If you adhere to tradition, your tree should come down after Epiphany on January 6th--the day that the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. More practically, however, you should follow the guidelines set out by your city's waste management department. Many cities schedule specific dates for Christmas tree pick-ups. Consider safety as well: natural trees dry out even with constant watering, and they increase the risk for house fires.
Are your lights always a tangle? Are a few broken ornaments at the bottom of the box the price you pay for a quick and easy tree tear-down? Resolve to be organized this year and invest in sturdy ornament containers: plastic or cardboard boxes with individual compartments designed to store delicate ornaments safely. These boxes also make your decorations more visible so they'll be easier to hang next year.
You can buy organizers for your strings of lights, or you can make your own by using a square of heavy-duty cardboard.
- Make slits in the cardboard about half an inch deep and about an inch apart.
- Wind the lights around the cardboard, using the slits to hold the cord in place.
- Use masking tape to affix the plug to the cardboard.
If those pinecone-shaped candles were too pretty to burn, make sure they'll be in good shape for next year's decorating. Don't store candles in the attic or near a heat source--they can warp or melt. Generally, all of your holiday items should be stored in a cool, dry place.
- Gingerbread houses and dough ornaments should be sprayed with shellac or other preservative and wrapped carefully.
- Popcorn garlands can be removed from the Christmas tree and strung outdoors for the enjoyment of birds and squirrels.
After all of the excitement of the holiday season, January can seem dull by comparison. You don't need to strip the house bare of decoration: evergreen branches, pine cones and citrus fruits make lovely seasonal centerpieces, while snowmen can add a little winter cheer. Wreaths can stay up through January, if they haven't started to turn brown.
If you didn't eat that pretty ribbon candy this year, it's not going to get any better during storage. Discard torn wrapping paper, frayed ribbon, and bows or other decorations that have seen a little too much wear. It's also a good time to examine your lights and other outdoor decorations: they may need to be replaced next year.
If you're still full of holiday spirit, hit the stores. It's the best time to buy ornaments, tree skirts, stockings, wrapping paper and holiday cards for next year, as retailers will be offering deep discounts.