The lights, ornaments and all the trimmings are what make the holiday season so festive, but packing it all up again is a task we all dread. Real Simple magazine's Elizabeth Mayhew shares tips on organizing and storing all your seasonal items, making your workload easier next year when it's time to take it all out again.
Instead of throwing away used gift wrapping and tissue paper, run it through a paper shredder and use the fluffy strips as packing filler when you're putting away your decorations
It's ideal to keep the packaging that your fine ornaments arrive in, but if you don't have the ornament's original packaging, wrap the piece in a resealable sandwich bag, then store it in a sturdy, well-padded box.
Use a partitioned cardboard liquor or wine boxes for storing standard ornaments and small decorations. Use egg cartons for tiny ornaments or items.
Everyone cherishes the macaroni or dough ornaments made by their kids, but they can attract pests. Pack food-based decoration in resealable sandwich bags to protect them from humidity, then place the bags in a cookie tin to keep rodents out.
To store lights: Take an empty coffee can, cut a slit in the plastic lid, and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Wrap the string around the can, store extra bulbs and extension cords inside, then replace the lid. When it's time to unpack the lights again, plug each strand into an electrical outlet to make sure it works before you unroll it.
Real Simple suggests using solid wrapping paper for the holidays because you can use it throughout the year. But if you must have seasonal wrapping paper, you can protect any opened rolls by cutting a leg from a pair of panty hose, slipping it over the tube, and securing the open end with a twist tie.
No one feels like ironing a big tablecloth after you've spent so much time cooking or preparing for company. Use skirt hangers for all you tablecloths, place mats and napkins so they don't become creased at the bottom of a box.
Cover indoor wreaths with plastic bags, then hang them on the walls in a spare closet or on two-by-fours in the attic. Put one nail on top and one just below the base so the wreath keeps its round shape. If you hang artificial wreaths or garlands outside, bring them inside and let them dry for 24 hours before storing them.
Label each box with the holiday and a few bullet points about its contents. This not only helps you remember how you packed things up so efficiently last year, but will also help you put your hands on specific items when it's time to decorate.
If you store your decorations in a damp space like a basement, use plastic storage containers with tight seals, and place them up off the floor on shelves or palettes, in case of flooding. To help keep boxes free of moisture, drop in a few silica packets (often found in new shoe boxes or available for purchase at the Preservation Station, preservesmart.com).