How to store holiday decorations in an apartment, when space is not on your side

7 tips that prove it's not always about square footage

living room with festive decorations and fireplace
(Image credit: Future PLC)

A small space can make the perfect environment for a cozy Christmas, but when it comes to storing holiday decorations in an apartment out of the festive season, this might not feel quite as charming. 

Depending on how extravagant your Christmas decor collection is, keeping tinsel, ornaments, and festive trinkets under wraps in a stylish and organized fashion might be easier said than done. Apartment or not, outside of the holidays, decorations should not be on display. After all, we might not appreciate them as much if they were always in the background. 

Thankfully, there are clever ways to store holiday decorations in an apartment, condo, or other small space for a clear distinction between seasons. 

How to store holiday decorations in an apartment

Success stories from storing holiday decorations in apartments often come from thinking outside of the box. 'Holiday decorations can vary for whichever holiday your family celebrates, but storing them is universal,' says Ami McKay, creator of PURE Design. Every small space is unique, so let these ideas serve as inspiration from which you can carve your own habits.

Ami McKay headshot
Ami McKay

Ami McKay founded PURE Design in 2000 on the belief that design is found in the art of giving. The work that she puts into each project reflects her personal life experiences and she believes they are at the heart of her business. Today, she is proud to be named one of Canada’s Top Five Interior Designers.

1. Take a less is more approach

chest of drawers with christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Depending on the size of your apartment, you may have enough dedicated storage space for holiday items. However, this is not an open invitation for a medley of decorations from holidays past, present, and future. You should still keep Christmas decorations organized.

McKay recommends freeing up and making the best use of the space you have: 'Declutter your storage room that most apartments come with or if you don’t have a storage space, you could add a shelf to a closet for extra storage.'

When it comes to the decorations themselves, do not be afraid to 'manage' your collection with frequent giving away and purging of items that no longer suit your decorative needs. Cynthia Kienzle, Founder of The Clutter Whisperer of NYC shares how a more compact selection of decorations might make life easier in a smaller home: 'In an apartment, storage space is usually limited so the fewer the better.'

There is magic in being more thoughtful with what you decorate with at Christmas time too. A less is more approach can be a beautiful one as McKay shares: 'My first Christmas after moving out of my childhood home, I had no decorations for my little cozy apartment. I started with a small tree, simple lights and I got creative with handmade ornaments.

'I still use household items for decorations, such as napkin rings on the tree to tie little items to and I also use a big white fluffy blanket as a tree skirt because it looks like piles of snow! I also love to decorate with outdoor foliage so I don’t have too many items to store,' says McKay. 

Cynthia Kienzle, Founder of The Clutter Whisperer New York
Cynthia Kienzle

Kienzle is a Master declutterer and spacialist, who specializes in small spaces. After many years of making her Manhattan studio work on both a practical and aesthetically pleasing level, Kienzle founded The Clutter Whisperer of NYC. Since 2000, Kienzle has been providing those in New York City with the tools they need to simplify and organize their lives; giving them customized, long-lasting solutions to help them maintain order.

Kienzle's motto is “Living with less is the ultimate luxury.”

2. Make room where you can

chest of drawers with christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Storage in an apartment is tricky. Typically, there is no garage or attic, and probably limited closet space,' highlights Kienzle. Since holiday decorations typically only surface once a year, Kienzle recommends storing them out of your apartment if available as an option.

Some might be fortunate enough to have a storage cage in the basement of an apartment building. If not, you could consider keeping items off-site at a friend's or family member's home, or in another secure, and temperature-controlled location. 

Kienzle notes that the next areas to visit for space in your home are under the bed, with sufficient 6”+ clearance, and at the top of closets. Depending on how large your collection is, you might want (or need) to consider a combination of storage facilities. It's about working with your requirements, and preferences.

3. Gather storage items that suit your collection

Plastic christmas storage boxes

(Image credit: Horderly)

From container shapes to wrapping materials, it's all in the detail when it comes to how exactly you should store holiday decorations in an apartment. You want to invest in what your specific items need, as large glass ornaments might want to be handled a little differently than small wooden baubles, for example.

'Buy a few large bins and label them, and some smaller containers for smaller items,' recommends McKay who implies that taking a custom approach is a wise choice. 'I have two bins, one for ornaments – which are carefully wrapped up in acid-free tissue paper and I also use paper egg cartons for extra small items. In the second bin, I store my string lights, candles, and my star,' says McKay who shares some favorite buys for storing holiday decorations.

'You can get acid-free tissue paper from art supply and stationary supply stores such as Staples and Amazon. Lastly, for bins and containers, we recommend purchasing from Walmart as they tend to have a wide variety of sizes!'

Similarly, only invest in more storage when necessary and reserve quality packaging: 'If your tree came with a storage bag, keep it and use it,' advises Kienzle.

If you have kept the boxes from Christmas decorations, bravo. Unless deemed unsuitable or damaged, they were made specifically to house those ornaments in the first place so in theory, it should be perfectly fine to reuse them.

