It’s that time of the year: You’re busily unpacking and displaying holiday decorations. And, while the last thing you want to think about when admiring your menorah or twinkling tree is storage options, the time will eventually come when the holiday decor must be repacked and put away. Aside from maybe Marie Kondo, Clea Shearer or Joanna Teplin, whose collective enjoyment and ability to organize is both impressive and legendary, putting seasonal decorations away is typically not something people look forward to.
Yet, as we have learned from watching organizational gurus on Netflix, there is some satisfaction in each item having its own special place. To help provide direction for when the day does arrive to re-store holiday decorations, certified professional organizer Amy Trager and founder and CEO of UNITS Moving & Portable Storage, Michael McAlhany, share their tips on how to successfully and sanely organize and store seasonal decor.
Rather than haphazardly gathering all the seasonal decor in one heap (tempting as it may be), Trager and McAlhany recommend going room by room.
“Pack all the tree trimmings together — ornaments, lights, tinsel, tree skirt,” Trager says. “Then, place the village scene from the mantel in one container and the garland and wreaths in another. Label the containers accordingly to make decorating even easier next year.”
“Even if you use clear, plastic storage bins to tuck away your decorations, labels will help you identify what’s inside of them,” adds McAlhany. “Separate bins by holiday and stick a label on each bin noting what’s inside.”
For added protection of larger, individual items, McAlhany offers the strategy of using clear garment bags — the kind designed for storage hooks and hangers — to help keep decorations unblemished and free of dust.
While many people have holiday decor that’s sentimental, sometimes you simply outgrow decorations you purchased (or were gifted) in the past. And there is often a gingerbread man missing a leg or snowman missing a section that could stand to be let go. But letting go doesn’t always mean a one-way trip to the trash.
“First things first, go through your decorations and toss whatever you don’t want to keep,” McAlhany says. “This way, you’ll have time to assess what you need (or want) to buy new for next year.”
And, he adds as a good rule of thumb: “If you didn’t use it last year, you don’t need it this year. Donate unopened or slightly used decorations.”
“Store anything covered in glitter in large zip-top baggies, and keep them sealed to prevent glitter spilling everywhere,” Trager says. “Wrap strings of lights or thin garland in an empty paper towel roll or wrapping paper tubes so they’re not tangled next year.”
McAlhany says he’s even used clothes hangers and cardboard pieces to help keep lights from becoming a tangled mess.
Both Trager and McAlhany recommend using egg cartons for storing small, delicate decorations.
“Just make sure to keep heavier decorations toward the bottom of bins and boxes,” Trager says, and keep the cartons on top (just like bagging at the grocery store).
Trager advises the reuse of any post-holiday wrapping paper and tissue that can’t be repurposed for future gifts to wrap delicate decorations and ornaments. Similarly, McAlhany says to keep any original packaging.
“Why waste money and time getting special boxes or containers for ornaments when they already come in one?” he says.
The garage and attic are often usual suspects for storing holiday items. But, these seemingly innocent spaces don’t always have climate control, which can lead to melted and warped holiday mishaps, rather than attractive or usable decor.
McAlhany and Trager suggest getting creative with how and where you store seasonal decorations.
“If you’re lucky enough to have a spare bedroom or office with closet space to spare, this may be an ideal storage area, as long as there’s enough room for all of the decorations to store together,” Trager says.
And, if you’re short on space altogether, McAlhany says: “Store your ornament hooks, ribbons and decorating knickknacks in Mason jars. They look charming on shelves, and they keep fragile items safe.”
As a sweet parting tip, McAlhany has a marvelous idea for storing one of the winter holiday season’s sentimental but often tossable items: holiday cards. Instead of throwing them away, he suggests punching holes in the ones you want to keep to make a small coffee-table book to enjoy the following holiday season.
Thorburn is a freelance writer for Tribune News Service.
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