Uncluttered holiday decorations

If you decorate your home with holiday decorations, you probably have everything up already. But, if the decorating bug hasn’t yet hit, and you’d like to try and decorate without cluttering up your home, try to choose decorations that do not have to be stored away for eleven months of the year. Here are a few things to consider:

Buy real: Instead of buying an artificial wreath, tree, or garland, go for the real thing. When the holidays are over you can dispose of them instead of using up storage space. Conifers can be easily added to your compost pile.

Poinsettias: This traditional holiday plant can brighten up any room and needs zero storage space after the holidays.

Go easy on the knick-knacks: Don’t make the holidays an excuse to litter your home with dancing snowmen or a sassy Santa Claus. The holidays do not make it alright to clutter every inch of clear space. Instead, play holiday music when guests come into your home to set the mood.

Handmade: If you have children, take time to create some homemade edibles. Spending time with you children and creating something together is a good idea any time of year.

To achieve a comfortable balance during the holidays, try and keep your decorating to a minimum. If you do decorate to the fullest extent, you may spend most of your holiday season worrying about your decorations and how you will store them the rest of the year, and not enough time celebrating with loved ones.

35 Comments for “Uncluttered holiday decorations”

  1. posted by Ryan on

    Or you can be like my aunt and go all out decorating her house with christmas lights, then leaving them up for three years straight, turning them on each christmas season.

    Terrible, huh?

  2. posted by Matt on

    “Probably have everything up already”?! No way — Advent hasn’t even begun yet!

  3. posted by Kris on

    We just moved into a very long ranch house with many windows facing the road. The people who lived here before us always put a full sized christmas tree in every window. Yes, EVERY window. That’s 8 trees. There’s no way we’re doing that.

    Instead, we’re decorating the beautiful doll house my grandparents made for me. It sits in our breezeway and faces the road. Instead of all those trees in our ‘real’ house, there are lit trees in each window of the dollhouse. We are, then, keeping the tradition of decorating every window .. just on a smaller scale. And when the holidays are over, the trees go into a baggie and the baggie stores in the attic of the dollhouse.

  4. posted by patty on

    quick comment. The wreath, wouldn’t it be better to have one plastic wreath just for xmas? The needles fall out of the real ones, you are using a natural resource for just a couple of weeks, and therefore hurting the forests, most of the items end up in a trash pile aren’t being recycled. The plastic wreath could also be designed using items that you love (special figurines, balls, ribbon, pictures of kids) and then you aren’t spending money because you already have a beautiful, one of a kind wreath…just saying…

  5. posted by Erin @ Unclutterer on

    @Kris — I love that you store the dollhouse trees in the dollhouse attic. There is something so wonderful about that!

  6. posted by Erin @ Unclutterer on

    @patty — Most communities have tree recycling programs. In our area, they mulch the trees and then use the mulch in public parks and schools. Since most live trees come from local producers and are regrowths, it’s actually more environmentally friendly than a plastic wreath. A plastic wreath was made from oil transported halfway around the world using resources that can’t be regrown. In my opinion, Matt is definitely on track with his suggestion.

  7. posted by Colin on

    Finally, an upside to my bah-humbug approach to Christmas decorations.

  8. posted by beth on

    Warning about the Poinsettias, they’re VERY toxic to pets, so don’t keep these around if you have dogs or cats.

  9. posted by Mary on

    We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving at the JW Marriot at Lenox Square in Buckhead, Atlanta. We spent some time socializing downstairs the first evening and I enjoyed the holiday decorations very much. I was struck by their simplicity and realized they only used greenery, white twinkling lights and occasional ribbon. The lobby was drop dead gorgeous …

    I knew then that our Christmas knicknacks were going to find another home.

  10. posted by Ed Eubanks on

    Taking “uncluttering” to a different level, I find our artificial tree to be a big life-unclutterer for our household.

    As a pastor, the Christmas season is busy enough– and there are already many, many things to do without adding the time and work of choosing a real tree, setting it up in the stand, stringing the lights, then cleaning up the mess! Not to mention the maintenance of keeping it watered, watching for fire-hazards, and disposing of it (which, in our area, means hauling it myself to a recycling place if I don’t want it to simply go to the landfill).

