Why I’m Scaling Back on Holiday Decorating This Year

posted by Andrea | 10/16/2013

As a little girl, I would spend hours looking through design magazines and watching home decorating shows on TV — all the while, anticipating the day I would have my very own home to decorate.

My mom never did any seasonal decorating, but she did put up a bunch of Christmas decorations every year — including 2 big trees with TONS of ornaments. As far as I can remember, we almost always put up the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving (or sometime that weekend) and for the next 6 weeks, we enjoyed candles burning, Christmas tree lights twinkling, holiday music playing, and lots of delicious baked goods.

I can vividly remember one specific time when I was in 5th or 6th grade. We put up all the decorations, cleaned the entire house, baked my favorite caramel fudge brownies (sorry, the recipe is not on my blog… yet!), lit all the candles, and turned on all the Christmas lights (probably some Christmas music too). I sat at the kitchen table eating brownies, drinking hot chocolate, watching my mom clean up the kitchen, and thinking about how much fun it would be to decorate my own house with my own kids some day.

Then, 7 years ago, I decorated our house for Dave and my first Christmas as a married couple… and it was just as much fun as I hoped it would be. I raided local thrift stores, used natural items from outside, did a few crafty projects, and ended up with quite a nice collection of Christmas decorations for just a few bucks.

Our house definitely wasn’t magazine worthy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire decorating process.

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For the next several years, I continued to grow (and purge) my collection of thrift store Christmas decorations and I continued to develop my decorating style. I looked forward to the holiday season every year because I honestly just loved switching up our home’s decor for 6 weeks of the year.

In fact, I loved decorating for Christmas so much that I even started decorating for Fall and then swapping those decorations out for Christmas decor a couple months later.

It was a decent amount of work, but I enjoyed doing it, I looked forward to it each year, and I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. Win, win, win!

Then we moved to our farmhouse and my decorating excitement grew to a whole new level. I went crazy, decorating every room (including the upstairs which we weren’t using at the time) with trees, lights, ornaments, Nativity Scenes, etc. But again, I really enjoyed doing it and it did look lovely.

Even the last two years with Nora around, I was still really excited to decorate with natural items for Fall and then come up with a child-friendly way to spruce up our home for the Christmas season. We hosted a bunch of parties and I was thrilled with how our decorations turned out.

This year however, when September rolled around, the thought of spending a couple afternoons decorating our house for fall just sounded awful. I still can’t believe that I haven’t had the urge to pull out my bin of Fall decorations, buy a few pumpkins at our neighborhood stand, or even just bring in a few pinecones and colorful leaves.

It’s now the middle of October and I’ve doing nothing in terms of Fall decorations. Absolutely nothing — and I don’t plan to do anything in the next month either.

I tried to convince myself that I SHOULD do some decorating, but at the same time, it is literally the last thing I feel like doing — and Nora is not old enough to get excited about decorating the house with mom.

So, I shrugged my shoulders and decided that my life and our home would both be a little simpler without Fall decorations this year; and I’m OK with that. While I still absolutely love looking at other seasonally decorated homes, ours will just be somewhat plain this year.

And as I think ahead to Christmas, I’ve already decided that less is more.

We will still display our holiday cards, we’ll still light a few candles and play a bunch of Christmas music, and I think we’ll still put up one big tree so Nora can experience that; but I think that will be it. Ironically, this will be the first year since we’ve been married where we aren’t hosting any holiday parties, so it kind of works out perfectly!

I have a feeling that this year, we’ll be so busy celebrating Nora’s 2nd birthday that we won’t even miss our previous tradition of transforming our home into “Christmas mode” over Thanksgiving break

And I don’t think any of us will be traumatized by one year without Fall or Christmas decorations.

We have plenty of other projects to keep ourselves occupied this holiday season — including renovating an upstairs bedroom for Nora’s big-girl room, transforming the loft into a fun play area, setting up the nursery for baby #2, and following along with Dave’s basketball team.

