Tried-and-true strategies to organize seasonal decorations

Following a focused strategy will make the decorating process much easier. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

In November 2016, a valued client asked us to decorate her home for the holidays. We agreed to take on this task, despite our limited experience with Christmas decorations. We had a call with the client to better understand her expectations and learned a few important points such as:  

  1.  The large tree goes in the living room in the middle of the bay window.
  2. The small tree goes in the kitchen.
  3. Both trees have timers, so the lights should be on by the time she comes home from work and should shut off after midnight.  

Great! We got this — or so we thought. 

We started by bringing all the cardboard cartons with holiday labels down from the attic, and set them up in the living room as our staging area. We proceeded to open all the cartons and lay out the contents on the floor.   

We spent the entire day setting up the lights on the living room tree and hanging various decorations throughout the home. Our client’s feedback via text the following morning was clear: “Please use all the strings of lights and hang every decoration stored in the cartons!”   

My motto for decorating has always been, “less is enough.” But lesson learned that when it comes to holiday decorating for this client, use everything. During our next visit, we focused on extending the strings of lights and hanging every single decoration. Her next text was an improvement; we passed the tree decorating test. Hooray! 

Decorations should be stored with care in organized cartons and accurately labeled so the setup and takedown process is seamless. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Come January, we were scheduled to take all the decorations down. Our goal was to store them in a more organized manner in containers that would not attract rodents and bugs. With our client’s permission, we invested in various-sized containers. We set up each carton for specific decorations to be stored. We also bought the plastic light storage wraps so that the lights would be easier to manage the following year. I had no idea how many lights it takes to decorate a Christmas tree. Now I know the answer; it takes a LOT of lights. 

We knew from the start that the older the decorations, the more emotional value they held for our client. The packaging for each set of hanging decorations was original and distressed. I used my handy tape gun to give support to the frail boxes to maintain the integrity of her memories. Some decorations were torn, so we repaired them as best we could. The large living room Christmas tree that had to be taken apart for storage was wrapped carefully and numbered by layers, making next year’s setup much easier.   

Each container was packed with like materials. For example: Christmas tree ornaments, hanging decorative holiday figurines, jingle bells, doggy decorations, candles, multiple strings of lights, centerpieces for the dining room table, Santa doll for hallway, Christmas color nightlights in the kitchen and the hallway, a variety of lighted stars for the top of each tree, and paper decorations for the windows. Each container was clearly labeled with my handy Brother P-touch that I’ve had since the early 1990s.  

Be careful with lights because they can easily get tangled, a common point of frustration. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Since that memorable decorating experience, I have come across many cartons of holiday decorations in other clients’ attics, basements, crawl spaces, you name it. I go back to my first Christmas tree setup and use that as my reference on how to manage the process. Always ask yourself: What’s important? Should broken decorations be tossed or repaired? Any specific instructions on where you want things set up? 

What’s in your holiday decoration boxes? Make this year the time to sort through what you’ve accumulated. The options are always there: keep, recycle, toss or donate. In our client’s case in 2016, we knew that letting anything go was a big “no.” What works for you? Is it time to let go of the sentimental decorations that are ripped and broken, and replace with some current memories? Either way, they deserve to be stored with care in organized cartons and accurately labeled. If the proper care is taken when putting them away for storage in January, believe me: It will be much easier at the end of November to get the tree set up.   

There are no rules on what to keep; it’s whatever works for you. Regardless, take this moment to count your blessings and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season with friends and family.   

Happy Organizing and Happy New Year! 

Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and a proud member of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers (NASSM). She lives in West Orange and may be reached at [email protected].   

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.