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posted: 1/11/2013 5:47 AM

Easy ways to store your holiday decor

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Well, the holidays are mostly behind us and it's time to pack it all away for another year. Why is it that it seems to take up more space each time you pack it up? Here are some of our favorite tips to help you get everything repacked safely and in as small amount of space as possible.

• When storing away your holiday decor, make sure to use sturdy boxes that are clearly marked. Storing them all in one place also makes finding them next year easier. Storing like items together is also smart. Store all the lights together, tree ornaments together and garlands all in one box. Don't forget to mark these boxes with the contents, too.

• Storing your Christmas lights on a reel is brilliant. See if you can take them down and roll them right onto the reel. If you can do this, then they will be easy to unroll next year and put right on the house. This also will help protect them while stored. Use smaller storage devices for smaller amounts of lights. If you don't have one of these storage units, you can wrap the lights around a small box. Individual strings can be placed in sealable plastic bags, too.

• Ornaments can be stored in boxes with dividers, like the type that wine bottles come in. Another way to store them is to place plastic cups into a box, place an ornament into each cup and then cover the cups with a layer of cardboard, covered with another layer of cups and ornaments.

• Those of you who have fake trees always point out what a timesaver it is to have the lights permanently installed on them. Why not keep the ornaments on, too? Find a good cover for the fully-decorated tree and store it, "as-is"! If yours originally came in a series of boxes, ditch them and buy one heavy-duty, large box for the whole tree.

• As you pack items away, get rid of things you no longer need. Local charities are always looking for items like this. It will give you more room for after-holiday sale items that you can use next year!

Get a handle on it

We all use boxes to store our belongings. If you can pick and choose your favorites, you'll probably want one that has holes along the side to use as handles. This makes moving them a lot easier. If your boxes don't have these handy holes, you can cut some yourself. It's a lot easier than you think. Just use a box knife to cut a "V" shape into the side of the box where you need a handle. Now push the pointed part into the box to create a triangular hole, which will make a super handle. It's easy, quick and super handy!

A quick faux finish

Some painted faux finishes are gorgeous. Most take a lot of time and require some specialized tools. Some of the "tools" we have used are sponges, plastic bags and cloth rags. Because these finishes are so labor-intensive, saving time any way you can is a smart idea. Loosely wrap a rag around a paint roller and use string or rubber bands to hold it in place. Now you can rag-roll-on your finish and save a lot of time in the process. You might be able to do the same thing with sponges or plastic bags, too.

Super hints

• If you are received new tools for Christmas, you also might have old tools you no longer need. Clean them up and give them to a local charity. Many charities can use these tools or sell them to help fund their needs. You'll make room for your new tools, too.

• An embossed tin ceiling is a really great look. But it can be very costly, even if it's not antique. I have found some embossed wallpaper that is designed to be painted that can be used instead of the tin tiles. It can be glued in place and then painted. You can use any kind of paint, even metal paint, if you want. Check wallpaper stores for this and give it a shot.

• Lots of times you find plans that are perfect for a project but need to be enlarged. Just take them to the office-supply store and have them enlarged. If you have a scanner, you can use it to do the same thing. Scan, enlarge and print!

Q. I've heard you can make your own chalkboard paint. Do you have a recipe for this?

A. It's really very easy to do. Some people don't think it's quite as good as the store-bought type. You use one tablespoon of unsanded grout and mix that into one-half cup of any color acrylic paint. When applying it, brush it on and leave it alone. Don't go back and forth over the area more than once.

Q. I either need a new coffeepot or I need to find out how to clean this one. How are you supposed to clean a coffee maker?

A. Fill the water reservoir with one part vinegar and two parts water. Then hit "brew" to heat the water and let it run through the cycle. Let the mixture sit in the pot until it has cooled. Then use a pot scrubber to clean the pot. Now, refill the reservoir with plain water and run it through another cycle. You should do this once a month to keep the oils from the coffee and the minerals from the water from building up on the coffee maker's parts.

Q. How can I tell what is OK to clean my sofa with and what is not OK to use?

A. If you can get to the original label on the sofa, look for the markings there that are designed to tell you. A "W" means the fabric can be cleaned with water-based detergents. An "S" means you'll need to use solvents, and an "X" means vacuuming is all you can do to it. We suggest erring on the side of caution. Try vacuuming first, then apply a mild soapy water to an out-of-the-way spot to test the fabric. If it doesn't harm it, start cleaning. If you can remove the cover before cleaning, do so. Having upholstered pieces cleaned might be a good choice if the piece is dear to you. Apply a fabric protector after it's clean to keep it that way!

Reader tips

• I received several new tools this holiday, and I'm learning how to use them. One thing I would always tell everyone is to read the instructions first, and then save them somewhere where they will be protected and handy if you need to refer to them while working. I keep all of my tool manuals in a plastic file box that has a tightfitting lid. This protects them from dirt and moisture and I can keep them in my workshop.

• Our refrigerator is in pretty good shape and still works really well. The problem with it has been the beige color. All of our other appliances are black. We thought about painting it black to match but were afraid it wouldn't look just right. My wife came up with the idea of using chalkboard paint. It was easy to do, and we love it. It matches OK and is so neat. We leave notes on it a lot, and all of our guests just love it. It was a great idea, and we plan to keep it like this from now on.

• We had some tall dressers, with six drawers each. We were going to remove the drawers to paint them, and, before doing so, had the wise forethought to number each, both on the drawer back and the cabinet. This way, after the paint has dried, they will fit back into the right spot. If you don't do this, and we know from experience, it's hard to put the right drawer in the right place, as some don't fit the same as others.

• I made a greenhouse from the kids' old wooden clubhouse. They don't use it any longer, but it's too big to remove, so I just look at it every day and wonder what to do with it. This winter, I took off the slide and covered the sides with thick plastic sheeting. It's large enough to store all of our tropical plants on freezing nights, and I can use one heat lamp to heat the whole room. It was simple to do and works great.

• I am lucky to have a linen closet with a closet rod across the back. I now use this to store my tablecloths. Once cleaned and ironed, they can be draped over the rod and can be stored without any folding. When I need one, I can take it out and put it right on the table without having to iron it again. I may add another rod, if I can, to store even more.


• KwikWood Repair Epoxy is a hand-mixable putty that is made to rebuild damaged or missing wood. It's a two-part epoxy putty that you slice off, mix with your hands and apply to the damaged area. Once cured, it can be sanded, drilled and painted. It contains no solvents and won't rot, crack or shrink. You can use it indoors and out, and it will last a long time. Check for it at your hardware store or home center. To find out more, go to

• "Extraordinary Projects for Ordinary People" is a great book for the do-it-yourselfer. It's full of neat ideas for recycling, re-purposing and just being creative with things around the house. Some of the ideas in this book are really innovative and help you think, and do, out-of-the-box projects. Some projects might be considered ones you wouldn't want to try at home. Learn how to bake bacon roses or convert a vacuum cleaner into a bazooka (think about it)! The book is available at select bookstores and online. For more information, go straight to the publisher at

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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