Ah, the Monday after New Year’s Day. It’s likely that you’re headed back to work today and your pre-college kids are back in their classrooms. And there’s that post-holiday season quiet in the air.

This weekend, the hubster and I carved out time for our annual holiday season “wrap up.” We put away our holiday decorations, took down the wonderful cards we received, and considered what went well this holiday season and what we might want to do in the future to make things run even more smoothly. Following are some tips we’ve learned that have helped us – figuratively and literally – wrap up the holiday season and support our future holiday season decorating and celebrating adventures.

Store holiday decor well. You’ll be glad you did.

If you haven’t already done so, I imagine that taking down the Christmas tree or other holiday decor is on your horizon. Keep it simple by heeding the following tips:

Obtain some large plastic storage containers in which to place boxes of holiday items for easy access. Put identifying labels on your large containers (i.e. “Holiday Decorations”) and use these plastic tubs to protect your decor from dust and dirt and to keep things together. Bonus: these containers will give you a surge of logistical and organizational satisfaction every time you see them in your closet, garage, or attic.

Place your decor in individual labeled boxes within the storage tubs. Store ornament sets and other like things together. Hooks should be kept with ornaments. Stockings should be folded alongside your tree skirt. Breakables should be wrapped well. Very well.

Be kind to your lights and they’ll be kind to you. Do yourself a favor and store your outdoor and indoor lights separately. While you’re at it, be sure that your outdoor lights are relatively dirt-free before you carefully wind them and place them in their box. Indoor light strands should also be carefully wound. No need to store things in a jumble so that you spend three days next December trying to untangle them.

Keep track of your holiday gift wrap materials. Place holiday wrapping paper, bags, ribbons, and gift enclosures in their own special box. There’s no need for these items to mingle with other wrapping paper – otherwise, come June, it may just seem easier to use Christmas tree wrapping paper for cousin Billy’s high school graduation gift.

Party wear needs to be stored properly, too. Are you the proud owner of a sweater or party dress that really should only see the light of day between December 1 and December 25? If so, be sure these items are stored properly and out of the way (i.e. in the back of your closet, at the bottom of your bureau, or – gasp – in a box within the tub holding your holiday decorations).

The annual great holiday card debate: to recycle or to keep?

If you received a plethora of holiday cards this season, you may face the question of whether to recycle or keep them. I have found that recycling is fine for some, and storing others in a keepsake box is great, too (especially if they include photos or very meaningful messages).

Or you can do something creative that I learned from a family member. Each year, she identifies a theme based on the cover art of the cards she receives (i.e. snowmen, snowflakes, bells, candles, etc.). Then she takes a few cards with this theme and positions the card covers in multi-opening wood photo frames where you’d usually place photographs. Her frames look sophisticated and artistic, and it sounds like they’re fun to put together. This framed art lasts for years and looks great wherever it’s displayed.

As for those few holiday card left-overs…

Have a few extra holiday cards that you didn’t send out this year? Stash them with your decorations so that they’re ready for use next year.

Tip: This is the perfect time of year to buy holiday cards at a deep discount (if your favorite card purveyor has any left). Wrap your new purchases well, and store them with your decorations so they’re ready for future use. While you’re out, pick-up some discounted wrapping paper. Your elves will thank you next winter.

Don’t forget to do a final update of your holiday card list.

Make sure your holiday card recipient list is updated to reflect all of the cards you sent out this year. This will come in handy next December, and it will be a great resource throughout the year where you can capture new addresses for your family, friends, and professional contacts.

Record the holiday recipes you’ll use again next year.

This was probably a season of good eats at your house. Did you make any special dishes that you want to use again next December? Create a folder on your computer labeled “Holiday Recipes 2009” – and store the scanned/typed recipes in this folder or make a list of the recipe titles (with source and page number) for quick reference next year.

Were there recipes that you didn’t get to try but wish you could have made for family and friends? Capture those in your electronic recipe folder, too.

Key take-aways and lessons learned this holiday season.

A friend recently shared an idea that will resonate with everyone who yearns to host meaningful holiday celebrations without feeling pressured to create Hallmark-perfect holiday memories. She suggests that you take some time to think about this holiday season. What went well? What would you do differently? Then make a list of these things so that next year, you’ll remember your recently learned do’s and don’ts and you won’t fall into old habits. Some topics that I think you’ll want to consider:

Decorating: how much money you spent on decor, when you decorated your home during this holiday season, what decorations you displayed, what items you kept in storage, etc.

Gifts: how much money you spent on presents, when you completed your shopping, whether you shopped online or in stores, whether your family exchanged wish lists or if everyone shopped with no specifics in mind, when you wrapped your gifts, when you mailed gifts to far-away loved ones, etc.

Tip: Make note of the gifts that you gave to family and friends this year. In the future, there’s no need to give Grandma Ethel a floral silk scarf for the third consecutive year. If you have gift ideas for people and those presents have not yet been given, make note of those ideas for use next year.

Holiday cards: when you purchased them, when you wrote and mailed them, who received them, how many you sent, the type of card you sent, cost of cards and postage, etc.

Hosting holiday parties: what you served and in what quantities, number of guests invited and number of attendees, dates/time frames, etc.

And last, but most definitely not least, take time to consider the true spirit of this season and how you can really live it throughout 2010.

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