How to Put Away (and Set Up) Your Christmas Tree in 20 Minutes

This is our Christmas tree this year.

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It took me 20 minutes total to set up, light and decorate, and you want to know why?

Because I am a GENIUS, that’s why.

A freaking GENIUS, I tell you.

A freaking GENIUS, I tell Greg especially, who thinks I’m more annoying than smart, but what does he know?

Just in case you want to be a genius like me, I’m going to let you in on my system so you, too, can half-ass Christmas decorating and half-ass the clean-up and make it look like you used your WHOLE ASS.

I started a year ago with this project and did follow-up testing this year to be sure it works, and it does, so I’m sharing something tried and true, here. You can take this to the bank! Except not literally because taking your Christmas tree to the bank would be weird. And God knows we’re not weird around here. We are GENIUSES.

Last year at this time — the end of the Christmas season when it was time to dismantle everything — it occurred to me that we assemble, light, and decorate our tree every year, followed in rapid succession by undecorating, unlighting, and unassembling the same tree. No offense to people who do things the Right Way or the Best Way, but this method does not match our family personality very well, so I told Greg we were done with it.

“We’re done with it,” I said to Greg.

And Greg said, “What are we done with this time?” since I’m regularly done with things Normal People do. Things like putting away clean laundry and making beds with top sheets. Done, I say. No one has time for these things. Why do we keep doing them?

“We’re done decorating the Christmas tree and then undecorating it 4 weeks later,” I said. “We do this every year,” I said. “We are suckers,” I said. “This is just busy work,” I said, “and we do not have time for unnecessary work around here,” which is the God’s Honest Truth, friends. The God’s Honest Truth.

Greg rolled his eyes, because he’s heard this speech a Time or Two, and he said, “OK, Beth. Whatever. But you get to explain to the kids why we’re not having a Christmas tree anymore.”

And I said, “No. You misunderstand. We are SO having a Christmas tree. We can’t NOT have a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is IMPORTANT, Greg. I can’t believe you’re even suggesting we ditch the tree. It’s in Bible that we have a Christmas tree. Or at least it’s strongly implied. We can’t celebrate the birth of the Christ child without a pine tree, Greg. I mean, DOY. I’m just saying we don’t have to do all this work with the damn tree, you know? All this assembly and lighting and decorating and undecorating and unlighting and unassembling. It’s ridiculous, Greg, and you know who ends up doing it all? ME. Me is who. Because the kids SAY they want to help, but they LIE, Greg. They lie and LIE. They do NOT want to help. They want to spend 5 minutes putting candy canes on the tree and criticizing what I do with the balls. I know what to do with balls, Greg. I am not a Ball Novice. I do not need to begin the Christmas season with Ball Handling Instructions from kids who do not know what they’re talking about.”

And Greg said, “Ooookaaay. No decorating the tree. You can handle all the balls. Got it.”

But, “Nope,” I said looking at the tree we were about to disassemble. “We are SO having a decorated, ball-laden tree next year. It’s what Jesus would want. Go get the plastic wrap, Greg.”

And Greg did, because Greg is smart and he knows there comes a time when, if the wife is discussing ball handling and plastic wrap, it’s in his best interests to just follow directions.

And then we did this:

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Yep.

That’s right.

That’s what we did.

We laid the Christmas tree down. WITH its lights. WITH its balls. WITH its ribbons. And we wrapped it in plastic wrap.

The whole entire thing.

As is.

Greg HATED it.

I was giddy.

He almost left me.

I just grinned.

“This is not going work,” Greg said. “This is the stupidest idea you have ever had,” Greg said. Which just proves Greg’s memory is very, very, very short.

This year, we got down the plastic wrapped tree and we unwrapped it.

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AND IT WORKED.

I kid you not.

TWENTY MINUTES LATER (I timed it), our tree was up and looked like this:

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Yes, I had to rearrange a few balls.

And yes, we broke one,

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…because I accidentally left a glass ball on the tree last year when I thought they were all plastic.

But overall?

SUCCESS. And GENIUS. And WE’RE NEVER LOOKING BACK.

 

I mean, Greg’s looking back because Greg’s a Back Looker and against innovation.

But HALF of Greg and me isn’t looking back. And this half thinks this idea is RAD.

I even improved it this year, man, ’cause two ropes and a sheet work even better than plastic wrap.

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One rope for tying the branches up tightly.

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A sheet to wrap around the tree:

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And a second rope to secure the who shebang, all of which I did with a nine-year-old boy child while his daddy grumbled in the corner.

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Voila!

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PLUS, this method will work for wrapping a body, should I ever need to dispose of one surreptitiously. So, LIFE SKILLS, am I right?

In conclusion, I am a genius, and you can be just like me. Take that, Pinterest.

