Independence Day 2012 has come to an end. Some of you may have hosted barbecues, others lit off fireworks, and there were likely many of you who dressed up both the inside and outside of your homes with decorations sporting the traditional red, white, and blue.
Just as with any holiday, once the festivities are over, you’ll need to take down your decorations and put them away until next year. The key is storing them so that you can find everything you need when that time rolls around again, keep them out of the way of your normal living paths until then, and store them safely so as not to invite bugs or pests into your home or the decorations. But, before you run out to get containers, keep these five organizing principles in mind:
- Gather like items together. As much as possible, keep all Fourth-of-July-related decor together so that they’re easy to find. Better yet, keep all banners together, all wall hangings together, all table cloths together, etc. Once packaged up, store them adjacent to other spring/summer items in your holiday storage.
- Make them accessible. Put your items away in a spot you can get to fairly easily and safely. If you have to move other things out of the way to reach them, it will be difficult to get what you want and to put them back when the time comes. Also, you don’t want to end up in the emergency room of your local hospital.
- Label your containers. Put a label (write “Fourth of July” or add an American Flag sticker) on your boxes to help you remember what’s inside the boxes without having to open the containers. It’s helpful to put a list of the contents on the outside of the box as well (e.g. two wreaths, one box of streamers) so you know how much you have and don’t go off buying duplicates in the future.
- Keep some original packaging. If the items are delicate, try to store them in their original boxes for additional protection (e.g. plates, paper crafts).
- Keep the good stuff. Only store items for the year that are in good condition and that you plan to use again. Trash or recycle broken items. Donate or give away items to friends that you no longer want but are still in good condition.
Only after you sort and organize and know exactly how much storage you’re going to need is it a good idea to buy containers. And, if you already have storage containers, you won’t need to buy anything at all.
If you’ll be storing a flag for the year, it is respectful to treat it well. If dirty, you can hand wash it in mild detergent. Or, if you prefer, you can dry clean it. According to the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), some dry cleaners offer complimentary cleaning services for U.S. flags during the months of June and July. The FCIC also suggests keeping flags in an area that is well ventilated. Store it in an area you would other fine textiles, like a linen closet, instead of in an old garage, basement, or attic.
Flags are typically folded in a triangle which can require two people to do properly. Once it’s folded, put it in a triangular flag case or a container lined with acid-free paper made to hold nice linens.
We linked to an article in Post-holiday cleanup, part 1, which described ways to dispose of a real Christmas tree. Storing a fake tree, however, can be a task that worries even the most uncluttered of us.
In my home, we collapse the tree and keep it in its original packaging when not in use. If you didn’t hold onto your original box, or if it’s impossible to fit the tree back inside of it once it has been used, here are some storage alternatives:
- Artificial Tree Storage Bag — With a price tag below $5, this appears to be a cost effective option with the benefit of having a handle for transporting the tree in and out of storage
- Artificial Christmas Tree Box — This option is more expensive, but because it is flat you can stack things on top of the box the other 11 months out of the year
- If you aren’t seeking something aesthetically pleasing, large leaf and lawn bags could work nicely
Storing ornaments throughout the year is a bit of a pain, but it is necessary if you own them. Ornament sets usually come in flimsy and not very user-friendly boxes.
A couple years ago, we finally ended up purchasing a few Christmas ornament storage boxes, very similar to the ones pictured at right. The boxes are easy to store and protect the ornaments well. The boxes are not fool proof. If you drop them, you will most likely shatter quite a few of your ornaments. So, if you have antique ornaments or fragile ones that you do not want to lose, you may want to upgrade to a container that has some padding that will protect your keepsakes a bit better.
Over the course of the next few days, we’re going to explore that sad time after the holidays when decorations and gifts must find a place to be stored or disposed. Putting away a menorah or Christmas tree or New Year’s party hat is never as much fun as bringing it out of storage or buying it. And, for a number of us, it’s cold and cloudy outside and the temptation to procrastinate the whole affair is pretty strong. Our couches and blankets call to us to sit for a while longer and relax while digesting all of those holiday meals.
I want to ease into this discussion a bit–it is only Jan. 2, after all–and provide you with some links that you can peruse from the comfort of your couch. No need to be called to action just yet. Consider this “research.”
- Here is some advice from our readers on handling holiday cards: What to do with holiday cards? Recycle!
- Jan. 6 is the traditional day for taking down your tree, and here are tips on how to get rid of your real tree: How to dispose of a Christmas tree
- Want to make space for all of your child’s new toys? Here is some advice from Matt on that subject: Out with the old, in with the new
- Too much gift candy sitting around your home tempting you? Freeze it in small zip-top bags and bring it out in small portions over the next few months.
- Want to regift an item but wonder if it’s horribly tacky? Read MSN Money’s advice on regifting: 12 rules for regifting without fear
- Need to return or exchange an item because of damage or ill fitting size? Start by doing a Google search of the brand name and the phrase “how to return and exchange an item.” In some cases, you’ll need a gift receipt and tags, so be sure to know what you need before taking on the crowds in the stores.
