10 specific things people who store Christmas decorations properly always do

Essential tips for keeping ornaments, wreaths, and trees intact year after year

christmas decorations
(Image credit: Future PLC)

The holiday season is often welcomed by decking the halls with all of your best Christmas decor. While this is a joyous experience for most households, the more organized among us might find this ever so slightly more exciting than those who are not familiar with how to store Christmas decorations properly.

Tangled lights, and lost, or sadly broken, ornaments are not synonymous with feelings of holiday cheer. Humbugs will not do at Christmastime, so it's high time we started politely copying inherently organized others and applying their proudest Christmas storage secrets in our own homes.

What is the right way to store Christmas decorations?

Staying on top of holiday storage and organizing Christmas decorations go hand in hand. But there are some specific approaches you can take to keep ornaments, wreaths, and the like, in pristine condition for years. Here is what people who store Christmas decorations properly always do:

1. They keep a humble collection

christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC)

First things first, storage must be sustainable, and keeping a capsule collection will make storing Christmas decorations less complicated.

Making your own decorations or nodding to Christmas foliage ideas that can be respectfully returned to nature is good practice, even if you only do this for some of your collection.

Ashley La Fond, founder of professional organizing service, Of Space + Mind reminds us to resist the urge to overbuy at Christmas: 'Do not buy more than you can store, especially if your collection is already at capacity and proving difficult to organize. ‘We all love creating holiday magic,’ she says, ‘but if your storage is bulging with decorations, practice a one-in-one-out method for new pieces to keep your collection manageable.’

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.

Similarly, Cynthia Kienzle, The Clutter Whisperer of NYC recommends a declutter before you start decorating: 'At the beginning of each holiday season, evaluate your decorations and determine if any can be purged/donated/passed on,' says Kienzle.

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. They group with thought, and by type

For the decorations you do buy, grouping ornaments and the like by color scheme, shape, and collection will make sense for some.

However, particularly if you dress different areas of your home with festive pieces from the same collection, or treat each space completely uniquely, it might be more accommodating to group Christmas decorations by zone and by their specific function in your personal decor scheme.

La Fond says: 'Store decor based on how you use them, rather than by type. So if you decorate your front porch with specific lights and decor, then keep those together. The same goes for trees – rather than storing all ornaments together, separate them by how and where they are used to make decorating faster and easier.'

If you keep different decorations for Christmas or Hannukah, make sure it's clear. ‘Separate and store decorations by holiday so you can pull out only what you need rather than digging through bins,’ recommends La Fond.

3. They label ferociously, and create lists

Grouping, however, would hold less value without an efficient labeling system in place.

Interior designer, Kishani Perera kindly shares: 'People who are far more organized than I am, but I aspire to be one day, always label, label, label!

'Every box and container having a detailed and itemized list of all its contents saves hours in the future when trying to dig up your holiday gear. If your items are stored in various places, as may be necessary in a small space, one master list detailing the whereabouts of your various items would be of enormous aid.'

Use all manner of labeling and listing to give yourself clarity when it comes to decorating again next year. For added gusto, La Fond recommends storage that you can see into, without disruption: ‘Use clear bins with labels so you can see what you have and find what you want,' she recommends. Simple adhesive labels, at Amazon, will do the job just fine.

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 known 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.

4. They don't always buy into specific 'holiday' storage

Plastic christmas storage boxes

(Image credit: Horderly)

Instead of purchasing ornate boxes, those who store Christmas decorations the right way tend to be a little more resourceful, shall we say. Not only will it avoid unnecessary purchases, and shipping, but it should make for a slightly better-kept corral of items too. 

‘While it might seem cute to have red and green bins for Christmas, having all different bins in multiple sizes makes them harder to stack and store,' notes La Fond. 'Some of the really specific bins are expensive and leave a lot of wasted space (like ornament bins!) when you can use a regular bin with wrapping for protection.' 

Forgo 'Christmas' storage and aim to work with what you have around the home says La Fond: 'Instead of buying fancy storage, repurpose things you have around the house! Wrap your lights around pieces of cut cardboard to keep them from getting tangled or use egg cartons and apple containers to store small ornaments.'

5. They retain original boxes where it makes sense

Saying this, what else is better to home ornaments perfectly than the box they came from in the first place? This is why Kienzle recommends keeping the original packaging of your Christmas decorations for easier and more efficient storage. 

This, of course, only applies to those that came in a box. It will also depend on the quality and material of the boxes, as well as where you will be keeping them. 'Storage containers are varied,' says Kienzle. 'It is a lot less expensive than buying storage containers, and should hold up as you will only use them once a year.'

If the original boxes have lost their vigor over time, invest in more sturdy containers, at The Container Store, that will adequately protect items from wear, tear, dust, and damp.

6. They keep lights cleverly untangled

We have seen numerous 'hacks' over the years, in a bid to keep Christmas lights untangled – including using forsaken pantry items or off-cuts of cardboard as La Fond recommended. If you are keen to conquer Christmas decoration storage once and for all, you'll want to find your favorite. 

