Tips and Tricks for Storing Holiday Decorations

You know what's worse than realizing the holidays are over? Resigning yourself to the fact that it's time to take down all of your favorite seasonal decorations. In the days after Christmas, you'll need to untrim the Christmas tree, take down all those lights, pack away your Santa figurines and box up those sparkling snowflakes. Sigh.

But instead of going at the job haphazardly and setting yourself up for a headache next winter when you unpack all that stuff, why not make your life a little easier? Forget those flimsy cardboard boxes and use these tips and tricks to organize your holiday decorations so they'll be ready to go next year. When you pull out a perfectly neat circle of working Christmas lights next year, you'll be glad you did.

Store ornaments carefully
There's nothing more frustrating than finding out that your favorite ornaments didn't survive the trip to and from the attic, garage or basement. To make sure your keepsake ornaments and fragile balls aren't smashed to pieces before next year, you'll need to do some careful packing.

Your best bet is to keep the ornaments in their original boxes or containers, which will keep them protected and make it easy to find certain favorites. If you don't have the originals, your next best move is to find some boxes with built-in dividers. You can find these at plenty of stores or get resourceful and use wine boxes. When you're putting the ornaments away, wrap each one carefully with tissue paper, newspaper or paper towels. Keep similar ornaments together to make decorating the tree a snap next year.

Keep displays together
Reader's Digest magazine pointed out that storing each Christmas display in the same box will help you set up your decorations easily next season. For example, if you always use the same items to jazz up your mantel, from holiday candles to strings of garland, pack all of those things carefully in the same box. Label the box with the name of the location and you'll spend much less time trying to piece together your displays next December. If you really loved the way your displays turned out this year, take a picture to pack in the box so you'll have a reference to help with setup.

Prepare Christmas lights
Next year, you won't have to deal with broken bulbs or frayed cords if you take a little time to double-check your lights before you pack them away. Plug each strand in one last time to ensure that they're all working properly, and go over the wires to make sure they're in good condition. Like you did with the rest of your Christmas decoration displays, it's a good idea to keep all of the lights from the same area in one container. For example, put all of the lights from your front porch into their own box, separate from the ones you used for the Christmas tree. That way, you won't have to frustrate yourself trying to figure out which strand of lights will fit where. Label each box so you know where the lights will go. Don't forget to wind the cords up into neat circles so you don't need to untangle them later on.

Save the wrapping
Gift wrapping is a shame to toss out, not just because it looks pretty, but because it's easy to reuse some of it. Save the gift bags that are still in good shape so you don't have to buy more next year, using one large bag to hold smaller ones and keep them organized. Everything else, like wrapping paper and tissue paper, can be reused as packing materials, Real Simple magazine suggested. Run the paper through a shredder and use it to fill in empty space between your ornaments and other special items.

If you've still got a mess of wrapping paper, tape, ribbons and scissors to deal with, now's a good time to figure out a better way to store them. This Old House had the great idea of using a hanging or under-the-bed storage system if you don't have the space for a permanent area to store crafts and gift wrap. You'll have plenty of compartments where you can put all of your supplies for next year.

Designate storage space
Save yourself the hassle of searching through a maze of boxes to find the ones labeled "XMAS" next year. Instead, designate a specific area of your attic, garage, closet or basement to house all of your holiday items. If you don't already have shelving, it might be a good idea to purchase a shelving rack or hang shelves so everything can be neatly organized and arranged. You'll be avoiding a messy storage space and making the decorating job easier for yourself next Christmas.