Photography by Willie Simmons.
Following the excitement of the holiday season, putting away the festive décor can be a bit of a let-down, if not flat out dread-inducing. However, as we recently learned from two organization experts, with the right approach and mindset, the task can be transformed from a painstaking process into one of pleasant reflection that also puts you on track for a fresh start to the new year. Here, they offer advice on everything from the best time to take down the tree to ideal storage vessels to ways you can set yourself up for success at the start of the next holiday decorating season. Find an organization expert in your area in The Scout Guide Directory here.
Keep the joy in the process. When it comes to deciding when to take down your holiday decor, Christina Lee and Rebecka Jodeit, co-founders of Graceful Spaces Organizing in Austin, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina, both agree that the only unacceptable time is during a moment that creates stress. “Thoughtfully schedule a time that allows plenty of space with minimal distractions,” Lee recommends. “Turn on your favorite tunes, plan a snack break, and enjoy taking down your decorations as you reflect on the holiday you just enjoyed.” Clare H. Richardson, owner of Trazo Design in Memphis, Tennessee, notes that there are a lot of holiday decorations that can simply stand in for winter décor; she advises putting away anything red and green and leaving other items out until spring.
Organize before storing. While you may be tempted to throw everything in a box and shove it in the attic, Lee and Jodeit encourage their clients to take a little extra time to organize at season’s end to ensure a smoother decorating process the following year. “Putting away holiday decorations is a great time to organize your collection, so we approach this process the same way we would organize any other space in a home: by implementing our tried-and-true ‘CEO’ method of categorizing, editing, and organizing,” they say.
Categorize and edit like a pro. When categorizing, Lee and Jodeit recommend designating a room with plenty of space to spread out, bringing in all your holiday decorations, and sorting through the items. Once you’ve categorized your decorations, it’s time to edit out any items that are damaged or that no longer suit your tastes, Jodeit says. To make this step even more efficient, she and Lee suggest using white trash bags for any items you’ll be donating and black trash bags for items you’ll be tossing so there’s no confusion. The editing process is also a great time to note any holes in your holiday decor that you will want to fill in next season. “Keep this list in your phone so you’re ready when holiday decorations hit the shelves,” Lee advises.
Choose your method of packing up. Richardson notes that there are two ways to pack up your items: according to room or according to type (think “living room” or “Santas”). Either approach works just as well, so decide which is best for you. “If you have sentimental family members who love tradition, then the first option is best,” she explains. “But if you like being creative and mixing it up every year then go with like grouping storage.” Once you’ve picked your method, start gathering like items together, packing them up, and labeling.
Eliminate holiday light chaos. As any fan of twinkle lights knows well, the holiday essential can easily become a tangled mess. Richardson utilizes Ziploc bags for much of her holiday storage, but finds them to be especially useful with lights. She puts each strand in a separate bag to reduce tangling, and then puts all the bags into a bin. If you utilize colored and white lights, you can consider storing them in different bins—the same goes for separating out your indoor and outdoor and lights.
Implement a successful ornament storage system. Many people consider ornaments to be one of the most challenging items to pack up. Richardson likes to enlist the younger set in the process by giving each child a Ziploc bag for non-breakables and/or a storage container that’s all their own, and having them participate in the taking down process (as a side benefit, this can make putting the tree up next year even more fun, because their items will be all packed up and waiting for them). For their part, Lee and Jodeit are big fans of sturdy drop-in bins with moveable dividers, which are perfect for everything from ornaments to tree toppers, nutcrackers, and figurines.
Choose manageable containers. Most holiday decor is stored in out-of-the-way places, like an attic or on high shelves in a garage or storage room. Therefore, Richardson advises against overpacking. “It’s better to have more bins that you can put away yourself than huge ones you have to have help with. Plus, this way, kids can help carry them,” she adds. She chooses her vessels based on whether or not she can easily maneuver them through a doorway or will have to do a deep squat to pick them up. She also prefers to use matching storage containers, both for aesthetics and because they are guaranteed to easily stack or fit on shelves together.
Don’t forget to label. Our experts agree that having clearly marked containers is crucial. Lee and Jodeit prefer to use a heavy-duty system that can stand up to the unpredictable environment of an attic. From an organization standpoint, Richardson likes to label containers with a number and category (i.e., “#2, Nutcrackers”) and creates a master spreadsheet for easy referencing, so when it comes time to decorate next year she can ask helpful family members to bring specific bins down when she needs them.
TSG Tip 410 from Christina Lee and Rebecka Jodeit, co-founders of Graceful Spaces Organizing in Austin, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina; and Clare H. Richardson, owner of Trazo Design in Memphis, Tennessee. Graceful Spaces is featured in The Scout Guide Austin. Trazo Design is featured in The Scout Guide Memphis.