After the fun and festivities of the holiday are over, using an organized storage system will make decorating next year easier. The more time you take to put things away, the safer they will be in storage, and the easier it will be to pull them out again each year. There are many wonderful pre-made containers to store ornaments, lights and trees, but we will have inexpensive DIY ideas too. Whether you attach a label to your container, use a sharpie to write directly on the container, or write the contents of your container on a strip of duct tape, it goes without saying that creating a label is key to organizing so you can pull things out more easily each year.
1. Light strands: When dealing with tangled lights, the lights will almost always win. Use a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker to label each strand. Your note can indicate how long it is or where it was used for easy replacement next year. Home Depot sells cord organizers that work well for miniature string lights. Alternatively, purchasing a reel for storage of strings of lights with larger bulbs will keep them safe and tangle free. For smaller strands, roll them and place them in Ziploc bags with labels. Have extra cardboard? Simply wind them around the cardboard to keep bulbs flat.
2. Ornaments: For small ornaments, egg cartons are fabulous. Not only are you recycling, you get padding, and a nice compact container. Alternatively, placing your most delicate ornaments into Styrofoam or plastic cups will protect them from breakage when moving and storing. There are many premade containers with dividers that you can invest in once and use for many years to come.
3. Gift wrap: It's always a challenge to store large rolls of paper so using a suit bag will keep them upright, organized, and dust free. If you're handy and have the space, I recommend using café curtain rods and hanging your gift wrap in the back of an infrequently used closet. There are containers for under bed and standing storage too.
4. Wreaths: While I do have some wreaths that hang free in the back of closets, wreath bags protect them from dust and insects. The bags can be hung in the garage, and attic, or even in the back of closets without get tangled in clothing. For a very delicate wreaths, hard plastic containers are the best option.
5. Artificial Tree Storage: Artificial trees can last for years with the proper care. Consider storing the tree on the same floor as it is used, perhaps in an adjacent garage or storage closet. A rolling case is a great option for easy moving. If you have the space, you can really save each year by storing your tree without dismantling it. TreeKeeper makes bags with rolling bases in a variety of sizes. A heavy-duty plastic hook allows you to hang the bag from rafters in the corner of your attic. If yours can be dismantled, remove and smooth the branches down, and place in a large plastic container. I often use rolled up tissue paper placed between branches so the needles do not become mashed together.
6. Pillows: Most of us have a pillow or two with holiday patterns. My favorite trick is to remove the covers and store them flat inside my ornament containers. Don't have pillows with a zipper? Invest in a space bag and use vacuum suction to enable flatter storage. I often cover holiday pillows with every day fabrics that I can zip on over the holiday pattern so the forms are in use all year round.
7. Glass objects: I love mercury glass and have many candle holders, votives and decorative trees. I have found that using sheets of packing paper – available at Home Depot and moving supply stores - will keep them safe and clean for many years to come. Use a hard sided, stackable plastic container that can be stored in a garage, and attic, or a basement, so nothing will be broken. It is best to similar items together so it will be easier to pull them open next year.
8. Tree skirts, tablecloth, napkins: Again, a suit bag is an ideal way to store your holiday fabrics flat and dust free. Simply drape them on a hanger, cover them with a plastic or fabric suit bag, and hang in a closet, attic, or basement. I add a bag of zeolite to keep fabrics mold and must free. If you have extra pillowcases, simply cut an opening in the top for the hanger, and drape the pillowcase all the way over your tablecloths.
9. Candles: This idea from Martha Stewart can be used year-round for taper candles. Keep your paper towel cardboard and wrap the candles inside with tissue paper. For pillar candles, cardboard shoe boxes will keep them damage free for next year.
However you opt to store your items, finding a place for the boxes can be challenging. In small apartments and condos, under beds and the topmost shelf in closets will be easiest. Keep only what you love since storage of other items is likely to be more important. If you are lucky enough to have a basement or garage, you can use one area, attach storage hanger systems to the ceiling, or even dedicate a cabinet to holiday decorations.