The holiday season is upon us. The joy, anticipation and traditions of the season make holiday decorating fun, but packing up all the trimmings afterward can be just plain cheerless. To make this job a little easier, plan ahead and have the proper supplies on hand.
Tree ornaments and other small, fragile items are best kept in boxes with interior dividers to keep them from breaking. You can create your own or purchase one of the many options available at stores.
Some people prefer clear plastic containers so they can view the contents without having to open every bin. Some prefer buying colored storage bins to differentiate seasonal items. And others like to use archival, acid-free boxes. Regardless of the container’s exterior, having adjustable dividers inside is useful. Pay attention to the container’s capacity and be sure to buy an adequate number. It’s easy to underestimate how many ornaments are on the tree or hanging throughout the house, and you don’t want to be running out for matching containers Jan. 1.
If you opt not to splurge on ornament-specific containers, there are many other ways to preserve your fragile and cherished decorations. Egg cartons are a great solution for storing smaller ornaments. You can also set aside small gift boxes you receive and pack several ornaments inside using tissue paper. Put egg cartons and small boxes inside larger boxes, padding them with bubble wrap. Keep the most fragile items on top. And don’t bother to store decorations that don’t fit your current style or that you haven’t displayed in years. Holiday decorations can be especially hard to part with, but if you’re not enjoying them, someone else can. Goodwill accepts holiday decor. Or consider donating items in good condition to a local school, church or nursing home. Call first to make sure they’re interested in your items.
Although most holiday decor does not require store-bought containers for keeping, wreaths and artificial trees are tricky to keep looking fresh and shapely without using something specifically designed for that purpose. If you’ve purchased an artificial tree, it just makes sense to buy an inexpensive tree bag. If you have the space, try an upright one that allows you to keep the tree stand attached. The same holds true for your favorite wreath. It’s best to store it in an upright container that is designed to maintain its shape.
String lights are probably the most likely to cause frustration if they are not stored properly. The key to ensuring they can go from the box to the tree or the exterior of your house with minimal cursing is to wrap them around an object to keep them from tangling. You can probably find a solution around the house: a coffee can, a wrapping paper tube or, my favorite, a 12-by-24-inch piece of cardboard cut from a shipping box. Whichever method you choose, place a label on the string to distinguish indoor from outdoor, or to designate where they will be hung.
Seasonal tablecloths, napkins, tree skirts and throws should be cleaned, pressed and stored together. They can either be placed in a breathable storage bag or covered and hung in a guest closet. Napkin rings, candle holders, paper napkins, coasters, platters and other food- and drink-related seasonal items can be stored together in a bin. Candles, however, should be stored separately somewhere other than the attic; they could melt in the summer heat.
Wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and gift tags can all be stored in under-the-bed bins, which are especially convenient if you don’t have a lot of storage space. Sealed containers will keep the contents free of dust and are large enough to store a lot of supplies. Portable wrapping totes and work stations always look appealing, but they rarely seem to function as advertised. Keep extra boxed holiday cards and address labels together for use next season. And if you’re the sentimental type who likes to keep holiday cards from family and friends each year, put a rubber band around them or place them in a plastic bag; label the stack by year. A large shoe box can suffice for storage.
Last, but certainly not least, take an inventory of what you have before you store it for the next 11 months. It’s always a challenge to remember what you have for the holidays when you only see it once a year. So resist the impulse to get everything put away quickly, and take a few minutes to make a list that you can keep electronically or in a paper file and label each box as you go. Knowing what you have will keep you from buying duplicates next year.
Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik, an organizing company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.