    Our tree is stable and light, so it isn’t likely to tip over– but if it does, it won’t hurt my three year-old if it falls on her. It’s safe, with the wiring already attached (instead of being twisted, pulled, and kinked every year, encouraging shorts) and heavy fire-retardant coating. Unless you get right up to it and touch it, it looks the same as a live tree– except everything is neatly spaced with no holes, and the wire-core branches hold the ornaments well, even after a couple of weeks.

    I estimate that our pre-lit artificial tree saves me about five hours of time, plus it’s paid for (and it cost less than a decent live tree when we bought it four years ago). When the holidays are over, it folds back up into the box it came in (which is about 8″x10″x4′) and stores neatly in the attic. It also saves me the headache and, frankly, unpleasantness of the live tree; some families may love picking out their tress together and it’s a big family tradition, but that’s not us.

    Sometimes, even the once-a-year unitaskers are way worth the trouble the save, in my humble opinion.

  11. posted by Patrick on

    Beth, Actually the toxicity of poinsettias is a myth. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poinsettia#Rumoured_toxicity for more information.

  12. posted by Nancy on

    ummm…I’m afraid to say that my home is currently too cluttered to decorate this year :(. However, as I’m one of those who loves to keep little knicknacks, I love the ‘fresh’ idea w/ zero storage. Might be time to re-evaluate my holiday collection.

    As for poinsettias, I’m not sure about the unclutter factor…my mother still has every poinsettia from the last 4 years or more. If you have a green thumb, they actually last.

  13. posted by M.R. on

    Apartment living means that it is very difficult to store a fake tree all year. But as a single female, I can’t manage a real one by myself (getting it in the car, out of the car, down the stairs, in the stand, back to the Boy Scouts so they can recycle it for mulch, etc). I am thinking of getting the largest real wreath and I can carry and putting lights and ornaments on it. I can manage a wreath by myself, I get the lovely pine-y smell, and won’t have to store it all year.

  14. posted by Karen on

    One option for apartment dwellers (or anyone who doesn’t have a lot of space) is a tabletop tree. I love mine, because I can still put up my favorite ornaments, without wrestling with a big tree. And it doesn’t take up a lot of room in storage – mine fits in a box that’s roughly the size of two large shoeboxes. (And since it’s prelit, I don’t have to store strands of lights.) I put mine on a lazy susan, so I can decorate all sides of the tree, and rotate it every few days so I can see the “back” of the tree. Since I started using the tabletop tree, I also downsized my Christmas ornament collection, and only kept the ones I really loved. I didn’t need a lot of balls or lights to “fill up” a big tree.

    I get the sentimental value of a Christmas tree, without taking up a lot of space. (And it cost less than a single fresh tree or wreath – at least where I live, fresh wreaths are pricey!)

  15. posted by Geralin Thomas on

    @ Pastor Ed,

    Amen! You are preaching to the choir!
    I use a pre-lit (artificial) tree and couldn’t be happier.

    I love the time it saves; it stores in a giant bag in our garage (hanging from the rafters). We’ve used it for 7 or 8 years now.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that it was an anti- eco-friendly purchase so I’ll probably keep using it till you-know-what freezes over.

    If I had to do it over again, I’d buy a small evergreen from a nursery, keep it in it’s original pot, light it and keep it at my front door. Then, after the holidays, I’d plant it in the yard.

    Repeat Annually.

  16. posted by Louise on

    We live in our RV full-time. Each year, we buy an inexpensive, pre-lit wreath and attach it to our front bumper. (We have a plug up there for the lights.) The artificial wreath is tough enough to withstand freeway driving. After the season, we clean it up and donate it to the closest charity, like Goodwill. Total investment each year: about $15.

    This year for inside decorations, I bought five candles in the shape of evergreen trees. Different sizes, a variety of colors. We will burn them, so they are consumable. (We always monitor lit candles carefully, don’t worry!) They are unbreakable and non-toxic, good for a moving vehicle with three pets.

