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Undeck the Halls

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WHETHER YOU plan to undeck the halls the day after Christmas, or wait until after the New Year, packing up the holidays is best done in an organized fashion.

Photo op – Take pictures of holiday decorations, beautifully styled or not, and keep them in an envelope taped to the inside of a decorations box. (Note “Holiday Decoration Photos” on the outside of the envelope and box.) The photos will help you remember what looked best when you decorate next year.

Ornaments – Begin dismantling the tree by removing all ornaments and laying them on a large table. Repair broken items and discard worn-out ones. Box up tired, old, outdated ornaments to give to charity or sell in a garage sale. Consider buying red-and-green plastic boxes with lids and divided compartments, which are ideal for storing ornaments.

Lights out – Check light strings and replace burnt-out bulbs. Wrap the strands around cardboard tubes or squares, or buy plastic boxes with frames designed to store lights, garland and extension cords without tangling. Label the box or container. (Put outdoor lights in a separate box marked “Outdoor Lights/Decorations.”) Remove garlands and store them as you did lights, then remove tinsel and store in its own container. Discard garlands made of fresh, edible material that might attract vermin.

Double-check – While you’re folding up the tree skirt (does it need to be washed?), have a fresh pair of eyes check for missed ornaments. Don’t forget the tree topper. Remove the tree from its stand and take it outside for recycling. Dump any water in the stand, wash and dry well, then pack it away.

Whole-house sweep – Check each room in the house for decorations that need storing. Don’t forget the entry, guest bath, kids’ rooms, kitchen and mantel. Then go outside and collect decorations, lights and wreaths and box them up.

Dishes, towels, etc. – Label a separate box to hold holiday tableware, towels, candy bowls, unused paper plates and napkins and containers or bags for baked goods. This is extra-helpful if kitchen cupboard space is tight. As always, consider recycling old items, especially if you did not use them this year. Take advantage of post-holiday sales to upgrade your collection.

Store it smart – Since you need access to these boxes just once a year, put them in a remote closet (I put mine in the space below the stairs). Avoid storing them in the attic or garage, since temperature fluctuations can be extreme.

Precautions – Don’t store holiday candles with decorations. Their scent can attract vermin, and any heat will warp tapers. Instead, keep them with other candles.

Card reincarnation – Don’t throw out the cards you received this year. Send them to the card-recycling program at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude’s St., Boulder City, NV 89005. The used card fronts help make “new” cards. Or reuse the cards yourself. Cut the greeting side off, punch a hole in the corner, and tie with ribbon as a gift tag next year.

Paper round-up – Take inventory of your paper goods: greeting cards, gift wrap and gift tags. If supplies are low, replenish them now from all the half-off sales. A long, flat under-bed box makes ideal storage. Buy transparent boxes, so you can identify the Christmas wraps from the box of all-occasion wraps. Use a third box for bows, ribbon and tags. Include tape, scissors and a pen in that box.