With decorations to display and then pack away and gift wrapping to wrangle, Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be messy.
Whether you’re hosting a small Christmas gathering at your home or not, the holiday can create clutter and chaos — not what you need when you’re trying to wind down for the year.
Preparation is key when it comes to keeping the house clean, organized, and more importantly, calm over the festive season.
Here, professional organizer and founder of All Sorted Out, Jo Carmichael, shares her top tips to help you prepare for and deal with Christmas clutter and how to sort and store away decorations when the festive season is done and dusted.
Get organized before Christmas.
Before any guests descend on your house for Christmas, it is important to have your space prepared in advance. Have a pre-Christmas declutter. The kitchen counter is the epicenter of entertaining, so give it a clearing.
Remove items that don’t relate to cooking and entertaining — bills, school notes, and mail — to a desk or computer nook. Go through the pantry and toss any expired items or half eaten cracker packets and do the same with the fridge. Jars and cans of food that are no longer fresh can be tossed and shelves can be wiped clean, ready for fresh produce.
Have a dedicated Christmas area.
Choose a room and go wild. This is your Christmas area, to be used as storage for food and gifts in the lead up to the big day. On Christmas Day, encourage your guests to leave their extra stuff in this room, keeping the rest of your house safe from holiday madness.
Have a trash can ready to go.
On the big day, have a basket in the area where your gifts will be unwrapped. Encourage guests to toss their paper into it soon after unwrapping gifts. This helps keep your space clean and avoids the post-gift-opening craziness. The gift wrapping and packaging is then ready to recycle.
Gather open gifts.
Encourage family and guests to place their opened gifts, back under the nearly naked foot of your tree, in a pile or gift bag. This prevents every chair or bench from becoming a leaning post for their gifts while you’re in entertaining mode.
In order to create some calm amid the tinsel and Christmas ornaments, it’s a good idea to pack away the things you aren’t using so much anymore. Clear a shelf in the living room which has little used items like DVDs or CDs on it. Decide to donate or move them to a less prominent area. Use this empty shelf for new things.
Storing Christmas Essentials
If you’re decorating for New Years, pack away Christmas first. Otherwise tradition says you should get it done by January 5, which allows for the 12 days of Christmas.
Before stripping the tree, take a few photos of how good it looks embellished. Print and store the photos with the decorations so next time it’s set up, you don’t need to remember which Christmas ornaments to place where.
This is also a good time to toss any decorations that are broken or looking a bit worse for wear. Handmade ones the grandkids have made often need some TLC before storing. Sort decorations into groups of outside or inside decorations. They’ll be easier to set up next time if stored in separate containers. Then group as tinsel, lights, Christmas ornaments, cables, wreaths, tree, hallway, etc.
Invest in storage containers.
The department stores all have specialized decoration tubs and bags to choose from. There’s one’s for baubles with separate dividers so fragile ones don’t break. I highly recommend storing Christmas wrap along with the tree and decorations. The traditional long rolls can tear easily, so wrap in bubble or get a specialized gift wrap bag. Likewise, squeezing the tree into the original box isn’t always a snap — so a durable zip-up bag is a good option.
Alternatively, clear plastic tubs work well too. You can use sturdy cardboard shopping bags to group items, then place these into the tubs for extra padding.
And finally, pop on some labels to easily identify these items in eleven months when it’s time to do it all again!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.