The post-holiday tear down

christmas-treeI inevitably spot one every year — a house with Christmas decorations still displayed in mid-March. Granted, taking down decorations isn’t nearly as much fun as putting them up, but delaying the inevitable doesn’t make the process more entertaining later in the year.

Outdoor decorations can be a little more tricky to take down because of foul weather conditions in cold climates, but there really isn’t any excuse for keeping indoor decorations up through the spring. Here are some tips for making the tearing down of holiday decorations go more smoothly:

Lights: Gather up all of the lights in a systematic fashion. If you have misplaced the original packaging, wrap the cords around a flat square of cardboard or an extension cord wrap to keep them tangle-free.

Inspect and repair: As you put away your items, inspect each piece to make sure that it is in its best working order and doesn’t pose any safety threats.

Keep all your holiday decorations together: Label all your storage boxes and keep them together in your storage space. It can be a good habit to limit yourself to a set number of boxes (in our house it is three). If you can’t fit all of your decorations into a limited space, it’s time to purge some of your items.

Donate: If you need to lighten your decoration load, take the lightly used ones to a consignment shop or charity. Nursing homes also can use some festive decorations. Regardless of the charity, be sure to call before you make your donation and make sure the group is interested and able to handle your gift.

What tips would you add to the list? Join in the conversation in the comments.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

22 Comments for “The post-holiday tear down”

  1. posted by drdrew on

    I posted this earlier, but here goes:

    One of the best things I’ve ever done so far as holiday ornaments and knick-knack storage is to take a picture and leave it in the box. My wife used to have to wait until I was around because she “just couldn’t get things to fit like you do” (thank you Tetris). So take a picture of the items arranged in the box, or of it unpacked showing only what goes in it, print it, and toss it in the box. Now when you’re packing it back up, everything fits perfectly!

  2. posted by Mary Anne in Kentucky on

    When I was a child, one year we put a tree up before Thanksgiving, and replaced it (from our yard) twice for freshness, and finally took it down at the beginning of February. People who leave their decorations up until March may not think they need an excuse.

  3. posted by Mags on

    There’s a deadline for taking down the decorations: 5th January aka Twelfth Night. Although the idea that it’s bad luck to leave them up after that is relatively modern, it certainly gives me the impetus to get everything down by then.

  4. posted by Beth on

    I usually leave my decorations up until Jan 6th (Epiphany) but this year, they will probably come down this weekend.

    Moving into a new house this year, it was great decorating with lots of new found room. So, any decorations that didn’t make it out of the storage bin will be going bye-bye!

  5. posted by Christine on

    I don’t like having to do anything on New Years Eve, so my new tradition is to un-decorate that night. (The outside lights will probably come down the next day or following weekend.)

  6. posted by Sandy on

    My tradition is to take down the decorations on New Year’s Day. I have been downsizing over the past few years and now have one storage box. Anything that doesn’t fit is gone. I have already started a get-rid-of pile. Anything that I didn’t use this year and don’t love (thanks Unclutterer) is sent to exile.

  7. posted by coco on

    i had a very large underbed type plastic for xmas stuff. just the one box, but it was very hard to move. and very hard to get it in the closet. the day after xmas, i replaced it with 2 medium storage boxes. (i passed on the big box to a friend). i ruthlessly purged the ornaments this year. if they weren’t special or really cute out they went.

  8. posted by Annette on

    Leaving decorations up is sometimes because one loves the season! I grew up in a home where the tree didn’t come down until Mom’s birthday on February 22. I thought it was excessive, but my mom didn’t.

  9. posted by Rich on

    Taking everything down is the worst part of holidays. Taking stuff out is easy. Making sure it goes back to the right place is tedious.
    Good post!

  10. posted by Joy (from Just Plain Joy) on

    We have four boxes – one for lights, one for ornaments, and two for stockings/decorations/etc. I keep them under the dining table (hidden by a tablecloth) during the holidays and fill them with the household items that were replaced with decorations. At the end of the season, if I want to splurge on new decorations something has to get tossed from a box.

