded mall.

When it comes to do-it-yourself gifting, there’s also an increased sense of satisfaction. I love giving gifts, especially ones I made myself because it’s much more personal.

I’d bet whoever receives your D.I.Y. gift appreciates it a lot more than those gloves or the gift card you got them last year in a moment of desperation.

By cutting out all the corporate crap and focusing on the joy of doing something cool for a person you care about, you might also be able to avoid the bad parts of the holiday and make room for the good things. Really, it’s a win-win.