I have this vision of how holiday decorating is supposed to be, probably because I’ve watched too many Hallmark movies. It features a happy family putting up the tree, while the good dog sleeps by the fire. The room smells of hot cider and popcorn, Nat King Cole croons carols in the background, as everyone takes joyful turns hanging ornaments and stockings.
In reality, the kids are in their rooms plugged into their devices, a fight has ensued over tangled strands of half-dead Christmas lights, the dog is lifting its leg on the tree, and the family room looks a Christmas store tossed up its contents after first running the merchandise through a woodchipper.
Holidays so often seem better in the abstract.
After years, decades, of putting up and taking down Christmas decorations, and having my expectations fall like the ball on New Year’s Eve, and feeling each year that the process was too much work and too little fun, I decided there had to be a better way.
My annual frustration led me to figure out a few shortcuts that result in getting the decorating done faster with a better look and less cursing. I also spoke with Orlando organizer Kim Krogh, who both validated my ideas and offered more of her own.
The mulled results boil down to three practices: Limit your décor. Coordinate colors for cohesion. Use logic when storing. Here are seven ways to help you do just that:
1. Edit and purge holiday décor yearly. I know of no law that says you can never get rid of a holiday decoration. I also don’t know of any prize that goes to the tree with the most ornaments. However, a look around suggests many believe otherwise. Yes, ornaments can stir sentimental feelings, but it’s really okay to throw them away. If your kids are in college and you still have their pre-school picture glued inside a frame they made out of popsicle sticks, you might need an ornament intervention.
2. Practice color coherence. One way to let go is to choose a unified color scheme. This will not only help you streamline and consolidate your holiday decorations but will also make your holiday décor cohere. For a unified look, try picking one main color like red, magenta, or teal; add one metallic color such as silver, gold, or bronze; and add a white, clear, or black accent. One color trio could be magenta, silver, and black. When decorating the tree, first hang solid-color ornaments in your base color, then layer on special collectable ornaments, and filler.
3. Out with the old. Once your color coordinated decorations are up, look critically at what is left (or not working). Donate or toss décor and ornaments that you’ve grown tired of or that don’t fit the scheme. “If you have ornaments or decoration that you haven’t used in two years, let go,” Krogh said. “People buy new holiday decorations and push old stuff to the back just like they do with their closets.” Instead of pushing tired old decoration further into storage push them to the curb.
4. Go all out in limited areas. Pick three or four areas in your home to decorate to the nines, then stop. Every surface doesn’t need to be decked. Consider, for instance, decorating only the tree, the mantel, the dining table, and front porch. Don’t dribble Christmas doo-dads all over the house. Having well-done vignettes simplifies set up and also makes post-holiday take down a lot easier. This way you don’t find a stray elf in the laundry room long after the Christmas boxes are back in the attic.
5. Subtract before you add. Houses can quickly look congested when home decorators layer seasonal accessories on top of existing décor. It can be too much. To fight the congestion, as you add holiday décor, put everyday décor away in the now-empty Christmas storage boxes. Krogh likes to make a swap. If she puts a big Santa on the mantel in place of a vase, she puts the vase in the box she stores the Santa in. When it’s time to put the holidays away, she simply switches the vase for the Santa.
6. Simplify wrapping. So your gifts look pretty under the tree, pick and stick with just a couple patterns of paper that work with each other and with your decor. Buy deep. Wrap adult gifts in one pattern, say a Scotch plaid, and kids’ gifts in another with, say, a snowman motif. Get large spools of one type and color of ribbon or twine and use it exclusively. I like thick craft yarn because it’s inexpensive and comes in large quantities. This will simplify the job and unify the look.
7. Store with next year in mind. Use order and logic when you pack holiday décor away. To do this, write down and number the sequence in which you would ideally like to decorate. For instance, 1. Tree. 2. Tree lights (though I highly recommend artificial pre-lit trees, which have proven to save marriages). 3. Base ornaments (all one color). 4. Finishing ornaments. 5. Mantel decor. 6. Dining table centerpiece. etc. Label and number bins or boxes accordingly. In bin No. 5, for instance, you would store all items for the mantel, such as nutcrackers, stockings, and stocking hangers. Box No.6 would contain the holiday centerpiece. Label and separate outdoor décor. Store the numbered, labeled bins so the lowest numbered ones come out first and highest numbered come out last. This won’t help you this year, but, if you pack items away with this system, next year you will thank me.
CAPTION: It’s a wrap — Streamline your holiday gift wrapping and get a better look under the tree by using only a couple coordinated wrapping papers and unifying ribbon or yarn. Red and brown craft paper, as shown here, makes a great base. Photo courtesy of forDreamstime.com.