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5 ways to organize and store holiday decorations


You’ll thank yourself when you unpack them again next year

(Illustration by José L. Soto/The Washington Post; iStock)

We get it — the holidays are exhausting. Once they’re over, it’s understandably tempting to toss all your baubles, garlands and ornaments into bins and boxes as fast as you can, to be shoved away and forgotten until next Christmas. But if you’re aiming to be better organized in the new year, there may be no better way to start than by taking a more thoughtful approach to storing your decorations.

Whether you have limited space, an abundance of delicate items or just an overwhelming amount of stuff, we asked professional home organizers for their best tips and strategies. Here’s what they recommend.

Weed out decorations before storing them again

Before you put everything away, take the opportunity to assess which items may no longer be serving you. Holiday decorating only seems to get more intense every year, but if going all out with a tree in every room or a gingerbread village on every flat surface has been stressing you out, consider whether simplifying your approach next time around might be worth it.

Stephanie Treantos, founder of Lemonaid Solutions, an organizing company in Portland, Maine, advises sticking to the “one in one out” rule if you’ve introduced new decor times during the season. That way, you won’t find that you’ve run out of storage space when it’s time to pack up. “Keeping it simple and realistic will go a long way,” she says.

This is also the time to toss items that are broken and donate the ones that no longer fit your style. “By the end of the holiday season people are burned out and ready to just throw their items in the attic, garage or wherever,” says Annie Schmidt of Dallas home-organizing service SOS. “I encourage people to really give themselves time to put everything away. Wake up, have a cup of coffee, make sure your kids are out of the house so there’s no one there to bother you and you have ample time to go through everything.”

Look high and low for storage options

High-up shelves, behind doors and under the bed are just a few places that can be well suited for holiday storage.

To make the most of the space beneath beds, Susie Salinas of Systems by Susie in Annapolis, Md., recommends shallow organizers specifically designed for that spot. She particularly likes options at the Container Store that are tailor-made for gift wrap and tree ornaments.

The backs of doors can also be put to work. Treantos suggests adjustable over-the-door racks by Elfa for things like gift wrap. If you have a little extra space, for instance in a basement or laundry room, a storage rack, such as this five-tier shelving unit at Lowe’s, provides another easy way to maximize vertical space. “The ones with wheels are great, too, because they allow you to move them around, even when they start to get heavy,” says Treantos.

Color-coding and labeling make life easier

Color-coding and labeling are great ways to keep track of what you have in your holiday collection, especially if limited space requires you to store seasonal items throughout your home, instead of in one central location.

“I like for clients to use different colored tubs for different seasons,” says Schmidt. “For example, with one of my clients we do all red tubs for Christmas and all orange tubs for Halloween, so the right decor is very visible.”

Alternatively, Treantos suggests clear bins that allow you to see exactly what’s inside at first glance. When it comes to labeling, she suggests categorizing containers by area of the home, such as “mantel decor,” “dining room table decor” and “ornaments.”

For a higher-tech solution, Ashley Stewart of O.C.D. (Organize. Create. Design) in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends labeling with QR codes, like the ones available from SmartLabels. “There are programs that make QR codes that can be placed on the outside of the box and all you have to do is scan the box and a list of contents pops up,” she says.

For delicate items, use specialty storage products

Organizing with holiday-specific products not only simplifies packing up, it also helps preserve breakables.

For example, says Schmidt, “If you have glass balls, you don’t want to just throw them in a tub with everything else. You want to protect those items and be able to use them year after year.” She recommends the Holdn’ Storage Christmas Ornament Storage Container Box or the Zober Christmas Ornament Storage Box, both available on Amazon.

Tree- and wreath-specific storage can also be worthy investments if you’re concerned about protecting delicate faux branches and foliage. Schmidt prefers the Zober Christmas Wreath Storage Container. For artificial trees, Salinas suggests the Santa’s Bag Upright Tree Storage Duffel.

Or try these budget-friendlier options

If you’d rather not splurge on wreath bags and ornament organizers, Marisa Smith of MACMom Organizing in Madison, N.J., suggests a less expensive DIY solution: “I use leftover tissue paper or sheets of paper towels to wrap delicate ornaments, and then I store them in Ziploc bags,” she explains. “I then store the bags in weathertight bins and stack the bins on top of each other.” She also uses giant Ziploc storage totes from Amazon to pack up garlands and stockings, and keep them dust-free. “They work well because they’re flexible and easy to close.”

If you have the space, Smith recommends storing wreaths on Command hooks so they keep their shape. Sticky hooks are also a nice option for gift bags and other wrapping supplies.

Jamie Killin is a writer in Arizona who covers business, hospitality and lifestyle.

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