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Organizing and Storing Christmas Decorations

Organization expert Kelly Pratt with Clear and Simple shares ideas that will not only save you time right now, but will make next holiday season merrier by keeping you organized.

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To make organizing and storing decorations and treasured mementos easier and more fun, we've compiled our favorite general organizing and storage guidelines as well as great ideas for organizing and storing a "First Christmas Box," trees, ornaments, lights, wreaths and garlands, gift wrap and dishes and linens.

General Guidelines

• There's often much joyful anticipation around decorating for Christmas. Putting decorations away can seem like a let-down and a dreaded chore in comparison. To make your decoration take-down session more joyful and to honor good memories of the season, consider playing music, having treats and reminiscing over your favorite holiday moments while you put your decorations in storage.

• Before purchasing Christmas decoration containers, sort all items into banker's boxes and label the boxes with Post-it note labels. Every time you create a new category of item, create a new box and label. For example, all red glass ball ornaments will go in one box, all blue balls will go in another box, Christmas linens will go in another, and so on. Sorting your decorations will help you see exactly what and how much you need to store so you can purchase the correct number and type of containers. You can also use the banker's boxes as temporary storage while you purchase your more permanent containers.

• Purge unwanted or unused items (including burned out lights and/or broken items) after you sort them into categories. Fix anything that has been broken before putting it in storage.

• Create a storage zone for all Christmas items so they are easy to find year after year. Within this larger Christmas decoration area, make sure that like items are stored together. Storing in this way may require an additional shelving area, but the convenience of being able to easily locate your Christmas treasures makes it well worth the cost and effort.

• Store items together that you use together: extra bulbs with light strands, ornament hangers with ornaments, garland hangers with garland, the wreath hanger with the wreath, etc.

• Most Christmas decorations span several years. Buy the sturdiest, highest-quality storage containers you can afford to protect your treasures.

• Store as many items as possible in clear plastic containers; they are the most accessible and effective.

• Clearly and specifically label all containers.

• Make a list of Christmas decorating needs as you put your decorations away this year and store the list either in a "First Christmas Box" or as an electronic file. Refer to this list next year as the holiday sales begin!

• Take pictures of your holiday decorating so you know how to recreate the effect for next year. You can either store the pictures in your "First Christmas Box" or on your computer.

"First Christmas Box"

• A really wonderful idea floating around cyberspace surrounds the creation of a "First Christmas Box." This box contains various items used in the initial Christmas set-up such asâ"”


o Greeting cards and envelopes
o An advent calendar
o A wreath hanger
o A tree stand
o Christmas storybooks

If there are other items you traditionally need to locate before you launch your full-scale decorating, place these items in the box as well.

Trees

• Artificial trees can be storedâ"”


o In special tree bags available at big box retailers or online.
o Wrapped in heavy-duty plastic. You can find wrapping plastic at home improvement warehouses by the evaporative cooler weatherizing materials or at moving supply stores.
o In large plastic bins (one per section of tree).

If space is a consideration or if you are storing your holiday items in a garage, I recommend using plastic bins since they seal better and guard from crushing more effectively than storage bags or plastic wrap. If you choose this option, be sure to clearly label the containers so you know which section is in which container.

• Do not store your artificial tree in the original cardboard box. Your tree will wear much more quickly and is more susceptible to moisture and pests.

Ornaments

• Store fragile ornaments in their original packaging if the packaging is rigid and sturdy. Otherwise, invest in ornament storage boxes. These boxes have individual compartments sized to hold most glass balls as well as standard-sized ornaments. You can find ornament boxes at big box retailers, home improvement centers, and online at www.containerstore.com and www.stacksandstacks.com. If you can't find ornament boxes, you can also use teacup holders, which have interior separations the same size as those in ornament boxes. My favorite retailer for these is The Organization Place in Orem (www.organizationplace.com).

• For large or odd-sized ornaments, wrap each ornament separately in bubble wrap or place in a bubble wrap bag, and store in a clear plastic container.