  11. posted by Jennifer on

    I suspect many charities don’t want donations of Christmas decorations in January, since they won’t be able to sell them till fall at the earliest. As you take down and pack up the ornaments, have a box marked “Donate” to put the purged items in, then mark your calendar for October to take them to your local charity. They will be most welcome then!

  12. posted by Ian Hakes on

    Instead of a flat square of cardboard, I re-use the empty cardboard gift wrap tubes for my lights. Just make a small cut at the top (to clamp the string down), put the plug inside to start, and then wrap the lights carefully down the outside of the tube. Cut the tube to the length you need, make another small cut at the other end (to hold the far end of the string) and you’re done.

  13. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    I totally agree – organization makes the whole process a lot less painful. I use the various decoration storage containers (from the Container Store) which really help in keeping the whole process easy and efficient.

  14. posted by Brandon on

    And remember to recycle your Christmas tree rather than throw it out!

  15. posted by Johanna on

    I take down and put away the holiday decorations by myself. I’ve downsized considerably, so it will be easier and faster.

    Still, I try to make the process into a holiday activity in itself. I put on appropiate music, make some tea or whatever, and begin…

    While I dust things off with a dry paintbrush I really look at each item, appreciate its history, or beauty, or cuteness… whatever the object inspires. Then I put it in its place to keep or donate or toss.

    When I set a special time to do this necessary task it becomes enjoyable and I relive all the positive aspects of the past holiday gatherings.

    Happy 2009… Good things are coming, if you focus on them.

  16. posted by Heather on

    For lights, I use utility cord holders, although one year I actually found similar holders made specifically for strings of lights (they even had notches that held the plug secure). I labeled each holder according to where the lights were put, i.e. “Christmas tree”, “bush by the door”, etc.

    After the indoor decorations were set up, I took pictures as reference for the next year.

    After the season was over, I stored all timers and extension cords in the box with the lights. When a sting no longer worked, I added it to the wal-mart bag with the other non-functioning lights and stored it with the working lights. I cannibalized the working lightbulbs to replace the burned out ones on the working strings.

  17. posted by Anita on

    I stored away the decorations this year in old suitcases that were way outdated and too shabby to donate. It keeps everything together and I don’t have to worry about them falling apart like my old cardboard boxes did.

  18. posted by The post-holiday tear down | Custom Printing on

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  19. posted by Bela on

    I love having the tree with lights and decorations still up in January and February because it adds warmth color and cheer!

  20. posted by Sheri on

    I normally start assembling our tree the day after Thanksgiving, a pre lit 12′ artificial one! Years ago I purchased many of the plastic storage crates, the largest I could get with wheels. In those I’ve got all my ornaments for the tree, labeled on the lid and side. The glass ones are all wrapped in tissue paper and the others are placed in dividers I had saved from the cardboard boxes I had originally used. All my other Christmas Knick Knacks are also put in their respective plastic boxes and labeled. I put everything back in the same boxes and under the house in the crawl space. I’ve found that the plastic bins work the best for me since nothing is broken and the bins are waterproof and also crush proof! The only thing that irritates the dickens out of me is the 15+ red bins stacked in my garage for a month!!!

  21. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    After living in the family home for 30 years, I downsized to a condo. I cleaned out the holiday decorations and got them down to four plastic bins. Two are labeled “Use Every year.” The third is “Keepsakes.” This is for items with sentimental value. I may not use them every Christmas, but the kids might want them some day. “Caroling Bells,” for instance, is a garland with lights and brass bells that play Christmas carols when turned on. My adult kids love to turn it on when they visit, but it’s a real pain to hang and take down. The fourth bin is for “Christmas Wrap Supplies.” Anything that doesn’t qualify for one of these bins gets tossed, given away or donated.

    After four years in the condo I’m finally happy with my holiday decor.
    I’ll take pictures before taking them down to make putting them up easier next year.

  22. posted by Full Cracked on

    I had a very large underbed type plastic for Xmas stuff. just the one box, but it was very hard to move. and very hard to get it in the closet. the day after Xmas, I replaced it with 2 medium storage boxes

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