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Suggestions for safe and easy storage of holiday decor

The holidays are over and now it is time for the dreaded task of taking down all the decorations and storing them away.  This part is not nearly as fun as putting the decorations up, is it?!? 

I searched on Pinterest for clever ideas for storing Christmas decorations and thought I would pass on my favorite finds, along with a few of my own tricks of the trade.

Fragile Ornaments

As shown in the photo above, one method for storing decorative balls and other breakable ornaments is to place them in Tupperware containers with cardboard dividers (you could probably cut down some of the cardboard dividers in a wine box).  Another clever suggestion is to use fruit storage containers – such as the plastic containers that apples are sold in at Costco – but you might have to buy a lot of apples to store all your fragile ornaments this way!  Similarly, egg cartons function well as a storage container for small ornaments. 

I saw several other creative storage suggestions, such as using plastic cups. With strong cardboard as dividers, you could place several layers of cups in a plastic bin.  However, I think I will stick with my own tried and true, simple and easy method – which is to wrap fragile ornaments in a paper towel and put them in a cardboard shoe box.  Then I put multiple shoeboxes full of ornaments in a plastic bin and label it, “Tree ornaments.”  Nothing has broken yet. 

Strings of Lights

Dealing with the lights that you string on the tree or outside your house is probably the most vexing aspect of the whole decorating process because they

get so easily tangled.  To avoid this problem, we wrap our strings of lights around an object such as a board or stiff piece of cardboard (sometimes we use the round tube inside a paper towel roll) and then place each string in a zip lock plastic bag.  Similarly, I saw a picture of lights wrapped around a coat hanger, but the most intriguing solution I found was to wrap the lights around a garden hose reel!  (Our method works fine and costs a lot less!)

Large Decorations

If you are like most people, you have some Christmas decorations that will not fit easily in a bin – or if they do fit, they take up so much room that you can’t fit much else in the bin.  These are my favorite decorations to store because they are so easy – I stick them in a large shopping bag and place a plastic dry cleaner bag on top to keep the dust out.  Because I find this method of storage so convenient (carrying several large shopping bags is easier than several large bins), I sometimes put boxes of decorations (such as the pieces of the crèche) in a shopping bag rather than a bin.  I have several other large items (such as decorative platters) that will not fit in a plastic bin – these go in a large, sturdy cardboard box, separated by something soft such as an old towel (or perhaps you could use your Christmas linens as dividers). 

Wrapping Paper

I found a number of interesting suggestions for storing wrapping paper, such as using a cardboard wine box with dividers, a clear plastic garment bag that can hang in the closet, a shoe organizer that hangs on the back of a closet door with holes cut in the pockets so the rolls can stand up through the pockets, in a plastic under the bed storage bin, and a particularly clever use of a piece plastic shelving to corral the paper against the wall in a closet.  My own frugal and functional approach is to use an old plastic kitchen trash can.   

Artificial Christmas Tree

We do not have an artificial tree (yet), so I cannot comment from personal experience, however, I found that there are ways to wrap your tree fully decorated so that all you have to do next year is cut off the wrap and you are ready to go enjoy the holidays!  Sounds appealing….


So, I hope you have enjoyed your holidays and that these tips will make the un-decorating process a little easier! 

Happy New Year!

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Make your overnight guests feel welcome during the holidays!

If you are expecting overnight company during the holidays, you may be wondering what special touches will make your home feel especially comfortable and welcoming for your guests.  Here is a checklist of steps you can take to ensure that your guests enjoy a lovely visit.

1.  Declutter

First and foremost, walk through the public spaces of your home (foyer, living room, den, dining room, kitchen) with the objective lens of an outsider and remove all extraneous objects.  Put all loose papers, magazines and other “roaming” objects where they belong, and if they do not already have a “home,” create one – or at least find a place to hide them until your company has gone. 

2.  Entry Way

Since the foyer is the first place your guests will see, you want to make a good impression.  If there is a table in your entry way, adorn it with a vase of fresh flowers.  Place a small rug or welcome mat at the door to protect your floor from water and mud – and put your guests at ease knowing they will not be trashing your floor when they come in from the weather.  And make sure there is space in the coat closet to hang your guests’ coats.

3.  Living Room and Den

Consider placing magazines of potential interest in a basket near the sitting area, as well as having puzzles and games easily accessible for entertainment during “down” time.  Leave coasters on the tables so guests can put down their glasses without worrying about water marks on your furniture.  Recognize that we are a “wired” society now – be ready to share your wifi password so that your guests will not suffer from technology withdrawal.  Have plenty of pillows and throws handy for cuddling up to watch a late night movie on a cold evening.  And remember – control the clutter!!

4.  Kitchen

The kitchen becomes the center of activity during the holidays, so think about setting up a work station away from your “command central” where guests can help with preparation tasks such as chopping vegetables, buttering the bread, carving the meat, etc.  You may want to have extra stools or chairs available so other guests can relax and visit with you as you prepare the meals. 

