It’s a controversial question: When should you take down your Christmas decorations? Well, that really depends, says Lorraine Brock, founder of Get Organized!, a local home organizing service. Some people want it down immediately, others will wait a few days into the new year.
Some dread the process so much that “you can get into February in Christmas is still up in many people’s homes,” Brock says.
No matter when you take it all down, though, you know it’s going to be a pain. Lights become a tangled mess, the garlands scratch up your arms, and stray ornaments roll everywhere.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Brock gave us 13 tips on how to make your holiday decor packing process as smooth as possible.
1. Schedule when you’re taking everything down.
Let’s face it: We all know that one house that leaves up its lights for way too long after New Year’s. “A lot of times Christmas decor stays up a long time for quite a few people because they find no time to take it down,” Brock says, so she recommends scheduling a time in your calendar to pack everything up.
2. Dust everything before you put it away.
Because your decorations are sitting out on display for a month to six weeks during the holiday season, it’s bound to collect dust. Brock recommends giving everything a quick wipe-down with Windex or an all-purpose cleaner before you pack it all away. “Most people don’t clean their decor very much,” she says. “But the thing is, it gets really dusty over time, and it doesn’t sparkle as much or shine as much.”
3. You’ll want quality storage totes and containers.
Avoid large, clear totes, Brock says, because the plastic can get brittle in the Texas heat. She prefers thick solid-colored bins, like the ones from Rubbermaid, which you can buy at stores like Walmart and Lowe’s, because they are sturdier. You want to also get lids that latch on. Overtime, lids that just snap on can become flimsy, she says, “and lids can just come off like cheap cellophane on a on a leftover dish in the refrigerator.”
4. Label all your boxes, bins, and totes.
Brock is a big fan of labeling all your totes. To get started, she recommends sorting decor by room, not by type of decoration. Then, make a list of what’s in each bin—or take a video—and put it somewhere safe. After that, assign each tote a number so you don’t have to waste time next year digging for your living room decorations—you already know it’s in #11.
5. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Turns out, the Grinch had the right idea gathering up old empty sacks before his raid on Whoville. Brock suggests repurposing items around the house. Brock uses the thick plastic zipper bags—the ones new comforters or bedsheets come in—to store items like holiday pillows, blankets, and stockings. “We often find that when we’re in people’s homes,” she says, “it’s amazing what we can find to save them a little bit of money without it having to be all like Container Store-type products.”
6. But if you do go to the Container Store, buy shoe boxes.
Brock loves the clear men’s and women’s shoe boxes at the Container Store (“They are absolutely incredible.”). She uses these to organize items within bins. The shoe boxes are sturdy and can stack up nicely, she says. Brock also recommends the smaller accessory boxes to cache smaller items, like ornament hooks, tape for wrapping presents, or even scissors.
7. Use Ziploc bags whenever you can.
You should check all your Christmas lights for broken bulbs, but when you’re ready to put them up, Brock says to roll them, zip-tie them so they don’t tangle, and then stick them in a Ziploc bag. Really, she’s a big fan of throwing everything you can into clear bags, like plastic and non-breakable ornaments. Go to the Dollar Store, she says, and you can get a pack of two quality plastic bags that can hold a basketball for just $1.25.
8. Buy clear trash bags.
“Sometimes you have the strange, obscure piece of décor, and it really won’t fit in any kind of container that you would normally have,” Brock says. “It’s either too large or too bulky or just too out of shape.” She recommends buying clear trash bags—get them at stores like Walmart and Target or on Amazon—so you can protect your decoration from the elements but still see what it is.
9. Hang your wreaths.
Use those clear plastic bags to protect wreaths as well. Cut a hole at the top of the bag and stick a clothes hanger from the dry cleaner through the loop to hang your wreath. For added support, bend the sides of the hanger, and wedge it into the wreath. If the wreath is too big, Brock says to cut two bags down the side longways and tape them together. After that, nail some hooks on the studs and rafters in your attic, and hang up the wreaths so you can see what you have. (Brock also recommends hanging up bows with tissue paper inside them so they don’t get wrinkly.)
10. Store your Christmas tree in whatever way works for you.
Brock says she’s seen people put away their Christmas trees in all sorts of ways, like sticking it in the garage and covering it with Saran wrap for protection. That works “quite geniusly,” Brock says, “but it does take up a lot of room in your garage.” Instead, she recommends storing it in the attic. Use a soft bag instead of a hard bulky container to make it easier to move the tree up and down the attic steps.
11. Be wary of hot attics.
This is Dallas, so you know that come June, your attic is going to be blazing hot. So, says Brock, you should be careful about what you store up there. Items like candles and framed photos should be stowed in a climate-controlled area, like a hall closet. Flocked Christmas trees can’t go up there either, Brock says, “because the white part will turn yellow after a couple Christmases.”
12. Make a list of what you’ll need next year.
Brock advises you to make a list of everything that’s broken, so you know what to replace next year, as well as anything else you might need, like more red bows or snowflakes. This way, you can browse the after-Christmas clearance sales, and then you’re prepared for next year.
13. Shop the after Christmas clearance sales.
“When you’re out shopping after Christmas, and in many times, clearances last after Christmas the whole month of January, you’ll see all kinds of things,” Brock says. These sales are a great time to shop for discounted decorations, like greenery, ribbon (Brock loves the ribbon from Costco’s), and holiday pillows, which can get quite expensive normally.
Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…