Congratulations, you made it through Halloween! All that hard work of setting up and running your haunt is in the past. The screams and shrieks have faded, but the memories are still fresh in your mind. Time to sit back and relax and wait for Thanksgiving to come along. Maybe your sister will make Grandma’s pecan pie again, that’s always delicious…
There’s that minor issue of having your haunt still set up in your garage or yard or even your house. It needs to get broken down and put away – and soon. Maybe you are afraid of all your hard work being caught out in an early snow, or the nagging of a significant other – whatever the reason, it’s time to clean up!
The first step is one to decide what to keep and what to jettison. You’ve probably been doing this, at least informally, as you were creating things and then refining your decisions as your guests went through your display. Some props and costumes performed really well and the responses outshone your wildest hopes; others just never quite worked as you hoped. Maybe some are too dated or decrepit to keep. It is certainly worth spending a few minutes contemplating whether the display could be fixed, updated or even transmogrified into a new and improved exhibit, but try to be objective – sometimes you have to cut the cord. While it’s sad to say goodbye to a prop that you put so much time and energy into, removing something less than perfect means more space for a new display next year!
Mend the Broken
If there is anything that is broken or threadbare, now is an excellent time to make any necessary repairs. You will thank yourself next year when time is tight, pressure is mounting and you have to fix this [CENSORED] prop that you forgot was broken! Think of it as a way to spend a little more time with your Halloween creations this year. Or, more practically, gauge your commitment to the prop. If you can’t be bothered to fix it now, when the clock isn’t ticking, it might not deserve to keep occupying precious storage space.
Document the Survivors
This is the time that you want to document – well, everything you can think of. What seems obvious now is likely to be long forgotten by next Halloween. Or worse yet, it could be a half-memory torturing you next year as you KNOW there is something wrong/tricky/broken about this prop, but you can’t quite remember what. Is the prop top heavy or have an arm that falls off with the slightest touch? Maybe it was the one that got the best screams and you want to move it to a more prominent position next year. Did you have a great idea for lighting it differently? It only takes a minute to scribble a few notes down and could save you hours next year. If you change your design every year and start laying out your haunt while most of your props are still tucked away in storage, take a few basic measurements, a couple of pictures, or even a short video of it in action to help you find the perfect place for it before ever taking it back out of storage.
Things are always easier to take apart than put back together. If a prop is complex, grab some blue painters tape and a Sharpie and make labels as you disassemble it. Label the pieces that fit together with the same number/letter and next year you will know exactly how things go together, without ever second guessing yourself. If it’s really complicated or just a new prop that you bought for this season, get a video of the disassembly process so you can see exactly how everything went together. Digital storage is cheap and you’ll thank yourself next year.
Make sure that any screws/nuts/bolts stay with the prop. Normally a plastic sandwich bag marked with the name of the prop is fine. However, I prefer to thread the screws and nuts back in afterwards though. For example, if I remove a bolt from a joint holding the leg on, I would then screw the bolt back in to the joint afterwards. It not only prevents losing the part, but you don’t have to figure out WHICH bolt in the sandwich bag to use – it’s already there.
Image from echotape.com
Drain the Juice
There are different schools of thought on whether or not to drain your fog machines of their juice, but we can definitively say that you should remove batteries from all electronics. Leaving them in place will likely cause you to find dead, weak, or even corroded batteries in your props next year. I prefer to put standard batteries back in the rotation for my house so all my props get fresh batteries next year, but if you aren’t going to use them during the year, just put them in a plastic bag attached to the prop and you should be all set. Don’t overlook the coin cell batteries that hide inside so many remotes these days. These cannot be safely stored in a plastic bag because one battery can easily bridge the positive and negative sides of another and drain it or even start a fire, but they can be stacked; dollar store pill organizers will handle this in a snap.
If your prop uses a separate power supply, it’s good to label these too. Blue painters tape works fine, but I prefer using a silver Sharpie and writing the name of the prop right on the power supply itself. Tape can come loose, but Sharpies are forever!
Image from etsystudio
Protect and Preserve
While most small props can go in waterproof bins with simple padding like newspapers, larger sets or characters take more consideration. Once it’s deconstructed as far as possible and you’re ready to place your creation into its storage space, think carefully about whether it could damage anything that comes in contact with it. It could be a sharp edge, some of that fake blood that you sprayed all over it or just some color bleeding into whatever is lying on top of it. A cheap plastic drop cloth will prevent the last two issues and there are lots of ways to add some cushioning between items. A flattened cardboard box can sometimes be enough, or you can buy cheap moving blankets at most stores that sell moving supplies. They aren’t as expensive as you think and really come in handy.
Now that your props are all torn down and stored, it’s time to think about the costumes that you used. If a person wore something, it should be washed before being stored. After all, traumatizing your friends is sweaty business! And the smell of smoke machines will easily permeate cloth. Wash cloth costumes on cold with like colors and line dry them. Most fur-based costumes can take the same treatment, but be sure to comb them out as they’re drying to minimize matting. Running a couple of loads of laundry is a cheap investment in clean, fresh smelling costumes next year. Or maybe you really are going for that rotten corpse vibe…
Don’t overlook the accessories and masks that you employed. Masks should be cleaned very well, both inside and out. All this takes is some soap and water and a cloth. Make sure to clean and rinse the mask well, and dry it when done. Never put a mask away if it’s still wet. A little corn starch can help preserve latex masks while they are in storage. Depending on the mask, it might be fine to store them flat. However, consider whether you want to stuff the inside of the mask to help it retain its shape. Your goal should be to put them away in at least as good of shape as when you first bought/made them. Don’t forget, YOU might be wearing that mask next year – how clean would you want it to be? Store all costumes and masks in plastic bags or well-sealed bins to keep moths, mold, and other uninvited creepies out.
There, that wasn’t so bad was it? Everything is labeled, fixed and put away, safe for next year’s fiendish festivities. You can relax and slide into the holiday season knowing that your Halloween supplies will be ready to go next time you call upon them to perform in your fiendish festivities; and that your house is all spook and span.
Main image from Unpakt.com