The Experts

The Best Christmas Preparation and Storage Ideas Ever

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By Sally Hart

Christmas arrives every year with a stack of weirdly shaped, sentimental, delicate, secret, individual, perishable and non-perishable things that we never need at any other time of year. It’s wonderful, but it can be overwhelming managing all the Christmas paraphernalia leading up to the big day. Come January, getting the tree back in the box is an exercise in origami, and taking all the decorations down is quite a let down. Whatever your level of Christmas crazy, get organised so you can set up, serve up and pack up in the quickest possible time.

 

Prepare a pop-up Christmas space.
This is your go-to transit zone for Christmas paraphernalia. It should be:

  • Any surface you can keep clear for the next four weeks.
  • Ideally located near the kitchen and back door.
  • It might just be a temporary fold-up table in the corner of your kitchen or hallway.

It will transition from being the dump zone for gifts bought early, to the holding zone for the gifts and food items to be grabbed as you bustle out the door.

Tip: Get clever in the grocery store by grouping non-perishable items according to their recipe or task while in the check-out queue. Drop these bags straight into the pop-up space. Then, when it’s time to get started on that project, your stuff is already gathered together.

Image credit: Houzzphoto by Jeni Lee 

 

Coming and going with gifts and food
Having a collection of empty baskets, and chiller bags/eskies in your pop-up space for carrying food, gifts, pool gear and more to and from visits at this busy time of year is very handy.

 

Reduce the number of bin runs

  • Start collecting cardboard boxes leading up to Christmas for back-up garbage bins. A succession of temporary bins will save you emptying your main bin all the time. These boxes can be in the pop-up space awaiting a willing helper to do a bin run.
  • They also reduce traffic around the kitchen bin at peak catering times, so you and your helpers are not dancing around the bin drawer and sink.
  • Bonus: back-up bins are ready to go wherever the action is – outdoors for the bottles and tins, to the middle of the unwrapping circle to collect the rubbish, and to the outdoor table at clear away time.

Tip: It’s a fun activity for little kids to decorate the boxes.

 

Cater to your intentions
If you’re planning to bake batches of gifts, find the right packaging before you cook – there’s nothing worse than creating edible masterpieces as gifts, only to then have them slide off the board and onto the car floor as you’re delivering them. A washing basket is a good idea. And don’t forget to collect containers for leftovers – you’ll need them.

Tip: Catering supply stores are a great place to buy multiple containers in a range of sizes for better presentation.

Image credit: Houzz Photo by Jeni Lee

 

Deck the halls and get wrapping
Set up a storage box for blu tack, adhesive hooks, double-sided tape, batteries, super glue (for repairing broken ornaments), twine, replacement globes, replacement candles, batteries, and anything else you need to hang your interior and exterior decorations. This means you’re ready to go without a hitch. Have another one for the all of the Christmas gift wrap, gift tags and ribbons.

Image credit: Houzz – Photo by LuxDeco

 

Protect your Christmas tree for good
We had the displeasure one year of discovering a family of rats living in our Christmas tree, which was stored in its original, tattered cardboard box. I bought a lightweight steel toolbox from a hardware store, which cost $70 and will protect the tree from dust, pests and crushing forever. It latches closed easily and is light to lift. Next year, I will not be wondering who is living in the tree.

Tip: You can slip some of your decorations or all of the lights in with it and they will be protected from crushing.

Image credit: HouzzPhoto by Theresa Fine

 

Handle with care
Fragile ornaments can be wrapped in tissue, bubble wrap, newspaper or boxes then stored in a box. From time to time, purpose-built decoration boxes are for sale. Last year Aldi had some in a nifty cushioned zip bag.

Tips: Egg cartons are great for storing smaller decorations. Garlands and beads won’t get tangled if wound around an egg carton. Also, remove batteries from all decorations before storing them or the batteries can leak and ruin the ornament.

 

Festive candles
When storing candles from year to year, prevent them from melting by keeping them cool and out of upper storeys and roof spaces.

Image credit: HouzzPhoto by RedAgape Blog

 

Outdoor entertaining kit
The more you have on hand for your guests, the less time you will spend running around on Christmas Day. If you’re entertaining outdoors, reduce the running in and out by setting up a kit for outdoor stuff: matches, mozzie repellent, sunscreen, band aids, hats and torches are some of the basics.

If you throw in some mugs as well as tea and coffee equipment, and set up an urn, you won’t have to be making tea and coffee when you’re exhausted. Likewise, pack up a keg of cold water and ice. Add towels for the day, and a blanket or two if you have elderly guests.

Gift Ideas for the Clutter-Averse

Image credit: Houzz – Photo by Lisa Atkinson Photographer

 

Outdoor tableware
Setting up a container or two for the outdoor glasses and plates can make the whole set-up and pack-up process faster. Stored permanently in a tub in the garage, this will save kitchen space too. If you include cutlery, food covers, condiments and napkins, you can easily delegate the set-up to someone else, as they’ll have all they need in one container.

 

Keep recipes on hand and out of the way
Keep your work space free of clutter and recipes at eye height with great ideas such as this iPad holder, a wall-mounted book holder or the good old fridge magnet.

 

Layering storage
Don’t underestimate the space-saving qualities of a tiered cake stand or a tea trolley. They are not only pretty, they are effective on-hand storage space for delicate gifts, and they save valuable table space.

 

T’was the Fright Before Christmas
T’was the fright before Christmas for our dear Martha mouse, to face what she dreaded – an ill prepared house! The stockings weren’t hung by the chimney with care, “They’re still in the attic, my table laid bare”.

It’s true that our Martha did say Christmas past, “Next year will be different, I’ll not do it half-assed”. Her prepping and planning she’d do like a vixen. A list she’d be making, completely transfixed on…

But alas as has happened to many before, she realised she needed to plan ten times more. “The jobs keep on adding, I can’t keep on counting”, “The presents aren’t piling, the guest list is mounting”.

Dear Martha, think back, you know it so well, dashing and dancing that mad Christmas spell. A cake is still cake with no cherry on top. A gift full of love is not bought at the shop.

“Why did I do this, what was I thinking?” said Martha mouse, through the tears she was blinking.

She snuck in a peep of her children so dear, sleeping all snuggled up, unaware of mum’s fear. Their Christmas consists of simple delights, mummy’s mince pies and yarns late at night.

Then Martha remembered her Grandma saying, “Planning is done for the purpose of playing”.

So Martha decided to call it a night. She scrunched up her list and quit on the fight. My home bursts with love, my dear ones are near… Merry Christmas to all, I’ll prep early next year.

Sally Hart

Sally Hart is Sydney’s leading wardrobe and storage designer. Sally’s achievements have been recognised repeatedly over the years and most recently through being awarded the highly esteemed Best of Houzz Award 2015 for service. http://cleverclosetcompany.com.au/

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