No-Clutter Noel

By Lesley Myricky

Forget everything you think you know about holiday decorating

I have a confession to make: I hate holiday decorating. I love the holidays, and I love decorating, but the thought of doing my home up to its gills in garland makes me want to cringe. Kind of weird for an interior designer, right? But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There are three things I will not do: party planning, tablescaping and Christmas decorating.

For a lot of people, the holiday season is the one time of year they actually put effort into changing up their home decor. But that doesn’t mean you need to make up for an entire year of inactivity in one month. As a general rule of thumb, I lean toward minimalism in my decor. Not in the extreme way, but more like filtering my purchases so everything in my home is either useful, beautiful or both. Nothing is there just because it “should” be there.

And when I say Christmas decorating, I mean it in the traditional sense — the tree, the bells, the lights, the wreaths, the ornaments, the Nativity scenes, the animatronic reindeer. I’m not saying that you can’t have any of that (except the animatronic reindeer — that’s a hard no), but when you try to have it all? There’s where your trouble starts.

Hear me out here. I’m not just being a total Scrooge — there are a lot of real cons to the over-the-top Christmas decorating we’re all used to. Consider how much work goes into all of it, for one thing. As an interior designer, I understand that it can be a Herculean effort to overhaul the entirety of your home decor. People pay me to do that, and it’s still a lot of work. So when I see you trying to cover every inch of your home with tinsel and baubles during an already stressful time of year, you can bet that I just want to hand you a glass of eggnog and invite you to chill out with me on the couch.

On top of that, just think about how much you accumulate with all those decorations. For one month’s worth of decor, you might need bins and bins of storage, which take up space for the other 11 months of the year. Even when it’s all out and set up, having too many decorations can make your space seem cluttered and messy. (And don’t even get me started on what can happen with tinsel when you have a baby or pet in the house.)

I promise, there’s another way to do Christmas decor. It might seem counterintuitive, but the adage holds true: Less is more. Rather than throwing together a holiday-themed assault on the senses, focus on select items that tell a visual story. You could choose to use a constrained color palette, for example. By focusing on one or two of the traditional colors — red, green, white and gold — you can instantly transform your room into a pleasantly minimal winter wonderland. Or, if you’re like me and think that staring at the same two colors for a whole month can get a little bland, go for an eclectic look that will make your home feel like a cozy patchwork quilt.

I know it can be hard to let go of this urge to overdecorate. For many of us, the holidays are the most important time of year, and the ritual of decorating can help it to “feel like Christmas.” But there are other ways to give yourself the holiday warm fuzzies, too. Remember, decor relies on more than just the visual. It involves all five senses, and an awesome way to really feel the holiday spirit is to focus on more than just the things you see. Let the sounds, smells and tastes of the season really envelop you.

I want you to do me a favor. Close your eyes and think about what Christmas smells like. For me, that’s definitely pine and cinnamon. These are scents that can easily be brought into the home with a real tree, some candles or even one of those automatic room sprays in a pinch.

When it comes to Christmas sounds, there’s no shortage of material there. Break out the Bublé, do the jingle bell rock or put on the Peanuts soundtrack in the background to make it feel like you’re living in a Hallmark movie.

And let’s not forget the best of the senses — taste. A gingerbread cookie in the afternoon, a warm spiked cider on a chilly evening or a splash of peppermint mocha creamer in your morning coffee can really add to that all-encompassing, nostalgic Christmas feeling.

If you really do enjoy the over-the-top frenzy of holiday decorating, great! But for those who feel like it’s more of an obligation, this is for you. Halls decked or not, there’s no right way or wrong way to decorate for the holidays — it’s all about remembering to be present and intentional.