How to Organize Holiday Decorations

The holidays have come to a close, which means you can finally relax and stop worrying about that persistently pesky to-do list. But before you get too comfy, you’ll need to tackle one more holiday task -- storing and organizing holiday decorations.

These expert tips will get your decorations perfectly organized and ready for next year. Your ghost of Christmas Future will thank you!

GENERAL ORGANIZATION

Downsizing is an important element of organizing holiday decorations. Before you pack away this year’s items, bring out all the decorations that didn't make the cut. Decide which treasures you can donate, give away or throw out, suggests organizational expert Kammie Lisenby of Seattle Organizing Experts. Just think: If you get rid of old ornaments, you’ll have extra space for new ones next year!

• Store decorations in “the heavy green and red containers that are on sale this time of year,” suggests Marilyn Bohn from Get it Together Organizing. You’ll immediately recognize them as Christmas decoration containers thanks to the festive colors, and you won’t be scouring the attic or storage shed next year to find them. In addition, Lisenby suggests storing all your holiday decorations in one area for easy access next year. Somewhere that’s not prime year-round real estate -- such as the back of the garage or attic -- is best. And make sure that your containers are made of hard plastic and have a tight locking lid.

• Label, label, label, Lisenby says. Mark even individually wrapped ornaments so you’ll immediately know what’s what next year without having to unpack everything first. Clear nametag inserts attached to the outside of boxes are great because they allow you to change the label from year to year if needed.

• Accidents happen, so keep a tube of crazy glue with your Christmas decorations, suggests Bonnie Joy Dewkett of The Joyful Organizer. If you open your holiday decorations next year to find a break, you’ll be ready for a quick fix and the broken ornament won’t be left sitting in the corner all holiday waiting for you to “get around” to mending it.

• We all like to keep the original boxes with our grandmother’s writing on them, Lisenby says. But to really preserve memories, make sure you have the proper storage for your treasures (large, sturdy boxes in which to store the smaller treasured boxes). 

LIGHTS 

• One trusted (and inexpensive) trick for organizing holiday lights: Keep them from becoming tangled by wrapping them around a flat piece of cardboard -- a paper towel tube also works. Bohn, Dewkett and Lisenby all love this trick. On an exposed end of the cardboard or on a label tag, jot down where the lights belong next year (Christmas tree, mantel, entry window, and the like). Wrap lights in newspaper or packing paper and store them in a hard plastic, durable container.

Bohn recommends investing in a Lightkeeper Pro (about $25), the complete tool for fixing miniature lights. It is worth its weight in gold as it fixes light strands that have been rendered useless thanks to a fixable problem. Keep it with your lights for next year for ease of use.

BREAKABLES AND DELICATES

• Next time you’re at the wine or liquor store, Bohn suggests asking if you can take some empty boxes with bottle separators off their hands. The boxes are perfect for dividing and protecting bubble-wrapped delicate ornaments.

• For another affordable option to safe-keep breakables, glue the bottoms of plastic cups to a flat piece of cardboard, says Dewkett. Once the ornaments are inside the cups, place another flat piece of cardboard on top, tie them together and store in a tote or large box.

• Lisenby warns against wrapping ornaments (particularly delicate or valuable ones) in printed paper. Always use plain packing paper or tissue paper so the ink doesn’t rub off on your ornaments, she says. And when you purchase new ornaments, keep the original packaging if possible.

• If you have broken ornaments that you want to keep, fix them before storing them, Bohn says. As you’re downsizing, get rid of those you don’t like or don’t plan to use in coming years. If there are ornaments you don’t plan to use but will keep for sentimental reasons, store them in a smaller box, label it and place in the bottom of the larger storage container. This will save you the time of separating these ornaments from the others next year.

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Photo: Corbis Images