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Time To Put Away The Holidays…

3 Jan

Christmas has come and gone, and the 2014 is here.  Time to get back to the reality of what you house really looks like for the next 11 months of the year…


Here are some tips to help you tuck away all of the holiday decorations so that they are ready for next year:

Supplies I use to store Xmas decorations:

  • 3 drawer cart on castor wheels
  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Ziplock sandwich bag to hold cut floral wire
  • Ziplock sandwich bag to hold twist ties from the dry cleaners
  • Artificial Christmas tree boxes
  • Rubbermaid bins

Christmas Tree

The first thing you want to do is deal with the Christmas tree.  If you have a real tree, you will need to make sure the water is mostly evaporated from the tree stand.  Once our presents starting filling in under the tree, it was pretty much impossible for us to water the tree.  Hopefully you stopped watering your tree several days before you are going to be taking it outside….

Step 1: Remove the Ornaments

Most of the ornaments on our tree have 2 ornaments to 1 hook.  This actually serves 2 purposes – it makes the tree look fuller when the ornaments are on it AND it takes only half the effort to put them on/take them off the tree.  I’m all for minimizing effort around the holidays…


We actually store our ornament on the hooks – just make sure you bend the bottom of the hook around both ornaments so they don’t pop off. I then place them back in the original containers that they came in.  Of course I can never get them all to fit the way they came, so I put the overflow into a drawer in a rolling cart that stores Xmas tree supplies.


Step 2:  Remove the Ribbon

The wired ribbon I use is attached to the tree using floral wire.  To attach it to the tree, I use floral wire and twist it around the ribbon onto the tree in a clockwise direction.  To remove the ribbon, it just takes several counter-clockwise twists.  I keep the floral wire pieces from year to year as it saves all the time of having to cut a million new little wires each year.  As the ribbon comes off the tree, I wind it around an empty toilet paper tube – you can’t get any more low-tech (or cheaper) than that.  This helps the inside part of the ribbon from getting too tightly wound and helps to save the edges of the wire on the ribbon from getting all twisted around itself.  To keep the ribbon wound up, I use the really long twist ties that come back with our dry cleaning.  These are the best and once again, low tech and free (except for the dry cleaning bills throughout the year…)


Step 3:  Remove the Lights

The lights are removed from the tree and just wound in a circle from our hand to our elbow – like you would roll up an extension cord or a hose…  The handy-dandy dry cleaner twist ties step in once again and are used to secure the individual strands together.  This helps them from getting all tangled up once the go into the box.  The box?  Just an old cardboard box that used to hold printer paper….


Step 4:  Gather up the needles that dropped off the tree, spread the tarp and out it goes…


I purposely leave the tree skirt on the bottom of the tree until the end.  It tends to catch the brittle needles that drop off the tree before most of them hit the carpet.  (We have a Berber carpet in our family room so you almost have to pick the needles off the carpet one by one because they get caught in the loops of the carpet – NOT FUN!)  Just fold up the tree skirt and carry it outside and shake it off.


Now that the tree is bare, it’s my husband’s turn to step in with the tarp, the drill, and the muscle.  He spreads a tarp on the floor of the family room near the tree and he and my son lift it out of the base and lay it on its side. Our Xmas tree stand has a bottom brace that you drill into the bottom of the tree, He un-drills the brace and out the tree goes to the curb for the town to pick up.


Whew – that was the first part of putting away the holiday…

Now for the rest of the house:

Our game plan for the rest of the house tends to be a search & rescue mission – search for holiday decorations and return them all to the kitchen table area.  From there, they can be packed up in as efficient manner as possible.  I try to keep the decorations for the different rooms together but at some point that became way too unwieldy.  95% of the decorations are on the first floor of our home so those 6 rooms are close enough to each other that careful packing of everything together seems to work out the best.


Candles for all the windows are repackaged in their original boxes (from 21 years ago…) along with replacement bulbs and placed in a clear plastic bin with a folding cover.  This year the Xmas tree skirt was tucked in alongside the candles so they wouldn’t shift around in the box on their journey to the basement…


The garland that hangs over the kitchen doorways stay decorated with ribbons and ornaments and gets folded into a box that held an artificial Xmas tree. Next year we just have to unfold the garland and attach it to the hooks that permanently stay on top of the doorways.  Easy peasy!


The garland for the staircase gets put away in other large boxes – again – staying decorated and just gently folded for easy decorating next year.  Boxes and bins are labeled appropriately:


Other decorations are carefully wrapped and stored in a large Xmas tree box and a very large Rubbermaid container (sorry I don’t know the exact size).  My son’s nutcracker collection goes into the Rubbermaid bin along with other very lightweight items so as not to crush the nutcrackers.  The bigger heavier items are stored in the large Xmas tree box with the heaviest items on the bottom and lighter weight items as you move to the top of the box.

