How to store Christmas decorations

How do you feel when it’s time to put away your holiday décor? Does it make you a little sad, or are you eager to get everything back to “normal?” I find myself a little wistful about the passing of the season but happy about the new memories created during the holidays. And, because I love new beginnings (whether it’s the start of my next endeavor or a simple morning), getting everything put away in anticipation of what’s next is largely a positive activity. 


In the spirit of fresh starts, I like to get our decorations tucked away by New Year’s Day. Some people like to keep theirs up until January 5, the Epiphany (when the Three Wise Men arrived to visit the baby Jesus). Others tackle the task between those dates, and others, well, take quite some time to get around to it. (I try to avoid being judgmental, but please don’t leave your outdoor decorations up until Easter!) I find it helps me to have a set date for putting away the Christmas decorations — it makes the task feel like another traditional holiday activity, in a good way!

a mug grasped in a person's hands with Christmas lights in the background

Make it fun

I do take a few steps to make the job more enjoyable. (It takes much longer to put away hundreds of ornaments than it does to put them on the tree, especially when you’ve lost all your helpers!) In the spirit of closing the season, I pour myself a festive drink (usually hot cocoa or a White Russian, depending on the time of day and my mood!). I put on the last hurrah of holiday music, and I psych myself up by getting in organizational mode (admittedly, I enjoy organizing!).


a person hangs a rocking horse ornament on a Christmas tree

Whatever you do, don’t just automatically put everything back in boxes. Take some time to decide what is and isn’t working for you, and don’t keep holiday décor that you don’t love putting out. (I’m not a wholehearted Marie Kondo follower, but if there’s one place that you can apply the idea that you should get rid of anything that doesn’t  “spark joy,” it’s Christmas decorations!) Set aside a box for donations, and put décor that you don’t love into it rather than into your storage boxes. I’d be the last person to tell you to get rid of your children’s kindergarten creations, but an ornament you never liked or faux evergreen garland when you prefer fresh are not worth storing. (Toss that tinsel that has seen better days!)


You can purchase all kinds of nifty storage containers for all things decoration, from reels for lights to wreath holders and compartmentalized ornament boxes. I’ve gotten by nicely without any of them, but you might find some of them worth the investment, since you’ll be using them year after year. 

Here are a few tips for storing your décor without specifically purchased containers:

blue and white glass holiday ornaments stored in a sectioned cardboard box
  • Use leftover holiday tins (the kind cookies and candy come in) for small items, such as stocking hangers, little bulbs, hooks, etc. When emptied next year, the tins can double as decorations on tables and shelves.
  • Hang linens — such as tree skirts, tablecloths, and throws — in storage bags on hangers. 
  • Roll taper candles in tissue, then slide into cardboard paper towel tubes. Label the tubes with the color of the candles. (Be sure to store these away from heat, so they don’t melt.)
  • Tuck ornaments into egg cartons (perfect for very small ornaments), coffee cup holders, or plastic apple trays. 
  • Glue the bottoms of plastic or sturdy paper cups onto cardboard. Place ornaments in the cups, then stack the “trays” in storage containers. 
  • To keep myriad small ornaments from making a jumbled mess, create layers in a storage container. Lay a piece of felt cut to the size of your container on the bottom. (You can also use other fabric or tissue paper.) Lay ornaments on the felt. When the layer is full of ornaments, lay another piece of felt over them. Continue layering ornaments and felt until you reach the top of the storage container. When it’s time to decorate, take off one layer at a time.
  • If you have a place in your storage area for wall hooks, use them to hang wreaths and garland. Cover them with pillowcases, fabric, or plastic before hanging to keep them from accumulating dust.
  • Use cloth or plastic bags to organize ornaments. You might like to group ornaments that are used for non-tree décor separately, for example. Or you might want to keep all the handmade ornaments together. (My goals for the new year include making some colorful cloth bags for this purpose!)
  • Wrap delicate ornaments and other décor in tissue paper or cloth. Don’t use newspaper, which may leave ink marks on the items.
  • If you have a tree to store, wrap it in sheets and tie it with pretty ribbons. (You can, of course,  store them a tree in its original box — but wrestling it back into that same box is sometimes a frustrating job!) Some people shrink wrap their trees for storage.
  • Use a portable clothing rack to hang wreaths, garland, and other décor after covering them with pillowcases, fabric, or plastic.
  • Wrap strands of lights around pieces of flat cardboard. Make notches in the cardboard for the beginnings and ends of the strands. Write notes on the cardboard (“lights for bush in front of porch,” or “tree lights,” for example). 
  • Wrap strands of lights around paper towel tubes, hangers, or coffee cans. (Cut slits in the plastic coffee can lids for the beginning of the strand, and tape the end of the strand to the can. Label the top.) 
  • However you store your lights, wipe them off with a clean, damp cloth, then dry them, before storing — especially outdoor lights, which may be dirty and damp when you bring them in.
  • Use jars or large pop bottles to store beaded garland. Or wrap it like strands of lights (see above).
red and white Christmas garland on a white background

Choose your storage area

Make sure your Christmas decorations don’t get damp, or they might rust or mold. One year, when our kids were little, we had boxes of Christmas décor mold and mildew because the basement flooded during a spring rain. The boxes were up high enough that they didn’t get wet, but the air in the following months stayed damp enough to damage them. By the time the holiday season rolled around, we discovered we’d lost most of our decorations. While I try to avoid plastic, I make an exception for holiday decorations, and I store the containers in a dry area.

Okay, decorations sorted and stored, and I’m ready for that fresh new year! How about you? When will you tackle the job? How will you make it fun and keep it all organized?

You might also like:

Recycling during the holidays

How to care for a Christmas cactus

How to keep your Christmas tree green through the season

15 Favorite holiday books for kids

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