How to Decorate for the Holidays Without Punching Someone in the Face
Everybody take a deep breath and unclench your fist.
Decorating for Christmas is daunting. In theory, it's fantastic and one of our favorite times of the year, but when it's actually time to start, our brain freezes from Idea Overload, rendering us incapable of making any decisions. And nothing ever seems to look the same in our house as it does on the Internet anyway, so we end up drinking too much eggnog and yelling at the neighbor's roof reindeer.
I'm zero percent a decorating expert, but I am pretty good at figuring out how to think about things. After too many seasons of wanting to punch my husband because our house looked lame and obviously it was his fault, I started thinking about why we make decorating so hard.
The problem isn't having the right ideas; it's not having a framework for them. Once I discovered a way to think about decorating that would work no matter my style or circumstance, everything changed, and it can for you, too.
Let's make our days merry and bright, y'all. Here goes.
1. Decorate only if you want to.
Friends, this is essential. The Lazy Genius ignores all the shoulds, so be brave and say no to all the friends and mothers and magazines who tell you how to do things. On a scale of "No Decorations At All" to "I Live at the North Pole," you can't go wrong as long as you're doing what you want. If someone passes judgment on you - secretly or to your face - about how boring or over the top your home is, you're actually legally allowed to punch them in the face.
You're a grown-up. You get to choose.
2. Ignore all the rules.
Now that you've decided how festive you want to be, remember that there are no rules. Correction: there are so many rules but none you need to follow.
If you hear yourself asking questions like "Is this tacky?" or "Does this look dumb?" or "Would My Super Stylish Friend put this in her house?" you need to drink some hot chocolate and back away from the tinsel. Analyzing the style of something usually means you're questioning your taste, and your taste is awesome because it's uniquely yours, no matter what the rules say.
If you love it, do it. It does not matter what other people think.
3. Choose a simple color scheme that matches your house.
Here's what usually happens. We pull out all the crap we've collected over a dozen years, start sticking it places, and then wonder why it looks like a Willy Wonka Christmas gone horribly wrong.
If your style is Wonka Christmas, go all out and send me pictures. I love you forever. But if you're overwhelmed with all the dissonant style and color at your disposal, not knowing where to even begin, this strategy is for you.
To make your house feel cozy and festive without being fussy, give yourself a color limitation. Choose a prominent color that already exists in your house/room and then add two more - a neutral (white, silver, gold) and a coordinating pop of color.
Here's my non-holiday living room. Imagine if I were to fill it with a hodgepodge of color. Sure, it'd be fine; no one would die. But I love to decorate my home for Christmas in a way that feels special but also a little regular. Leaning into the existing color and style of my room helps me do just that.
My color scheme this year? This room has a lot of blues and grays, so I'll start there, add some white and silver neutrals, and use red to punch it up. If any of my decorations don't belong in that color family, they go back in the garage. If I see cute things at Target that I like but that don't fit in the color family, I pass them by and save $25.
A color palette provides a simple filter for making decisions, plus it keeps your house feeling like itself.
4. Choose natural holiday icons.
You'll be looking at this stuff for a month, and I think snowflakes, stars, and trees are less mentally exhausting than Santa, Rudolph, and snowmen. It's a subtle difference, but it makes a big one.
5. Choose big things over little things.
I've learned the hard way, aka lots of dollah dollah bills y'all, that a bunch of little things never has as much impact as one big thing. As you sift through your regular decor, your holiday decor, and keep an eye for anything new, think big impact.
For years, I tried to decorate our front porch with little plants and ribbons and festive pillows that no one ever saw. Then one afternoon I spent literally 15 minutes painting this sign, and it plus a wreath on the door is all my porch wants.
The bigger the statement, the less "decorating" you actually have to do.
6. Don't forget texture.
This goes for your tree, couch, tables... everything. Rooms feel cozy because of texture. The Nester, aka my favorite decorating mind in all the land, says that a room without texture "feels slippery," and that is 100% brilliant and true.
As you decorate, notice if the room feels slippery, and simply add things you'd want to touch. Blankets, fabric trees, fuzzy wreaths... it doesn't matter what it is as long as it offers texture. It's shocking how quickly soft things change a room.
7. Treat Pinterest like a wild dog.
Approach with caution, y'all. You've probably already collected a ton of ideas, and you'll get a million more by searching "Christmas decor." But be thoughtful and selective in your relationship with Pinterest. Just like you wouldn't eagerly run up to a wild dog laughing like a crazy person, you shouldn't dive into Pinterest without a plan.
- Look at pins you've already collected. Chances are, you'll find ideas that match your style and can be adjusted to fit this year's holiday color family.
