Holiday Decorating Tips

I REALLY love decorating my home for the seasons and holidays.  Over the years I’ve developed a system that makes it easy and fun and hopefully keeps things looking fresh and festive.  Here are some tips to get your holiday decorating going:

Keep Your Stuff Organized

If you don’t know where stuff is or it’s hard to get to, the whole process is just frustrating and “unfun”.  Have separate, labeled, clear plastic bins for each holiday or season.  Using clear bins is essential so you can quickly see what is in each bin without having to open or rifle through it.  Keep your eye out for sales – Walmart and Target often have storage bins on deep discount.

Bonus tip:  if your closet space is tight and you find a magical arrangement that gets the most stuff in there – take pictures!  When you start taking boxes out to use them, you will never remember how they go back in!  Don’t ask how I know that…

Clear Bins are key – you can see what is inside without having to open or empty the bins

In each bin keep a list of its contents – putting things away goes so much faster when you know what fits in each box!

Store your collections together.  I am obsessed with trees and I keep them all in one big bin.  This way, when I put out my arrangements I don’t waste time looking for a specific tree and I’m never surprised by a random tree that I now need to rework a vignette to include.

My trusty work table with the “Trees” bin unpacked and the rest of the bins ready to be unpacked. I DID say I’m obsessed with trees, didn’t I?

Clear the Decks and Create Space to Work

One of the best things I’ve done to make seasonal decorating easier is buy an adjustable, folding table from Costco (see above).  It easily slips in the closet when not in use, but it gives me a great place to plop stuff as I unpack without worrying about scratching my dining or coffee tables.  And it adjusts to a comfortable height to work from (bending over a coffee table to pick out tree ornaments is no bueno on a middle aged back).

When decorating a space completely clear off the area you are working on (you can see above my mantle is ready for its Christmas gussying).  This is a great chance to take a damp cloth to all your everyday tchochkes and give your shelves, etc. a good wipedown.  It also gives your eye space to imagine a new arrangement.  If you leave a big picture or object in place you will be “working around” it and you might not get to the best arrangement.

bonus tip:  I no longer hang anything on the wall over my mantle.  I place large objects like pictures and mirrors on the mantle and lean them into the wall.  This way, I can take everything off and I don’t have some clashing painting looming over my holiday mantle, or a hole in the wall I need to disguise when I take it down!

Shake Things Up

It’s easy to fall into a rut of “tree goes here, baby Jesus goes here, advent calendar goes here” but fight that urge!  Your old favorites can seem new and fresh if you use them differently each year.  I always do a slim tree in the kitchen decorated simply with food themed Old World Christmas ornaments.  Last year I swapped in a new white tree and wow!  My ornament collection popped right out and the whole thing looked so much better in my white kitchen!

Do you have a “village” collection that always gets plopped out in the same location in the same layout?  C’mon!  That thing is a giant Fisher Price playset begging to be played with! I have a large collection of Snow Village and I move it all over the house.  Last year I didn’t use the houses at all – I created mini vignettes with my people, cars, trees, etc. on silver serving platters and placed them around the house.  That was so FUN!

Here are a few snaps to show how things have moved around our house the past few Christmases –

Dining room buffet 2014


Dining Room Buffet 2015 – as you can see a fabulous mirror from Ikea joined our family in 2015


Several years saw parts of the Snow Village on the mantle or the hearth.  Wow – that ugly brick really needs to be painted… : (



Items from previous year’s dining room decor sparkle on the 2015 mantle


2016 Mantle – I swapped out the Merry Christmas sign and the creches and this display worked through January


A few Easter and Halloween looks –

Easter tree in the Kitchen – which had just done duty for Christmas in the front hall with little glass Cardinals clipped to its branches


Easter Mantle – I found those “chocolate rabbits” last year and went to heaven!


Easter Mantel


Easter Dining Buffet


Halloween mantle 2015.  See? the permanent art on the wall is CLASHY!


Halloween Mantle 2016


Halloween Dining Buffet 2017


Hall Bench 2017 – I put up the leaves in Sept and the Happy Halloween blocks in Oct


Halloween Mantle 2017

Spread the Love

Put little pops of joy everywhere, especially places that are “just for you”.  Sure you hope friends and visitors enjoy your decor, but at the heart, your holiday and seasonal decor is for you and your family to enjoy.  A Christmas tree in your bedroom seems luxurious, but can be had on the cheap.  Walmart, Target, Michael’s and Hobby Lobby all ofter a few inexpensive prelit trees – you just have to jump on it early in the season.  I also collect mini creches and I always keep a few over my kitchen sink – a bit of cheer while doing the dishes!

Swap out your kitchen linens, coffee mugs, hand soaps, salt & peppers, etc. for seasonal ones.  These little touches make “everyday life” more fun.  I have a large collection of holiday coffee mugs that I love, love, love, and I swear coffee tastes better in a mug that tickles my soul.  HomeGoods and TJMaxx are your friends if you want to score some great holiday mugs, bowls and serving pieces dirt cheap.

Two of my fave Easter mugs. Those cotton tails slay me every year!

You don’t have to gut your home of all your “everyday” decor to make it look festive or seasonal.  Adding a bit of Christmas greenery to your existing displays or a few fairy lights here and there makes a world of difference.  Swapping out one little thing makes everything else look fresh and seasonal…

I swapped in a bunny catchall on my nightstand for Spring/Easter


a shelf gets a bit of Easter cheer by popping in a painted egg that matches the items that normally live there


Edit, Edit, Edit!

Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to things that don’t bring you joy.  Some things are classics you use forever, but many things wear out or just start looking dated and sad.  That’s okay – give it a mental hug, thank it for making your home festive in the past and pass it on to someone else (or toss it if it’s just gotten tatty).  Nothing sucks the joy out of your holiday decorating like a few things you feel “obligated” to put out but just don’t like.  Why do that to yourself???  And this goes triple-double for stuff people have given you.  If you don’t like it or it doesn’t “go” with your stuff, give it away!!!

I do a “gut check” every year as I unpack everything and again as I put stuff away.  If I’m not excited about putting something up, it goes in the giveaway bin.  And after the season if I feel something has “run its course” it goes in the giveaway bin, not back in storage!!!

Bonus tip:  Don’t give people decor gifts.  Just don’t.  The chance of your picking out something they will love and that will work for them is nil.  Most people will feel obligated to use your gift, so you’ve just given someone the gift of guilt and unhappiness.  Probably not what you meant to do.

Keep tweaking till it sings.  Don’t knock yourself out trying to get it all perfect in one pass.  If something looks off with a display and I can’t figure out why, I walk away from it.  I let it sit for awhile and look at it from different angles and in different light.  I keep moving things around, adding (and probably more helpful) subtracting things until I love it.  Don’t get frustrated – decorating is a creative way to celebrate the seasons and holidays.  It’s not a competition and you shouldn’t be doing it to impress others.

Build your collection of decor items slowly and thoughtfully.  Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap or it “goes”.  Empty space is far better than space filled with “meh” stuff you don’t really love.  A house full of “meh” is sad and you will feel that.  If you are not palpably excited to bring something home, leave it in the store and your $ in your wallet.

So how about you?  What’s one thing you can display differently this year?  What needs to be bid a fond adieu from your collection?  I hope I’ve given you some tips you can put into practice this Christmas and throughout the coming year!

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