    We have a dark green couch, so I just added two red throw pillows. Again, these will be donated to a charity later. In such a small space, these few touches add a festive air without too much bother, expense, or clutter.

  17. posted by sillahee on

    In Portland, OR you can now RENT a living tree. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6753079/

  18. posted by STL Mom on

    I think I’m now up to FIVE boxes of Christmas crap, not counting the fake tree (purchased after a leaking tree holder warped the wood floor). I need to sort through and decide which items I really love, then sneak the rest off to Goodwill before the kids notice that anything is missing.
    In my defense, the five boxes do include Christmas books, and a box of wrapping paper and gift bags. And Christmas-themed stuffed animals – oh, yeah, I really do need to toss some stuff! I think my kids can survive a holiday without the stuffed mouse that recites “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in a creepy, mechanical voice.

  19. posted by jt in the army on

    My Christmas decorations consist of 2 holiday-specific items and one season-specific item.
    The first is a 3ft pre-lit tabletop tree with white lights, small metalic blue balls and silver strings of beads.
    The second a blue-clay nativity set placed in white aquarium gravel in a glass pan (so the cat doesn’t scatter the set where he sees fit).
    The third is a string of copper snowflake lights that are strong across 2 windows and a bookcase and will stay up until the spring bulbs outside begin to appear.

    I dread my next condo/apartment because at that time my parents will give me a box of Christmas ornaments I either made or was given as a child. Then I’ll need to sort out what to keep. But hopefully I’ll have a bigger (or real!) tree by that time as well.

  20. posted by Louise on

    @jt in the army:

    I shudder to think what MY cats would do with a pan full of gravel, nativity scene or not. Definitely not the gift of the three wise men…

  21. posted by beth on

    Patrick, I’ll keep that in mind but my vet gave me a list of specific plants not to keep around, and that was on there. Perhaps dogs have more of a sensitivity to it? I don’t know, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  22. posted by Melissa A. on

    I don’t have a lot of decorations, but I have bought a few dollar store items. Everything fits into a banker box which I keep in my closet. This year I plan to make some things, if I have time. But honestly I don’t have the money to spend on real wreaths or trees. I think I’ll just hang lights on my ficus :P

    I would like to get a table top tree, but my cat will eat it.

  23. posted by Eponin on

    A note of caution with Poinsettias. If you have pets that like to chew (like cats) these plants can often be poisonous to them.

  24. posted by Ruth on

    My cousin lives in a small apartment, and we do Christmas day at my aunt’s house, so her solution for ornament display is the “Christmas rope.” Instead of a tree, she hangs up a rope and hangs her ornaments from that.

  25. posted by Kath on

    Took me 5 minutes to decorate tonite.

    15 seconds – Carry my two Hanukiot from the hutch to the front kitchen window sill.

    4 minutes – Tape one string of Hanukkah lights to my front kitchen window

    45 seconds – Light candles and say the blessings

    Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!

  26. posted by CarolinaDivina on

    decorate
    use a real tree and send it off to become coral after christmas
    make paper snowflakes
    paper chains
    and popcorn strings
    the birds can eat the popcorn strings and the paper decorations can be composted
    also
    if you get paper bags from the grocery store – they can become wrapping paper with simple finger paint and a star stamp
    stamp away or give to your kid
    and you have nice wrapping paper for christmas which can be composted

  27. posted by Stephanie on

    I would like to see the math about a fake tree being less environmentally friendly. I have had the same 3-foot, pre-lit tree for about 5 years now that cost me $10. The same amount of energy consumed to make the tree is probably equivalent to the energy to chainsaw down a real tree and haul it from another city to a local store that I would have to drive to pick it up and then drive to dispose of it somewhere else. I think the key is to not buy new christmas stuff every year. Even when I lived in a super small house, there was room for the skinny and tall box it came in. The key is to scale the tree to your environment. Some of us have never known what a real tree is like anyways because of allergies to the real thing. Absolutely nothing beats not having to string lights either!