Make sure your guests know where the coffee pot, cups, sugar, etc. are located so they can easily help themselves in the morning.  Also point out where you keep glasses, drinks and snacks so that they will feel comfortable helping themselves rather than having to bother you every time they need something. 

5.  Guest Bedroom

If you do not have a designated guest room, give your guests a separate area of the house where they can have some privacy.  Have lamps on the bedside tables, both for reading and, if necessary, for getting up in the middle of the night.  Providing a fan is a nice touch not only for moving the air and controlling the temperature, but also for drowning out other noises in the house.  Make extra pillows and blankets available to ensure your guests will be warm and comfy.  Adding a vase of fresh flowers adds a touch of elegance. 

If possible, empty several drawers so that your guests can unpack their suitcases, or at the very least, provide a stool or suitcase stand for their bags.  Clear out space in the closet for hanging clothes, and be sure to leave a few empty hangers in the closet.

6.  Bathroom

Provide ample towels for each guest (some women like to use two – one for their hair and one for their body).  I suggest laying these out in the bathroom to ensure your guest does not get into the shower and then have to wander around the bedroom dripping water while s/he looks for a towel.  Sometimes I provide several different colored towels so that guests will not have trouble remembering which is their towel.  It is considerate to make toiletries available such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower cap, etc.  Remember to put a fresh bar of soap in the shower.  And point out where you keep the extra toilet paper to ensure that your guests do not find themselves in an unpleasant predicament.

7. Nightlights

Remember, your guests are not as familiar with the layout of your home as you are, so provide night lights for the bathroom and halls, or if your hall lights can be dimmed, leave them on low overnight. 

8.  Activities

Much as your guests may enjoy hanging out and catching up with you and your family, depending on their length of stay, they (or you) may start going stir crazy if you do nothing but sit around the house – so plan several options of activities or outings that your guests may enjoy doing to get out of the house. 

9.  Meals

Plan ahead.  Shop ahead.  Cook ahead.  Delegate!  (And see my previous blog re preparing for the holiday meal!)

10.  Relax and Enjoy

If you have followed all these tips, your guest will be comfortable and impressed.  So sit back and relax and enjoy your company!

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Welcome to my first blog, and happy holidays!

We are entering a fun and frenetic season, and many of you will be entertaining guests – whether it be extended family who are visiting from out of town or friends and neighbors who will be joining you for holiday meals.  Much as you may love decorating your home, setting a fancy table, cooking a lavish dinner, and having company, the extensive preparation required can be daunting.  So, I want to share a few holiday preparation suggestions and organizing tips that (hopefully) will make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable for you.

Meal Planning Tips

If you will be hosting a holiday meal at your house this year, do your menu planning several days or a week or more in advance (depending on your personality type J).

  • Prepare your grocery shopping list taking into account the ingredients you will need to prepare this meal.
  • Tip – I find the shopping goes more smoothly if my list is organized to reflect the grocery store layout – this helps me avoid running laps around the store looking for things on my list. Also, if it will be necessary to go to more than one grocery store to find all the ingredients you need, prepare separate lists for each store.
  • Reserve any specialty items ahead of time with your butcher or local grocer.
  • Be sure to consider your guests’ dietary restrictions.
  • Do not hesitate to ask family and friends to bring that special dish of theirs that everyone loves – they will be flattered to know they are making a special contribution to your celebration.

Table Setting Tips

  • Plan ahead of time what you will use for a center piece (I can assure you from personal experience, it will throw you into a tizzy if you wait until the last minute to do this!) If you will use flowers, you may need to make a reservation in advance with the florist.  If one of your guests is particularly creative, perhaps they can bring the center piece instead of a dish.
  • Pull out the linens you will be using for the holiday meal ahead of time so that you can deal with any stains and wrinkles.
  • Select the serving dishes and platters, along with the serving utensils, that you will need for the appetizers, main course and dessert. It may be helpful to put a note in each dish indicating how it will be used so that you don’t find yourself wondering in the chaos of meal preparation which dish was intended for what use.
  • Set the table in advance – insert leaves in the table if necessary, see if the silver needs to be polished, set out place cards if you will designate seating, pull out the candles you plan to use, and if you are really motivated, place little party favors for each guest at the table.
  • If you will be serving coffee with dessert, have the creamer and sugar bowl loaded and ready to go before your guests even arrive.

Clean Up

  • Make it easy for your guests to help with the clean up – be sure the dishwasher is empty and ready to be loaded and be sure you have plenty of dishwashing liquid and clean dish towels available.
  • If you have a separate sink in the kitchen, fill this with warm soapy water to pre-soak or hand wash the items that should not go in the dishwasher. Alternatively, you can fill a large pot (or perhaps even a cooler) with warm soapy water for this purpose.
  • Have on hand supplies (plastic wrap, tin foil, plastic containers) to store your leftovers from the holiday meal as well as sending them home with your guests.

And most importantly, despite all the stresses that go along with planning for the holidays and entertaining family and friends, please remember to relax and have fun!

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