Stress-Free Holiday Decorating Tips

by Ramona Creel

Unpacking And Packing The Right Way

It's pretty standard organizing advice to suggest that you store like items together — that would mean ornaments in one box, candles in another, strings of lights in a third — you get the idea. However, I'm going to take this idea one step farther and recommend that you also separate your holiday paraphernalia accordingto the room in which those items will be placed. Gather up all of your decorations for the living room or foyer or the outdoors — then get that space completely set up before you move on to the next.. It will go a lot faster than pulling one item out of a box, toting itacross the house, then going back for another item that lives in anentirely different location — and you'll be able to start enjoying the fruits of your labors sooner.

Iknow that when the holidays are over, you will be in a rush to get the house back in order as quickly as possible — but don't just pull everything down and throw it in a box. When half of your ornaments are broken and every light string is knotted beyond repair, you'll wish you had taken the time to pack things up properly. Start by cleaning out and/or replacing any items that didn't survive the season. You can also stock up on supplies (like lights and ornament hooks) — then make sure you have some good solid plastic storage containers with lids that will keep out the bugs and dirt (even those expensive specialty ornament and wreath boxes are discounted come 12/26!) Wrap fragileitems in tissue paper or bubble wrap and make sure you don't place anything heavy on top of them. Store candles and other items that might be damaged by heat in a climate-controlled space. Wind your lights up so they won't get tangled. And be sure to label all of your boxes so you know what's what come next year!

Have A Plan Before You Start

Before you pull the first box of ornaments out of storage, you should have at least some idea where you want things to go — knowing that the tree will sit in front of the picture window, the nativity will live on the table by the sofa, and your favorite set of candles should hold a place of honor on the mantelpiece will save you a good bit of time setting up. Of course, you can shift things around later on — but you won't find yourself standing in the middle of the living room, surrounded by holiday tchotchkes, paralyzed with indecision. Ifyou have a hard time remembering how you had everything laid out fromyear to year, take a photo and stash it away with your decorations — you'll have abuilt-in reference the next time you set up for the holidays.

Also recognize that some of your everyday items may need to go away to make room for all those fine and fabulous holiday goodies. Remember that the goal in decorating your home is to create cheer — not clutter. And when you try to cram more and more into an already crowded space, you're going to end up feeling claustrophobic rather than merry. You are welcome to display as many holiday treasures as you want — just remember that the “one-in/one-out” rule applies here too. If your home is already filled with nick-nacks and gee-gaws, it might be a good idea to pack these up before you pull out the seasonal decorations. Either store items temporarily in your holiday boxes, or get an extra set of storage containers for packing things away during this festive season. You may even need to re-arrange the furniture to make a bit more space for the tree or an oversized snowman — think ahead about where that extra table or chair can go (without being in the way) for the next few weeks.

Ask Yourself If You're Having Fun

When I was a child, decorating the house and the tree was always seen as a magical transformation, rather than a chore. It's only once we become jaded and cynical (more focused on the time it takes than the joy we receive) that these sorts of traditions start to feel like a burden. Matt and I have found that we greatly improve our attitude on decorating day by treating it like something special — we invite a few friends over to help, put on some Christmas music, play animated holiday specials on the TV,  and drink cider or hot chocolate or mulled wine as we get festive. Of course, those with much bigger houses (and more ambitious decorating schemes) can REALLY turn it into a party — asking guests to contribute an ornament to the tree, serving food, singing carols, and even having Santa”give small gifts to the kids. Any seasonal “obligation” is what you make of it — fun or drudgery, it's entirely your choice.

If you are simply unable able to enjoy stringing lights and hanging tinsel  (yet still love the way it looks and feels when it's finished), hire someone else to do the work for you. Bring in a florist or outside contractor, then sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. But if you truly hate the mess, the bother, the expense — there is nothing wrong with skipping decorating altogether. Some people don't really care about the candy canes and the stockings and the mistletoe — that's fine. Let it go. There's no law that says you HAVE to decorate for the holidays. You will not be haunted by Jacob Marley for failing to comply with everyone else's traditions — I promise! The key to a happy season is knowing what works for you, accepting your decision with your whole heart, and refusing to bend to pressure from others. There are no “have to's” at Christmas!

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.