- Search new pins based on specific needs. There's a big difference between searching "holiday mantel" and "silver rustic modern holiday mantel." The more specific your searches, the fewer the choices and the more sanity you'll retain.
- You don't have to do it perfectly. Pinterest has a way of making me feel like an idiot. Who's with me? Someone posts "The Easiest Wreath You'll Ever Make," and the directions make me feel like I should've gotten another college degree. It's okay if your "easy" is someone else's "you're stupid." Just punch them in the face with all your Christmas cheer, and do things in a way that makes you happy.
8. Take everything down so you can put it back up again.
Okay, here's where the magic happens and where you'll also think I'm crazy but whatever. You've chosen your colors, found your inspiration, and now it's time to do this thing. Buuuuut here's what usually happens.
Your kitchen table is covered in all the stuff you will use to decorate, and you wander aimlessly through the room, randomly putting holiday pieces on any flat surface. But somehow your room ends up more like a yard sale than a cozy Christmas space. You know why?
Did you ever start a new school in the middle of the year? Inserting yourself into a group of friends that already exists is basically the worst thing ever. It's possible but suuuuper tough. The same goes with holiday decorating. By just haphazardly adding Christmas stuff to your regular stuff, you're forcing two sets of friends to become besties without any introduction which rarely works. Here's what does.
Before you put anything up, take everything down.
For realz, yo. It sounds crazy and not very lazy, but I promise it is.
- Take 20 minutes to clear off everything. Even take art off your walls if you want; I totally do. Now you have a clean slate.
- Look through your regular-life decorations. What can still work for the holidays? If it fits in your color family and doesn't scream Not Christmas, keep it out. Say thank you to the rest of it, and put it away until January.
- Now put your regular-life decorations on the table with your holidays decorations, and let them get to know each other. You'll suddenly see that the globe you always have on your entry table will look so fun with that wooden star you found at Target and your "Comfort and Joy" Lindsay Letters print (pictured below). Everything starts becoming natural friends, and all you do is give them a place to hang out.
Now, I know what you're thinking. But then when it's time to take everything down, I basically have to decorate the entire room AGAIN. This is true. But scouts honor you'll be grateful for it. Most of us are kind of relieved when our homes become simple again, and a fresh look at your January home is surprisingly therapeutic. But if you want everything back exactly where it was, take photos of your regular space before you decorate. Come January, you basically copy and paste your stuff.
P.S. If the idea of decorating in general has you punching yourself in the face, I have a magical solution. The Nester's Cozy Minimalist course will legit change your life. It breaks down how to decorate for stupid people like me who have little natural ability to do so. And for cheaper than the cost of a lamp at HomeGoods, it's seriously the best decorating investment you can make. I vouch big time. Get on it.
9. Take your time.
I'm a charter member of the "I Like to Finish Everything All At Once" support group. If my holiday decorating is not done in one afternoon, I get grumpy. But only because I think I should be done in one afternoon. That's not a real thing, y'all.
I'm not saying that decorating will take you a bazillion hours so you should just deal with it. False. From start to finish, my decorating on average takes three hours max. And that includes the tree. How does this magic happen? When you have purposeful limitations of color and you stay within your home's existing style, things happen naturally. It shouldn't take you forever, but it's okay if it doesn't happen all at once.
Plus, taking your time lets you sit with your space and decide what makes you happy and what's just meh. If your food tastes meh, it probably needs more salt. If your space feels meh, it's probably needs variation. Consider combining different heights, shapes, and textures in the same area. All of the Same gets boring. Taking your time will let you see the boring more clearly.
Give yourself the freedom of time. If you're still decorating a week later, The Christmas Police will not arrest you.
10. Stop when you want to stop.
I recently watched a lot of "how to decorate for Christmas" videos to see what the experts were saying, and the experts legit wore me out. They talked about having a "finished" room and creating something in every corner so the eye can "bounce around" and showed homes that were as cluttered with decorations as an aisle at Hobby Lobby.
You don't have to have a "finished" room. You don't have to have a "magazine-worthy" tree. And you definitely don't have to impress people. We already established that ends in catastrophe.
Simply decorate until it's not fun anymore. Try again the next day, and if it's still not fun, then guess what? You're done!
Your brain, your home, and the Internet have more than enough ideas to help you decorate for the holidays, but here's a way to think about the process without punching someone in the face. Because you know what? If a simple tree and a Michael Buble Pandora station are enough to get you in the holiday spirit, I give you all the fist pounds. This is a guide for those of you who genuinely want a beautifully decorated home but simply get lost in the process. I so hope it helps.