I fully anticipate (and hope) that I will get back into some sort of decorating groove in the coming years. I know how much I loved decorating my childhood home for Christmas and I want our kids to experience that too. Just not this year.

Also, I don’t want anyone to think that I said decorating in general is a waste of time. It’s totally not — as long as you enjoy doing it (or at least enjoy the finished product enough to justify the time involved.)

I LOVE decorating our house and I LOVE fully decorated homes dripping with seasonal charm. I just also love sleeping, working on my digital photo albums (which I’m painfully behind on right now), and small amounts of free time — so this year, those leisure activities are trumping my love of holiday decorating :)

What are your holiday decorating plans or traditions?

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34 comments

  1. Organize 365

    10/16/2013

    I have a post this Friday about how I am simplifying my Christmas this year. Each stage of life has it’s own decorating needs.

    I vividly remember being in the stage of life you are in! My son was to turn 2 in January and we had a new 4 month old. Or son’s asthma was severe and he would bounce off the walls from the medicine he needed.

    My home based business was booming and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

    I decided the same thing. One tree, a few ornaments and we drove around every night after dinner looking at Christmas lights.

    Slowly I added more decorations back over the years. The kids LOVED looking at the lights each night – even if we went on the same route! That was a fun time, and they would never want to drive around and look at lights now!

    Enjoy your simpler Christmas!

    :)
    Lisa

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  2. Carrie

    10/16/2013

    I still remember one year when I had my first three boys. The Christmas tree only had decorations on the top half because the little one kept taking them off. They really wanted to put their rubber snakes on the tree, but I vetoed that. And then on Christmas day, as soon as my guests left, I took everything down. The tree was only up for a week!

    Now that my five boys are old enough, I let them decorate the tree. Yes, it doesn’t look perfect, but they really enjoy it and it saves me a job. I also limit the decorations throughout the house. Less is more.

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  3. Stel

    10/16/2013

    Your decorations are always pretty. That said, I fully understand you wanting to take a break.

    We’re also doing things a bit different this year. We usually put up our decorations at the beginning of our long Dec holiday (summertime here). But, usually, we’d spend the holiday at the coast, resulting in very little enjoyment of our own decorations at home. So then we’;d start putting it up 1 Dec. This year, though, the boys managed to get the crate of the garage last week, and next thing I knew the whole security gate by die side door was full of baubles, nativity scenes were unpacked – it looks like Christmas here. I’ll let them get our the tree at the beginning of November, as we’ll be leaving again the first week of December.

    Some of our time a the coast is spent at our own little beach house (which is tiny not little), and 2/3 years ago we started decorating one of the outside trees with baubles and battery operated lights. I also made a bunting for the fence. We really enjoyed that and will expand on it this year.

    I also bake cakes to hang on the tree – that last about two days and all is eaten up!

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  4. Anna

    10/16/2013

    I love decorated for Christmas too, and normally have my decorations up right after Thanksgiving. But last year, with a new baby, I had no desire to even put up the Christmas tree. My husband helped me though, and I think I got it finished about two weeks before Christmas. I’m not sure what I’ll do this year with a one-year who loves to climb and get into everything!

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  5. Michelle

    10/16/2013

    Great post. I agree that some years it just isn’t worth putting out all the decorations. I will probably go a little crazy once we move into a bigger home (I have a set of Christmas village items my mom gave me…they bring me such joy to put up and dispay and I remember spending hours as a kid playing with the little pieces, but no room in this home) but for now it’s just a simple tree, a few stockings, and switch out tablecloths. :)

    I feel you on the photo books! I started following your blog a few months ago and am using Blurb to create my 2013 book. It amazes me how few pictures I have from before July (when I read the article) and how many there are now! Thanks for the inspiration! We will get caught up soon enough.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes! I am on a mission to get my 2013 photo book finished and printed by the middle of January so I can have a good head start on our 2014 book BEFORE the baby comes in March!

