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Professional organizers offer tips on unpacking your holiday decorations
Devise a plan to pack away items after Christmas
One of Darcy Miller's photos shows one of her crafting drawers filled with tiny containers holding everything from color-coded paperclips to washi tape. She also advises putting items in clear, lidded boxes close at hand.

With the holidays around the corner, figuring out where your favorite Christmas decorations are could be a challenge, especially if you heaped them into unmarked boxes and stuffed them in the basement after last year.

But Gainesville-based professional organizer Angelina Manolakis and others like her can help turn what seems to be an insurmountable task into an easier undertaking. She and other organizers accomplish this by offering several simple tips to stay organized and make the most of holiday decor.

Rule No. 1: If it wasn’t used last year, or if you plan to leave it in the box and not use it, just get rid of it.

“That’s just a life lesson, so that you don’t accumulate a lot of clutter,” said Manolakis, owner of All Things in Order, a business dedicated to decluttering and organizing homes or home offices. “The more you accumulate, the less space you have.”

She said she tends to toss Christmas lights first. Bulbs get broken when they are taken down and packed away.

Manolakis said it’s often much faster to buy a new string of lights rather than try to find the faulty light and replace it.

Rule No. 2: If decor is broken or unrepairable, throw it out.

As a Greek descendant, Manolakis explained in Hellenistic culture broken items are bad luck. And that is something no one wants lingering during the jolliest time of the year.

Rule No. 3: A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Manolakis said as residents start shopping for the holidays and acquire new decorations to replace the old ones, it’s important to consider what is coming into the home.

“For everything that comes in the house, something has to go,” she said.

Darcy Miller, editor at large for “Martha Stewart Weddings,” goes one step further. In her organized crafts room, the New York City woman organizes her pens by type and places them in glass jars on her worktable. Her drawers also are filled with tiny containers holding everything from color-coded paperclips to washi tape.

Rule No. 4: Map out a packing plan to make unpacking easier and have the proper storage supplies on hand.

Manolakis said her job involves going into people’s homes and organizing their lives. She’s often hired after the holidays to pack up decorations.

“Sort everything, ornaments in one box,” she said, warning people to steer clear of using red and green or other holiday-themed totes to store decorations. “I always recommend clear boxes.”

Manolakis said clear totes allow homeowners to see the contents inside and find the box they are looking for quickly. But for color-coding-oriented people, she suggests clear boxes with colored lids.

Miller agrees. She frequently puts used items in clear, lidded boxes close at hand. Messy, bulkier supplies are placed in gray, lidded boxes tucked onto shelves.

Manolakis adopts a similar suggestion for big, awkward, non-storable items. Clear bags allow people to see what’s inside while protecting the items from dust and damage, Manolakis said.

“You can never fit (it) back into the box they came in, (so) a really great storage idea is clear plastic bags,” she said.

Professional organizer Fay Wolf of Los Angeles suggests designating a staging area with labeled sorting bins.

And with this clear or color-coded system, repacking or cleanup is easier.

Rule No. 5: Set a time frame to complete the process.

Wolf recommends using a timer, which many cellphones have. Set it for 20 minutes; you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in the small amount of focused time, she said.

“You have to be OK taking small steps and knowing that’s the only way to do it,” she said.

And Wolf warns against letting perfectionism prevent progress.

“What plagues many of us is the ‘waiting for the perfect moment,’” which leads to doing nothing, Wolf said in her book “New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (And Everyone Else)” (Ballantine Books, 2016). “Ditch the excuses and start with any amount of time.”

Rule No. 6: Incorporate a little fun into the process but stay focused on task.

Manolakis said being vigilant while packing can speed up the unpacking process in the future. She suggested staying festive by playing holiday music to get in the spirit.

Jennifer Forker with The Associated Press contributed to the story.