- Wondering what to do with leftovers from all of your holiday meals? Wonder no more! Rubbermaid has helpful advice: Leftover Safety
- Need to replenish your home bar after all of your festive parties? Get help making your shopping list from Boston Cocktails: Stocking the Bar
Tomorrow, Matt will dispense his wisdom on how to properly store all of your holiday ornaments. In the meantime, sit back, breathe, and be glad that you have until Halloween before the madness starts again.
Two of our readers provided creative suggestions for how to recycle holiday cards in the comments section of Matt’s Holiday gifts: Out with the old in with the new post. Not wanting to have them lost in the shuffle, I wanted to pull them out to everyone’s attention.
I recycle my Christmas cards. They arrive in the mail, I read them, I cut the writing off the back, I turn them into a Christmas post card with a friend’s address, stamp and short message and repost immediatly.
Once the holidays are over, I “massacre” [cards] into gift tags for next year using a pair of pinking shears.
During the holidays, I would love to give something to everyone in my book club, my knitting guild, my neighborhood, my co-workers, etc.–but that just isn’t a possibility. See, I do not have bank accounts overflowing with cash like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, so I can’t always give as much as I would like to give. When it comes to giving gifts beyond my close family and friends, I’ve discovered many ways to give that continue the generous spirit:
- Baked goods. Easy to make, inexpensive, fun, consumable.
- Secret Santa. Group members draw names and then buy gifts for only the person whose name has been drawn.
- Homemade, useful, themed gifts. Book club members get homemade bookmarks, co-workers get homemade velcro cord ties to curb cable clutter, etc.
- Group charity. Instead of everyone bringing gifts for each other, the group sponsors a needy family or gives a needed item to a local charity.
The list of ideas is seemingly endless. I’m identifying these ideas just to get your creative juices flowing. You’ll notice that I don’t suggest “white elephant” type gift exchanges because often they produce unwanted clutter. If you don’t want the singing, plastic, wall-mounted fish, it’s pretty likely your friends or co-workers don’t want it either.
Please feel welcome to post additional ideas in the comments!
Reader Sillahee, in the comments to Uncluttered Holiday Decorations, tipped us off to an amazing holiday rent-a-tree program in Portland, Oregon, that we wanted to bring to everyone’s attention. From MSNBC:
“The trees are taken out of the ground, roots and all, put into pots, and delivered to families in the Portland area. Soon after New Year’s, Fogel [founder of The Original Living Christmas Tree Company] and his crew pick up the trees and deliver them to parks, school districts and other groups who pay around $10 to have the trees planted on their property.”
This is such a terrific idea! I was disheartened to read in the article about the program that this is the only known rent-a-tree company in the United States. If you’re an entrepreneur living outside of Portland, this is a definite niche that you could fill. No clutter. No mess. Good for the environment.
Thank you, Sillahee, for sharing the link!
Reader John sent us the following tip:
Every year, when we get out all of our Christmas decor, there are always some items that don’t get put out, and just stay in the boxes. Last year, we realized that if it’s not worth setting out, it’s not worth storing either, so it got pitched or donated. This year, we did the same as we decorated.
A terrific idea, John! Thank you for sharing it with us.
We hope that this year’s Gift Giving Guide has provided you with uncluttered inspiration. Here’s a wrap up of all of our suggestions for 2007. Remember, as you create your lists for others, to consider the impact of your gifts this holiday season!
2007 Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide:
- Focus for the guide
- Charitable giving
- Buying for children
- Ultimate generosity
- Consumable giving
- Experience giving
- Online giving
We’re already looking forward to next year’s guide and unearthing even more uncluttered solutions. Happy Holidays!
This installment of the Unclutterer Gift Giving Guide explores the virtual world of online subscriptions.
Subscription services like Consumer Reports, Lexis-Nexis, and a flickr Pro account make great gifts. As opposed to physical subscriptions, these online services keep clutter out of your gift recipient’s home.
A subscription to Audible is a great option for book lovers on your list. Music lovers might enjoy a gift certificate to iTunes. For movie enthusiasts, you might consider Amazon’s Unbox or TiVo-Unbox pre-payments.
In the past, I also would have suggested The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times is now free to the public, and rumors are flying about The Wall Street Journal heading that way, too. So, those are off the list.
Flower of the month and fruit of the month clubs are subscriptions that allow you to give something tangible throughout the year, but impermanent additions to a home–and you can order them from the comfort of your home.
When you are trying to keep clutter out of your gift recipients’ homes, consider virtual gift options.
If you decorate your home with holiday decorations, you probably have everything up already. But, if the decorating bug hasn’t yet hit, and you’d like to try and decorate without cluttering up your home, try to choose decorations that do not have to be stored away for eleven months of the year. Here are a few things to consider:
Buy real: Instead of buying an artificial wreath, tree, or garland, go for the real thing. When the holidays are over you can dispose of them instead of using up storage space. Conifers can be easily added to your compost pile.
Poinsettias: This traditional holiday plant can brighten up any room and needs zero storage space after the holidays.