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  6. five4FiveMeals

    10/16/2013

    I am ashamed to admit this but… I was pregnant with our second child this past Christmas and the pregnancy exhaustion lasted pretty much until the day the baby was born in May. So we put up our tree. Then when Christmas was open we dragged it, still decorated, to an unused room in our house. Yup. We didn’t even take off the decoration. So sad. So very sad. And lazy.

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    Janice Reply:

    Hey, girl, don’t berate yourself. You were doing the best you could at the time and there will be many other Christmas stories to tell. This one could just be known as “The Year the Christmas Tree Stayed Tll May” or something like that. It’s amazing how some of the things we regret at the time turn into funny memories and lessons learned. After 44 years of marriage, we have some stories that include miracles, hilarity, and no decorations in the house. Surely no family has ever been irreparably damaged by the lack of decor or decor that was not put away at some “appropriate” time. Happy Fall and Merry Christmas to you and Andrea!

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  7. Ivy

    10/16/2013

    I remember one year when mine were little the tree was in the play pen lol cute right…

    I do love to decorate for all the seasons and holidays but have started to simplify it this year, less is more right?

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  8. Lucy

    10/16/2013

    It’s such a incident that I read this post the day after an whole evening of Rituals and what marketers have “contributed” to forming the rituals. ( I’m going to school part time for a masters degree in marketing)

    Marketers CREATED these” norms” and “needs”. And we as consumers ended up spending a bunch of money to keep up and feeling not award.

    I’m really proud of you Andrea! Listening to your inner voice and differenciate what you REALLY need from what you want and what you ought to do/have. And thank you for sharing! I bet there are a lot of people out there that have felt the same but didn’t think this is OK. Your encourgement will make a difference in many people’s lives~

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  9. Deb

    10/16/2013

    Second paragraph, starting with my mom…trees instead of tress.

    I am with you. Skipped fall, minimal Christmas. My mom goes nuts on Christmas, literally, and I think I am rebelling against the tacky, by being a minimalist. My kids are teens so Christmas is definitely different now than it was 10 years ago. I think I get kind of tired of it when the stores start in August and are clearancing it out until February.

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  10. Rhonda

    10/16/2013

    Sometimes simple is more enjoyable. For the past few years I have slowly been changing how I do things at Christmas. I have downsized our decorations and only put out a few “bold statement” decorations like a large, colorful sign I painted for our mantel. This year I am taking it a step further and have created a Minimalist Christmas Plan. I am trying to keep things simple and reduce the clutter and packaging mess that gift giving creates. I am not planning on buying any wrapping paper and using recycled materials or leftovers from last year. I love your idea of using things from nature to decorate. I may have to add this to my future Christmas Plan.

    I love this post and I really enjoyed reading the comments, as well. Thanks.

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  11. Molly Ekkens

    10/16/2013

    I can absolutely relate to growing up and not being able to wait to decorate your own home! I am a newlywed (as of Feb.) and graduated (in Dec.) and living in my own home for the first time (Finally decorating time!!) BUT I have zero decorations! and pretty much zero money ;) This year is going to be a simple one for sure and I’m thinking of keeping Christmas simple for years to come, thanks to this post — I realize Christmas isn’t about stressing over having a perfectly decorated home, but more about the traditions and memories. I plan to keep the decor to certain areas of the house i.e. the tree, the mantel, the bookshelf vignette and the front door. Do you have any tips for us newly de-nestors on cheap holiday decorating that still looks classic and lasting? PS. Your blog has been a great resource and guide as my hubs and I start our new life!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Molly,

    I’d definitely say to use natural elements to decorate if you have a zero budget. Pine cones, pine branches, twigs, etc. You could spray paint some twigs or pine cones gold and silver and put them in a big vase or bowl.

    Also, check out freecycle.org and your local thrift stores — you’d be amazed what you can get for very cheap prices. And if you get any monetary gifts for Christmas, you could always use some of that money to stock up on clearance decorations during the after Christmas sales… and then enjoy them next year!

    Good luck!

