The Party Bag: A Celebratory Mom Hack


My eldest child gets invited to a lot of birthday parties, and over the years, I’ve tried to get smarter about ways I can stay ready so I don’t have to worry about last minute gifts.  Enter the party bag: my stash of festive goodies, gifts, cards, and decorations to use when the moment strikes. It started by chance after my first baby shower, and it has evolved over the years.  Sometimes the bag is so full it takes over a small closet. Sometimes it is actually a box, not a bag. Sometimes I purge items. And sometimes I completely forget it’s there and rebuy things. But overall, the party bag helps me create some semblance of order in the midst of the chaos. 

Here’s what is usually inside:

a purple, red, and orange gift bag with different coloured tissue paper lined up against a red background

  1. Gift bags – Does anyone wrap gifts anymore? I used to enjoy doing that, but who has the time? Now, whenever we receive gifts in bags, I try to preserve them and store them because inevitably, there will be another opportunity to use them. I try to sort them by theme/style for easy grabbing. Sometimes, if I don’t have a gift yet, I’ll bring a few to the store with me, so I don’t use that as an excuse to buy new. This has worked for baby showers, housewarmings and everything in between. Wine bags are an especially convenient find.  There was a time when I’d keep a few of those in the car in case I had to stop by an impromptu event and give a host/hostess gift.  
  2. Tissue paper – Nothing grinds my gears like rebuying tissue paper. We always have some, whether it’s brand new in the bag or gently used from a regift. But artful placement of tissue paper takes a gift bag from drab to fab. I try to keep one bag of white and one fun color on hand. I’ve found that bright green works well for many occasions, including birthdays, Christmas, and housewarming.rolls of colourful wrapping paper side by side on a wooden tabletop
  3. Wrapping paper – I do still keep a few pretty rolls of paper and ribbon for the off chance that I’m motivated to actually wrap a gift. This happens more often around the holidays than regular birthdays. For that reason, I have a lot of golds, silvers, reds, and greens.
  4. Generic birthday cards – No age, no gender, no characters, just pretty colorful letters saying Happy Birthday. They work in a pinch for individuals of all ages, gift cards, cash, and to accompany gift bags without tags.
  5. Extra favors from parties we’ve thrown – Small tchotchkes, candies, bubbles, stickers, and noisemakers.  These come in handy when we have random small visitors that need to be entertained. 
  6. Cheap Tablecloths – When we host, it’s good to have a fun colored tablecloth to make it seem like we’ve put in some effort. They are cheap, easy to use and (importantly) helpful to catch spills and quickly scoop up and throw away the mess. Once again, I’ve found that bright green works for a lot of occasions, but white is clearly the most versatile.

a gift tag reading, "you're invited' on a pink wooden backgroundOf course, we still find ourselves making last-minute runs to grab gifts on the fly, but having the party bag makes me feel some semblance of order amidst the chaos. I think I’ll have it down by the time the little guy starts getting invites.

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Aliah was born and raised in St. Louis. She comes from a family of community leaders, activists, educators and volunteers. After her experiences in both public and private education in St. Louis, Aliah attended New York University, where she studied Mass Communications and Journalism. She worked in the New York ad industry for several years before returning home to start a family and continue her communications career. Her experiences in both cities gave her a unique perspective on the ways that social, economic and cultural issues impact the growth and development of our citizens and our cities. In addition to her current work as a crisis management communications specialist, Aliah has served as founding board member of St. Louis Language Immersion School, as a St. Louis City Commissioner for BiState Development, and as a board member for We Stories. Her 6-year-old Quinn enjoys reading aloud from books in English and Spanish from their extensive personal library.