It’s fast approaching gang, Christmas time. I mean, it’s October so the Christmas decorations should soon be filling the aisles at your local shopping shop …. store … mall place … thingy. Halloween has been ignored, Thanksgiving has basically been reduced to an antacid advertisement so, let’s talk Christmas, Specifically, Christmas decorations.

Hall decking, tree trimming, fah la la la la-ing till the cows come home. And the thing about cows is, if you don’t go get ‘em, they don’t come home. But, that’s a story for another blog. The tree, the lights, the fifty-seven inflatable, electrical snowman, reindeer, monstrosities that will adorn the front yard, depriving your gentle neighbors of sleep for the entire holiday season. Oh Holy Night indeed. Yet, despite the protestations of; “next year we’re not going to” or “I think we need to get back to simple and traditional”  … we decorate. We love, love, love to decorate.

And why not? Nothing turns the old double wide into a Currier and Ives dreamscape better than some twinkling chili pepper lights and a table top dancing Santa. So, I say decorate!

I also say, take time when you’re putting your decorations away so next year, when you set out on your hall decking adventure, it’s not a tangled, shattered, nightmare. I say that. Sometimes out loud. When I’m waiting to cross a street. And I’m surrounded by strangers, I’ll just open my pie hole and say that. Even in the middle of April.

I say it because it’s true. End of the season we’re so ready to be done with it all that we hastily pack it all up, somehow forgetting that, in twelve quick months, we’ll be dragging it all out again. And when we do, what do we find? Strings of lights more jangled and twisted than the varicose veins on aunt Brahindha’s legs. Shattered Christmas balls, wilted wreaths and an artificial tree that looks more like the leftover offerings on the holiday buffet than the majestic Douglas firs that roam free in our national parks. I know trees don’t roam but, you get my point. So, I suggest, when you’re boxing up the holidays, to take a little time, use these handy tips and next year, the only headache you’ll get is from your in-laws.

First off, let’s talk storage. I know it’s easy to chuck the boxes and bags down the stairs and forget everything in the basement but, that’s just not wise. The same holds true for opening that strange, tiny door in the ceiling and pushing everything into the attic.Temperature changes and uncontrollable humidity can be hazardous to your decorations. Keep them in rooms that you live in. I suggest, if you have a guest room, put them in closets there or under the guest beds.

Thing is, most of us already have the “guest” room cluttered with junk so, that may not be an option. Another option is an inexpensive storage unit. One that is temperature controlled. Not just for the Christmas decorations but there are other things that can be stored for later in there as well. A good storage unit is pretty handy to have access to.

Once you have the; where are we gonna put all this stuff, figured out, let’s talk boxing it up. If you’re going to ignore my advice and store things in the basement, with the spiders and the monsters – don’t even try to tell me there are no monsters down there – then you probably shouldn’t use cardboard boxes. Cardboard doesn’t hold up well at all in temperature changes or humidity variations. It will crumble, mold and whatever is inside will be ruined. For basement or attic storage, I suggest Rubbermaid storage containers. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and will keep your basement or attic stored decorations in fine condition. As an added bonus, put some wooden dowels in the containers to hang decorations or wrap garland around them to keep it nice and tangle free.

If you’re going temperature controlled storage unit, then you’ll be fine with cardboard. Sturdy ones. Don’t just go to the grocery store and grab some used produce boxes, get some good storage boxes that will last you a long time. Why? Well, when you’re putting away the yule-ness, you don’t need boxes that are collapsing and the nightmare of trying to find boxes that will hold all the stuff from the box that is now not a box. Good storage boxes will last you a few seasons. What comes out, goes right back in.

Label it. Label all of it. Label all of it in detail. The label should have the room the decorations were in or the location they occupied; i.e; dinning room or front porch. The label should have exactly what’s in the box as well so you’re not searching for things the next season. It’s a good idea to keep displays together. If you created a fabulous mantle display, keep all those things together in one box so next season, when you’re thinking, what did I do last year, there you go, it’s all in one, well labeled, box.

Egg cartons, like the ones eggs come in … from the store, are great for glass ornamental Christmas balls. Nestled in their own little pocket and then placed at the top of the storage box, limits the chances of having a box full of shards of colored glass next season. For the larger ones, plastic containers that apples or pears or other large roundish fruits come in make perfect storage caddies. A little tissue paper and then nestle them in for their long hibernation. Don’t forget to label these as well.

Paper towel and toilet paper rolls are great for storing smaller ornaments. Cut them in half and slip your ornaments inside. Then seal either end with your good pal duct tape and they will be safe for next year.

Lights used to be an issue for me. Didn’t matter if I took the time to carefully put them in a box, when I opened that box the following year, it was a giant ball of tangled nightmare with Helena Bonham Carter sticking out of the middle. Then I learned this good tip, wrap the lights around a coffee can and secure the ends with a piece of tape or in a slit cut in the plastic lid. Then you simply unroll them the next year. No tangled mess. I miss my time with Helena but, not fighting the ball of lights is worth it.

The tree. Ah, yes, the tree. If you are one of those families that hikes into the snow drifted wood and cuts down their own tree, then storing it is not a problem, you just toss it to the curb or, better still, you chop it up and use it for firewood. Yes, you can burn your Christmas tree. Be sure you remove all ornaments, and tinsel and fingers before you chop it up and send it to the fire. Just keep in mind that freshly cut softwoods; spruce, pine and fir, will produce a lot of creosote when burned. This can build up inside your flue so, keep an eye on that if, say, you have a Christmas tree burning party. Here’s another idea; take the tree down, remove all the decorations and take it back to the woods where it can become a natural habitat for small birds or little creatures or that dude with the hook hand who likes to find kids making out in cars … it’s nice to give back.

If you have an artificial tree then storage is an issue. If your tree is one of those that has the branches that detach from the center post, your main issue is labeling. Usually they are color coded at the end of the branch. However, with years of use, setting up, taking down, that color code can fade. Using colored duct tape is a solution. Stays bright longer and also helps the branches set in tighter to the holes that have probably gotten wider with time. When storing the branches, do so in layers, bottom to the top, so setup is just reversed, top down.

The other type of artificial tree, the branches remain attached. In this case, it’s a great idea to wrap the tree tight with thrift store belts. This keeps the tree in a much more storable shape. Once you’ve belted your tree tight, the best way to store it safely is in a concrete form tube. Duct tape one end, slide the tree in, duct tape it closed. Safe and ready for the next season.

Another idea would be what I call my Christmas tree alternative. I live in a small apartment and could never find a tree that didn’t either take over and try to kill me -no seriously, that happened- or was so small and sad, it made Charlie Brown’s tree feel confident. Then one year, I saw a few photos of book trees. I stack books, rounded base and then, pile them up until they have the shape of a tree. Then I string them with lights and such. White lights bouncing off the various book jackets gives a lovely multi-colored glow. It’s also a good conversation piece and when the holidays are over, they go back up on the shelf.

When storing your Christmas decorations, it’s wise to make sure they have their own place either in the basement, attic or your storage unit. Well labeled and in their own area, the Christmas decorations will be easy to get to and easy to put away. Making the retrieving and storing your Christmas decorations as easy as possible allows you to start the holidays off feeling good and light not frustrated and defeated.