4. Make sure boxes 'fit' your space

You will also want to make sure that your chosen boxes, bags, and the like, work together, as well as with the space you are using.

Containers should fit snugly onto bookshelves or seamlessly in with closet storage.

'If at the top of a closet, the containers should fit on the shelves with little overhang. They can be deep or shallow, depending on the contents and height between shelves,' shares Kienzle.

It goes without saying that for a neat and curated finish, you will want to keep decorations behind closed doors where possible.

5. Invest in dual purpose decor

christmas living room with fireplace and grey storage ottoman

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A clever workaround for storing holiday decorations in an apartment with limited storage is to find pieces that serve a dual purpose. Interior designer, Kishani Perera says: 'In smaller spaces, when it comes to storage, I like to ensure that almost every piece serves a dual function. For example, a trunk-style coffee table, or storage ottoman, is the perfect place to store holiday decor until needed, while providing a year-round solution to finishing off your living room space.

'Alternatively, smaller decorative storage solutions can also be a wonderful way to hide those Christmas decorations 11 months out of the year, while adding a layer of interest to your home.' 

There is nothing like adding your own curated finish to your home as Perara tells us, who said storage couldn't be good-looking? 

'I love collecting vintage hat boxes, personally, and these beautiful containers can easily hide a number of items, such as holiday trinkets while looking stylish on your shelf.'

Kishani Perera
Kishani Perera

Kishani Perera takes a unique and resourceful approach to interior design to create beautiful spaces that are admired by many A-listers. 

Perera is admired for the 'chic and livable' finish she brings to spaces. As an advocate for healthy home environments, Perera pays particular attention to respecting nature and the well-being of clients with careful use of non-toxic materials, finishes, and thoughtful decor.

6. Label assiduously

Capsule ornament collection or not, naming boxes and bags will make decorations easier to find. In turn, decorating your home the following year will be much more streamlined and enjoyable. Everyone could do with more time for cocoa and gift wrapping, after all.

'Label all storage containers, even if the labels just say holidays or "Xmas," says Kienzle. Even if it is a very light indication of what is inside, this is not a holiday storage tip you will regret, especially in an apartment.

7. Make holiday storage work hard, all year round

A medieval chandelier in front of a square mirror in a white living room

(Image credit: Richard Powers/Future PLC)

Though holiday storage will work hard for the best part of the year, Ashley La Fond, Founder, Of Space + Mind suggests that it doesn't necessarily have to lose function over the festive season.

'Rather than just adding decorations on top of your regular decor, swap out pieces so your home doesn’t feel cluttered! Use empty bins (that decorations were stored in) to put away your regular tableware, pillows, or decorative objects to create space for holiday-specific decor,' says La Fond.

Ashley La Fond
Ashley La Fond

Of Space + Mind is a home organization company founded by Ashley La Fond in 2018. Ashley has worked on more than 300 homes and businesses to design and optimize spaces including kitchens, closets, garages, basements, corporate offices, home offices, and much more. She believes that a space designed with intention makes room for creativity, productivity, relaxation, and wellness.


Where can I store decorations in my apartment if I have no room?

If you have no dedicated area in your apartment, or in the building itself (such as an apartment basement), and if you are bound by a contract that doesn't allow for putting up shelves, see where you can discreetly make room on existing shelving, or even under the bed.

Though in Feng Shui, there are certain rules to respect when it comes to storing items under the bed, needs must. Kienzle shares a note on how much room you should leave in this space: 'If under the bed, make sure there is at least a 6” clearance to accommodate the containers. The containers should be medium and/or long in length. Wheels on the containers are not necessary since you are only pulling them out once a year.'

Can you store holiday decorations in a basement?

You can keep decorations in a basement but you should pay attention to the types of containers you are using. 'Cardboard will not hold up in a basement,' says Kienzle who recommends plastic designs instead. 

'When shopping for containers, first decide where and what you will be storing in them. That will determine the type and size of the containers,'' continues Kienzle. 

Generally speaking, for best results when storing decorations in a basement, opt for deep boxes that are of the same shape and size – for better stackability. Make sure they are weathertight, and keep them uniform in style and color for a neat-looking collection that feels less cluttered. 

Lastly, when packing up your boxes, Kienzle reminds us to not overfill them so that they are light enough to move around when needed. 

There are always workarounds when it comes to storage and this is no different in an apartment that might be a little awkwardly shaped, or simply lacking in space altogether. Work with what you have and dare to do things a little differently to ensure that every holiday ornament has a home, all year round.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Contributing Editor

Camille is the former deputy editor of Real Homes where she covered a broad range of topics, including house tours, small space design, and gardens. She studied English language and Italian at the University of Manchester and during a year abroad studying linguistics and history of art in Bologna, Italy she started documenting her adventures and observations in a blog. Camille is always creating and spends her downtime painting, taking photos, traveling, and writing short stories.