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10 Things to do to Wrap Up and Prepare for the Holidays

Mary Kirk Menefee, Merrifield Landscape Designer

If you are anything like me, January 2 comes with a strong desire to hit refresh. By the weekend after New Year’s, my refrigerator is stocked with leafy greens, lean proteins and citrus fruits, and I am ready to launch into a round of committed cooking. But wait! There is a drooping tree still in the living room, a putrid amaryllis on the table next to a spent Frasier Fir candle, and the remains of Christmas projects lurking in corners and under chairs. Before I can truly start the new year, I need to put the old one away.

Here is the usual routine:

  • Retrieve the storage boxes from wherever they were shoved when all of the decorations came out.
  • Carefully remove ornaments from the tree, wrap in tissue and place at random in the storage box.
  • Maneuver the tree out to the dumpster cursing the dry dropping needles all the way.
  • Place other decorations in storage boxes with no consideration for their condition. My decreasing fondness for the general accumulation of items or any organizing principle other than how fast can I make these things fit into boxes.
  • Shove all boxes, wrapping supplies, etc., into as compact a group as possible and place on a high shelf to be retrieved 11 long months from now.
  • Vacuum, change bag, vacuum again, curse needles and glitter, vacuum again.
  • Take a deep breath and revel in the calm feeling that accompanies a good de-Christmassing. It is the perfect counter-balance to the pride and excitement of having decorated the house exquisitely six weeks ago.
  • Get on with the cooking and maybe a good playoff game.

Now, I don’t think this is a terrible performance. There are those people who can’t manage to get the tree down before Valentine’s Day, and I can congratulate myself on promptness. But in 11 not-so-long months, I’ll be kicking myself as the disorganized mess parades itself out of the storage boxes.

I’ll buy a fresh set of gift boxes, only to realize I have plenty up on that high shelf, but I’ll fail to buy whatever thing stopped working this year before all of the stores are out of it. I won’t have ornament hooks on the day we decorate the tree. I’ll run out of Scotch tape half way through wrapping the presents. I’ll once again miss the post office’s deadline for mailing packages and have to sweat out whether gifts will reach their destinations in time. I won’t let these missteps sap my holiday joy, but I’ll know I could have done better. This year, I want to do better – not for eager New Year’s Resolution Me – for Future Holiday Me who will have worked hard all year and will deserve an organized, well-curated start to her festive season.

Here are 10 ideas to put last year’s holidays to bed and give yourself a fantastic start to next year’s holiday season:

  1. Curate your collection

Take a hard look at all of your decorations, dishes, candles, etc. What has gotten shabby or dated? What has been replaced by a better one? Make a point to throw out or donate anything that is no longer a valued member of the collection.

  1. Repair or toss broken/damaged decorations

Assess whether any given repair is worth your time and money. In other words, are you ever, really, going to figure out why that strand of lights keeps blowing a fuse? Everything in the not-worth-it and beyond-repair categories should go directly in the trash. Save your time and effort for gluing the sequins back on the Popsicle stick ornament your child made in kindergarten.

  1. Organize your Christmas tree ornaments

Take time to lay out all of the ornaments and separate them into categories. Put the “filler” ornaments in the bottom of the storage box. Put anything hard to attach or that goes deep in the tree near the top of the box. Next time you decorate, you’ll be able to pull it out and put it on early, when the task is easiest. Put all of the most special ornaments on the very top so that the joy of seeing them kicks off the tree-trimming. You’ll also ensure that they get the best spots!

  1. Make of list of needs for next year

Note anything you ran out of, were missing, needed to be thrown out, etc. Put your list on the very top of the first storage box you usually open. Better yet, attach your list to your November calendar so you run into it before you even get started.

  1. Visit after-Christmas sales and then revise your list

Take advantage of January’s deep discounts on holiday items at sales like Merrifield’s annual After-Christmas Sale.  You can reduce the size of your list from #4, leaving less to do next November and December.

  1. Make note of important dates and deadlines

Review your holiday timeline and list in order the milestones that you must hit to make your season run smoothly. Does your farmer need your heritage turkey order by August? Does your favorite restaurant start taking New Year’s Eve reservations on November 1? What are the various shipping deadlines for the post office and your favorite online retailer? For bonus points, put all of these dates in your calendar now!

  1. Make notes of things that worked and didn’t

One last list! Review and write down your advice to yourself for next season. i.e., No one ate the pistachio candies for the second year in a row—consider making something else instead. All the kids are getting older and more responsible—move Christmas dinner a couple of hours earlier. The tree lasted much longer this year—make sure it gets water within 30 minutes of a fresh cut. Put all of the lists (#4, #6, #7) together, again, in a place where you will find it at the very start of the season.

  1. Make this the year to migrate your contacts to your computer

Streamline your old address book, the one where all of the blanks are filled in with outdated addresses and sticky notes scribbled with all of the updated addresses. I did this four years ago when we were planning our wedding, and while I shed a nostalgic tear or two over the old hand-written book, everything easier on Excel. There are a number of apps that can take you even farther into the 21st century, just find something that works for you.

  1. Brush up on care for perennial holiday plants

Clip the faded flowers off the amaryllis. If you are planning to keep plants such as Christmas cactus, review what you’ll need to do to bring back that beautiful holiday display at the right time.

  1. Keep your home’s exterior looking sharp

Take down the lights and the red glitter, but don’t leave your home bare between now and daffodil time. Many wreaths and decorations can be converted from a holiday to a winter theme with simple changes. Outdoor containers can be refreshed with plain cut greens until pansies hit the shelves in late February. For bare spots in the garden, check out winter bloomers, such as helleborus, camellia and witch hazel.