Home organization 101: Holiday cleanup
Are you so tired after the holidays that you consider throwing out the decorations with the tree rather than jamming them into their dusty, cramped boxes or plastic bags? With these useful tips from pro organizers Kathy Waddill of San Francisco and Janet Hennick of Toronto, nothing will be broken or tangled, there'll be no endless searching and putting everything away next year will be stress-free.
Check the entire house for decorations so that nothing is missed and items get stored with the rest of the holiday stuff.
Place a shelving unit in the basement or garage, rather than in prime storage space, since you'll probably only need to access the unit during the holidays.
Put wreaths in clear plastic bags and place them on closely spaced shelves.
Don't put tree ornaments back in their original boxes, says Kathy. Getting items back in these precisely packed boxes requires a lot of patience. Plus, you have to remember which balls go in which boxes – that's more work than it's worth. Instead, buy holiday storage boxes with layers of trays divided into compartments for individual ornaments. They usually have seasonal decorations on the outside, making them easily identifiable. Rearrange the dividers, customizing the cardboard trays for different-size ornaments. If a tray doesn't have sides, put fragile items in the centre. Kathy also cuts off one corner of the tray so she can lift it out easily. Wrap each ornament in tissue (acid-free paper is only necessary if you have vintage collectibles) and put it on a little nest of tissue paper in the compartment. (If your storage area is damp, invest in plastic bins; otherwise, these less-expensive cardboard boxes will do.)
Take ornaments off the tree in the reverse order of how you put them on: precious ones first, larger items last. This helps guard against breakage and means that next year the big ones will be at the top of the box.
Wrap garlands around a piece of cardboard and layer them in an ornament box; if they're too large, wrap them in clear plastic and put them on the shelf with the wreaths.
Buy a box specially made for storing tree lights. Some boxes come with handy notched cardboard inserts to wrap the lights around. You can make your own inserts if you can't find the boxes (this idea is convenient for long strings of outdoor lights, too). Get a two- by three-foot piece of cardboard; cut a series of one-inch triangular notches along each long edge and wind the lights around it (this method works especially well for icicle lights). This also allows you to test lights and easily replace burnt-out bulbs. Place the inserts in the storage box or wrap each in bubble wrap and put in a clear plastic bin. Keep extra bulbs in a clear plastic bag in the same container.
Place oversize lawn decorations, like reindeers and Santas, vertically in the narrow slots between shelving units or between a unit and the wall. Cover three-dimensional pieces with plastic and put in a storage room.
Put linens and table decorations in a clear plastic bin; add a sachet, or scented candles in a plastic bag (to release the scent, don't seal), so the linens don't get stained.
Pack holiday china in a storage room.
Store holiday baking gear like cookie cutters at the back of lower kitchen cupboards.
A word to the wise: If you have so many decorations that you dread getting them out, putting them up and taking them down, then edit your collection down to a more manageable number. Remember, it's easier and faster to decorate with large pieces rather than lots of small ones.