Packing It Up
I was taking down the tree and my husband, ever the helpful man that he is, paused on his way to his man cave and watched me for a moment, thoughtfully taking a sip from his coffee. “Why don’t you just leave it up all year?”
Why not? I could be one of those fans who live Christmas 365 days a year, simply because I love my baubles, but really, to keep anything special you need to limit your intake. The tree is packed away so that next year it will be fun to reacquaint myself with the memories each bit of glass and tinsel hold.
So the tree is packed up and here’s a few pointers for keeping and storing the baubles and making unpacking them next year a bit easier. To protect your fragile holiday decorations while they’re boxed up, you’ll want to make sure you pack them with care. In this Rum Lot blog post, I’ll talk about how to pack, arrange, and organise fragile decorations so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
Record the Dazzle!
Before you take it down, snap a photo of your tree and decor to refer to next year. If you loved how your decorations looked, take pictures of them in their full glory before you pack them away so that you can easily recreate the same look next year. If you have several trees (and many of us do!) you can organise decor not just by type but by what goes with what. If you do, print out your pictures and attach them to the boxes that house those specific decorations. Not only will you feel super organised, you’ll also find it easy to set up your home the next holiday season.
The materials that you use to pack your fragile decorations depends on your own preferences and what you have on hand, but assume that you need:
Tissue paper or kitchen roll (for ornaments). It’s worth noting again that tissue paper is preferable to packing paper for your ornaments. Because it’s so much thinner, you can easily secure it around fragile trinkets without having to force it
Kraft Packing paper for larger, rougher decor, like wreaths
Air-filled plastic wrap and/or air-filled plastic envelopes (I save this from packages sent to me. I haven’t bought bubble wrap for decades.)
Storage containers (cardboard, plastic, and/or specialty)
In-box dividers (likely already included in specialty boxes) or smaller boxes.
Zip lock bags, salvaged plastic bags, large garbage/bin bags
A marking pen
Make sure that the cardboard boxes are sturdy as they can easily tear, the bottoms fall out or they can even develop mould. While you could buy brand new cardboard boxes with corrugated sides it is thriftier and greener to reuse old boxes, just be picky about the quality of boxes that you salvage.
The alternative is to buy large plastic containers with airtight lids. While on the surface that might not seem as green as a re-used cardboard box, they should last a lifetime and in the end, one 30 year old plastic container will probably use less carbon to make and transport than a dozen cardboard boxes. On the plus side, clear plastic boxes stack better, keep out the bugs and mould better, and allow you to see what’s in the container. Personally, I have plastic boxes I bought decades ago and I’ll use them until I pass on to the Great Bauble Shop in the Sky. Then they’re my daughter’s problem.
Storing Do’s and Don'ts
One important thing which you should keep in mind when storing glass items long-term is that you shouldn’t store dirty or moist items. Given that your decorations will sit in boxes for a year, if they are moist they could be mouldy when you pull them out and if they are dusty the grime will settle over time, etching and discolouring the glass. So before you begin, make sure you have lightly dusted and inspected each bauble for spiderwebs, bugs, and sticky fingerprints from clandestine elves. To make sure everything is properly dry, if a bauble needs to be washed let it sit at least 24 hours before the packing.
I wrap each bauble in paper or salvaged bubble wrap to keep it from bumping up against other baubles and breaking or scratching. Tissue paper and paper towels (kitchen roll) are fine. I don’t use newspapers because of the acid content in the paper and it breaks down so quickly. The ink used on newsprint can also bleed onto your ornaments and other decorations and leave permanent stains.
A good rule of thumb when wrapping fragile holiday decorations is that it’s always better to provide a little bit too much protection than to provide not enough. Generally, you can use all of your tissue paper, paper towels, packing paper, and air-filled plastic wrap and envelopes again the next year, provided you’re gentle with your materials. My wrapping materials go back in the box they came from as I work on the decor.
Keep glittery items in sealed sandwich bags if you are bothered by the stuff getting everywhere and to mitigate how far the sparkly stuff spreads. You should be able to reuse the bags several times before having to replace them. I’m still sweeping up glitter well into June, but hey, that’s my life.
Put dryer sheets or moth balls or other pest controls in the boxes if you’re worried about pests. If you don’t want to use commercial pest chemicals, use lavender sachets, cedar balls, and other natural bug repellents. This step is really important if you have blown eggs, dough ornaments or paper ornaments to store. No fabrics should touch any natural herb or cedar directly or staining can occur from the natural oils in the plant.
