Prepping for Next Year's Christmas
Take down decorations patiently
I have learned over the years that my impatient nature this year can make decorating the following year a miserable experience. When taking down decorations, take your time and even spread the process out a few days to do it well. Label all containers specifically. Instead of just "lights", specify which tree they are for on your label or whether they are for the roof or outside trees etc. Write yourself little notes to pack with your decorations, such as, "Use three extension cords for livingroom tree (ours is large) or you will blow tree light fuses" or "Couldn't find wrapping tissue on sale, you need to buy some this year." You will forget these things by next Christmas and decorating/wrapping will be more of a struggle as you "discover" these things the hard way - all over again. I am so thankful that my husband is meticulous when it comes to packing the outside lights. He wraps them carefully around their holders and stores them in labeled plastic containers. Which brings me to the next suggestion.....
Invest in plastic Christmas totes.
Hooray for nice, sturdy, containers in which to store decorations. Those decorations will be waiting in a garage, shed, or attic for an entire year where boxes can crush, deteriorate, or get invaded. Storage containers also make your storage more attractive and easier to relocate if necessary. Even if you can only afford to invest in one storage container a year, you can gradually replace all those old and ugly boxes and better protect those heirlooms. The smallest totes and ornament boxes will run you about five dollars here in the south, and a large plastic one for your Christmas tree will run you about thirty. They even have circular shaped ones for wreaths. Most of the post holiday totes are available in festive red or green colors which make them easier to locate amongst the other totes (usually gray colored) in your storage when you need them.
Buy/locate rubber bands
These little guys are so handy for maintaining order with wrapping supplies. After I fold down shirt boxes that are worthy of another use, I match bottoms to tops, stack them, and place a couple rubber bands around them before placing them into the long gift wrap tote. I also do this with flattened gift bags. Rubber bands will also hold previously opened rolls of wrapping paper together so they don't flap open.
Buy/locate freezer bags
These are great for storing decorative bows, opened boxes of ornament hooks, gift tags, etc.
Buy/locate clear packing tape (look by the postal supplies)
I use this stuff so much for a variety of things; but in this case, it is a great tape for sealing down handwritten "index card" labels on your totes or reinforcing other labels. Other tapes seem to peel off the plastic totes and then your labels fall off. It is also great for repairing boxes. I could write an entire article on how much I use this stuff as a homeschooling supply. 'Tis better than duct tape!
Buy/locate bubble wrap or pre-used wrapping tissue
Want to know what to do with all that wrinkled wrapping tissue from opened gifts? Save it for wrapping and packing up fragile ornaments or centerpieces!
Thoroughly wipe down plastic tablecloths/wash holiday linens before storing
Just a little bit of leftover food or moisture may grow mold or mildew while in storage. Also clean out old wax from candle holders. Click here to view a video "how-to" for wax removal.
Learn how to change Christmas light fuses
Whenever you purchase Christmas tree lights, they are accompanied by a little baggie of optional flasher lights to make your lights "flash" and a few extra bulbs for blow outs. The flashers are usually clear and have a red tip. You will also find what looks like a small capsule with tiny silver ends. This is a replacement fuse for your lights. Sometimes when your lights suddenly go out, it does not mean that there is something wrong with a little rebel somewhere on the strand. Often, it simply means that you had so many strands hooked together that you blew a fuse on the last strand attached. My son, Harrison, is now a master at prying open the little sliding door on the plug and pulling out the old fuse with a pair of tweezers and popping in the new capsule-like fuse from the baggie. He has saved many a strand of Christmas tree lights for me! Anytime that this occurs, however, it means that you need to end that last "train" of connected lights. Attach an extension cord where the last strand you just fixed used to be and plug it directly into the wall. Use your repaired strand to start the next light "train". If you don't, they'll just blow out again. When taking down the decorations, retest and fix all lights before you pack them and throw out the hopeless ones. Who wants to mess with that next year when you'll be excited and anxious to get everything up? And remember, save those baggies with the extra fuses and bulbs! You can consolidate them into one freezer bag for better organization.
Organize those recipes
This year, it was my hope to invest in some recipe binders I found at Barnes and Nobles. I didn't have the funds to do this before this year's holiday season, but hope to do this soon. My girls have hope chests where they can eventually store theirs and I must admit that my recipe book shelf is overly crammed with handwritten recipes and printouts from Online. It seems that each year the girls and I have to rifle through a pile of papers to find that recipe for "Holiday sweet potatoes", "broccoli casserole" or whatever. How nice it would be to hand write each recipe favorite onto a pretty page (and placed into a page protector) in a binder to have at my fingertips. Because these books are binders, they can be continually alphabetized as you build your collection. If my girls can get this done, they'll have a book full of their favorite recipes to take with them someday. I can't tell you how many times I've had to run upstairs and get Online to check our own blog to find a recipe!
Send packages ahead when traveling
Next year, if the Lord is willing, we will get to visit my sister in Wisconsin for Christmas. Since most of our shopping is done Online, we have learned to ship our Christmas gifts directly to my sister's address during those years we go to her house, where she hides them in her storage room until we arrive. She sets up a "wrapping room" in this area where Scott and I can wrap our gifts after we get there. This enables us to travel more lightly without a van full of gifts. When we stop at a hotel for the night while traveling, we also don't have to unpack everything and bring it into the hotel with us to keep it safe. She keeps me posted via email or phone calls me as packages arrive and opens them for me to make sure all is well.
Save now while you can
We do not use credit cards and so there isn't much room for Christmas add-ons. In August when deer hunting season begins, my husband works an additional part-time job at a deer processing business until the first week of Christmas. This extra income gets us through the holidays financially. Because we don't purchase many clothes or toys during the remainder of the year, Christmas is when my children receive most of the only new things they'll get for the year. I always keep track of how much I am spending on each child as I go. I painfully realized that I was spending almost twice as much per child this year to get the same amount of gifts that he/she received last year. Because I kept track of my purchases, I know about how much money I will need to save for Christmas shopping next year. Remember, you'll not only need extra money for those Christmas presents, but also for food and travel. Don't forget you'll also want extra money to "stock up" on those turkeys and hams!
These are just a few things we've learned over the years and I'm sure I'll remember more later. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's celebration. For New Year's Eve, our pastor encouraged us to each bring a verse to church with the word "New" in it to share and to pray about. Below is the one I selected:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
May the Lord bless you with such love and enable you share it with many.