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How to Store Christmas Decorations So They Last

Tuesday, 14 January 2019

Wondering how to store Christmas decorations so they last all year long? Here's the lowdown on materials, packing and storage tips to keep your decor tidy until next year!

Reflective disco ball ornament hanging on a tree

As the holidays disappear in the rearview mirror and the long, cold Toronto winter sets in for real, you're probably not the only one feeling a touch of the holiday blues.

But you know what makes everyone feel better about bidding the festivities adieu? Preparing for next year! Organizing your holiday trimmings not only gives you one last burst of Yuletide coziness, but it will also make next year's prep so much easier.

Wondering how to store Christmas decorations so they stay safe and sound all year long? Here's our pro take on packing and storing all of your holiday decor.

Gather Your Materials

Woman putting string lights on a Christmas tree

Not nearly enough advice on how to store Christmas decorations starts with gathering materials. Like cooking, you want to be sure you have all your ingredients in place before you get started. The same goes for packing away your ornaments. To do so properly, you will need:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Tissue paper
  • Ziplock bags
  • Tubs or boxes

You should also grab a sharpie, some Windex and a few rags.

Create a Packing and Mailing Zone

These are the same supplies you'll need for sending out packages throughout the year. If you had to requisition these materials from all over the house, this is a good time to take half an hour and create a packing and mailing system. Put it in a dedicated spot in your home so you can access it at any time. Not only does this keep your house free of clutter, it can save you boatloads of time.

Set Aside Packing Supplies Throughout the Year

Did you move to a new home this year? You're probably not thinking about how to store Christmas ornaments at the moment, but you should be! Take the time after your move to set aside some extra boxes, especially small ones, in case you need to pack away new ornaments during the coming holiday season.

The same is true for bubble wrap, Ziplock bags that can no longer be used for food but still seal and packing paper. These all have useful life left, and learning how to how to store Christmas ornaments with reusable materials that you already have at home can save you a boatload of money.

Prepare Your Ornaments and Decorations

Gold ornaments and garland on pine branches

The first step when learning how to store Christmas decorations properly is to prepare them. Otherwise, you will have to manage the fallout during the holiday heyday next year, which is not when you want to deal with dusty decor or broken glass ornaments. Instead, save yourself time by following these tips.

Check Your Lights

Inherent in learning how to store Christmas decorations is understanding how to organize Christmas lights correctly.

Lights are notorious for causing grief. While you can't do anything about that, you can give them a good once-over right now. Test all your light strings, indoor and out, in a socket. If part of the string is burnt out, test each bulb to find the weak link and insert a fresh one. If your strings stay on even when a bulb burns out, you should still check for dark or dimming lights and replace them with a new bulb.

Next, stand up, grasp the plug in your hand, and wind the strand around your elbow like you would an extension cord or coil of rope. When you still have 18 inches or so left, pull the loop off your elbow and wind the remaining cord around the bundle, then tuck it in. Make stacks of lights in this fashion.

Check and Dust Your Ornaments

Give your breakable ornaments a good once-over first. Ceramic, porcelain and glass are prone to chipping or breaking. If you find a broken one, you can:

  • Discard it
  • Superglue it back together
  • Paint over the chips with acrylic paint

... or leave it, assuming it's not visible and no one will get injured taking it out of storage next December. Now, dust anything that looks dull.

Gather Larger Decor

Now pull together wreaths, garlands, centerpieces, nutcrackers, candle holders, window displays and any other non-Christmas-tree items. These also need careful wrapping to keep them from breakage and the elements.

Wash Fabrics

A row of red stockings hanging on a mantle

You always want to wash your fabrics before putting them away, not when you pull them back out. This not only makes decorating a breeze next year, it also helps prevent mildew and other adverse storage conditions. Think tree skirts, holiday tablecloths and even stockings if they need to be washed.

