Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How I Organized Decades-Worth of Christmas Ornaments

As my life seems to have become busier in the last few years, I feel like I am taking more and more shortcuts when the holiday season comes around. This year was no exception. I didn't make fudge for the neighbors. I bought colleague gifts instead of making them. (My daughter and I made granola last year.) I cross-listed gift ideas with stores so that we shopped for more items at fewer stores. We shortened the annual Christmas letter into a poem. I paid for Shutterfly to print mailing addresses onto Christmas card envelopes. Was I less anxious this year? Definitely!

I often get organizing ideas from having to create solutions to my clients' specific challenges. In all my years of organizing, though, I have never had a client ask me to organize their holiday decorations. In fact, I have only ever had two clients who have more Christmas decorations than I do. That fact is directly attributable to my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. Yikes.

That means that I was left once again to my own great-organizational-idea devices in 2010 when I resolved to spend the end of my holiday vacation streamlining my holiday decorations. When I made the mental commitment, I anticipated spending a day or two sorting through boxes of Christmas decor to find items to give away. The reality is that I own more decorations than I have space to display them. More importantly, I own more decorations than I have the patience to take out and put back each year. Inevitably, I end up taking out some subset of holiday decor. Just the favorites. The not-so-favorites would now leave the house.

As I set about sorting through the entire collection of holiday items, I found I wasn't weeding out nearly enough decorations to give away. That was when it hit me like a ton of bricks (a.k.a. an aha! moment) that I really liked most of the decor I had acquired over the years, but I didn't use it all each year because a lot of it is redundant. I have multiples of this and that, tablecloths, wreaths, stockings, light strands and the like. Fortunate to have enough storage space in my home to keep the decor collection intact, I switched my plan (every organizer will tell you that you need a plan before you can begin sorting) to grouping my holiday decorations by theme.

I really got into my groove as I grouped my decor into themed sets so that my multiples weren't redundant anymore. I ended up with an olde world theme, a candy/toys theme, a white Christmas theme, a retro (pink/turquoise/lime green) theme and a rustic theme, plus two boxes of "Every Year" decor, like the tree skirt, scented candles and stair rail garlands. I was jazzed. I boxed up each theme separately (same boxes, different combinations of stuff) and stowed them away, back under the stairs for 2011.

Right after Thanksgiving 2011, we pulled out the white Christmas-themed box and the two "Every Year" boxes. No overwhelm. No guilt for not displaying absolutely-everything-Christmas-themed-my-mother-in-law-ever-gave-me. Christmas 2011, in contrast to prior years, was orderly, manageable and peaceful. But I had one last, unfinished task from 2010. I had grouped the Christmas tree ornaments by theme and had bagged them up in separate Ziploc bags, but I had not put them in any kind of protective container. Thankfully, this oversight had not weighed heavily on my mind throughout 2011, because I was quite literally surprised to come across this rogue cardboard box full of Ziplocked (that's a verb, right?) groups of themed ornaments.

Now I come back to the beginning of this post's story and tie it into the final organizing solution. One of the stores on the short list of consolidated shopping destinations was Home Depot. It was there that I stopped short in front of a shelf of tantalizingly displayed Snapware Stack-N-Store 3-layer organizer boxes. (Keep in mind that professional organizers are necessarily tantalized by storage boxes.) I had found my solution for organizing my ornaments. I gleefully bought two boxes and skipped all the way home to fill up all 6 layers with ornaments by theme.

Christmas ornaments organized by theme in layers in plastic Snapware Stack-N-Store ornament container boxesI quickly snapped this photo so that I could share this story with you, but forgive me for not having labeled the layers yet. (Yes, I routinely recommend my clients add a Brother P-touch label machine to their Christmas lists.) Next year, I'll be taking out just the rustic- and country-themed ornaments to complement the fabulous felt ornaments I snapped up for less than a dollar in after-Christmas clearance bins. I can't wait for next year's theme to come out from under the stairs.

I hope your 2012 is off to the same orderly, manageable and peaceful start. Keep tidy, every day.

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