Christmas is barely over, and the new year is just around the corner. So we don’t mean to be a buzzkill while you still enjoy the last vestiges of your holiday stupor, but it’s probably time to think about putting away those holiday decorations you so painstakingly put up. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who keep your lights up all year ’round, in which case … keep doing you.)
We know it isn’t fun, no matter when you decide to undeck the halls. It’s a slog, an annoyance, or (if you went a wee bit overboard this year) a downright nightmare.
But if you’re smart about storing your holiday decorations, you can make the whole thing a little less painful next year. Try these easy hacks to keep things in order and crack open the eggnog a little earlier next time around.
1. Take a photo
OK, this first point isn’t strictly storage-related, but it promises to make next year’s decorating process 10 times easier. Before tearing down your holiday decor, take a photo of your favorite setups.
“That way, you can more easily replicate the look next year,” says professional organizer Jamie Novak. Less time spent fiddling with your staircase garland means more time with family and friends. And isn’t that what the holidays are really about? That and the eggnog.
2. Inventory everything
On a related note, you should keep an inventory of all of your holiday decorations. Not only will it make replacement much simpler in case of disaster, but it will also simplify next year’s setup. No more “Oh, I forgot Shira the Schnauzer ate the tinsel” last-minute shopping runs.
“Packing up items is the perfect time to make a note that you need to replace the tree topper, but you don’t need one more snow globe,” Novak says.
Store your inventory on your phone or computer. Consider keeping a paper backup in a safe place.
3. Invest in some real storage
Tucking away your miniature Christmas trees in old waffle boxes (true story, starring my mother) might seem like a good idea. But after the new year, they’re going into the attic, not to be seen again for 11 months. Why does it matter how you stow them?
Because attics and garages are full of nasty ornament enemies: Moisture, pests, the February freeze, all conspiring to destroy your expensive decor.
“If you are making an investment in decorations that you want to keep from year to year, you will want to find the right storage bins to contain them,” says interior designer Annie Draddy of Henry & Higby. Try clear, plastic boxes, which let you “see the goods inside without opening the box,” she says.
4. Designate an ‘open first’ box
Setting up everything at once can be overwhelming. Your kids will freak out without their Advent calendar, and you’re desperate for the scent of pine. And those holiday cookbooks have to be somewhere…
“Create a single box labeled ‘open this first,’ complete with the decorations you like to put up first,” Novak says. That way, you can save the major decorating for a free winter weekend without sacrificing some early season holiday cheer.
5. Pack in reverse
The other decorations should be packed according to your holiday timeline, too. What goes up next, after the Advent calendar and wreath? If your exterior string lighting is step No. 2, keep it neatly arranged in an easily accessible box.
“If you don’t put up a tree until a few weeks in, then make a box of tree stuff,” Novak says. “Group like with like, and label each box on every side and the top.”
That goes for any necessary accessories, too, such as outdoor extension cords or pumps for your inflatables. Make sure they’re all grouped together so they’re easy to find next year.
6. Reuse your gift packaging
Your kid received three Hatchimals, you got a dozen new necklaces, and that beer-brewing kit came with an apartment’s worth of packaging. Don’t throw away all the cardboard and clamshells yet—they might be useful.
“Before you recycle all those product boxes, check to see if any are just the right size for storage (for other items),” Novak says.
7. Use ribbon and hangers to keep string lights straight
Attempting to untangle your string lights is the holiday horror show you find yourself repeating year after year. Take away the pain! And stop struggling.
Save a piece of ribbon from this year’s gifts and tie it to the end of the string of lights to save yourself time spent searching for the plug amid a sea of small lightbulbs. Then, wrap the string of lights around a hanger to keep it from getting tangled.