The holidays are over, and it's time to get organized to ring in 1986--secure in the knowledge that you have wrapped up all of the loose ends from Hanukkah or Christmas.
Cleaning up the mess and taking down the tree is only part of the problem. You tell yourself--just as you did last year--that if you could somehow organize everything as you put it away, the preparations for next year's holiday season will go smoother.
To help you do that, here are some ways to handle the aftermath of the holidays and get on with your life:
Give notice--Taking the tree down is never as much fun as putting it up. To make matters worse, it seems that rounding up household volunteers for dismantling it and packing the decorations becomes almost impossible. To avoid nagging the troops, announce the day and time when everything is going to be dismantled, and then give notice that you want all hands on deck. You can make it more fun by turning this chore into a family party.
Lights all in a row--As you take down your lights, whether from the tree or the outside of your house, wrap the light strings around cardboard tubing, such as the kind that is the center of rolled gift paper. Cut the cardboard tubing into one-foot lengths to make them easier to store in boxes. Wrap the lights evenly around the tubes, securing the ends with a twist tie.
Storage--Try to store your Christmas decorations and ornaments in small, easy-to-lift, well-marked boxes, even if it means using several boxes. Large boxes are unwieldy and therefore difficult to move and store. Your breakage risk is also greatly reduced if you pack things carefully, without overloading any one box.
Gift-wrap recycling--If you keep gift wrap from one year to the next, take the time now to set yourself up with a gift wrap center in your utility room or in a spare closet or corner. Install a paper-towel holder to slide rolls of ribbon onto. Simply cut off what you need (when you need it), and spare yourself the aggravation of digging through a box of tangled gift ribbon. Stand up rolls of gift wrap in a small wastebasket, and store flat gift wrap on a shelf under the ribbon rack. Keep a pair of scissors and a roll of scotch tape on a peg, and you have easy access to gift wrap materials at any time, not just at Christmas.
Cleaning opportunity--When the tree comes down, chances are you'll be moving the furniture back to its rightful place. Take this opportunity to do a little extra cleaning--vacuum thoroughly before you move the couch back, that sort of thing. It gives you a mini-spring-cleaning session--in the winter.
Special dishes--The holidays bring special cooking and serving needs with them, and with it, we drag out the special pans and fancy dishes. Before you return these items to their storage place, make sure you are making the best use of your kitchen storage space by placing infrequently used items out of reach and items that require daily use within easy reach. You might, as you put the special pans back into the very far reaches of the cupboard, take this opportunity to organize that particular cabinet. (After all, you had to pull everything out in order to put the special pans back, so while you're at it, you might as well organize everything and get rid of anything that you never use.
Make room for the new--Today is a good day to teach the kids a little organization and charity. Let them sort through their old toys and pull out what they don't want (along with the broken toys), and make a trip down to your nearest Goodwill or other charity collection center. This selection process will make room for the new toys without the necessity of adding on to the house and will teach the kids some valuable lessons at the same time.
Returns--If it's a something the store will have in stock after the first of the year, resist the temptation to return or exchange items the day after Christmas. Instead, take in the after-Christmas sales and shop for next year's gift wrappings and holiday cards (generally they're half-price after the holidays). Return merchandise early in '86. If you can, make the exchange or return on a weekday when stores are not so crowded.
Update your card list--Gather up all of the cards that you received this year and use them to update your card list. Make a small red check mark on your Rolodex or address book by the name of everyone you wish to send a card to next Christmas. At the same time, you can add new names as necessary, and update your address information. (Remember to put the red check next to the new names that you add.) When the holidays come around again, you can simply flip through the list and address cards to all the names you checked. (This also makes it a simple matter for someone else to do your envelope addressing for you if you find yourself short of time next year.)
You've got to have friends--The period between Christmas and the new year is a good time to call and visit friends and relatives that you haven't had time to see or talk to during the year. Many people have extra time off from work, and now is the time to take in a movie with someone, make a few calls to those you haven't called in far too long, and to take the time to sit down and send out your personal thoughts and thank-you notes to those who matter the most to you.