Home » Blog » Carrie’s Method: Holiday Decor

Carrie’s Method: Holiday Decor

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

I usually insist on a little separation between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it used to be a week. I love both holidays but I like them to exist as separate entities versus blending together into some holiday season amalgam. But two things are now working against my separation principle. The first is that everyone else seems to have shifted their decorating up and thus the selection of live trees goes WAY down if we wait until the first weekend in December. We just go to our local nursery (no hiking out into the woods with a saw for the Powells) and they have a limited number of large trees (we go for the 13-footer) so we really take a risk if we wait. The second reason is that our daughter Charlotte, who is a freshman in college this year, insisted that she be present when we decorated the house and the tree. Since her flight back to Tucson was on Sunday that meant that the decorating extravaganza needed to be Saturday.

So I had to get into the spirit early. The good news is I love decorating. The bad news is I was still recovering from Thanksgiving. I was focused on the former when I arose at 6:00am to feed the dog and get going. I am a true morning person and my best energy of the day is between 6:00 and 10:00am. Since I was still so tired from hosting Thanksgiving I needed to use my most productive hours to get going on the decorating train. My holiday décor is very well organized and accessible but it does require MANY trips up and down the stairs so I got my steps in early bringing everything up. My family doesn’t really join the party until the tree arrives since nobody else likes to get up early so it’s usually me, the dog and the darkness in the wee small hours of the morning. As I trekked up and down, up and down I reflected on the evolution of holiday decorating in my house and how I approach it each year. What became clear is that I haven’t really been applying all of the same principles of sentimental decluttering to my holiday decorating that I practice in my everyday life:

  • Keep the items with emotional significance

  • If you aren’t displaying it or using it, it should go

  • Keep what you like, ditch what you don’t

  • Don’t keep things out of obligation

  • When something new comes in, something old goes out

I was practicing some of the principles. I have lot of decorations with emotional significance and display them proudly. What I haven’t been doing is getting rid of anything as new stuff entered the collection. I was putting out a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily like because someone gave it to me. I had inherited a lot of decor from my parents when my mom had a stroke a few years ago and my dad had no desire to keep up the decorating train at their house, which was great – tons of sentimental attachment to the Christmas decorations I had grown up with. But I already had a pretty full house so now, if I put everything out, it starts to feel cluttered and I HATE clutter. When I truly realized the extent to which my holiday décor had gotten out of control was last year’s COVID Christmas. Faced with a holiday devoid of most of our traditions, friends and family I decided we would be skipping town for Christmas and used all of the airline and hotel points sitting in my accounts to book a trip to Hawaii (fairly controversial at the time since the virus was spiking but I wasn’t about to miss that trip… but I digress.) Since we weren’t really going to be around AND not entertaining at all we decided to edit the decorating way down. We got a smaller tree and I put out about half of what I usually do. How did I choose what to put out? I wen through our storage area and picked out the stuff I loved best. It actually wasn’t that hard and left an indelible line in my brain. On one side of that line was the stuff I was putting out, on the other was the stuff I didn’t like so much – either gifted to me at some point or something I bought that no longer fit in with my tastes. And you know what? I didn’t miss that stuff at all, it was surprisingly easy to let go. So this year as I was trudging up and down those stairs, bringing up everything that we had in our Christmas arsenal I decided that I was going to take the opportunity to do some editing so that the holiday version of our home reflected the things that are most important to me and my family.

Are you overwhelmed by your holiday decorations? It may be time to take stock and edit before you merchandise; what you will be left with is a curated selection of items that make for a meaningful, beautiful and functional holiday season in your home. This year I employed a 3 step process to get my holiday home in order:

