Organize trimmings post-holiday

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The holiday season is upon us. The joy, anticipation and traditions of the season make holiday decorating fun, but packing up all the trimmings afterward can be just plain cheerless. To make this job a little easier, plan ahead and have the proper supplies on hand.

• Ornaments and greens: Tree ornaments and other small, fragile items are best kept in boxes with interior dividers to keep them from breaking. You can create your own or purchase one of the many options available at stores. Pay attention to the container's capacity and be sure to buy an adequate number.

If you opt not to splurge on ornament-specific containers, there are many other ways to preserve your fragile and cherished decorations. Egg cartons are a great solution for storing smaller ornaments; larger ones can be cushioned with tissue and packed in the plastic clamshells some grocers use for a dozen apples. Put egg cartons and small boxes inside larger boxes, padding them with bubble wrap. Keep the most fragile items on top. And don't bother to store decorations that don't fit your current style or that you haven't displayed in years. Holiday decorations can be especially hard to part with, but if you're not enjoying them, someone else can. Goodwill accepts holiday decor.

Wreaths and artificial trees are tricky to keep looking fresh and shapely without using something specifically designed for that purpose. If you've purchased an artificial tree, it just makes sense to buy an inexpensive tree bag. If you have the space, try an upright one that allows you to keep the tree stand attached. The same holds true for your favorite wreath. It's best to store it in an upright container that is designed to maintain its shape.

• Holiday lights: String lights are probably the most likely to cause frustration if they are not stored properly. The key to ensuring they can go from the box to the tree or the exterior of your house with minimal cursing is to wrap them around an object to keep them from tangling. You can probably find a solution around the house: a coffee can, a wrapping paper tube or, my favorite, a 12-by-24-inch piece of cardboard cut from a shipping box. Whichever method you choose, place a label on the string to distinguish indoor from outdoor.

• Linens and entertaining accessories.

Seasonal tablecloths, napkins, tree skirts and throws should be cleaned, pressed and stored together. They can either be placed in a breathable storage bag or covered and hung in a guest closet. Napkin rings, candle holders, paper napkins, coasters, platters and other food- and drink-related seasonal items can be stored together in a bin. Candles should be stored separately somewhere other than the attic; they could melt in the summer heat.

• Gift packaging and cards: Wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and gift tags can all be stored in under-the-bed bins, which are especially convenient if you don't have a lot of storage space. Sealed containers will keep the contents free of dust and are large enough to store a lot of supplies.