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Untrimming the Christmas Tree

Master the most dreaded part of the holiday season: taking down the Christmas tree

That big ole pine goes from much-loved to much-maligned in the blink of an eye. Here’s how to make packing it up less painful and more cheerful.

Step 1: Lay down a big sheet and some towels.

If you don’t already have a tree-disposal bag in place under the stand, position a large sheet or drop cloth around the tree’s base to catch stray needles that will fall like rain as you undecorate. And pad the floor with towels around the base to provide a cushion should ornaments fall.

Step 2: Remove the ornaments.

Start from the bottom up—that way, you’re less likely to knock off ornaments with your body (oops!) as you reach for the high branches. Leave hooks attached (they won’t cause damage) and carefully wrap each treasure in crumpled tissue paper, newspaper or used wrapping paper. If you didn’t save the original packaging or don’t have enough thick, sturdy boxes, head to your local liquor store and ask for boxes with dividers; most stores will give them up for free. They’re especially perfect for tree toppers and other large baubles. Use egg cartons for smaller items.

Step 3: Take off the lights and tree skirt.

Remove one string of lights at a time, then bundle and secure with a rubber band. Don’t attempt to put the lights back in their original (flimsy) boxes; a better storage option is to wrap them around cardboard paper towel rolls and box them. Give the skirt and towels a good shake onto the sheet. Check the tree stand for water—if there’s any left, use a turkey baster to remove.

Step 4: Packaging up the tree.

This is a two-person job, so if you’ve been detrimming alone, grab someone to help you lay the tree on its side and then remove the tree stand. Wrap the sheet around the tree like a sling and carry it out of the house.

Step 5: Clean up the floor.

Sweep up needles from your bare floor; use a vacuum on carpeting but check for fallen ornament hooks first. To remove pesky needles stuck in the carpet, sprinkle baking soda on the area to make the needles slide out of carpet fibers more easily.

Step 6: Consider throwing an “untrim the tree” party next year.

Invite some elves, aka your friends, to help do the work!