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Simple planning and packing tricks to wisely store lights, ornaments, and more.


Problem: The light strings are always tangled, and you don’t know what kind of replacements you need for the dead and faded bulbs.

Solution: Whenever you buy a new string of lights, immediately label the plug with the type and number of bulbs in the strand and where you purchased it. That way, any damaged bulbs will be easy to replace.

As for the knots and snarls, take an empty coffee can, cut a slit in the plastic lid, and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Wrap the string around the can, and store extra bulbs and extension cords inside. (When it’s time to unpack the lights again, plug each strand into an electrical outlet to make sure it works before you unroll it.) Always store coloured lights in a dark place to keep the bulbs from fading (blues, greens, and purples fade faster than reds and yellows do).

Problem: You end up tossing loads of wrapping paper and other packaging materials.

Solution: Instead of throwing away used gift wrap and tissue paper, run it through a paper shredder and use the fluffy strips as packing filler when you're putting away your decorations. Or fold up leftover rolls into useable sized sheets for making next years ribbons and bows. You can always use a slightly warm iron to smooth out any wrinkles.

Problem: You can never find anything.

Solution: Label each box with the holiday and a few bullet points about its contents. Then organise the boxes by season.

For the ultimate in organisation, keep a more detailed content list for each box on your computer. Start a decorating notebook with an inventory sheet for each holiday so you can keep track of how many strands of lights and how many feet of garland you have. Consult your list to make sure you don't overbuy when it comes time to decorate again.

Problem: You don't have the space to store all your trimmings.

Solution: Evaluate your decorations annually, and keep only what you are really going to use. If an item is damaged or has lost its colour, get rid of it - and consider using natural accents - nuts, pinecones, and fresh greenery or flowers - that you can toss after the New Year.

Set a storage limit. Just because you might have space to store all of your decorations, doesn't mean you should keep everything. Set a limit now, so when it comes time to put your decorations away you can adhere to the storage limit. If you have grown children, you may want to pass along ornaments and decorations to them to enjoy in their homes. This is especially fun to do with children who have recently moved out of your home and are establishing their own traditions.

[ real simple magazine]