Hope your Christmas was great … warm and wonderful. Have you ever noticed how such an uplifting holiday tends to leave behind a lot of material stuff? We’re not talking about the stuff you really wanted (like a sleek new smartwatch) or even the stuff that you didn’t (another pair of socks? Gee, thanks). No, what really leaves its mark on your home, as December winds down, is that lingering leftover Christmas decor. How to get rid of it? You can’t just throw it in the trash (seems like these days you can’t throw anything in the trash, according to the bylaws where I live) so why not go the green route and reuse or recycle it? Find out how.

Christmas Tree
One of the saddest sights is a “gently used” evergreen, drooping unwanted by the side of the curb. Recycling allows your Christmas tree to end its days with dignity. To actually get it to a recycling center, check whether your municipality or local Boy Scout troop offers a post-Christmas pickup service. Otherwise, you can bundle it into the car (use a tarp to protect the backseat from falling needles) and drive to a drop-off location. If you prefer to recycle the DIY way, trim off the branches and place them atop your garden beds to protect perennials against winter’s cold and snow. Repurpose its trunk to divide the garden area from your lawn or hire a handyman to cut it up for firewood. Alternatively stand the whole tree up in a corner of your yard as an oversized bird feeder, bedecked with strings of cranberries or popcorn — but hold the butter and salt. And next winter, consider springing for a live tree instead.

Christmas Cards
Some Christmas cards make your task easy; they seem to practically beg to be reused. They’re the ones that are made from a single sheet of paper folded into quarters or from two sheets — one inserted into the body of the card. In either case, all you need to do is neatly remove the center, where the original sender wrote their holiday greetings. Et voila … an almost new card, with a nice blank space for next Christmas’s message. Other types of cards will require more ingenuity … and perhaps a little bit of Mod Podge. Get your imagination going and you can transform them into pretties like Christmas tree ornaments or unique handmade gift boxes. Alternatively stick them onto dollar store serving trays or picture frames to add that holiday spirit. If you’re not the crafty sort, yes, you can put cards into the blue recycle bin, but only the paper part; remove any foil, glitter, and the like.

Christmas Lights
What will motivate you to actually reuse those Christmas light strings next year, rather than ditching them for new ones? The right storage technique, to keep them from tangling. Start by disconnecting holiday lights from their power source. Then remove them from your tree, windows, roof, and wherever else you thought it would be a good idea to hang them, very carefully, one wire at a time. Gather each strand into a neat loop, wrapping it around a sheet of cardboard as you go, to help keep it tidy, and fasten with a twist tie. Plug the ends together if they come with the attachment that allows you to do so. Wrap gently with some of that tissue paper still lying around from your pre-Christmas shopping frenzy and store in a clearly labeled box. Set aside any non-functioning light strings for next November, when many hardware stores and home centers offer a special recycling program. Make a note in your e-calendar to remind you to hunt them out come next fall.

— Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.