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    Kelly Reply:

    Molly, the Christmas before my husband and I got married, we raided the after Christmas sales and found a lot of really great things half off or better. I used some of my Christmas money to buy them and it stunk that I had to store them as soon as I got home. I tell you what though, last Christmas, it was like shopping all over again when I pulled out all my totes of new stuff!! :)

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  12. Tragic Sandwich

    10/16/2013

    We’re pretty minimalist about our Christmas decor. We get a tree and decorate it with lights and ornaments–no tinsel, because while I grew up with it and love it, it’s a hazard for the dog. I love the dog more than tinsel. That and some lights on the front of the house, and we’re decorated!

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  13. Debby

    10/16/2013

    Great post. We are starting a kitchen reno as soon as all the details are worked out and the contractors kept saying, “you want to start after the holidays right?” I said NO WAY. Whenever everything set, let’s go. I live in Ohio so I would rather have the mess while the weather is yucky. I told my husband and girls that we will just put up the skinny tree in the basement tv room that we all love because of it’s simplicity. We will be living out of that rec room for quite a few weeks. We can eat there, watch Christmas movies, and enjoy each other. Way to go for realizing what you want to do and then doing it. No pressure from the marketing fools.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I’d much rather have a new kitchen than a nicely decorated home for Christmas. While I definitely don’t envy you because I know how stressful our kitchen reno was — I will tell you that it was 100% worth every bit of stress and inconvenience it caused us!

    Enjoy the new kitchen!

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    Debby Reply:

    We know it’s gonna be stressful, that’s why we are trying to go into it with open eyes and not stress over the holidays. Things will just be simpler this year. This is a huge reno and the payoff will be when it’s done. I am setting my kitchen and home up for my holidays down the road when my children start bringing their husbands and children to my home for the holidays. One year seems like a small price to pay for a future full of memories.

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  14. Heather

    10/16/2013

    Love this post! I remember the Christmas after we got married (October 30th) I was still so overwhelmed from the wedding, and the thank you notes, and moving, and relatives trying to be helpful but actually getting in the way, and our dogs getting used to each other, and and and…

    I went out & bought a tiny 2 foot tall pre-lit tree, put a boxed set of 12 Christmas ornaments we had received as a wedding gift on it, and called it a day. I felt liberated! We had a tiny, quiet, just us Christmas, and it was perfect.

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  15. Laurel

    10/16/2013

    Well, we are decorating, but that’s not why I’m posting. I have to say that when reading your post, the only line that really made me think was toward the top. Not that I didn’t enjoy the post, but rather after digesting that one line, it put the rest of it into perspective and also shed light upon why so many times (we have 4 kids) I have viewed decorating, celebrations, graduation open houses etc etc as just a lot of extra work. And no, I’m far from a Scrooge, but when you said something like, “I remember sitting in the kitchen, sipping hot chocolate, listening to music (or whatever it was you said) AND WATCHING MOM CLEAN UP” I had to first, smile, then reflect on the fact that that is probably why I am not always “into” creating an even bigger mess to put out and put away with all of this stuff. Could have something to do with your lack of enthusiasm as well. Just TOO much stuff to do that has our name written all over it. :)

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  16. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    10/16/2013

    I’m planning to decorate as I normally do this year, but I certainly see the beauty of knowing that certain seasons (of our lives) allow for more decorations than others do. It took me a bit longer to get my fall decorations up, but I was glad I did. We didn’t buy any pumpkins or mums, and I’m not missing that extra expense, no matter how minimal. And, at this point in my life, I love the look of my house with Christmas decorations….but I leave them up through Epiphany, so have a good almost 2 months to enjoy them! We’ll see if all that changes with a little one around next year…

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    Andrea Reply:

    Oh yes, enjoy decorating this year! Who knows, maybe you’ll still feel like it next year, but if not, don’t stress about it!

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  17. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    10/16/2013

    I do as little as possible – it’s not my thing. One year we didn’t even put up a Christmas tree. The family objected to that, though, so I’ve made sure I do. But not much else. I’ve never had the time, money or desire to do it. I enjoy seeing other people’s decorations, though, and wish I liked doing it.