Love,

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P.S. Those pictures above were selectively taken not to show the mess. This is what the room actually looked like throughout most of December.

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P.P.S. Word to the wise: don’t make fun of the “mess” above. That’s actually what “pristine” looks like in this house.

P.P.P.S. I’ve been very hidey the last few days, working hard on my mental health because apparently this is another season where I have to do that. (Hooray for mental illness! It’s a BLAST!) I’ve alternated between Having Things to Say, wanting rather desperately to write to you, and feeling emphatically that My Words are Stupid and I should just shut up already. I’m busy, busy, busy trying to turn up the volume to the voice that says Weird Me is OK, Weird Me is Enough, Weird Me is Important, and Weird Me is Exactly Who I’m Supposed to Be; and Wild and Wonderful, Too. And I’m fighting to turn down the voice of depression because depression always lies. Always. Always always. In the midst of this, while I work my way to the surface and wave in the dark and wait for the dawn, I want you to know I’ve read every single response to the last post on how it’s going, and I’m sending love fiercely to you all. Thank you for waiting for me.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
34 comments
  1. Weird Me needs Weird You. Your words are not stupid. Your words are heartfelt and brilliant and a beacon in the dark. I read lots of mom bloggers, all of whom write from a different perspective of course – yay for uniqueness. All of them inspire me in some way or another. But so many of them seem Older or Wiser or Holier or More Together than me…more of an example to aspire to Someday (when’s that?) than a friend to walk along with NOW. YOU inspire me because you are so very very real, and you share the reality with us. I can identify with so much of what you write and it makes me feel NOT alone and NOT hopeless. I found your blog early in 2015 when I was preparing to travel to complete the adoption of #2 and #3 and also pregnant with #4. I read your posts as I packed and prayed and as I sat awake alone at 2 am in our apartment in Kyiv wondering what the next day would bring. I read your posts now when we’ve been home for 7 months and I still have no clue what I’m doing or if we’ll ever settle in. There were (and are) so many days I swore I was going COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY GUANOPSYCHOTIC. I’m so tired I’m having actual hallucinations, and the nightmares are back too. But you remind me I am not alone and it’s okay to be down and halfway up because LIGHT comes in the morning. The depression is full of horseshit. You have WONDERFUL things to say, even if they don’t feel wonderful. A wave in the dark is as eloquent as a whole self-help book or an inspired sermon, especially when it’s all we can muster.

  2. I have no time to write this as should be picking small one up from nursery(!) but I’m so with you on the tree thing.. This year I decided to buy a bigger fake tree to make it more nice and christmassy with no other decorating – but you know what happened? I opened the box and it was a tree with individual arms!! Individual branches that have to be attached and opened and “fluffed out” – what crazy idea is that for a mum before Christmas?! It took me hours to assemble..! I don’t know if it will work to fold and wrap as it will break the arm attachments – so the stupid tree is big and I can’t wrap it and it will take over all of our storage room… argh! But I’m suspecting the plan this year is to say to husband (in loving dulcit tones) “I made it, you unmake it..” (and then you make it next year, and the next etc etc!!) Love you Beth!

  3. Not about the tree, although BRILLIANT!!! We don’t put one up, although I’m not sure how Jesus feels about us on that note 😉 But if ever we feel such a conviction, this IS the way to go! Just checking in myself. Been uber crazy here moving to a new state. Today is day two in new place. Just had a beer, going to get another…. The end. But one more thing…. Thank you for writing to us <3 waving in the dark, and sitting with you until the dawn comes <3

  4. Another great use for those (flat)top bed sheets! Brilliant! The plans all fall into place, together. 🙂

  5. Okay – I LOVE this idea! And I told my husband we are going to do this because we have 2 fake trees (first time ever and I miss the real one – though this idea would not work with a real tree!). My husband rolled his eyes and I am quite sure you know the look, right, Beth? But yes, this is genius and I could give a rip if some of the balls get broken. AWESOME!

    And … honey, those voices you hear in your head – the ones that say people don’t want to hear what you have to say … well, they lie! I spent quite a bit of time over Christmas dealing with people who were weepy, sad and having a hard time with the Christmas thing. And now, I am dealing with someone very close (that you know) and I am worried that he is really believing the voices he is hearing in his own head.

    So just know, you are LOVED and WE WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. Today, I say, yes, YOU ARE A GENIUS!!!

  6. Weird you is weird me’s hero, just so you know 😉 I also have five kids and this year our tree had lights and one, count that ONE, ornament. No star or angel on top, no ribbons, no candy canes (although I bought them weeks in advance of the tree actually going up, we ended up eating most of them) And to be totally honest, the lights were on the tree from last year, so…yeah. I’m highly impressed that you actually had a fully decorated tree regardless of how it got there. And after having a sprained foot all last week I’m staring at a horrible disaster of a house while we try desperately to get back on schedule for schooling and actual real-life.

