Plus, how to do it so it's easy to unpack everything next year.

By Alexandra Churchill
December 03, 2020
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christmas village ornaments
Credit: Kate Mathis

Love the 1950s Christmas ball from your grandmother? And the sparkly star you've used to top the tree since you were a child? Then you'll want to treat those trimmings with care. For anything vintage or sentimentally valuable, the enemies are moisture and light. Humidity can damage fragile material, and light will strip the original color. Avoid the basement and attic, since those areas have the most extreme changes in humidity and temperature. Instead, keep items in a closet or under a bed. Plastic should not be used for storing vintage pieces because the resealable lids trap moisture, which can damage older pieces. Reserve plastic for regular ornaments or Christmas lights.

For more of our editors' best-kept secrets, use our guide to keep your classics in great condition.

Wreaths and Garlands

For faux greenery, a lidded wreath box ($25.99, containerstore.com) helps to keep embellishments stay intact and attached. If your wreath is made with organic materials, poke small holes in the plastic to allow proper ventilation. You can also use a zippered wreath storage bag ($13.99, amazon.com). Depending on the size of the bag, it can even store multiple wreaths.

Holiday Lights

Next year, don't spend a minute sorting through tangled webs of holiday decorations. Keep lights organized by winding each strand around a piece of cardboard cut to fit inside Ziploc Storage Bags ($9.10 for five, amazon.com). Keep delicate lights safe in zippered storage bags ($21.12, amazon.com); trapping air inside the bag will create a protective cushion for more fragile bulbs. Lastly, for large-size exterior lights, you can opt for the Northlight Christmas Light Storage Reel and Bag ($20, amazon.com), which—quite ingeniously—lets you crank out the string of lights with ease.

Menorah and Candles

For Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, celebrations are always centered around the family menorah and its tapered candles—which is why it's important to keep yours in pristine condition. Every year, clean the wax drippings and remove any tarnishing with a spot of silver polish after the holiday is over. The process is much easier if you prepare the candles properly from the start—you can extend the life of your candles over Hanukkah with a little post-burn treatment every evening. Trim the wicks to 1/4 inch before igniting, then level the top of the candle with a knife. To achieve uniform burning, after extinguishing a candle, insert a spoon handle alongside the wick to center it and gently press down the surrounding wax. This prevents the black soot and smoke that occurs from a wick that is too long as well as off-center wicks, which can cause the candles to burn unevenly, creating odd shapes and spills. At the end of the season, candles can get damaged easily when stored away so use paper-towel tubes—they're the perfect size and shape to protect them. Wrap the candles in tissue paper, then slip the package into a cardboard tube. Label each tube with the candles' color and length for quick identification.

Christmas Tree Ornaments

The secret to keeping valued ornaments in tip-top shape is acid-free tissue paper ($13.60, amazon.com)—it's perfect for storing all ornaments because it's free of chemicals and dyes, which can damage delicate pieces. And if you run out of tissue? Use plain white linen sheets or dish towels instead (they are also free of chemicals and dyes). Plus, they'll add a little extra padding. Store small items in egg cartons and oddly shaped ones in take-out containers lined with acid-free paper. A segmented storage box ($29.99, amazon.com) will help you stay organized.

Christmas Tree

For the tree itself, plotting out a spot in the house for safe storage is required (unless you opt for a fresh evergreen this year, in which case, all you have to do after December 25 is haul it out to the curb). Firstly, storage depends on the type of artificial tree. Antique feather trees of the early '20s and '30s should be covered in a lightweight case and stored in an airtight box. Similarly, vintage aluminum trees of the mid-century modern era should be disassembled, bough by bough, and stored in acid-free paper before storing into a box. To protect your artificial tree from dust and debris, disassemble and pack it into a Christmas tree storage bag ($23.99, amazon.com) so it's ready to dust off and display—with all the trimmings—again next year.

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