Holiday Decorating: Protect Your Decorations for Generations

Holiday Decorating: Protect Your Decorations for Generations


By Lea Schneider  

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There’s that famous question people love to use for determining what is important. They ask you what you’d grab, beyond people and pets, if your house were to catch fire.

I’d race for my box of ornaments. I can’t imagine celebrating without them. When I open our family’s ornament storage box, I’m transported to Christmas trees past. There are ornaments from the trees of my parents, my husband’s parents, ones handmade by my grandmother and others carried home in backpacks by my children. They are irreplaceable.

A few years ago, I realized that though the whole family knew some of the ornaments were hand-me-down treasures, they did not know which ones were keepsakes. Some of the pretties date back to World War II and are from families long gone.

Since I hope they will continue to hang on family trees after I’m gone, it occurred to me that I needed to find a way to label them. Armed with a spool of white fabric ribbon and a fine point permanent marker, I set out to tag the special ones. I wrote the name of the original owner or maker on a piece of the ribbon and tied it to the loop at the top of the ornament.

However, ornaments are not the only treasure in your holiday decorations. Your collection probably contains things you dearly love, like a childhood stocking or handmade table runner. This holiday season, take a break from the mad shopping dash by setting aside some time to protect your heirlooms and investments.

Organizing Ornaments

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One of the best things you can do for your ornament collection is choose a container designed for ornament organization. It should have dividers that create little cubby holes for individual pieces. Follow these tips for storing away your favorite holiday possessions.

  • Make sure your container is made of sturdy plastic or canvas with a tight-fitting lid. Pests are often attracted to cardboard boxes—especially when they sit undisturbed for 11 months a year.
  • Although dividers in the box are a great help, you should still use bits of holiday tissue paper or bubble wrap to wrap any fragile ornaments.
  • Be careful about using colorful paper to wrap ornaments. It is possible for the ink on wrapping paper to transfer to your ornaments.
  • Ornaments are usually lightweight, so don’t stack anything heavy on top of the box that could crush it.
  • Be careful to place the box where it won’t topple over or get stepped on or kicked.

Handmade Happiness

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Needlecraft was a pastime for many of our older family members. It is highly likely you have something handmade in your decoration collection, from hand-sewn stockings to needlepoints of Santa. These are just as irreplaceable as ornaments. Fabric becomes fragile over time, but you can help items keep longer by trying some of these ideas.

  • Fabric decorations should not be stored in the attic or basement, even if you have all your other decorations in either location. The heat in an attic and the moisture in a basement can damage them. Choose a climate-controlled location instead, such as the top of a closet, tucked under clothes in a walk-in closet or in under-the-bed containers.
  • Reduce storage creases by smoothing out the item and then rolling it gently before storing.
  • Holiday tablecloths and blankets can be stored on hangers. Choose non-wire hangers to prevent any possible rust marks. Make sure the tablecloths and blankets are spotless when you put them away, as stains become more difficult to remove with time.

Delicate Decor

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Damage is most likely to happen to fragile decorations in transit. They can easily crack, chip or break as you’re putting them in and out of boxes and bringing them up and down stairs or ladders.

Finding some under-used storage inside your home is a terrific way to protect delicate items from heat, humidity, pests and jostling. The out-of-reach cabinets above your refrigerator or over your stove are two likely spots to convert to holiday storage. Other ideas include the top shelf of your linen closet or inside the vanity in a seldom-used guest bath.

The top cabinet over my refrigerator holds a couple of items that will surely get damaged in the attic heat, such as holiday candles that will melt and framed photos of my children on Santa’s lap. I’ve since added a few antique items, such as an heirloom salt and pepper shaker set and a box of fragile reindeer plates. Since they are used in the kitchen, it’s quite handy to store them there.

Organizing Your Decoration Storage

Keep in mind these general tips for storing your decorations.

  • If possible, store items in the room you use them in. For example, you might be able to leave bathroom countertop decorations in the back of the bathroom cabinet.
  • Choose containers with lids that pests can’t get into.
  • Make it easy to unpack by putting each room’s decorations in a box together. For example, add all the living room decorations to one box.
  • Label your boxes.
  • If you do store something separately, like a box of your fabric items, tuck a note in the top of one of your other boxes reminding you of its location.

Enjoy your holiday to the fullest by taking the time to organize and protect your decorations. Home organizing expert Lea Schneider certainly provides simple tips for taking the stress out of holiday decoration and preserving ornaments for years to come. Lea also writes for Home Depot, where a wide assortment of storage options can be found online.


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