How to Un-Trim a Christmas Tree

BY NANCY MATTIA ON DECEMBER 8TH, 2016

Just because the holiday season is in full gear doesn’t mean it’s too early to start planning its timely demise. Especially taking down the tree – a chore many people dread. It’s a little sad (the festivities are really over) and a little daunting (all those ornaments!). Follow our time saving tips to make un-decorating the tree easier than it’s ever been.

1. Document what the tree looked like

Before you touch an ornament or remove a strand of tinsel, photograph the tree in all its finery, suggests Julie Bestry, a certified professional organizer and president of Best Results Organizing, in Chattanooga, Tenn. This will help you with next year’s setup. Take a shot of the surge protector too so you can remember where you positioned it when various electrical cords were plugged in.

2. Put a large tarp around the tree’s base

Even if you dutifully watered the tree every day, by the time you’re ready to take it down, it most likely will be dry. Place a tarp or sheet on the floor around the base to catch the many needles that will inevitably fall out as you un-trim the tree. Lay down a few towels too so if any ornaments accidentally fall as you’re working, they’ll make a soft landing.

3. Assess all the ornament boxes

Don’t pack anything until you’ve inspected the boxes for damage, and then clean the good ones. ”Use the vacuum hose to get any excess glitter, dust bunnies and pet hair out so the ornaments can go back into clean containers,” Bestry says. Replace any boxes that you’re discarding. “I prefer plastic, because it’s better protection against the elements like heat and humidity than cardboard.” While many people use cardboard boxes with dividers from liquor stores, Bestry advises against it: “Cardboard boxes are generally put together with glue, and glue attracts insects and rodents, exactly what you don’t want when you store them in your attic, basement or garage.”

4. Remove and wrap all the ornaments

Go from the bottom to the top of the tree to avoid knocking off ornaments as you reach for a high branch. You can leave the hooks attached. Wrap each ornament in crumpled tissue paper or print-free newspaper and place it in a box. “The most important thing is to have close-to-equal separation between ornaments” to avoid breakage, Bestry says. Store small boxes together in a larger bin.

5. Label boxes

Suppose next year you decide to hang only balls or just red ornaments. If boxes are labeled, it’ll save you from having to search every box for what you’re looking for. Number each box or egg carton – a useful container for small decorations – and keep a list of what's in each one.

6. Take off the lights

Next, unplug the lights from the wall. Pull off one strand, then plug it in again to check for any burned-out bulbs; do this for each strand. “Also check to make sure there are no frayed cords,” Bestry says. “If anything is damaged, pitch it and use the post-holiday sales to stock up on essentials for next year.” To pack, bundle and secure each strand with a rubber band; store in a large container if it’s too difficult to get the lights back in their original boxes.

7. Dump the tree

Once all the ornaments, lights, and other decorations have been removed, lay the tree on its side and take off the tree stand. Now grab the tarp or sheet and carefully wrap it around the tree, which you can carry out of the house.

8. Clean the floor

If it looks like every needle is on the floor, get out the vacuum or broom and clean up the mess. Don’t be surprised if you find needles in the carpet for months!

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