The holidays are about over, and many today are still eating leftover cookies and enjoying their new gifts.
Chances are, the lights are still hung outside, the tree stands adorned with ornaments, and children's new toys are scattered about, waiting for their new home.
The thought of putting away holiday decorations is the last thing on the minds of many today, but the dread of what's to come certainly may be starting to creep in.
"Christmas decorations are so wonderful and cherished before the holidays, and quickly become clutter once the holidays are over," said M. Colleen Klimczak, owner of Peace of Mind Professional Organizing, which serves the Chicago and Northwest Indiana regions.
Worry not — professional organizers say cleaning up post-Christmas isn't — or shouldn't be — as hard as one thinks.
Here are some tips from organization consultants in the Region about what you can do to stay on top of your decorations and how to make new room for the toys and gifts you received this holiday season.
Location, location, location
It's one of the most important aspects in real estate, but Wendy Taddeucci, owner of Simply Organized out of LaPorte, said location is equally important in organization.
She recommended keeping Christmas decorations all in one location, and keep types of decorations together.
"When storing Christmas decorations, store like with like," she said. "For instance, ornaments in one box. Stuffed animals or any soft decorations in another box."
Stephanie Jones, owner of Innovative Organizing in Valparaiso, said her organization plan includes storing items based on available space where it makes the most sense. For example, her Christmas plates stay in her kitchen cabinets all year long, and her baking items are stored in a labeled plastic container in her pantry.
Worried about not knowing which containers are holiday oriented come next December? Simply choose red and green storage containers that are the same shape and brand, Taddeucci said.
Or, Klimczak recommended labeling each container so you know exactly where each item is located.
"I suggest having a 'last in, first out' box, with a special label," she said. "For our family, the LIFO box holds the decorations that come out on Dec. 1 and stay around until January."
These include items like the family's advent wreath, the nativity set, table runners and candles, she said.
"And there are always a few decorations that show up weeks after everything is put away, so those get tossed in that LIFO box, too," Klimczak said.
A working storage system
Finding the right storage system for your needs is an important component in organization, Taddeucci said.
Before purchasing storage containers, measure the space where you will store the containers, Taddeucci said.
"How many can you store? What sizes do you need?" she said. "Planning before you buy the containers will make storing them that much easier."
While Rubbermaid and Sterlite both make storage containers, Taddeucci advised to only buy one of the two.
"When you buy one brand of container, they are made to work together," she said.
When dividing up decorations, keep items together that are decorated together.
"I have four trees, so my ornaments are sorted by tree in individual containers," Jones said.
Lights are stored in a separate container, but are tested before being packed away to make sure each strand works, she said.
"My wreaths are stored in plastic wreath containers, and the wreath hanger is in each wreath box," Jones said.
Don't forget to protect items that won't survive extreme temperatures, Klimczak said.
"Snow globes can freeze and burst, and candles can melt," she said.
Chances are, especially if you have children, your house may feel as though it just got a little bit smaller. New toys, clothing and other gifts can be a challenge when looking for a new place to store these items.
If you have small children, Klimczak said parents can put a few unopened toys aside and can be brought out for a rainy or snowy day.
"This is especially helpful for children with birthdays this time of year, who get all their toys at once and then not so much any other time of year," she said.
To make room for new toys, Taddeucci said to work with children to sort out which old and new toys they want to keep and which they will donate.
"This is a great way to teach children limits," she said. "You can't keep everything and be able to enjoy it."
The same can be said for decorations.
"Next year, as you are getting decorations out, decide which decorations you no longer want and donate them," Taddeucci said. "When you buy a new decoration, donate one. This keeps a good balance."
If there are decorations that are broken, don't work or you simply don't love anymore, purge them, Jones said.
"Store and pack only things you love and use," she said. "These days, my motto is 'Less is More and Live Simply.'"