Problem: You end up tossing loads of wrapping paper and other packaging materials. Solution: Instead of throwing away used gift wrap and tissue paper, run it through a paper shredder and use the fluffy strips as packing filler when you're putting away your decorations, suggests Sandy Stuckey, a former director of special events and entertainment at Gaylord Opryland, in Nashville.
Problem: You've finally perfected your decorating scheme, and you don't want to forget it. Solution: Label each string of lights, segment of garland, or ball of mistletoe with a marker and masking tape as you take it down so you'll always know which item to hang in the entryway and which is just the right size for the mantel.
2 of 7Mark Lund
Packing It Up Like a Pro
Problem: Delicate ornaments emerge from their boxes chipped, dusty, or broken. Solution: "If possible, try to keep the packaging that your fine ornaments arrive in," says Victor Luis, CEO of the crystal producer Baccarat, headquartered in Paris. "If you don't have an ornament's original packaging, wrap the piece in a resealable sandwich bag, then store it in a sturdy, well-padded box." Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple ($11, amazon.com), suggests using partitioned cardboard liquor or wine boxes for storing standard ornaments and small decorations. "Egg cartons," she says, "make excellent packaging for tiny ones." Stuff all the nooks and crannies with tissue paper saved from opened gifts. Also, Smallin adds, "keep your fragile items together at the top of a box. The more you have to dig for an ornament, the greater your chances of damaging it."
Problem: Dough ornaments and macaroni crafts fall apart or attract pests. Solution: Pack food-based decorations in resealable sandwich bags to protect them from humidity, then place the bags in a cookie tin to keep rodents out, says Jackie Harvey, proprietor of Adoughables, a dough-ornament company in Westampton, New Jersey.
3 of 7Mark Lund
Problem: The light strings are always tangled, and you don’t know what kind of replacements you need for the dead and faded bulbs. Solution: Whenever you buy a new string of lights, immediately label the plug with the type and number of bulbs in the strand and where you purchased it. That way, any damaged bulbs will be easy to replace, says Steve Pearson, a three-time winner of the Merriam, Kansas, Festival of Lights Contest. As for the knots and snarls, Taylor offers this tip: Take an empty coffee can, cut a slit in the plastic lid, and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Wrap the string around the can, and store extra bulbs and extension cords inside. (When it’s time to unpack the lights again, plug each strand into an electrical outlet to make sure it works before you unroll it.) Always store colored lights in a dark place to keep the bulbs from fading (blues, greens, and purples fade faster than reds and yellows do).
Problem: “Santa’s” suit is starting to look dusty and worn. Solution: “If your costumes are homemade or valuable to you, treat them as you would a wedding dress,” says Taylor. “Dry-clean them, press them, and keep them folded neatly in a sealed, acid-free container so that no moisture or moths can get in.”
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Smart Storage Solutions
Problem: You need some of your supplies sooner than others. Solution: At the end of each season, pack an "Open First" box. "Then store last the things that you'll need to take out first," says Smallin. "They'll be the easiest to reach when it is time to find them again." And if you decide to keep next year's decorations to a minimum, you won't have to open up every last carton to find the essentials.
Problem: You can never find anything. Solution: "Label each box with the holiday and a few bullet points about its contents," Smallin suggests. "Then organize the boxes by season." For an even easier identification system, use boxes with color-coded lids (orange for Halloween, for example, and yellow for Easter). For the ultimate in organization, Smallin suggests keeping a more detailed content list for each box on your computer. "When the Fourth of July comes around and you need that American flag," she says, "just do a document search for 'flag' before digging through all the boxes."
5 of 7Mark Lund
What to Buy, What to Toss
Problem: Every year, you forget what you've got on hand. Solution: Start a decorating notebook with an inventory sheet for each holiday so you can keep track of how many strands of lights and how many feet of garland you have, says Kelley Taylor, author of Holiday Decorating for Dummies ($13, dummies.com). "Consult it to make sure you don't overbuy when it comes time to decorate again," she adds. Remember: Any surplus items will just complicate your storage woes.
Problem: You don't have the space to store all your trimmings. Solution: "Evaluate your decorations annually, and keep only what you are really going to use," says Valerie Parr Hill, author of Decorating for the Holidays. If an item is damaged or has lost its color, get rid of it. "Give yourself permission to let some of that stuff go," Hill says. And consider using natural accents―nuts, pinecones, and fresh greenery or flowers―that you can toss after the New Year.
6 of 7 Dana Gallagher
Problem: Your stored candles lose their shape. Solution: "Candles should be put away flat, out of light, and in a fairly cool area to prevent warping and preserve color," says Susan Stockman, a spokesperson for the Yankee Candle Company, in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. An alternative solution, says Taylor, is to use neutral-colored candles that you can leave out all year.
Problem: The holiday linens end up as wrinkled as a turkey's wattle. Solution: Ironing a big linen tablecloth is probably the last thing you want to do after you've spent the entire morning cooking. "Use skirt hangers for all your tablecloths, place mats, and napkins so they don't become creased at the bottom of a box," says Hill.
7 of 7Ditte Isager
Problem: Plastic lawn ornaments and other large, oddly-shaped decorations take up too much space when boxed. Solution: Save the zippered garment bags you get when you buy a new suit or dress, and use them to protect bulky plastic figures, such as sleighs and reindeer, suggests Hill. Then hang the bags in a closet or on a nail in your attic.
Problem: You need to store your decorations in the basement, which is always damp. Solution: Use plastic storage containers with tight seals, and place them up off the floor on shelves or palettes, in case of flooding. To help keep boxes free of moisture, Hill recommends dropping in a few silica packets (often found in new shoe boxes, or available for purchase at the Preservation Station, preservesmart.com).