How much to wrap?
Take a piece of tissue paper and fold it once or twice to add some bulk to it. If the ornament you are wrapping up is too large to fit in a folded piece of tissue paper, use two or three pieces stacked on top of one another. For extra protection for the most fragile baubles, you may choose to then secure the tissue-wrapped ornament in a layer of air-filled plastic wrap or slip it into an air-filled plastic envelope.
Generally, one layer of wrapping will work for sturdier baubles with no fragile points. The more delicate it is, the more you wrap.
Label all of your boxes. Labelling is a fundamental part of efficient storage because it makes it so much easier to find what you need later on. Most of us have a specific order that we decorate in—i.e. The tree goes up first, followed by exterior lights and general décor—and if you label your boxes you can just pull out what you need as you need it.
Where to Store Holiday Decorations
Now that you’ve got your holiday decorations wrapped and packed, you’ll need a place to store them. Make sure to tightly close and label your boxes first!
Where you store your decorations matters. Certain areas like your garage or a backyard shed expose your items to fluctuations in temperature that may put them at risk for breakage. You don’t want your fragile decorations getting too hot or too cold during their time in storage, and you definitely don’t want them being exposed to any potential moisture. Keep in mind that items stored in cardboard boxes will be more susceptible to damage than items stored in plastic containers.
Place the boxes you’ll need next first in the front, where they are the most accessible, especially if you store everything in a nook or cranny that’s hard to access. “Last in- First out” is the rule, so the items that you need last when you decorate should be the items that you store first and pile the items you need next year first at the front where they are easiest to get to. If you have the room, deep shelves will be very handy and allow you to use your space efficiently by letting you go vertical.
Don’t stack heavy boxes on top of lighter ones. Stacking is easier if you have one brand of plastic boxes with lids, but with a bit of care, sturdy cardboard boxes will be fine. Make sure the bottoms of your cardboard boxes are well taped, don’t just fold the bottoms and pray it holds up!
Wrap up candles in a soft material for storage, such as a sock, dish towels, or old pantyhose. You don’t want to use packing paper or plastic wrap, since both of these can stick to your candles over time. Don’t leave your candles unwrapped—they can easily get scratched from other items stored in the box with them. Be extra careful about where you store your Christmas candles. If they’re exposed to heat, such as being in a box stored near a heating vent, they can melt or warp. Avoid storage locations that can be very hot, like lofts and attics
Store beaded Christmas garland in an empty water bottle, a zip sandwich bag or reused plastic bag which can help keep your beaded garland free of tangles during storage. Just take an empty water bottle and gently drop your garland into it, then seal it up with its cap or with a bit of plastic wrap.
Assuming you didn’t save their boxes (who does?) each strand of lights should be wound on a piece of cardboard and placed in a salvaged plastic bag or extra large zip lock bag. Write the colour and type of lights on the bag. Are they indoor only? Fairy lights that change colour? Write it down. Make sure before you save them that they are ready for use next year and don’t have any broken wires, broken bulbs or other defects that would make them dodgy to use.
Artificial Christmas Trees & Holiday Wreaths
You expect your artificial trees and wreaths to last you for many seasons, which is why it’s important to pay attention to not just how you store them but where. If you don’t, you may find that they incur damage during their time in storage, including bent needles and discolouration.
The best place to store artificial Christmas trees and holiday wreaths, just like the rest of your fragile and potentially fragile holiday items, is somewhere indoors with protection from moisture and temperature shifts, as well as protection from direct sunlight, which can fade the dye on the needles. There are a lot of days and months between one holiday season and the next, so keep your artificial trees and wreaths somewhere where you can trust that they’ll be shielded from the elements. Wrapping them in large bin bags will keep them from getting dusty while in storage. If your tree comes apart, make sure the boughs are matched and labelled with the trunk so that you put it back together again. If you still have the instructions, put them in a plastic sandwich bag or envelope and tape them to the trunk.
You have a lot invested in your Christmas decorations both financially and emotionally. Taking time to pack them away properly will be rewarded when next year rolls around and it’s a pleasure to set up your new decor. It may seem like a lot of work to organise and store these items correctly year after year, but taking the time to do it right means that the decorations you love can be enjoyed for many holiday seasons to come.
Now sit down with a nice cup of tea and browse the Rum Lot for next year’s treasures!