  •  Sorry for the lack of pictures of these – this project went on way too long and I needed to get it done – stopping to grab the camera was just too much for me to bear…

All of these items are brought down to our basement and stored in the area underneath the staircase.  That way they are safe and secure with little fear that my son and his friends won’t play football, or basketball, or whatever else they may do and go crashing into my Xmas stash…

Some final notes for you to consider:

Now is the time to “pass on” the holiday decorations that no longer match your decor.  I passed on a 4 foot Xmas tree to my niece this year.  Now I am looking for a new home for the decorations that used to adorn that tree when my son was little…


Save all the red ribbon for Valentine’s Day, but pack up the rest.  I saw Valentine’s Day candy in the store on Christmas Eve – really people???

red wired ribbon

Do something with the photo cards that you receive with all those smiling baby faces…  I tend to keep mine from year to year – tied up with a ribbon and labeled for the year.  These are excellent keepsakes of years gone by…  I’d love to hear what you do with you photo greeting cards!  Anyone want to share?


Buy paper, cards, and ribbon for next year (on sale now).  And as a spoiler alert – this may be a little insight into a future blog post…


This family friendly blog is provided by  We specialize in high quality, affordable Baptismal gowns, rompers & suits, First Communion dresses, girls headpieces and boy’s suits.  In addition, we have a full line of Confirmation robes for churches to choose from with sizes to fit any size Confirmation candidate.

‘Tis the Season… for Christmas returns!!!

26 Dec

Just a day or two ago, there were piles of presents that lay beautifully under the Christmas tree – full of the promise of happy times.  After the dust settles on the Christmas holiday, your eye naturally turns to the new piles of “stuff” that seems to have exploded in your house.  Here are some survival guide tips on how to sort through the piles and restore your home to some normalcy.


Step 1:  Separate the gift from the wrapping supplies….

Half of the volume of stuff in your house is the packaging that the presents were delivered in.  You can easily weed down the piles by simply removing the gifts from the gift boxes and tissue paper that seem to take over the house on Christmas day.


If you tend to save the gift boxes like I do (not every store offers gift boxes anymore), I immediately fold the boxes down flat and put them in a single neat pile.  Tissue paper gets thrown away – or if it’s not too wrinkled – it can be folded neatly to make tissue paper poms (refer to this link for a tutorial on how to make these fun decorations


Step 2:  Make sure everything fits properly….

If you haven’t done so already, have everyone in your family try on the clothes that they received for Christmas.  If the item fits, put it away in a drawer or closet right away.  If it doesn’t fit, or they just don’t want it, put them in a pile to be returned/exchanged.

photo 1

Step 3:  Make a plan to handle the returns/exchanges….

If these items were purchased by someone in your home, pull out the receipts and put them with the items.  If they were purchased by someone outside your household, decide if it’s appropriate to ask for the receipt for the item so you can get the proper value that the gift giver paid for the item (and any sales tax they may have paid).  If you think the gift giver would be offended or upset by the thought of you returning the item, then you will probably need to just get a store credit for the current value of the item (less any state sales taxes paid).


Step 4:  Sort the items by store…

I put all of the items that need to be returned in one bag per store and pile them up in a busy spot in my kitchen.  Just the thought of tripping over these items each time I walk by helps give me the push to actually go out there and make the return/exchange.


Step 5:  Make a driving plan to return the items – and get out there and actually do it!

After the craziness of the holiday, I am not usually in the mood to spend a whole day going from store to store returning items.  I tend to group the stores by their location to each other and tackle one direction at a time.  Writing out a list helps me to organize my thoughts and remember all of the things I have to do.

If I am feeling really ambitious, I will put all the bags in my car in order to get the piles out of my house.  After all, if the items aren’t in your car, you can’t ever make the return – right?

HAPPY RETURNING from all of us at BaptismalGownsPlus!!!

This family friendly blog is provided by  We specialize in high quality, affordable Baptismal gowns, rompers & suits, First Communion dresses, girls headpieces and boy’s suits.  In addition, we have a full line of Confirmation robes for churches to choose from with sizes to fit any size Confirmation candidate.

