Stocking, Trimming and Stuffing It Away


The holidays are nearly over, and you're struggling to contain the remains of your revelry. There's a mountain of gift wrap, bows and ornaments to conquer, pine needles and glitter that you fear will be stuck in your carpet through June. . . . And who knows what you'll do with those fake reindeer stranded on the roof?

If you're like most people, you're less than merry about post-holiday cleanup.

"It's anti-climactic to take down a tree, so people just throw stuff in a box," says Lynn Langit, manager of the Container Store in Costa Mesa.

Fortunately, storage and clutter-control experts have a slew of products and ideas to help organize the seasonal leftovers. Companies that make and sell storage containers have introduced or expanded their collections of plastic and cardboard containers designed specifically for holiday items. There are boxes designed just for ornaments and even saucer-shaped containers for wreaths.

"You can get addicted," says Linda Whyte, spokeswoman for Rubbermaid Inc. in Wooster, Ohio. Rubbermaid's line of red and green holiday storage products, introduced in 1995, proved so popular that it has been expanded for '96.

Although she's not a sociologist, Whyte says she thinks she knows why consumers are buying a greater variety and number of storage containers.

Organizing is a way of imposing some semblance of order on our hectic lives, she says, a way not only to save time but to give ourselves the feeling, real or imaginary, that we're in control--and never more so than around the crazy holiday season.

Among the tips for holiday cleanup that can save fragile decorations, not to mention your sanity:

Gift Wrap

What to do with leftover Christmas and Hanukkah paper as well as the rolls of wrap people load up on at post-holiday sales?

Many simply throw all of the wraps and bows in a box and stuff it in the closet--creating a tangled mess for next year.

Now there are several smart alternatives, in the form of gift-wrap organizers carried at the Container Store, Hold Everything in South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court, Costa Mesa and MainPlace/Santa Ana and other storage specialty stores.

The units vary, but most are big enough to hold the long rolls of wrap with compartments or sliding trays for bows, ribbon, tags and wrap. Rubbermaid's version, the Wrap Keeper (about $10), can slide under a bed; the Container Store's Gift Wrap Organizer ($6) is an upright unit with three built-in trays for ribbon, bows and such and a main compartment for rolls.

Lynn Sacks, owner of the Clutter Clinic in Newport Beach and Irvine, creates her own wrap units. She stores tubes of wrap in a tall plastic kitchen wastebasket with handles, leaving the ends of the rolls sticking out of the top so she can easily pull out the paper when needed. She puts a kitchen trash bag over the top to keep the dust off, and stores bows and ribbons separately in plastic shoe or sweater boxes, available at home stores such as Target.

Sacks has another clear box for scissors, tags, tape and other wrap supplies. Small items such as tags or shredded tissue can be stored in reclosable plastic bags, she says. If the boxes aren't see-through, attach an adhesive label so you can easily identify the contents.

"The principle of organizing is containing, grouping and labeling," Sacks says. One more tip: Instead of securing opened rolls of wrap with a piece of tape, you can use a Wrap Clip, available at the Container Store ($2 for three).

"It's a plastic clip that fits around the roll. You wish you'd invented it," Langit says.

Lights Out

If you give in to temptation to pile all your strands of lights in a box, you will hate yourself next year when you're trying to untangle them, or when you discover you accidentally crushed the box and half the lights no longer work.

The Container Store and other storage shops have light set boxes with inserted reels for winding each strand separately. The light set storage boxes work well for garlands and beads.

You can also wrap the strands around pieces of cardboard you cut yourself, says Sacks, indenting along the sides to create a kind of spool so the strands won't slide off. The strand then can be slipped inside large reclosable bags and boxed.

Throw out any strands that don't light; there's no reason to keep them.

"There are people who like to save light strands that don't work," says Jane Reifer, owner of Clutter Control Organizing Services in Fullerton.

Big Stuff

Those angels, reindeer and towering menorahs people like to trot out on their lawns every year? They can be stored on a high shelf or a rafter in the garage. Group like items such as deer together ("so they can talk to each other during the year," jokes Sacks), cover with a large tarp or trash bag to keep dust and insects off and mark the tarp with a label if the tarp isn't clear so you'll know where to find the deer next year.

Rubbermaid and other plastics manufacturers also offer large totes for storing big items.

"One of our bestsellers is a 50-gallon tote box called the Jumbo Tote that can hold an artificial tree," Whyte says. The Jumbo Tote ($20) is at hardware and home stores.

Little Stuff

A designer glass-blown ornament can cost more than $100. To protect these treasures, there are specially designed ornament boxes with divided compartments or cubby holes offered by Rubbermaid, the Container Store and Hold Everything. If ornaments are fragile, they should be secured with pellets and bubble wrap, Langit says.

If the ornaments will be stored in a garage or basement that can get damp, use a plastic box to protect the contents from moisture. Rubbermaid has plastic ornament boxes in a 7-gallon and 11-gallon size ($10 to $13); Container Store has a corrugated ornament box ($7 to $10).

Wrapping Up Wreaths

They can get crushed if you just throw them up on a shelf or stuff them in a box with other decorations. Now Rubbermaid, the Container Store and many other storage specialists have doughnut-shaped containers in assorted sizes designed just for wreaths. Many have a wire or hook so the wreath can be attached to the inside of the box and hung from a wall, rafter, or storage unit.

Pesky Pine Needles

In pine needles as in football, the best offense is a good defense. That means keeping the needles from falling onto the carpet in the first place. Tree lots often provide plastic netting that helps get the tree into the house without dropping needles everywhere. Unsheath the tree using a tarp or sheet to cover the carpet, then immediately place a skirt under the tree.

When taking down the tree, first cover the carpet with a sheet or tarp, then gently lower the tree onto it. Pull up the corners of the tarp to create a hammock, then drag the whole works out to the curb. The Container Store offers tree bags that you pull up over the tree like a pair of pants, but the sheet technique works just as well.

When picking up pine needles, nothing beats using your fingers. Through spring, vacuum repair shops will see broken vacuums clogged with needles.

"The needles get stuck in all the different passageways, and it just takes one needle to start a logjam," says George Moore, owner of Moore's Sew & Vac in Yorba Linda and Mission Viejo. "Pick up as many as you can without vacuuming and change bags frequently."

For picking up fine glitter that a vacuum misses, try using a lint roller.

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