We don't usually think of "reduce, reuse, recycle" when it comes to holiday decorations, but this earth-friendly mantra can be applied all year long. When it comes time to take down your tree and put away the wrapping paper, consider these tips for how to reduce what you'll need to replace next year, reuse what you can and discover where to recycle other items.
Take a picture. If you like the way you arranged the mantel or placed decorations in the yard, take pictures so you can repeat the settings next time. Label light strands so you know which ones goes where.
Save your holiday cards. Cut off the fronts and use them as tags for presents next year. Or, if they're more winter- than holiday-oriented, use them as thank you postcards.
Reuse wrapping paper. Heavy or foil wrapping paper can't be recycled. Instead, shred it and use it as cushioning as you pack away decorations.
Wrap ribbon around a tube. If you have lots of leftover ribbon, coil them individually around an empty wrapping paper tube and tape them down so they don't unravel.
Safely store ornaments. Instead of throwing tree ornaments into a big box, gently place them in sturdy popcorn or cookie tins. Remember to put heavy ones on the bottom and lighter, more delicate ones on top. Egg or apple cartons are also good for storing ornaments individually.
Make lights easier to string next time. Wrap strands around an empty wrapping paper tube or coil them in a circle then use a twist tie to secure them in place.
Recycle old strings of lights. If you notice frayed wires, find someplace to recycle strands instead of throwing them away. Some stores and organizations, such as HolidayLEDS, will give you a discount on energy-efficient LED lights when you recycle your old lights.
Recycle your real tree. Most municipalities offer Christmas tree recycling, either as part of their curbside green waste pickup or at a designated drop-off. You may also be able to find nonprofits in your area that accept trees. Be sure to remove all ornaments, including tinsel.
Keep hooks handy. As you take down wreaths, stockings and other hanging decorations, be sure to keep the hooks with the item, so you don’t have to remember where it is or buy a new one. Attach it with a twist tie or in a zip-top bag if necessary.
Label containers. Big plastic tubs or boxes are an easy way to keep decorations clean and safe during the year, but it's hard to remember what's in each one 11 months from now. Label the containers and list a few key items so you can easily find certain ones. This is especially helpful if you decorate in stages; an "open first" label can be very helpful!
Clean now. Dust or clean decorations now, before you pack them away, so they'll be ready to place immediately when you get them out.
Store linens wisely. Store the tree skirt, tablecloths and other linens in vacuum bags so they take up less room. If anything needs laundering, do so before you store it so you don't find set-in stains or mold when unpacking.
Give away unwanted items. If a decoration is more of an annoyance than a joy, find a new home for it. Just because Grandma gave you her old Christmas village that takes up the whole table, it doesn't mean you have to keep it. Sell it, give it away or find a friend who would actually enjoy it. There's no reason to keep something you don't like and just need to store year after year.