• For long, tear-drop shaped glass ornaments, wrap them in bubble wrap and store in clear plastic containers or purchase stemware boxes for storage. Stemware boxes have interior compartments that are just the right size for this application.

• If each member of your family has special ornaments, store each person's ornaments in a separate container. Putting these ornaments on the tree will be more fun if everyone can immediately access his or her ornaments. In addition, when children leave home, they can just take their containers with them.

Lights

• Check all light strands before putting them in storage, and change any burned-out bulbs.

• Wrap lights around a spool or cylinder to store. Even if you wrap light strands around your arm or hand, they can tangle and end up in a frustrating mess. The link provided will give you a visual for the kind of cord wrap I'm referring to. Light storage spools are available locally at Lowe's. http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?CATID=62526&PRODID=62638

• If you can't find spools or cord wraps, you can enlist the help of an empty paper towel or gift wrap roll. Cut a slit in one end of the roll and insert the pronged outlet plug so the plug is on the inside of the roll. Then wrap the lights around the tube and slide the other plug into a slit on the other end of the roll. Instant light storage! You can store a number of rolls this way by setting them horizontally in a plastic under-bed storage box.

• Where possible, store light strands with the item you wish to illuminate: store tree lights with or at least near the tree, store garland lights with the garland, etc.

Wreaths and Garlands

• Special wreath containers are now available at big box retailers, home improvement centers, The Organization Place and online at sites like www.containerstore.com, www.stacksandstacks.com and www.organizationplace.com. These containers range from rigid plastic to vinyl and will protect your wreaths from moisture, wear and pests.

• If you have a place to hang wreaths for storage, simply cover them with heavy duty trash bags and hang them on hooks or nails.

• Garlands are easily stored in plastic under-bed boxes. These containers are large enough to accommodate garlands without crushing them. If you swag your garlands, place baggie ties or another marker at the swag point so putting up the garland next year is quick and easy.

Gift Wrap

• Store gift wrap vertically! You've probably experienced the collapsing pile of horizontally-stored gift wrap rolls at least once. To avoid an avalanche and to ensure that your gift wrap stays wrinkle-free longer, place gift wrap rolls in a vertical gift wrap container. These containers are often available only around the Christmas holidays, so if you have all-purpose wrap as well, now is a good time to stock up on these containers. Most of these containers are plastic, so your wrap will be protected from moisture. You can find these containers at big box retailers, home improvement centers and online.

• Another vertical gift wrap storage option is to store rolls in a tall wastebasket and cover the top with a heavy duty trash bag. Just remember to very clearly label the outside of the bag.

•Store ribbons, tags, tissue paper and embellishments in separate small plastic containers with lids. Clear plastic shoeboxes work well and are very inexpensive. • If you want a full gift wrap center complete with compartments for ribbons, tags, etc. visit www.organizationplace.com, click the "Misc." tab, and browse the "Holiday" section for a wide selection of gift wrap storage options. Or, take a trip to Orem and browse the store!

Dishes and Linens

• If you have Christmas dishes, have been storing them in the original boxes and the boxes are starting to fall apart, invest in sturdy storage containers. For many people, Christmas dishes are inherited as a family heirloom, so make sure they are securely stored and protected. Sturdy fiberboard containers are not only protective, but they are also very attractive and available in a wide range of colors and sizes.

• If your original containers are still in good shape, they are a great storage option.

• Be sure to launder Christmas linens before storing them, even if they look clean. Hidden stains are difficult to impossible to remove after sitting for a year. Store linens with dryer sheets, sachets or cedar blocks so they smell nice when you open the containers next year. Make sure to store linens in plastic containers to guard against moisture and pests.

An Invitation

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year! To celebrate January, which is National Get Organized Month, we at Clear & SIMPLE are conducting several free organizing workshops at libraries around the valley. Visit the Clear & SIMPLE web site (www.clearsimple.com) and click the "Events" link for dates and times. We'd love to have you join us!

Happy Organizing!