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How to Store Holiday Décor, According to Professional Organizers

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Once all the gifts are unwrapped and the eggnog is gone, then comes the dreaded holiday cleanup. It can be one of the most tedious parts of the holiday season, especially after all the production and preparation of decorating in the first place — from choosing a Christmas tree, hanging ornaments, and arranging your topper just so to staging a light show on the front lawn, building a gingerbread house, and stocking up on plenty of gift-wrapping supplies. So having the right storage strategy is a must. Sometimes, the standard storage bin isn’t enough — you don’t want your heirloom needlepoint stocking to end up snagged by a rogue ornament hook. To help you tackle the task of putting away your holiday décor, we asked a number of professional organizers for their recommendations for storing everything from fragile ornaments to cumbersome front-door wreaths.

Best storage containers for holiday decorations

In the off-season, the easiest solution — if you have the space — is a heavy-duty container. Because they come in multiple sizes, it’s a one-and-done fix that can hold everything from tree skirts to ornaments to all the pieces and parts of a miniature snow-laden village. These stackable Container Store totes are a favorite of four organizers we spoke to, earning the title of “most-mentioned.” The fact that they are clear is a big selling point. “Clear. Bins. That’s it,” explains Sara Losonci of Shelfie, preferring these over the familiar (and very merry) red-and-green bins that tend to appear in stores around this time of year. And she likes that the totes come in different sizes — ranging in 6.5-ounce to 156-ounce capacities — so you can fit just about anything within and won’t have a row of “fake Santas sitting at the top of your closet.” As far as quality goes, organizer Britnee Tanner calls these “by far one of the most durable on the market,” adding that the thick, translucent plastic is “mega-sturdy.” Lauren Saltman, owner of organizing company Living. Simplified. has similar praise, saying that the watertight seal is incredibly protective — key if you keep your decorations in an attic, basement, or garage — and that the strong latches secure the lid properly. And to keep the tote tidy, Naeemah Ford Goldson, owner of Restore Order Professional Organizing, recommends managing “items inside neatly like you’re playing Tetris.”

After editing her collection of decorations recently, Mary Cornetta, a professional organizer who runs the blog Organized Overall, stores the ones she decided to keep in this handy-dandy Sterilite. Within the container, she stacks ornaments in their original boxes, wraps breakables inside stockings, and uses Ziplocs to contain strands of lights. The 18-gallon size works best for her — Cornetta applauds the decent amount of storage you get with that size without sacrificing transportability. “I have short arms and it’s not too big or bulky to carry,” she says. You have the choice between 10- and 30-gallon sizes, too.

Though this Rubbermaid is rather brutalist in its appearance, it does mean business. It’s ideal for a basement, garage, or even a cranny in an attic. The tote is one of our favorite storage bins for anything you might need to tuck away for a while, not just holiday décor. “Any of the big bins made by Rubbermaid are fantastic quality,” says Lisa Zaslow, owner of Gotham Organizers. Just make sure to mark the outside so you know what’s inside. “You think you won’t forget what’s inside,” Zaslow explains, “but you will.”

If you don’t have much room to spare, Ikea’s Stuk is a good bet. Though under-bed cases like this one are usually designed to hold clothing, Tanner thinks it’s well-suited for décor. It features netted ventilation slots in the corners (important if you’re storing textiles like a snowman throw that only sees the light of day in December), a clear pocket for labeling what’s inside, and handles that make it easy to grab from under your bed frame. Since it has smaller dimensions — measuring 28 by 20 by 7 inches — Tanner also suggests putting it up high in a closet if you’re looking for an “out of sight, out of mind” solution. (Anything fragile might fare better there as well.)

Best ornament storage

“So often, ornaments are wrapped in everything from paper towels to tissue paper in hopes of lasting another year without any cracks,” Tanner says. These “bin drop-ins,” as the Container Store calls them, come in four sizes, including two designed to hold ornaments and another for little pieces like berry picks. (The ornament trays in particular are also perfectly sized to fit in the 74-quart size of the Weathertight Totes mentioned above.) Tanner favors stacking the trays on top of each other within a larger tote and filling them based on categories, such as grouping all the woodland animals together. The structure of the trays — which are made from fabric-covered cardboard — means your adornments won’t be jostled too much. Saltman also approves of these trays and notes that the dividers are useful for two reasons: they’re movable, so you can adjust them accordingly, and acid-free to help decorations stay in tip-top shape. Just note that these tend to be a seasonal item, so don’t dillydally or you’ll have to wait to purchase them until next year.

The downside of the trays above is that they’re meant to be stored within a tote that you buy separately. These stackable storage boxes don’t have that problem. The pack of two includes a buildable cardboard support system that can hold up to 75 3.5-inch ornaments. Ann Lightfoot, founding partner at Done & Done Home, and Meredith Goforth, founder of House of Prim, introduced us to them. Lightfoot likes that the hinged lids allow for easy access. Goforth, for her part, appreciates that the boxes offer “homes” for holiday items.