  7. You ARE a genius!
    Too bad I use a real tree. (No space or strength for storing an artificial)
    But I love the idea! <3

  8. I am so fond of weird you. You are in my bookmark bar.

  9. You are brilliant! This is a genius idea and your words are not stupid. Listen to Josie from Australia, she’s right on the money!
    We love you Beth! *waves in the dark*

  10. Please don’t ever think that your words are stupid. They are wise, and real, and hilarious, but never stupid. Waving really hard over here!

  11. Beth, listen to me. LISTEN TO ME! I am staring straight into your eyes with scary intensity all the way from Australia. This is the text I am oreaching on this week… LISTEN.

    Isaiah 43 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

    I have called you by name. You are mine.

    That is what God is saying. To you, and to all our sisters and brothers who are struggling with those voices that tell us lies. You are enough. You don’t have to be funny or clever (although obviously you are a genius with this latest idea). We love you because you are YOU, broken and authentic and scared. In your brokenness you give us permission to show pir cracks too.

    Ok, that was wierd and possibly a bit innapropriate.

    True though.

    🙂

  12. Wow, you are one smart lady! I’m sure this is how you are able to manage having five kids! 😀 Way to go!

  13. Great idea, Beth! You are a genius. In addition, if you use pipe cleaners to attach the ornaments when setting up the first time, you can use more delicate ornaments with the same success! Waving in the dark!

  14. My face lights up EVERY time you post! You have never disappointed! I spatchcocked my turkey this year! My husband listens to me this one day a year! We have had bacon covered turkey and now your brilliance passed along!! I’m waving in a well lit room. I’m praying your heart catches the warmth!

  15. My mum simply unplugs the tree and gets two of my brothers to lift it,fully decorated,into the spare room….where it stays until mid December of the next Christmas.The entire operation takes approx twenty seconds!!

  16. My tree is still up. I had good intentions for today…really good intentions. But I can now see my laundry room floor and I did the dishes so we’ll consider today a win and try again tomorrow.

  17. First of all, while I have some sympathy with Greg on the Christmas tree thing, as your neighbors across the street we are deeply grateful for your half-assed Christmas decorating. It helped us to go totally half-assed ourselves. I mean, we’re the last houses on a dead end so who cares? Also, if you think about it, between our two half-assed houses WE FORM A WHOLE ASS! Yay, us!

    Also, please keep being ‘weird you’, if only for the fact that ‘weird us’ need your example. I am starting to realize that weirdness is my superpower, but I need communion with other weirdos to keep believing. We pale Northern European types just need to realize that outward forces may be having an effect this time of year: short days, low vitamin D levels, seasonal affective disorder, Oregon weather, TWO FREAKIN’ WEEKS STUCK AT HOME WITH KIDS. In no particular order.

  18. I always appreciate what you have to say. Please don’t stop, even if you think we will think you are weird.

  19. Weird you is the best thing EVER. And the just cleverest.

  20. Quite simply, I adore weird, wild, wonderful, wonkily wacky YOU! Truly, emphatically, and to the moon. Happy 2016, my friend. Onward! xoxox

  21. I had elderly neighbors who also got smart and just carried their tree down to the basement and covered it with a sheet of plastic or an old bed sheet. HOWEVER, one year they made the mistake of putting it away with (unwrapped) candy canes still on the tree and in the humidity over the summer the candy melted and stuck to everything! Lesson learned!
    Now I have a set of candy canes that I reuse when decorating but I leave the tight wrapping on them. 😉 Every Christmas though, when I see the candy canes I think of two wonderful people who were like another set of grandparents to me.

  22. Totally looks like a body. Also, you should specify this is an artificial tree. Cause some people might have a nasty surprise in a year…Nice work!

    1. Good, super funny point

  23. My grandfather would carefully carry the tree down to the unfinished basement and throw a sheet over it. Then carefully carry it back upstairs the next year. Crazy effective.

  24. I started this with a small tree when I was a single mom with a toddler. I just wrapped the tree with plastic wrap while it was standing up and got some help to gently carry it to the storage area of the garage! I even had glass ornaments in it. Worked well for several years. Necessities breeds invention! Now I am married, have more kids, some grown some not, and we have a vacation home in the mountains that we go to every year for Christmas (but not his year, because, well, cancer treatments for the husband). I keep a decorated tree there that fits perfectly in a spare closet. Bring on the plastic wrap! Been doing it right for years!

  25. My husband is not appropriately afraid of me, and I may have to do this when he is not looking. Biggest hugs Beth. And I hope your writing retreat this month is your 2nd best EVER. Prayers that the mental part of you catches up with your heart and the words come pouring out for a nice shitty first draft. Thank you forever for giving me permission to write a shitty first draft. Wish I could be there!!!

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