How to Store Holiday Decor

A professional organizer shares advice for packing up after the holidays.


From jingling bags of spare sleigh bells to glitter-covered shoeboxes languishing at the back of the closet, even the most prudent decorator’s home can burst at the seams with holiday accessories. But there’s good reason to store your accents thoughtfully—you’ll not only spare yourself from having to push aside random boxes of bows for 11 months, you’ll make unpacking the ornaments a breeze next December. (Imagine: No untangling of garlands and lights!)

We asked trusted organization guru Justin Klosky of L.A.-based O.C.D. Experience to share his time-tested and People magazine-approved tips for managing the post-festivity clutter. Previously featured as a curator for Joss & Main’s His & Hers collection, Klosky was more than happy to oblige.  Follow these simple tips and you’ll be thanking yourself for years.

As you unpack, assess and edit.

While you’re dragging out the wreaths and tree skirts for this year’s décor, take a few minutes to note how much stuff you actually own, and how much space you’re willing to give up in order to store it. Whether you’re relying on under-the-bed storage in a small apartment or you have loads of free attic space, setting up parameters and sticking to them will make the job or packing up a lot easier, Klosky says.

Next, as you unpack years’ worth of keepsake ornaments, gifts from holiday swaps and strands of half-flickering lights, put sentimentality on temporary hold and assess the condition of your collection. This means separating the heirloom Rudolph figurines from the broken tree topper your neighbor traded for your gingerbread recipe and having an honest discussion about how long you’re willing to spend replacing broken twinkle lights. If you’re having trouble with this, Klosky recommends dividing your bounty into separate piles. Donate anything you haven’t used in years, throw away the damaged pieces, and determine the best organization method for the remaining items.

While your décor is up, stock up on appropriately-sized storage pieces.

You’ve lit the tree, set out your holiday vignette, and found a proper place for every last trimming. Now is the time to get serious about storage. Klosky recommends measuring the amount of space you’ve allotted before you buy any specialized containers. It might sound obvious, but if you have six feet of shelving, purchase containers that will fit this exact space. Buying anything more will just lead you down the slippery slope toward overrun closets and crawl spaces.

Above all, your containers should be air-tight. “Keep in mind that these pieces will be sitting in storage for a year before you ever take them out again,” reminds Klosky. An airtight lid will keep your valuables safe from the elements, and opting for a clear design or a container with a window will help you find what you need. (For a wide selection of containers, check out Joss & Main’s holiday decor storage event launching December 10.) Once you’ve assembled the necessary boxes, bins, and crates, label them like Santa is watching you.

Organizational expert Justin Klosky.

On New Year’s Day, start breaking down your decorations.

Once the confetti has settled and New Year’s kisses have been had, make good on your resolution to stay more organized and begin the de-decorating process the very next day. Klosky recommends getting right on the task to avoid being that final house on the block with a parched tree in the window and icicle lights in the spring. Though it’s tempting to stuff everything into containers in a jumble, sorting is key. Keep ornaments, tabletop items, and exterior décor separate.

And while tangling with the lights and searching for that one broken bulb is as much of a holiday tradition as eggnog, do yourself a favor: Cut down on wiry wrestling next year by looping strands and labeling them with their desired location as you put them away. (If you want to take it to the next level, pair the loops with their corresponding extension cord.) When you unpack next year, you’ll have the mantel, front door, staircase, crown molding, and tree twinkling without a moment’s thought or frantic unwinding.

Once everything is packed, label the container with the contents and fill your newly organized storage space with next year’s holiday cheer.

Maintain, maintain, maintain.

The key to keeping organized during the season and throughout the year is to strike a balance between what you need and what you want. This is an ongoing process, Klosky says. As you add new items, take some away, and “don’t let your decorations take over any space,” he advises. With a little help from a labeling gun and a pinch of discipline, you’ll enjoy a warm, inviting home for the holidays every single year.

–Kate Bisantz