Organizing Your Decorating "Stuff"

We're right on the brink of the "main holiday event," where are you in the decorating or undecorating cycle? Since this is supposed to be a fun and festive time of year, here are some ideas that might be helpful and reduce the "overwhelm" factor:

Permission Granted Depend evidence to the contrary, you don't have to have the perfect holiday anything. Not perfect gifts, meals, decor, events or cards. So give yourself permission to make changes. Maybe you want to "delete" a long-standing tradition that no one really enjoys. Conceivably you could have some of your holiday meal(s) prepared by someone else. Imagine not sending a card or at least not including a letter. An alternative is to send a card at a non-traditional time such as New Year's or April Fool's Day. Maybe you only put out a few decorations and leave the rest in storage. Consider permanently deleting "well-used" decorations or those that have "lost value."

Lights, Camera... Whether it the lights, the wreath or the outside decorations, take a picture and place the picture in the container that holds those decorations so you don't have to recreate "the look" each year. So a picture of your mantle is stored in the storage bin that holds your mantle decorations. If you don't print pictures, then create one folder on your computer that has all holiday "administrivia" such as: gift-giving list, mailing labels for cards, reusuable checklists and the pictures of the decorations. A checklist you may not have considered is one for "fresh" decorating items you choose to purchase yearly such as tree, wreath and greenery.

Storage Solutions It's important to have two storage areas for holiday decorations: temperature-controlled for candles and other items affected by extreme hot or cold and an out of the way location for all other items.

Sometimes it can be difficult to store the "regular" decor which has been replaced by the holiday decor. Consider putting it in the containers now empty holiday storage bins. If you have maximized the vertical space in storage areas such as attics, basements or garages, it is easier to switch out any seasonal decorations.

Here are some less common storage solutions that might be useful:

  • Put strings of lights in individual recyclable grocery bags so they don’t get tangled with other lights.
  • Hang holiday wreaths on nails in the attic, basement or garage for easy access. Place them in a specific wreath container, extra large plastic zippered bag or large pillow case to keep the dust at bay.
  • Designate one box or bag for "escapee's" (items that you find after you THINK all the decorations are put away) and keep it in an easily accessible location so you’ll have a place to put them without digging for the assigned box. You can put them in the appropriate box next year when you are decorating.

Container Clues The original containers may or may not be useful long-term. Sometimes it is difficult to get the item back into the prescribed packaging. Sometimes the original box is too unwieldy for your storage space. And sometimes that first box falls apart. If you purchase containers, consider the following:

  • What types of items need to be stored? Consider buying clear containers with colored lids that match the season (red or green for Christmas, blue for Hanukkah, orange for Thanksgiving, etc.) Ensure that the lids fit properly.
  • Establish the amount of area that you will have to store the items. Think vertical storage. You will fit more articles into a smaller space.
  • Determine the features you might need for your storage containers. Some of these features include: wheels, drawers, dividers and type of material.
  • Make sure the container is manageable. Large boxes may hold more, but it's frustrating if they are difficult to get into their storage spot.

There are two schools of thought when repacking the decorations: put similar items together (all tree decorations in one box) or organize decorations by room so you can take one box at a time to the respective room, decorate it and put the box away. It is not a matter of which is right or wrong, but which works with "your brain" and storage space. Regardless of which method is functional for your situation, remember to pack heavier items on the bottom and lighter ones on the top. This is true within a box and within a stack of boxes (see exception below-AtticMaxx). Always label, even if the container is clear. Be as specific as possible. I prefer using a Brother label maker, but writing on tape or directly on the container works too. Again, don't forget to store meltable items in a temperature-controlled space.

Above all, remember that the purpose of the decorations is to create a festive environment so you can enjoy the season. The decorating and undecorating is the means to be in that environment. Perfection is not required!

If you are seeking storage resources, here are some ideas:
Bed, Bath & Beyond 
Container Store 
Home Depot
Specialty Christmas stores (often found seasonally in malls)
Stacks and Stacks 

©2011 Janice Russell with Susan Sikora. Janice owns Minding Your Matters®, an organizing firm that helps overwhelmed homeowners transform clutter into calm so they can find their stuff in a flash. Susan owns AtticMaxx, a new, first-of-its-kind organization product that maximizes empty, often wasted space between attic trusses.