Do your holiday decorations stop traffic? Is your merry manse seasonally featured on local media? Or visible from space?

You’re not alone. According to a new SpareFoot survey, there’s a little Clark Griswold in most of us. In fact, if we gathered all our holiday decorations (Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) in one place:

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Just as our seasonal displays inspire us, breaking them down and storing them certainly tires us as we wrestle unwieldy trees to the basement or cram the storage unit to the rafters, year after year. Why do we do it? Where do we store it? And how much time does it take to bring it all back to life?

To find out, we tracked down four seasonal celebrants who freely admit they have the holiday bug – big time.

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Misty and Chris Jester – Albuquerque, NM

Holiday: Halloween
Prep time: 1-2 months

If you can get past the scary music, the front yard cemetery scene with skeletons carrying a sarcophagus and the disembodied masks in the bushes, you just might make it to the Jester’s 30-foot Halloween village with 50-plus miniature haunted houses, complete with fake water and spider webs.

“Some of the kids are terrified and won’t come to the door,” admitted Misty, who’s been putting the howl in Halloween for 45 years. To calm their fears, she dresses “happy” haunted. “I’d rather be a zombie or something really scary, but not for the little kids,” she said. “I want them to be able to enjoy Halloween as much as we do.”

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Still, each year, she resurrects a life-size dummy of “Halloween” film creep Michael Myers. “He has terrified me my whole life,” Misty said.

Come December, the Jesters pack 20-25 tubs of Halloween decorations to their storage unit and tuck the haunted mini-homes into a stairwell closet.

Why do they do it?

“It’s an obsession, actually,” Misty said. “I just love seeing the kids come to the door with their costumes. I always ask them questions and interact.”

Ruth and Ken Johnson – Balsam Lake, WI

Holiday: Christmas
Prep time: one month

When you’ve been decorating a 135-year-old farmhouse since the mid-1970s, time instills a system. In the Johnsons’ case, Ken handles the outdoor lighting and placement of the metallic choir of angels and horse-drawn sleigh, either pondside or near the road adjacent their 36-acre spread, while Ruth puts a wreath in every window and a lighted tree in every guestroom of their four-bedroom home.

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“Each tree has presents under it and a plate of cookies, just so our guests would feel, ‘Oh, this is special!’” Ruth said.

Even their livestock enjoy a lighted wreath on the barn.

Ruth caught the holiday bug as a kid, mesmerized by the festively decorated Minneapolis city home of her aunt Irene. The Johnsons solved their growing storage dilemma with rural ingenuity.

“When we were remodeling, we have a very large basement and I told our decorator that I needed storage for Christmas trees and decorations, and I needed a lot of it. So he gave me 400 square feet of closets,” Ruth says. “For the things that are used outside, we put them up in the hayloft in the barn.”

For Ruth, no Christmas would be complete without her childhood teddy bear.

“I celebrate with her because we’re both in our mid-70s now,” she said. “She now wears a pretty Christmas dress and a pretty bow in her hair. She looks a little worse for wear, but nevertheless, she’s out there for every single Christmas.”

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Tom Taylor and Jerry Goldstein, MD – San Francisco, CA

Holiday: Christmas
Prep time: “Too long, toooo long.”

The Tom & Jerry House is the must-see holiday landmark in California, thanks to its 60-foot Norfolk Island pine and the oversized imaginations of professional display expert Tom Taylor and his longtime partner, neurologist Jerry Goldstein.

The secret lies in its scale: the ornaments, stockings and presents are mischievously oversized to make the tree scene look approximately like the six-footer in your home. Add the precipitous street incline and the whole chateau feels like a Christmas miracle. This yule will mark the 30th for that crazy place at 21st and Church in Delores Heights.

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Taylor’s favorite adornments are the moving ones, like the Ferris wheel and roller coasters.

“We have tons of that and the kids love it,” he said. “We’re always trying to come up with something new for the kids to see.”

While the owners store plywood and scaffolding under their backyard decks, most of their holiday decorations spend the rest of the year in Tom’s warehouse/workshop south of Market Street.

“It takes my crew a good month to get it all down and put it all away,” said Tom. “The big Ferris wheel and the roller coasters are lifted by winches and stored in their entirety on the ceiling of our shop. If I didn’t have that shop, we couldn’t make this happen. It knocks a hole in my life for two-and-a-half months.”

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Susan A. Danner, Zionsville, IN

Holidays: Halloween, Christmas
Prep time: Six months

Susan Danner sews people up for a living. But in her spare time, the 70-year-old surgical assistant to a plastic surgeon decorates her quaint 1867 cottage by stitching together holiday finds cast aside by others.

“I shop at a Goodwill outlet where you pay by the pound,” she explains. “All my trees and lights came from Goodwill, and I think I did outside and inside for like $100. I love a bargain and I love hunting.”

Because she chooses a different theme each year, her Christmas prep time can be lengthy.

“I start working six months ahead because I make everything,” she said.

But the result often stops traffic. Like the time she hung 60 Christmas stockings on her picket fence. Or 26 pairs of ice skates.

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Halloween? Same thing. At last count, she had 18 full-size skeletons peering in windows, hanging off the porch, crawling on the roof and even holding a formal tea in the front yard wearing dresses and hats from Goodwill.

Though her garage attic is stuffed with decorations, including 10 Christmas trees, Danner claims the ultimate seasonal solution to her Christmas storage crunch: she gives it all away.

“What my house shows that people really like is, it doesn’t take a lot of money to decorate,” she said. “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still be going to Goodwill.”

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Jay MacDonald
  • http://www.TheSeanaMethod.com/ Seana Turner

    I am a big fan of holiday decorations. It was always a part of celebrating while I was growing up. A few years back my husband made a huge wreath for the front of my house. It is probably 10 feet in diameter. I try not to be tacky, but it takes restraint! Last year we toured a section of Brooklyn, NY known for its Christmas decorations. So fun!