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Organizing Decorations

Whether or not you enjoy decorating for the holidays can depend a lot on the organization of your decoration storage. I remember some stressful moments as a child during the holiday season caused by Christmas tree lights. My father was not a pleasant participant in the decorating process. Looking back, it seems comic that a string of tangled lights could have been the cause of so much stomping around and cursing. It could have turned me off to decorating forever, but luckily I learned to store my lights so that they wouldn’t snarl.

If you didn’t pack up perfectly last year, don’t fret. As you unpack and start decorating, take note of storage items you need to scout for or purchase so that you can do a more organized job this year, when the holidays are over. If you use cardboard boxes and they are falling apart, start setting aside some new ones. I love wine boxes for ornament storage. Wineries and wine shops are usually happy to give their empties away. Leave in the bottle dividers and use them to separate the ornaments. Wrap anything breakable in tissue first. And, of course, label everything!

If you like to store your ornaments and decorations in stackable plastic bins, you can go fairly large, since holiday decorations don’t tend to be very heavy. The 56-quart size is just right — big, but still easy to carry. You can put small decorations in smaller cardboard or plastic boxes inside the large bin if they need extra protection.

I like to store all the lights in one bin, the extension cords for outdoor lights in another bin, the ornaments in another few bins, and other things, like holiday dishes, wreaths, candles or linens, in their own boxes. Even though everything gets clearly labeled, I still prefer clear bins because you can get the extra visual cue of what’s inside.

Keep giveaway and trash boxes handy as you unpack. Now is the time for any decorations that you don’t love, that are broken, or otherwise not working for you to move on. Make this the last year that you weed through ornaments and other items that you really don’t like. The decorating process should be just as much, if not more, fun than the results.

About the lights: Again, wine boxes to the rescue. I take apart the inner bottle dividers and wrap one string of lights around each divider. Wine bottle dividers have slits in them that the cord on a string of lights can slip into, keeping it in place. I tape the end of the cord with brightly colored tape first, then wrap, and when I’ve got it wrapped I tape the other end of the cord down so I know where to start unwrapping the next year.

Another thing to keep your eye out for and save: very large plastic bags. I got some good ones when I bought some pillows at Crate & Barrel. I think I was more excited about the big bags than my pillows. I used them to store bulky and large items that don’t work well in bins, like wreaths or a big stuffed Santa.

Another place that you might get a great plastic bag is the frame shop. If you have anything large framed, they often send it home with you in a clear but thick plastic bag, perfect for storing things. I don’t often recommend saving bags, but these do come in handy. Plastic dry cleaner bags, though flimsy, can be a last resort.

Finally, if I am spending the holidays out of town, I don’t decorate much and we don’t have a tree. This tends to make me look forward to the times that I do decorate. Taking a year off, or doing a scaled-down version of your usual decorations, can greatly increase the joy factor. Take a little inventory: Do you need a year off or do you have plenty of time and energy to make it a positive experience? Also, if someone in your family hates decorating, sit them down with a mug of cocoa and a candy cane and let them watch. Everyone will be a lot merrier.

I wish you a very happy holiday season with just the right amount of order to keep it high on joy, low on stress (and cursing)