This organizer from decades-old storage-solution company Zober is a favorite of Heidi Lee of home-organization service Prune + Pare. She raves about the box’s divided interior, which includes five ornament-specific trays, areas for figurines (like nutcrackers), and zippered sides for anything miscellaneous. Even the lid doubles as storage space with folderlike pockets for ribbons and garlands.

Zaslow directed us to this decidedly more design-y box. (It was created by the same company that makes one of our favorite jewelry boxes.) She points out that while it’s patterned with polka dots, it’s still sheer enough to “let you see everything at a glance when you’re ready to trim the tree.” It comes with eight trays that have modular dividers, which you can fill with up to 128 ornaments depending on how you organize them. Zaslow suggests cataloguing your pieces in one of three ways: by color, age (old versus new), or theme.

Goldson prefers this cube that, once opened, reveals three pull-out trays. It takes some assembly — though no tools are necessary — with parts including different dividers and bases. The canvas the box is crafted from is simultaneously flexible and durable, Goldson says, with a fastener that keeps the lid in place and a magnetic flap closure. She finds it especially useful for more delicate ornaments, as there’s enough “separation of space” to stop them from clinking into one another inside. It comes in two sizes: one that holds three-inch ornaments and and one that holds four-inch ornaments.

Those who only have a handful of ornaments should look to this set from Brightroom, one of Target’s in-house brands. It comes recommended by Ann Sullivan, who runs an eponymous organizing and move-management company. The box has two layers that latch together and hold up to 24 ornaments in their molded plastic compartments, as well as exterior handles to make it easy to carry. Sullivan points out that it’s sold at a “great price point” and is really sturdy — plus, the clearness makes it no-muss-no-fuss.

[Editors’ note: This box is currently sold out, but you can check if it’s in stock in a store near you. There’s also a larger green-lidded Brightroom ornament box still available, though it doesn’t have the same latch system or exterior handles.]

Best storage bags for artificial Christmas trees

Sometimes a faux tree will only come with its original box for storage. If you’d like to be on the safer side so you don’t have to shove it back into the cardboard it shipped in, get yourself a dedicated bag. This tote, which resembles a rolling duffel, has Zaslow’s endorsement for its practicality. The combination of wheels and handles will help with post-Christmas lugging, and the bag is waterproof so your tree will stay dry “even if you store it in a damp basement,” Zaslow says. You can rest assured that your disassembled tree will be “protected for the 11 months of the year you don’t use it.” Goforth — who put up three fakes this year — backs a similar (but not wheeled) bag from the same brand, calling out how heavy-duty it is and pointing out the label slot (so she can know which tree is where).

Though this bag is more lightweight than the tote above, it delivers on all counts, according to Lightfoot, protecting artificial trees from moisture, dust, and any curious bugs. (It’s waterproof as well.) Tanner prefers bags like this one, which are a little more malleable and allow you to get away with packing extra lights and base parts inside, too.

Best storage for holiday lights

To avoid tangled lights, you should buy the right reel. This set of spools from the festively named Santa’s Bags company is approved by Lightfoot, Sullivan, and Saltman. “You can easily roll up entire strands of lights, which can then be unrolled without any frustration,” Lightfoot says. Sullivan agrees, adding that “the very design of the reels keeps lights from tangling.” Saltman advises that you double-check your lights for any knots to deal with before you start winding them up.

Or follow Goldson’s advice: Pick up a cheap, heavy-duty wheel from your neighborhood hardware store. Though these are made to hold extension cords, Goldson finds they also work well for light-wrapping — and she doesn’t feel daunted when trying to unravel the bulbs from each other every year. (This Bayco version is similar to a sold-out one she shared with us.)

Goforth describes figuring out how to store lights as a “notorious nightmare” — but this box makes it less so. It’s organized into six compartments, with dividers that can shift around, and comes with wraps for up to 12 strands. You coil your lights inside the wraps and fasten them with the attached bands on each end, Goforth explains.

Best storage for wreaths

Wreaths are large, bulky, and fragile,” Zaslow says. And because most of them are round, they don’t fit so well in a rectangular container alongside other holiday décor. She recommends this round bag. It’ll keep the branches intact — fitting wreaths that are up to 36 inches in diameter — and features a dual zipper to lift it out easily when the time comes. “You can even hang them on a hook to save shelf space,” she says.

Best storage for gift-wrapping supplies

If you put a lot of thought into the wrapping paper you’re using, this case can hold it all. Lightfoot praises its size in particular, because it can “hold an enormous amount of rolls, bows, tags, and ribbon” without creating a chaotic mess to sort through. It’s also shallow enough to slide under many bed frames. Zaslow adds that the compartments are well thought out — there are pockets on the inside of the lid and dividers that separate rolls of paper from spools of ribbon or supplies like scissors and tape. She also suggests grouping holiday-themed supplies separately from, say, what you’d use for a birthday present or any other “rest of the year” gift.

If you just need a place for a few odds and ends, Tanner relies on these “truly multi-purpose bins” from the Container Store for her “holiday knick-knacks” that may not have a place otherwise, like gift tags and tape. The top of each snaps on and you can stack them into columns dedicated to similar items. “You can’t beat the price point,” Tanner adds, as these boxes start at just $2.

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The Best Holiday-Décor Storage, According to Experts