  28. posted by Cathy Viviano on

    I love holiday decorations in my apartments. The tree, wreath, nativity scene, stockings, etc. are all wonderful.

  29. posted by Johanna on

    My (2nd) husband and I have been ‘doing’ Christmas for the last 16 years.Neither one of us had had support from our prior spouses to celebrate the holidays. So, we began to really enjoy it. The inner child in each of us went crazy.

    My husband had never had a live tree before (we live in Mexico. When we saw that a shipment had arrived from the US and Canada, we promptly went to get one.

    I measured the space where it would live, to buy accordingly, between 5-7ft. My hubby eyed a beautiful 10ft one. I told him it wouldn’t fit. He wanted it. After much insistance, and telling him we would probably have to cut off the top or the bottom to get it inside the house, he relented and we got a smaller tree.

    Once it was up, he totally agreed with me. It still reached the ceiling, and was beautiful.

    Now, about decorating… I’ll write another post for that!

  30. posted by Johanna on

    As I mentioned before, my husband had never experienced the joy of celebrating Christmas with all the trimmings, not even in the traditional Mexican way. Once I came into the picture, the fun began!

    Every year, for the first five years, new decorations were acquired or made. During every trip to the States we had to go to a Christmas Shoppe and stock up, including many, many pieces of the porcelain Department 56 Heritage Village Collection.

    To make a long story short, we ended up with 50 boxes! File boxes, underbed boxes, drawer boxes, old suitcases… 50!
    To keep things under control, I marked every box, and its lid, with a number. I made an inventory page of the contents of each box, put one copy inside the box, and another copy in a ‘Christmas’ folder, library style.

    This way, if we only wanted to bring out certain items, I could locate them without having to get ALL the boxes out and rummage through them.

    Things are different now. Will continue later…

  31. posted by Johanna on

    I decided to finish my posts today. Otherwise I might not be able to make the time later.

    We’ve been uncluttering our home for a few ‘years’ now (mostly inhereted and blended family clutter), and are finally seeing some results. It has been a cumbersome journey. The downstairs living areas and kitchen are done! You can come over at anytime now and I won’t have to rush to hide things in cupboards, under tables, or behind sofas :) That was so stressful.

    The 2 guestrooms and bathrooms are OK.(No more children living at home) The TV room needs some work, as do our bedroom, bathroom, and closet.

    Now, about the Christmas clutter. To give you an idea of how we celebrated Christmas (notice the past tense)I’ll describe our house.

    It’s a townhouse, attached to another house on either side. There’s a small carport and garden in front, a nice sized backyard, and behind the back wall there’s a patio with laundry room and service room w/bth. (That’s where most of the Holiday boxes are stored (stuffed); there’s no breathing room).

    By December 1, EVERYTHING was decorated. When you came in the front gate, the carport was an exaggerated Mexican fiesta… lights everywhere, piñatas, lanterns, strings of papercut flags, toys…

    Inside the house it was an Old World and American Christmas… the TREE ( I won’t begin to describe it!)with the train and toys; the Christmas villages; a large Nativity, and many small ones from around the world; the stockings, 1 for each (blended)family member, now 16 of us; Advent wreath; garlands w/ornaments in doorways and stairwell; stacks of holiday cushions on the sofas and under tables; gift boxes everywhere; pointsettias…

    Going out to the terrace and backyard, it was another Mexican fiesta… lights,paper flags, paper lanterns, a sugar cane decorated buffet table with clay pots, Mexican toys, a Mexican tree, more piñatas…

    Really, it was over the top, but we ENJOYED having friends and family over to share that joy.

    Now, we haven’t lost the joy, but we are living a much more simple life. We are letting the children (and our friends)have the opportunity to experience the holidays in their own way, in their own homes, and let US go over to celebrate with them.

    I’ll still decorate for the season, setting out some poinsettias, the Advent wreath, the wreath on the door,and hang up the stockings. I’ll get out the holiday cushions and tablecloths, and candles.

    For the cushions, I made slipcovers out of different holiday fabrics, sized to fit the pillows that I already have. It’s easy and they pack away without taking up much storage space.