  1. Amass

The first step is to get everything out and visible. That means dredging out all of the boxes from storage and then taking everything out of the boxes so you can see everything. Once everything is out (I put both leaves in my dining table and cram it all there) you can begin to categorize. There are some obvious categories (e.g. tree ornaments) but some others may become apparent when you see everything together. Have you unwittingly amassed a collection of something? I have some things I have intentionally collected (Nutcrackers), some I inherited (Santas from my mom), some that were gifted (snow globes) and some that just randomly happened (cookie tins.) You may not even realize that you have a collection of something until you put everything out and then when you realize you have a bunch of snowmen you may want to ‘merchandise’ them together! Another category I’ve discovered in my own décor is stories. I have 2 examples of stories in my house, the first is a Scandinavian story that sits on my kitchen-side mantel. I have Swedish ancestry on my mother’s side and have accumulated lots of items that nod to that heritage. From my twin skier nutcrackers to Dala horses to the color family that pulls brighter yellows, oranges and blues in with the traditional red and green, my Scandinavian mantel pulls all of it together into a cohesive story. Another example is a woodland forest scene that I create on our floating credenza. I use various wooden trees (that don’t match at all) and throw in some evergreen branches from our yard and brown glassybaby votives. It didn’t start out as a cohesive statement but I added elements over the years and now it’s one of my favorite places to behold as it sits right under our TV. My point is that many seemingly unrelated decorations can be pulled together to create a really pretty holiday story – you will see this when you pull everything out. Also you will realize how much stuff you have!

2. edit

Okay now you’ve pulled together your collections and your stories, what is left? There may be some items that no longer fit in with any theme you have going on. Or some that you don’t particularly like that much. Or some that are broken or otherwise compromised. These are the things that are okay to let go. I had these 10 inch high trees made from (faux) holly berries that I bought from Restoration Hardware years ago. At the time I liked them and I didn’t have a lot of decorations yet and they stood proudly on the mantel in our old house. Then we moved and my taste evolved and every year I found myself trying to force a place for them in our scheme. Why? Force of habit (powerful force, habit!). So this year I edited the trees; they are going to Goodwill. I also had held on to several things that were gifted to me from friends at work over the years. I didn’t necessarily like these things, nor did they mesh with my other decorations but I dutifully put them out each year. No more – they are also in the Goodwill bag for someone else to enjoy. I also scoured the ornament boxes for broken ornaments – bye, bye! Our dog Gus also edits a few ornaments for us every year by plucking them from the tree and ripping them apart – thanks Buddy! I did relent on the Nutcracker plates and mugs that I got on sale at Williams-Sonoma when the kids were little. I don’t really like them and as the kids grew up no one really used them but when my Charlotte heard they were destined for Goodwill she freaked out. So I’m not putting them out but I’m saving them for her and will cart them over to her apartment as soon as she has one! If something is tugging at your heartstrings (or someone else’s in your family) put it in a box of things that you can’t quite part with but that will be re-assessed again next year. Editing with help the house feel less cluttered and more curated, and it’s exciting because you are now ready to arrange!

3. Arrange

The fun part! Merchandising your holiday decorations! You will need to prioritize based on the number of available surfaces to cover with your collections and stories, put your favorite things in the best spots. Stories need to be merchandised together but Collections can stay together or be spread around the house. I have nutcrackers and Santas in multiple places but the snow globes and cookie tins are all together. My 2 favorite stories are in the most visible spots so I (and the rest of my family) can admire them as we are lounging or cooking. If you are lacking surfaces to decorate you may consider rotating your decor so a story/collection comes out every-other-year vs jamming it all in. Another important step when arranging is to take down the stuff that sits in that space for every month other than December. Don’t add, replace! Once everything is out you may be inspired to add to a collection or story or think of something completely new to build on. I would advise adopting the rule of ‘one in, one out’ unless your collection of holiday decorations is small and you are in a new, bigger space. I didn’t realize that I had kept accumulating over the years in our current home because I was adding to the things I liked but not getting rid of the things I didn’t. That is the key. If you are settled in your home consider your holiday collection to be evolving vs growing and you will find yourself in a beautifully-curated wonderland that brings joy to your whole family.

As you can tell I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to holiday decorating. I really get into it and think it through, it must come from my deep-rooted history as a merchant! In any case I hope you have as much fun decorating your house as I do, it really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Similar Posts