Experts help you keep the chaos in check. 

By Real Simple
Updated November 20, 2015
The Ellaphant in the Room
The Ellaphant in the Room

At Christmastime, My House Gets Crowded With Overnight Guests and Becomes a Big Mess. How Do I Maintain Order?

G. B., via Facebook

The trick is to be assertive about where guests’ things should go, but with a welcoming tone. You can say, “We’re happy you’re here! Let me help you settle in. Here are some drawers and hangers for your stuff. Is there anything else you need?” A portable clothes rack is helpful if visitors are staying in a shared space, like a home office. To head off other clutter, set out containers where odds and ends naturally collect: a basket in the bathroom for toiletries; a tray on the dresser for a wallet and keys.

This Year, I Want to Create a More Organized Storage Plan for Ornaments, Tree Lights, and Other Decorations. What Are Your Best Pack-Up Tips?

W. R., via Facebook

I advise clients to keep their decorations in clear tubs so they can see the contents (Clear 74-Quart Watertight Tote, $21, Pack them in like lasagna: Cushion the bottom with tissue paper, then add the heaviest decorations in one layer. Alternate layers of decorations and layers of tissue paper to prevent scratches and breaking. Label each bin with one term that describes what’s inside, like ORNAMENTS or LIGHTS, instead of listing the whole inventory. (The more work a project takes, the less likely you are to follow through.) Store the tubs in a finished basement, an insulated attic, or some other climate-controlled space.

I Love Holiday Cards, But They Clutter Up My Refrigerator. Any Better Ideas for Displaying Them Neatly? And How Long Do I Keep Them?

H. S., via Facebook

When you give the cards pride of place on a small spot, like a refrigerator or a console, they can take over. Mixing them in with other mementos there makes it even harder to part with them later, since then they’re part of a whole vignette. I prefer a separate setup that treats the cards like temporary holiday decor, lasting only as long as you keep the tree, or until just after New Year’s. Use them to create a suspended display: Straddle them on a ribbon forming a garland over a doorway, or clip them to strings in rows across a bookshelf or a mantel. That way, the cards are in easy view and your surfaces stay clear.