Go easy on the knick-knacks: Don’t make the holidays an excuse to litter your home with dancing snowmen or a sassy Santa Claus. The holidays do not make it alright to clutter every inch of clear space. Instead, play holiday music when guests come into your home to set the mood.
Handmade: If you have children, take time to create some homemade edibles. Spending time with you children and creating something together is a good idea any time of year.
To achieve a comfortable balance during the holidays, try and keep your decorating to a minimum. If you do decorate to the fullest extent, you may spend most of your holiday season worrying about your decorations and how you will store them the rest of the year, and not enough time celebrating with loved ones.
My father is tough to crack. My wife and I constantly ask my mother what to get him for his birthday, or in this case, the holidays. She never gives us anything to go on, so we generally fall back on some kind of golf gadget or a fashionable golf shirt.
My father golfs a lot and he has his fair share of golf equipment, so this year we are not going to add to his golf clutter. Instead, we are going to give the gift of an experience. The gift could be anything from a gift certificate for his favorite restaurant or a bunch of passes to the local movie theater.
Preferred experiences may vary from person to person. Here is a list of ideas that will not add clutter to their post-holiday lives:
Pampering: Purchase a gift certificate for a facial, massage, pedicure or manicure. Or, go for broke, and get an all inclusive spa treatment package.
Events: Give the gift of the performing arts. Purchase tickets for a play, a concert, or a musical. If the person isn’t into the performing arts they may really enjoy some tickets to a sporting event.
Food: Either go the restaurant gift certificate route or purchase some gourmet food from any number of gourmet food sellers.
Adventures: If the person you are buying for is adventurous, try to set up a river rafting trip or a hiking trip. Consider giving them the unforgettable experience of a skydiving lesson!
Obviously, these suggestions are limited by your budget, but you can be creative and give something that won’t add clutter. Your gift also will supply them with memories to cherish.
If you love to wrap gifts and watch people unwrap them, then gifts that can be consumed might be your preference. Giving others gifts that can be used up and are necessary are ways to fill the need of giving something tangible during the holidays.
Here are some ideas to get you headed in the right direction:
Kitchen idea #1: Ziplock bags, aluminum foil, parchment paper, wax paper, paper towels, sponges, and a silicon oven mitt.
Kitchen idea #2: A collection of quality, fresh spices from a local merchant or a reputable online vendor (like Penzeys).
Garden idea: Bulbs and seeds for flowers or a garden.
Shower idea: The recipient’s favorite shampoo, bath bombs (like the ones at Lush), luffa, scented shower gel, and exfoliating scrub.
Garage idea: Motor oil, windshield wiper fluid, large garbage bags, leather palmed work gloves, and a gift certificate to the local bicycle shop covering the cost of a spring maintenance.
Gifts that can and will be eventually used are terrific ideas for people who enjoy giving gifts that can be touched and opened. Feel welcome to add to this list with your own ideas in the comments section!
When people ask me what is the single best organization tool I own, I do not hesitate to say the Fujitsu ScanSnap (I own a Mac version, but there is also one Vista compatible for the PC). I purchased it while doing research for Unclutterer’s Paper clutter begone! series, and continue to be fully satisfied with the purchase. It is definitely the single best organization product I have purchased this year.
Until I purchased it, paper clutter was my biggest thorn in my side. My desk was stacked with piles and piles of papers to be sorted and filed. My filing cabinet was crammed to its breaking point. My office was a complete disaster. The ScanSnap actually changed the way I do work and manage my home office.
If you’re looking to give the ultimate organization gift this holiday season, I strongly recommend considering the Fujitsu ScanSnap (Mac and PC). Also, if you don’t have one, you may think about sneaking it onto your list!
The holiday season is upon us and now is the time when grandparents and family friends overindulge and spoil their children by purchasing everything that they think looks cute.
My 19-month-old daughter is getting ready to enjoy her second Christmas. She is the only grandchild between the two sets of grandparents and the spoiling is hard to combat. Both sets of grandparents are raring to go out and buy, buy, buy.
Here are some tips on trying to combat the accumulation of more toys:
Make a list: This year we supplied both sets of grandparents with a list of what our daughter needs. We didn’t really want to resort to this, but it is definitely a necessary evil. We can’t house an endless supply of toys, and there are actually things we need for her.
Consumables for the little ones: To combat the influx of new toys, you might want to include some consumables for your little one’s list. How about a season pass to the local zoo or museum? These are great purchases that grandparents can also enjoy by accompanying their grandchild to such an outing. What about a year’s worth of gymnastics or piano lessons? Be creative.
Prepare old toys for donation: What better time of year to donate old toys that no longer hold your child’s interest than the holiday season? In preparation of the new toys coming in, make a conscience effort to donate all old and gently used toys and books to a local charity. If you child is old enough, have him or her participate in the charitable process.
When shopping for other people’s children, consider ways that you can give in uncluttered ways, too. Toys with small pieces probably aren’t the best choices.
I hope these tips help. Good luck, and happy holidays!