Creator of PURE Design, Ami McKay shares some more suggestions: ‘Try not to tangle your lights! Wrap them around a piece of cardboard stacked in bins or you can use storage reels.’ 

Kienzle recommends separating these into individual bags, too: 'Each string of lights should be stored separately in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Wrap each string around a piece of cardboard to keep it from tangling before putting it in a bag.'

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.

7. They store delicate ornaments with care

christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Our Christmas ornaments can be so special, with some likely going back one or two generations. To ensure they stay looking their best year after year, it is key to handle them with care and store them carefully, too. 

McKay uses acid-free tissue paper and recommends some DIY solutions that you may even find in the pantry. ‘Ornaments need to be carefully wrapped with acid-free tissue paper and kept in a bin. Try DIY stacking solutions such as egg cartons or smaller boxes to protect them,’ says McKay.

Kienzle adds that ornaments should be stored in individual slots where possible, paying special attention to what you are using: 'If not possible, wrap each in thin bubble wrap or white tissue paper (not colored as it could stain the ornaments).'

Wrapping ornaments is a wise move. 'Especially if they will be exposed to light. Otherwise, they will lose their color faster over time,' says Kienzle. 

Further tips from Kienzle include using fabric bags in places of high humidity, like a garage, and separating ornaments by color, shape, and whether they are handmade or not – it depends on your collection.

8. They give Christmas trees special treatment, too

christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you prefer real, or even live, spruces, you might store yours in your backyard for the rest of the year. Some of us may still have artificial trees, and for these, Kienzle advises storing them in a streamlined manner where possible.

'Artificial trees can be stored upright if you have the room. If the limbs can be dismantled, that is an option also, especially if you have limited storage space,' says Kienzle.

Furthermore, depending on your tree stand's design, you might not need to reserve a separate container. The skirt, however, can be protected in a bag and stored in the same area as lights, stockings, and the like.

'The tree stand does not need to be in a container. It can go anywhere there is room,' says Kienzle.

'Tree skirts and stockings can be put in a plastic bag and kept with ornaments and lights.'

9. They leave room to grow

Living room space with holiday decor around mantel display and coffee table

(Image credit: Janis Nicolay)

One of the joys of Christmastime, and of any holiday in fact, is creating new memories. This might be from a newly gifted ornament to self, or from another. Consider catering your storage to a slightly larger collection, allowing yours to change naturally through the years.

La Fond tells us: ‘Leave yourself room for growth as you expand your collection.'

Kienzle recommends decluttering at the start of the holiday season, and it can be wise to do this when you are undecorating and wrapping up the holidays. 'Edit at the end of each season - if you haven’t used a piece for multiple years, or if you’ve purchased a replacement then let go of the old piece,' says La Fond.

10. They store Christmas decorations in the right place

Finally, you need to find the right place to store your Christmas decorations. You should have enough room to comfortably house your decorations, and this spot should be indoors where possible; somewhere that is warm, dry, and easy to access.

Consider using vertical space where needed: 'Add shelves to storage rooms to keep items off the floor and more accessible,' recommends La Fond.

And as tempting as it may be to make use of dead outdoor space, experts do not recommend this. 'For storing Christmas decorations I keep things organized, labeled, grouped together, and always store your items inside,' says McKay.

What is the best way to store Christmas decorations?

It's all about being resourceful and working with not just the types of Christmas decorations you have, but also the space you have available for them. Look to streamline, and keep things as simple as your holiday spirit will allow.

'Use storage bags for bulky, oversized items like wreaths and outdoor decor to keep them protected and allow them to be stacked, hung or compressed for easier storage,' says La Fond.

Be conscious also of where you will store Christmas items, avoid outdoor spaces, and use the right types of containers. If storing holiday decorations in a garage, for example, Kienzle recommends fabric bags for ornaments. You might also want to consider weathertight bins if you do have to keep decorations in a less temperature-controlled environment.

If storing Christmas decorations in a basement, you will want to avoid cardboard and look to plastic containers instead according to Kienzle.

How should you store a Christmas wreath?

You can find dedicated wreath storage bags at the likes of Amazon, which McKay recommends if you have an artificial wreath design that you pull out year after year. If you prefer homemade wreath ideas, you will be able to look at storage a little differently...

‘I decorate with outdoor foliage, I love to forage! I also make my wreath every year so I only have a wire wreath form to store, but if you have a wreath that you use year after year, there are storage containers you can buy, or you can hang it in a closet,’ says McKay. ‘I use a natural tree and garland that goes back to nature after Christmas.’

Compost as appropriate and remember to remove any items that do not belong in nature, such as wire, ribbon, ornaments, glue, and glitter – unless clearly indicated as biodegradable.

The key is to store Christmas decorations in such a way that it will facilitate decking the halls next year, rather than make it feel like a hindrance. Protecting precious ornaments will make unwrapping your favorite decorations a wonderful experience. 

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.