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  18. Sandy K

    10/16/2013

    The older I get the less I want to put up. I love decorations and twinkling lights. It isn’t ever the putting them up that is stressful, it’s the throught of taking them all down. My trees is usually full of ornaments. But slowly I am putting less and less on and it is still beautiful.

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  19. Julia

    10/16/2013

    I would love love love the opportunity to spend a White Christmas in the USA – in fact – it’s one of my “Bucket List” items.
    However – we live in Queensland Australia and December is HOT HOT HOT ! I have in the past paid each year for a live Christmas Tree to be transported from interstate. Apart from the expense involved (about $200 for a tree that will last max 3 weeks in this heat), last year we got a dud tree which was very browned off on the inside when we went to set it up. This sad experience, coupled with the fact that we are heading off to Thailand in January for a family wedding, has made me consider buying an artificial tree. My husband was mortified at this idea – such a departure from tradition for us. However – this year I really feel that practicality will triumph over tradition.

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  20. Melanie

    10/16/2013

    I usually do whatever I feel like/have time for with holiday decor, it definitely varies! These days, a lot of it is driven by my children, for example, I spent this morning finally getting out fall decor because my 4-year-old was begging to! If it ceases to seem fun to get it out, that’s a sign to me to cut back a little…because it is always LESS fun to put it away than to get it out! :)

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  21. janet

    10/16/2013

    i love your little wooden nativity!! is it something home made, or did you buy it? i want one! :)

    And yay for you on deciding to pare down the decorating this year. One year I put lights in the ficus and that was our tree. We had other simple decorations, but no tree. I loved it! I still love decorating, but sometimes it’s refreshing to keep it super simple.

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    Carolyn Reply:

    Me too! I’m wondering where you got the wood nativity, Andrea. Love the simplicity.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Carolyn, Dave’s grandma made it for us for our First Christmas after we were married. It’s probably my favorite Christmas decoration of all :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Dave’s grandma made it for us for our First Christmas after we were married :) We love it too!

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  22. Michele

    10/17/2013

    I am glad to know i am not the only one.

    My home is usually decked out, inside and out, for Halloween and this year I haven’t done anything. My kids are 11 and 13 and they have only asked once about decorations. I usually LOVE the holidays and Fall but I just don’t feel like pulling it all out and putting it all back. It probably doesn’t help that I have been away the last 3 out of 4 weekends and I am leaving again this weekend. I commented to my Mother this morning that on Halloween people might think we moved.

    I wonder if I will feel this way at Christmas when my house usually looks like the North Pole?

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  23. Kelly

    10/19/2013

    Last year, my mom gave me her collection of Snow Village houses last Christmas and they are very special to me. My dad’s life-time best friend’s mom who has been like another grandma to me my whole life has gifted her a house every Christmas for the last 20-some years. She no longer decorates for Christmas since my brother and I moved out. She only did it for us. Everyone comes to our house for Christmas now. It was a lot of work, but my husband and I had so much fun carefully taking each of the 20+ houses out of it’s box and displaying them above our staggered kitchen cabinets (we have an open concept house) and in our dining room buffet. Honestly, I know it’s going to be a lot of work again but I seriously can’t wait to bust them out again this year. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I pair them with a tree, a few mini trees, garland in various places and some wreaths. I’m like you, I use to envision decorating my own house for Christmas when I was a kid. We are newlyweds without kids so I still have that spark and energy to go all out :)

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  24. Cindy

    10/22/2013

    Oh girl! You of all people should know that less is more! Less stuff is more life! I have a sweet tall thin Christmas tree decked out in bronze & golds & sage greens with pops of cranberry red. All the ornaments are stored in decorated gift boxes so once the tree is decorated, the boxes go under the tree! It’s so much less stressful! & you’ll appreciate this. I do decorate for the seasons. .. . as an example, I have a bird I’ll sit out next to a book – - I actually have 4 birds, you guessed it; a robin for spring, a blue jay for summer, a fall colored house wren & a red cardinal. I only have to change decorations 4 times a year rather than a holiday. Enjoy!

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