5 Tips to Help Control the Paper You Kind of Need to Have Around

26 Sep

There are so many blog posts and tips out there with pictures of these beautifully organized offices – like this one:

beautiful home office

Or perfectly organized filing cabinets – like this one:

organized files

Or worse yet, perfectly organized offices and file cabinets that are also color coded – like these:

color coded files

organized office

Of course, I look at these types of pictures often and dream of a day when my life might be this organized.  Unfortunately, life is happening too fast around me to have the time it would take to transform my world – or at least the world in the drawers of the desk in our office to be as asthetically pleasing as they are functional.  Honestly, being a busy mom and business owner, I’m just happy when I know where the $10 coupon to JCPenney is, or where the receipt is for the Little League Banquet that we need to produce at the door.  For now, I have to be OK knowing that my phone bill’s for the last 2 (or more) years are sitting in a file folder – just not a beautifully color coded file …

That being said, I have some VERY EASY and VERY LOW TECH solutions that you may be able to adopt in your house to try and control the most important pieces of paper that suddenly become so elusive right when you need them.

Tip #1:  Where to corral the tickets and invitations

Supplies Needed:

1 cup hook

1 binder clip

The inside of a kitchen cabinet

After RSVP’ing to an invitation, or getting tickets to an event we will be attending, I have 1 place in our house where they go – clipped to our family calendar inside a cabinet door in the kitchen.

tickets and invitations

Tip #2:  How to keep the misc papers and coupons handy in your purse

Supplies Needed:

1 binder clip

Of all the low tech options you will see out there, this is possibly the most basic option – yet – it is VERY effective.  I walked around for years with various pieces of paper scattered about my purse – big and small.  Just keeping them all together with a binder clip automatically keeps my purse so much more organized.  And when the other moms seem to be digging around looking for a practice schedule or a school notice, I can produce one on demand.


Tip #3:  How to keep gift card and excess credit cards together

Supplies Needed:

1 zip top sandwich bag

OK, so I know I said in tip #2 that it was possibly the most basic option – but now I realize that this tip is  even more basic.  Some people may not have binder clips in their house, but I’m willing to bet that any busy mom on the go has a box of zip top sandwich bags in their kitchen.

One of the things I hate is when my wallet gets really overloaded.  When it does, I can’t seem to find anything at all – and depending on what purse I am using, it barely fits.

My solution for keeping all the miscellaneous gift cards and store credit cards I have is your run of the mill zip top sandwich bag.

Gift and Credit Cards

Tip #4:  How to keep paint chips, rosters and business cards with you

Supplies Needed:

1 plastic gift card holder

Several years ago, my son’s school sold gifts cards as a fundraiser.  For $1 they also sold these plastic sleeves to hold your gift cards.  Not thinking I would ever use it, I did end up buying one.  Looking back, that plastic holder has not left my purse in the last 7 ½ years…

On the left hand side there are 3 plastic sleeves that hold gift cards.  Since I use the super technical “sandwich bag” for my gift cards nowadays, I use these sleeves for various business cards – the Pediatric dentist, the Sports Medicine doctor that took care of my sons wrist, etc.  I also use it for various cards that I rarely use and my husbands business cards.

The right hand side has one big compartment – I think it was for various restaurant certificates in the program.  I use it to carry along rosters for my sons football team and paint chips for various rooms in our home.  These chips come in quite handy whenever I am in stores looking to buy something for our home.

paint chips, rosters and business cards

Tip #5:  Receipts, receipts, and more receipts

Supplies Needed:

1 wallet

2 plastic page protectors

1 pleather holder thingy… obviously not the technical term – see picture below

The one item of paper that seems to end up everywhere – besides the mail in my house – are receipts.

Reasons you should hold onto receipts:

Some can be discarded right away – like if you buy a pack of gum or some groceries

Some need to be held onto until you are sure you aren’t returning whatever it is you bought

Some need to be kept until the gift is given and the recipient is happy with it

Some should be held until you reconcile your credit card statement (I wish we did this in my house, but we don’t)

Some should be held because the store (or company) has a really generous return policy – like Home Depot – if a plant dies within a year you can return it for a new one

Some should be held onto so you know what and how much to buy next time – example – our landscaping rocks

Some should be held for tax purposes

Some should be held for business reasons

I could go on and on…

As long as you have a system – and realistic reasons for holding on to these annoying little pieces of paper – receipts don’t have to take over your life.

I always keep the receipts in my wallet until I am home – if they end up in shopping bags they tend to get lost easier:


Business receipts get put into plastic sleeves that go in a business binder until they are reconciled:


Home receipts are stored in our ‘pleather holder thingy’ until it can be either thrown away, filed for tax purposes or filed within the appropriate file (like the landscaping folder).

home receipts

I hope you can take at least one of these tips to make your life easier.

Do you guys have any quick and easy tips to corral the day to day paper we are all faced with?  Please share your ideas or tips by commenting on this post.

Anne-Marie Dunn is the owner of  We specialize in Baptismal, First Communion and Confirmation apparel for boys and girls.

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