When the holiday season comes to a close, one dreaded chore still looms: putting away all that festive decor. Kate Pawlowski and Ann Lightfoot, professional organizers and the authors of “Love Your Home Again,” know that packing up and organizing the decorations at the end of the holiday season can be a real drag.
“The best tip we have is to be mindful and intentional to your future self when you pack up your decor at the end of the season,” they say. “You think you’ll remember where you put the velvet pumpkins and holiday wreaths, but we guarantee that a year from now, you’re going to be searching through your storage area with frustration and angst if you didn’t store things properly.”
To help you face the task of putting away all those holiday decorations and other seasonal pieces, we asked storage and organization experts for their best tips on safely packing, storing and labeling everything from holiday lights to family heirlooms.
Holiday ornament storage
Montanez says, "An easy way to keep your holiday decor organized is to use matching storage containers for individual holidays." mDesign's buffalo plaid holiday set also includes coordinating tree bags and wreath holders.
"The clear container makes it easy to see what holiday decor is inside," Montanez says, "and these bins can be stacked, which saves space in a closet or attic."
How to store holiday lights
Inexpensive spools designed for holiday light storage are a great way to get organized on a budget. This light holder is as simple as it gets — simply wind the strand of lights around it and store it with the rest of your holiday gear.
Storage for artificial trees, garland and wreaths
If you're looking to complete a matching set of holiday storage, mDesign offers wreath storage bags, which can also be used to hold coiled garland, in buffalo plaid that coordinates with the tree bag and ornament organizer boxes.
Wreaths that are especially fragile — including ones with glass ornaments that can easily sustain damage — will be safe in this heavy-duty latching plastic wreath storage container.
How to store delicate items and family heirlooms
Before putting delicate or very precious items like family heirlooms into storage bins, Montanez says that it's important to use protective packing materials. "Bubble wrap, foam sheets, peanuts, stretch wrap or packing paper," she says, "can help keep precious items and family heirlooms safe when not in use."
Fine or delicate textiles like holiday table linens or handmade decorations should be wrapped in acid-free archival tissue prior to going into storage bins, to help protect them from yellowing and to deter pests.
Outdoor holiday decoration storage
When it comes to storing large outdoor holiday decorations like inflatables or animatronics, Lightfoot and Pawlowski say, "We would recommend making sure they are wiped down if you are bringing them in from the outside, deflating any inflatable decorations and storing them in either large bins or wrapping them in clear contractor bags to keep them clean until next year."
When it comes to storing large outdoor holiday decorations, Bancroft says, "Things can potentially get tricky, purely for the fact that these are often light but large! We would recommend utilizing an overhead storage system to get these bulky items out of the way and in a spot that is sturdy and secure."
Tips and tricks for storing holiday decor
The experts we spoke to also offered some general tips and tricks, as well as things to avoid, when it comes to dismantling, packing and storing holiday decorations.
- Have a central storage area: “A mistake people often make is storing everything in separate places in their home rather than in one space,” Bancroft says. “Having dedicated areas in your garage that are specific for holiday gear will make it easier to find your favorite ornaments, lights and other decorations.”
- Create zones: “We often see people store holiday decor items by type,” Montanez says, “but not by room.” She suggests sorting holiday items in zones. “With zones,” she says, “you can organize like items together — like lights with decorations and baking materials with dishes, and so on.”
- Think vertically: “People often think about floor or wall storage,” Bancroft says, “but don’t realize how much vertical space they have, which can be maximized by adding overhead storage in their garage.”
- Don’t forget labels: “People also tend to forget to label their bins and rely on one type or size of storage bin, making it more difficult to figure out what’s in each box,” Montanez says.
- Level up your label system: “We recommend detailed labeling with a number system,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say. “For example, instead of just ‘Fall,’ take the time to write ‘Fall Velvet Pumpkins 1/10’ so you not only know what exactly is in the bin but how many more bins you have to pull out of storage.”
- Create new traditions: “If possible,” Lightfoot and Pawlowski say, “try to make the putting away of decorations as much of a tradition as pulling them out. It’s not as exciting, of course, because the holidays are over and you’ve been looking at Elf on the Shelf for what seems like years, but taking the time to carefully pack and label everything for next year will only make every holiday easier and more joyful in the future.”