organizing all our christmas stuff: a first world problem, but still.

Yesterday was January 6, or Epiphany for those of you with liturgical backgrounds.  I usually take down the Christmas decorations on January 7 as a result, just to milk the Christmas season as long as I can (and to put off the inevitable, crushing hassle of putting it all away).  But this year, with a new-ish baby in the house, I just needed the quick return of a sense of order and calm and 'normal,' so I started a bit earlier than usual.  (A bit.)  For those of you still staring down your Christmas stuff, I thought I'd walk you through how we keep our Christmas stuff organized, in case it helps.

First, a few rules of organization:
1. Have less stuff.
2. Group "like" with "like."
3. Label like your life depends on it.

Okay, Rule 1: Have less stuff.

I know it's hard, but really, if you aren't naturally a purger, you're going to have to learn this skill before things will get better organized.  There's no way around it. In terms of Christmas decor, one thing I do is evaluate each year the things that did not get put out during the season and ask myself why I didn't use it.

Many items that didn't get put out this year were items I bought when we lived in our apartment in Ames, so some were pushing nine years old and all were from a time when my style was much different than it is now.  I got rid of them this year instead of pretending I'd use them again.  If I ever need candles in that color (etc) down the road, I can always buy new ones.  Not many things are truly irreplaceable: if you don't love an item, and if you can easily buy something similar later if you need to, it might be worth freeing up the physical and mental space now.  

Other things I didn't put out were a few items I got as hand-me-downs from others, and I'd either felt guilty getting rid of them, or thought that I might use them someday.  Which brings me to a sub-point:  IF you are only keeping something out of guilt or 'what ifs,' not because you're actually excited to use it now or in the future, get rid of it.  Just rip off the band-aid and give it to someone who will be happier to have it than you currently are.  Sometimes this happens via Goodwill, and that's fine.  Guilt and worry are not good reasons to keep stuff.  Because it really is just stuff.

If you need some further tips on paring down, this is the most helpful article/blog post I've seen with starting guidelines on the topic.

Okay, Rule 2: Group "like" with "like."

One really helpful side effect of grouping like items together is that you can quickly see which things don't really 'go' with everything else, and you can evaluate whether that straggly little thing might be better off gone.

Large bins are hard to keep organized because stuff just kind of gets jumbled around in there, so even inside of a large bin, keep stuff grouped together by either 'type' of item, or by items that are frequently used or gotten out together.  Fill bins only with items that are used around the same time as each other.  For instance:

Box 1: Commonly-used nativity sets.

All of my most frequently displayed nativities are in their own boxes, but stored in a larger box together.

Box 2: Commonly used household decorations

Within this larger bin, I have my most commonly used decor, sorted into boxes and bags of things like dishes, stockings and scented pinecones. 

Box 3: Rarely used household decor and lights
This one contains less commonly used nativities and decor, but since I don't get that stuff out regularly, it's all placed together and left in storage so I'm not sorting around it as I'm decorating.  Someday we'll have a bigger house in which I can display it (it's all stuff I still really like, I just have no room for it here), so I'm keeping it, but I don't need to pull it out every year.

Box 4: Tree decorations
Lights, tree topper, ornament hooks, etc. 
I also have separate, individual boxes for each person's ornaments, which makes it very easy to pull it out and decorate the tree each year, even with so many kids.  Each ornament is also labeled with the owner's name or initial, which makes it easy to put it all back later.

And once the lids are on the bins, we can move on to...
Rule #3: Label everything like your life depends on it.

Don't go through all the trouble of organizing everything, then make it impossible for yourself to find anything when you need it.  As much as you think you'll remember what has been stored where, you won't, nor should you have to.  Just pop a label on it and forget about it until next year.

I use a label maker to label the side of the box with broad categories (in this case, most of my boxes say "Christmas Decorations, with the exception of the ornament bins, which are also labeled with the name of each person).  Then, on the top, I tape a list of the specific items found in the specific bin.  The beauty of doing it this way is that, as I purge old things and gain new things, I just pull off the list and post a new one without much hassle.

This is my huge bin of stuff I don't often use, including some beautiful all-white nativity sets.  I just don't have much horizontal surface space currently to set things out on, but that will not likely always be the case.  I also keep our outdoor lights in here; I just don't have the energy to put those up at this season in life, but they're really nice lights I got incredibly cheaply, and I know I'll get use out of them in a few years.  So they're worth saving.

Those smaller plastic boxes contain each person's ornaments, and the ziplock bag on top contains our tree skirt.

And a few random tips:  

1. While it seems like an unnecessary expense to buy plastic bins for everything, I find that investing in decent organizing tools actually saves you time and effort and money in the long run, so it's worth it to me.  Bugs, mice and water can't damage things stored well in plastic, so I won't be having to replace things due to damage.  Plus, having bins that are uniform in size makes storage and retrieval so much easier and less time-consuming, and time is money, my friends.  So I will be getting a bin to replace that cardboard box next year.

2.  In addition to getting a new bin next year, there are a few things that need to be replaced, considered or fixed before I can use them next year.  I find I have more energy for this stuff at the beginning of the season than at the end, so I just leave myself a list inside of the first box I know I'll pull out next year:

And lastly, those horrible strings of lights that always get tangled... Wrap them in a loop between your thumb and down over your elbow, then use a ribbon (or, as seen here, a podunk piece of scrap paper) to secure around one side, like so:

No more tangled lights, and no money spent on something bulky.  Just pop it in your 'tree decorations' bin and shove it into storage.  Blammo.

Hope that was helpful!

1 comment :

todd said...

you are an organizational phenom