Put Like with Like

When decorating, we like to space out ornaments for the best effect. While that's pretty on the tree, it's pretty annoying when wrapping everything back up. Nevertheless, take the time to group your balls, icicles and other baubles with their mates, which will make hanging them that much easier next year.

Pack Your Christmas Decorations

The next step in properly storing Christmas decorations is to pack them up carefully, such that even if you drop a box they'll be okay. Let's take this step by step.

Step 1: Pack the Ball Ornaments

Balls are easy. Just place them in Ziplock bags with balls of corresponding color, no padding needed. As long as you place them in a box or bin surrounded by bubble wrap, they're unlikely to break. Just make sure to put them in their own cardboard box or plastic tub separate from other ornaments, with bubble wrap or packing paper underneath as well. Label them clearly, either right on the box, or on a piece of painter's tape affixed to it.

Step 2: Pack the Glass Ornaments

Glass ornaments need a bit more care. They tend to snap and shatter, so make sure you have a few layers of tissue paper wrapped around each one. Ornaments such as icicles or small glass stars can be wrapped together in tissue paper, so that you fold tissue paper over one, insert another into the same tissue paper, fold it and insert another, etc. For any larger ornaments, wrap them separately. When possible, place them inside smaller boxes, like holiday paperboard or plain cardboard.

The same goes for delicate wooden ornaments cut by hand or with a die cutter, and anything constructed by a child. The latter don't tend to have much structural support, so treat them gently if you want to keep those treasured heirlooms alive as long as you!

Step 3: Pack up the Rest

A pinecone and pine wreath hanging on a blue door

Anything felted, plastic, wooden or otherwise tough requires a lot less consideration when packing. However, keep in mind that even rubber or plastic can scrape against other ornaments and leave streaky color or scuffs. If you want to avoid that, take the same care with these as you do with the other ornaments, wrapping them individually and then placing them carefully in a box.

Use Tough Ornaments as a Buffer for Breakage

Because these ornaments are unlikely to break, they add great structure for more delicate objects. Pack tough ornaments in tissue paper, then layer them under and around more breakable objects for support. This helps you minimize the amount of Christmas boxes you'll need to store, which is ideal if you're trying to live minimally.

Step 4: Store Lights with Lights

Ha, see what we did there? Now gather up all your lights and put them in their own box. That way, when you want to put them up, you don't have to sort through ornaments or other decorations in order to remove them - which you often want to do days or weeks before putting up the tree.

Step 5: Store Fake Trees Carefully

Decorated Christmas tree with cold ornaments and snowflakes

If you opt for a fake tree, work hard to make sure it gets the TLC it needs before you put it away. Dust or vacuum it, fold it up according to manufacturer instructions and put it away in boxes with padding. Keep in mind that fake trees have around 10 times the carbon footprint of real trees (when properly disposed of), so Mother Earth will thank you for ensuring yours lasts a good long while.

The same goes for fake wreaths, garlands and centerpieces. If you treat these well, they can last an extremely long time. After cleaning them, place them in double-lined trash bags, then put them snugly in boxes, close the lid and label them. Place them somewhere high so you don't accidentally stack something heavy on top of them over the course of the year.

Keep Your Items Somewhere Safe and Dry

Is this the year you get a storage unit to keep your Christmas decorations until the next holiday whirlwind? It could be. Ask yourself:

  • Do you consistently run out of room for your decorations, or run out of room for your furniture with all those guests in the house?
  • Do you find them annoying and inconvenient during the spring gardening craze or the heat of summer when you're just looking for the inflatable rafts?
  • Do you need somewhere to keep that fake tree?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might want to consider a storage unit. Perhaps you need it for extra space during the holidays, or maybe you want somewhere trusty to keep your heirloom trimmings safe. Whatever the case, just make sure you get a reliable storage unit so later you don't end up short one set of holiday decorations.

What do you think? Is your Christmas decor storage plan looking a little more robust than last year? Did we forget any good ideas? Be sure to let us know!

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