Packing Up Until Next Year

This is the day that we take down our Christmas decorations at our house. There's not the same excitement that there was putting them up, especially when I think about dusting and cleaning again so the everyday things can come back out.

As we un-decorate (de-decorate? anti-decorate? re-decorate?), we can make the task more manageable and organize so that next year's decorating will be that much easier.

1. Take pictures. If you really liked the way something was displayed or arranged, take a quick picture before you tear everything down. Then store them all in a file until December.

2. The tree. Don't store the tree back in its original box - the cardboard will break down over time and attract bugs. Instead, invest in a tree bag that seals so nothing can get in.

3. Holiday linens. Dedicate one space to all your Christmas towels, tablecloths and napkins. Set aside one shelf in the linen closet or kitchen, or use a suitcase and tuck it out of the way. Just make sure to label it so you don't try to travel with it.

4. Christmas lights. Throw out any bad bulbs or strands of lights that aren't worth keeping anymore. Cut a piece of thick cardboard to about a foot square and wrap each strand around it instead of wadding them up or trying to put them back in their boxes. Save time and energy!

5. Pack each box by theme. Before you put decorations away, organize them by category - put all of the lights in one box, put the tree ornaments all together, everything from the mantle in a box together and all of the decorations from each room in their own box. Label them accordingly so you can take each to its appropriate room next year.

6. Christmas candles. Never store candles near a heat source, even if they're wrapped up. The attic is a poor choice, as is the closet where the heater is. Pack them separately, tucked into old socks or pantyhose to keep them from getting scratched and dented. Then store them somewhere in the house where the temperature is regulated.

7. Tree ornaments. If you've kept the original boxes, using them is always the safest packing job. Otherwise, use smaller boxes (like shoe boxes or mailing boxes) and organize tissue-paper wrapped ornaments in each one. Try to keep them in a single layer so nothing gets crushed. If you can afford an ornament box that already has dividers in it, consider one with a variety of opening sizes.

8. Do's and Don'ts. Don't use newspaper to wrap anything. The ink will rub off. Do use paper towel tubes as protection for smaller ornaments and decorations. wrap the item in tissue paper and slide it into the tube for some added protection. Don't spend money on storage if you don't have to. Ask stores for their empty boxes and bubble wrap or reuse the boxes and paper your gifts came in. Do try using an old garment bag for a gift wrapping center. Tuck away ribbon, gift tags and tape in the pockets and slide the rolls of wrapping paper and gift bags into the main section. Zip it up and tuck it away in the back of a closet until next year.

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