Let’s be honest: the holidays are exhausting! Once the preparations and festivities are over, it’s a miracle we get through the piles of dirty dishes, let alone putting away all the décor. The temptation to mindlessly shove everything holiday-related into bins and out of your sight until next year is strong. And sometimes, life circumstances call for a speedy cleanup.
However, if you take a bit more time and be more methodical, your future self will thank you. When everything is well-labeled and organized, it makes life so much easier. Here are a few of my own tips and tricks that I utilize every year to make my own holidays that much easier on myself.
Label all garland and extension cords
One of my biggest challenges every fall is opening multiple bins of lighted garland and having to figure out which piece fits which spot in the house. Once I get that settled, I still have to figure out which length/color extension cord fits that setup the best. Continually asking myself, “How did I do that last year?” makes me crazy! But when everything is labeled, I can just go! And for those battery-operated garlands, label the outside with the quantity and type of batteries that you need. SUCH a time saver!
If you’re like me, you will not remember exactly what is waiting for you in your bins when the season starts to sneak back into the stores this fall. I get so excited when I start to see Christmas returning to the stores that I just start grabbing things and inevitably end up with 47 packs of cocktail napkins. To combat this problem, I recommend taking inventory of what you already own as you’re putting it all away. If you’re visual, take photos to refer to later. I especially recommend this step for these types of items:
- Anything you’re collecting. It could be a Christmas village, a specific ornament designer, a set of dishes, etc. My collection is the Twas the Night Before Christmas set from Williams Sonoma. When I get a random holiday clearance email in the spring offering a coveted piece for a steal of a price, it’s nice to know what I already have tucked away in my stash before I go nuts ordering things I don’t need.
- Items intended to be temporary. Things like wrapping paper, napkins, hot beverage cups, gift tags, paper plates, etc. Since these are intended to be temporary use, the amounts you have change and shift. It’s easy to think you need more when you don’t and vice versa.
- Anything you find especially tempting. I’m talking about the stuff they make displays out of to coerce you to just grab one or two because you know you want to! For me, this includes Christmas slippers, PJs, and dish towels. I do not need any more of these items!
I get it. Wrapping individual plates and cups is tedious. Even I have fallen victim to the mindset that “…if I’m just really gentle putting the bin away, it’ll be fine.” But that’s how things break. The extra several minutes it takes to wrap those breakables will seem worth it if you open the lid next year to find that something has broken. If your holiday dishes are particularly special to you, consider investing in dishware storage pieces with felt separators. I particularly love these ziptop cases from The Container Store.
Bonus tip: use extra holiday towels/blankets/pillows to cushion breakables. Tuck them around dishes, decorations, ornaments, or anywhere you need extra cushioning.
See-through storage is your best friend
I can’t recommend see-through storage enough. Being able to see what is inside of a bin or bag can save so much time, especially as your collection grows larger. I have 25 Christmas bins/bags. Even with my labeling, it can be a massive headache to find a single needed item. Being able to see into each bin makes things so much easier.
In this regard, consider using Space Bags for soft goods. For blankets or sheets, these can save so much storage space. Note: some soft items can be damaged in Space Bags, like velvet or linen pillows. For these items, consider using zipper storage bags like these. The photo above has 7 throw pillows and 3 large blankets tucked inside efficiently.
Label bins methodically
There isn’t a right or wrong way to organize your items. We all think differently and should organize in a way that fits us individually. Some people sort by item type, some by color, some by order in which it’s needed. Me? I sort by location. When I go to work on the living room, I grab my living room bins.
No matter which organizational sorting method works best for you, LABEL! Don’t just write Christmas or Kitchen, especially if your collection is larger than 2 or 3 bins. Taking a few extra minutes to add several more details to your label can save you significant time later.
I can personally highly recommend these plastic label holders I found at Lakeshore Learning. It is very easy to pull the label out and make adjustments, while the plastic holder stays firmly affixed to the bin itself.
The Holiday Master Binder
If there is one tip to take away from this post, it is to create a Holiday Master Binder, especially if you frequently host holiday events. The concept is simple: it is a binder in which you keep everything you need throughout the holidays: favorite recipes, tried and true menus, calendar of favorite events, gift lists, addresses for holiday cards, budget worksheets, ideas to try later, coupon codes, everything. This binder serves as a place to keep you on track so that the to-do lists never feel out of control. And if this type of organization isn’t your forte, you can find templates on sites like Etsy to get you started. You can even watch YouTube tutorials on how to set up your own Holiday Binder.
Tip: make the front page of your Holiday Binder a reminder page of everything you’ll need to be aware of as you start to think about the season next fall, and make a note to check it as early as late summer. If you’re really into the holidays (like me), you know that certain aspects of the holidays start making their appearance on store shelves mid-summer and can be sold out before September even starts. Things like popular seasonal hand soaps that have their own cult following and always sell out before Labor Day, or a favorite Christmas card photo photographer that books out months in advance. These are the reminders to put front and center of your Holiday Binder.
Also, make notes. Lots and lots of notes. For example, did your butcher sell out of prime rib early last year? Remind yourself to order it earlier. Did you try a recipe that you didn’t like? Remind yourself to find another one. On the flipside, did something work beautifully that you want to make a tradition? Make a note of it, because you might not remember in 10 months.
A few smaller tips
If you like to keep the holiday cards you receive over the years, they fit beautifully inside the Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark tins. It can be an easy way to collect, display, and store your loved ones photo cards over the years.
Also, if you enjoy displaying holiday magazines, hang onto your favorites throughout the years. There is no rule that you have to display current magazines on your coffee table each year.
Finally, you’d be surprised by the shelf life of some specialty holiday foods. Things like candies, cocoas, and coffee syrups can be good for longer than a year, so be sure to check the best-by dates of any consumables you have at the end of the season. You just might be able to save money by extending their use into the following holiday season. Just make a note of those dates so you can make sure to consume them before then.
What kind of holiday organizational tips and tricks do you swear by to keep yourself on track? Leave them in the comments; I’d love to hear them!