    For a tree this year, I planted a rosemary bush in a medium size pot, and am training it to be bushy. By December it will be full enough to trim into the shape of a tree. With one string of mini lights and tiny ornaments, we’ll be all set and still get the joy and fragrance of a ‘live’ tree. After the holidays it will go back outside to live in the herb garden.

    The rest of the decorations? Well, we decided to pass most of them on to the children for their own homes, if they want them, which I’m sure they will. Those boxes will be their gifts, from us to them and the grandchildren. We won’t have to spend money we don’t have right now, and we’ll unclutter our space at the same time. I hope I can pare it down to about 10 boxes. I know it’s still a lot, but we do enjoy the seasonal atmosphere.

    We haven’t turned into ‘grinch’ (as someone called me, someone who came year after year to our holiday celebrations and parties, but never invited us to theirs).
    We simply want to live a more relaxed holiday season (and LIFE) without getting stressed out about the getting out, the putting up, the taking down, and the cleaning up(dusting every single ornament with a dry paintbrush), and the putting away… We want to just ENJOY the moment.

    I wish everyone a happy uncluttered holiday season, whatever your Faith or philosophy, beliefs, or traditions. Just enjoy them, and be happy that you are ‘able to enjoy them and to celebrate in freedom’.

  32. posted by Johanna on

    After the holidays we never just threw our tree away!

    We’d take it outside, place any type of goodies for the birds to eat, and once it was dried out cut it into pieces to burn in the outdoor fireplace – it’s a huge pot.(I made sure that nothing artificial was left on the tree). The ashes were then returned to the Earth.

    Now, talk about sentimental value… we still have our very first live(dried out) tree from 16 years ago! The following year we set it outside and turned it into a Mexican tree. After that we burned the branches, and cut the trunk into many (many) pieces. Our plan was to burn one piece every year, until they ran out. After they run out, we’re supposed to ‘run out’ too. We have about 15 pieces left, which I think are too few (DH is 60)so I’ve started cutting the longer pieces into 2-3. I hope I have to sneak in some thin slices someday:)

    I don’t consider these pieces of ‘dead tree’ to be clutter. As we burn one, we reflect over the past year… all the accomplishments and joys, like graduations, weddings, births, vacations and important events… also the passing on or moving away of family and friends.

    We also remember the ‘mistakes’ or sad events, and try to find the lesson learned and growth acquired to make us better persons. We always find something positive in each situation.

    So, if you like the holidays and really enjoy the tree and the decorations, artificial or live, all out or very simple… have fun!

  33. posted by Kelly on

    We have an average size home, but I grew up in a very decorated house, so I think I was deterred by all the time and energy it took to unpack, decorate, undecorate, re-pack, etc. My husband and I bought a slender tree in an “urn” at Lowes after Xmas a few years back that was over $200 for about $20. Prelit with white lights and meant for outside beside a front door or something. I put it in our enclosed “plant” sunroom the rest of the year and light it once in awhile for kicks. I just pulled it out and will keep it in the living room until the 1st and then pull it back. A few childhood ornaments all fit in a small box. We decorate with pine and greenery cut from wayward llimbs from our back yard, pinecones from the ground, and call it a day. Stress-free Christmas.

  34. posted by Mander on

    When I moved overseas, it was the first time I didn’t go to my parents’ for Xmas. My parents mailed me a tiny little fake tree (about 10″ tall) complete with miniature ornaments and tinsel. It is the perfect size for a studio apartment, because it can go on the table so that the place looks decorated without actually taking up much space. This year I’ve bought a house and have a lot more room, and my parents sent me my grandmother’s vintage Evergleam aluminum tree. It’s not very big (about 5′ tall) and the whole thing is sparkly silver, so I don’t think I am actually going to put any decorations on it at all. I think it will go well with my new 60s-inspired minimalist living room.

  35. posted by Splomo on

    Johanna, I enjoy reading about the evolution of your holiday decor and traditions. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and articulating your philosophy of relaxed and deliberate and thoughtful celebration. May you and your honey’s tree pieces bring you enjoyment for many more years.

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