After spending the holiday season cleaning and decorating your home, wrapping gifts and entertaining guests, you might dread taking down the tree and other Christmas paraphernalia. However, when it comes to packing up those decorations, it pays to do it right -- and sometimes that means thinking outside the box.
Michele Hieb, whose massive collections of rustic primitives and decorations have been featured in organic lifestyle magazine MaryJanesFarm, is creative when storing holiday wares in her large country home. "Place your decorations in a cupboard, a grain bin or in a coffee table that has storage space," she says. She also uses more conventional storage and recommends clear plastic totes. "Make sure you measure the shelves. You want to be able to see the items and to get at least two totes on each shelf."
If you don't need to see in the boxes, try using red and green totes so you -- and the people who help you decorate -- can readily pick out the Christmas decorations. Many places, including Jeffrey Alans and Home Depot, carry specially made storage bags for artificial trees. These stores also carry storage bags for wreaths -- or you can simply place those in large plastic comforter bags.
Don't forget to label your boxes. The simplest way is to write the contents and special directions on masking tape and stick it to the box. Remember that you want all decorations protected from extreme heat, cold and moisture -- and from dust, insects and, worst of all, rodents.
If you are like Hieb and have multiple trees in your house, keep all the decorations from each tree in its own bin. It will save you time and energy next year -- and make decorating more fun.
Hieb has a plethora of storage space on her property, but she realizes for some people that space is at a minimum. For those individuals, she suggests being more creative. For example, every year on Jan. 1, her late grandmother threw a large sheet over her fully assembled and decorated artificial tree, tied it up at the base and had someone carry it to the garage, where it stood protected until December.
Hieb's aunt uses another trick: Hang delicate strands of icicle and snowflake garland from clips on clothes hangers and storing them in the winter coat closet. Finally, egg cartons are great for keeping small, fragile ornaments safe during transport to and from storage areas.
Of course, it's hard not to run into one of the great mysteries of Christmas: How do those holiday lights get so tangled while sitting in storage? Here's a hint: They weren't stored properly. Decorating expert Amy Peterson recommends wrapping lights around a hard piece of cardboard and then stashing them in a tote. Alternatively, large strands of sturdy outdoor lights can be rolled up on a garden hose carrier.
Right after Christmas is good time to sort through decorations to decide what you want to keep. Hieb says she isn't opposed to clearing out excessive decorations. "If you didn't use it this year and it doesn't have sentimental value, donate it to someone or give it to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Someone will enjoy it."
However, if you plan on donating Christmas decorations, be sure to ask first. Some places might not have the storage space for larger items. Consider putting that extra tree in storage and donate it next November. Or save certain items to sell in a garage sale later.
As for Hieb, she doesn't mind putting away decorations because she knows she'll have fun using them all over again come next Christmas. "If you have the time and the storage, you can decorate until your heart is content," she says. "And you'll always have peace of mind knowing that it can all be safely tucked away until the next holiday season."