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How To Put Away Our Holiday Decorations

By January 1, 2023May 28th, 202411 Comments

It’s time friends. Time to return our homes back to normal and put away our holiday decorations. Yes. The holiday rush is over. We are now left with the job of cleaning up. It was so much fun, wasn’t it, to get out the decorations and feel the anticipation of the holidays. It is not so much fun in reverse. We have to get out the boxes and crates which hold the decorations, stuff the decorations inside as quickly as possible, and return the boxes and crates to the attic, basement, or storage room. Really? What if we went about this in a more deliberate, mindful, and methodical way?

How are we going to remember which strand of lights goes outside or that we want to buy a timer for the lights, so they go on and off as needed?

What if, as we carefully pack the boxes and crates, we note what is inside? Just as we would if we were packing a moving box and for the very same reasons. So that we know what is inside each box. Maybe next year we will be going away for the holidays and will only want to decorate minimally. If we label each box with the contents, we will easily be able to pull out the decorations we want to use.

Here are my tips to put away our holiday decorations

Start with tabletop and or fireplace mantle decorations

Have a tote in which to put these decorations. If you don’t have one, Take a look at these from The Container Store. They have clear plastic containers in a variety of sizes.

Decide if you still love these decorations. If you do, grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Make a list of the tabletop decorations you put in each container. Attach the list to the outside of the container. My friend and colleague, Jonda Beattie, puts her regular, everyday decorations in the box which holds her holiday decorations so that her home doesn’t look cluttered when she is decorating. After the holidays, she does the process in reverse. She removes her everyday decorations from the holiday decorations box, fills the box with her holiday decorations, and then returns the box to the attic. You can do that too.

If there are a few decorations, you no longer love put them aside for safe keeping. When October rolls around again you can take them to the donation site of your choice.

Next up is the Christmas Tree

Do you have containers specifically meant for ornaments and wreaths? If you do not, check out The Container Store. They have containers designed to hold these decorations.

Most of my ornaments fit into one of the 3-tiered ornament holder boxes from The Container Store. I love that I can put 2 or 3 of the smaller ornaments into a section.

The reason the other ornaments don’t fit in the holder is that they are either larger wooden ornaments or small needlepoint stocking ornaments. These I put in a Rubbermaid tub layered with tissue paper.

Mindfully put your ornaments away in their container. Evaluate them and decide if you want to keep using them or if they have seen better days. If we declutter as we put away our holiday decorations, we can be assured that when we open up these containers and tubs in November or December we will only see decorations we love.

Remember to look up and down. When I decorate my tree, I hang ornaments on every possible branch. Sometimes they don’t stay where I put them and fall, landing near the base of the tree.

If your tree is artificial, and has pre-strung lights, the final step is to take the tree apart and put it into the storage box or bag.

But if your tree is a real one, the next step is to remove the lights and put them away. I’ll let you know how to put away the lights in a minute.

The final step for a live tree is to take it outside. Find out if your garbage collector will take away the tree. There is a free Christmas Tree recycling event in Atlanta on January 8th. See what is available where you live. Then clean and dry your Christmas tree stand and put it away in your garage, shed, or basement until next year.

How to put away the strands of lights

Strands of lights can be such a hassle. They look beautiful on a tree and when they are decorating the outside, but they are a bear to install if they are tangled. Here is a fail proof way to keep them so they stay untangled and ready to use from year to year.

Supplies to have on hand:

  1. Gallon sized plastic bags. I prefer the ones meant for the freezer because they are heavy duty and usually have space to write on.
  2. Permanent marker
  3. Garden tape you will use this tape to wrap around the middle of the strand of lights. It tears easily and only sticks to itself.

Follow these steps:

  1. Decide where you want to remove the lights.
  2. Remove all the strands of lights from that section of your home.
  3. Lay each strand of lights out so there are no kinks in the wires.
  4. Put one end of the lights in your non-dominant hand and wrap the cord down your forearm to your elbow and back up to your hand until you reach the end of that strand.
  5. Gently remove the loop of lights from your arm and put if on a flat surface.
  6. Take a 6” length of the garden tape and wrap it around the middle of the loop. This will keep the lights from tangling.
  7. Put the loop of lights into the plastic bag and note the location it came from (outside front door, tree, or …)

Do this for each strand of lights. Yes. This is a process and will take time, but it is worth it in the end. Next November or December when you go to string up your lights you will not first have to untangle the lights and second wonder where on earth you put these lights before.

When we carefully and mindfully declutter and put away our holiday decorations we give ourselves the gift of organization. We can be secure in thinking that things are stowed efficiently and that we are keeping the decorations we love and want to use again.

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Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia


  • Great step by step guide. It can seem overwhelming when we’re tired after the holidays to get started putting away decorations and you’ve broken it down into helpful steps.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    As someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, my familiarity with trees and lights is mostly second-hand. I’m usually good at conceptualizing and relaying a good process for dismantling the holiday (and evaluating what needs to be removed for next year), but I love your specific suggestions. Holiday lights have always mystified me, as I know people are always complaining about the difficulty of managing them, and I’ve never even HEARD of garden tape, so I’ll have to learn more.

  • I’m seeing this a day too late, as I put my decorations away yesterday. I managed to eliminate a large container by putting the leftover rolls of wrapping paper in the back of my office closet. That means next year it will be easier to bring ALL my Christmas stuff up from the storage locker, giving me a good opportunity to sort and organize as you’ve suggested.

  • Deciding what decoration you still love is a great idea before packing them. I’m planning on doing this task next week. I can’t wait! I love decorating, but it gets cluttered fast in my smaller home.

  • Jamie Steele says:

    Taking our decorations down today! Now I have a plan of attack! Thanks!

  • Seana+Turner says:

    I love the idea of putting the garden tape around the middle of the loop of lights instead of over one end. Much better! Seems like every year we pull them out and have at least a strand or two that has gone bad. The big irritation is when it works when you test it, but once you get it up (e.g. outside, high up, in the cold), then it stops working. ARGH!!

    I take my decorations down around Epiphany, so next weekend for me.

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