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Tips for Simplifying Christmas Decorating

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Reasons why simplifying Christmas decorating will add more meaning and joy to your holiday season this year. 

Now that it is the first week of November, I’m shifting into “the season to be jolly” mode …aka… holiday mode.

I know it may seem a bit early to start blogging about the holidays, but when you’re a DIY decorating/lifestyle blogger with projects to create, photograph and then write posts about, I need to do it early enough so that come the day after Thanksgiving, readers can reference the ideas and have time to create for themselves.

Last year, when I was putting my Christmas decorations away, I vowed to take a step back this Christmas… to only decorate in a way that would make the holidays – Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day feel magical, but not overwhelm me.

Table clock on table decorated in white, red and green.

The time has arrived… the 2018 holiday season is 18 days away and I am going to take my own advice.

When we moved to the lake house, I purged quite a lot of Christmas decorations and did so again when I put the decorations away last year. I held each item in my hand and if it no longer had meaning in our lives… I placed it in a box to take to the thrift shop.

Going through this process, I discovered that it wasn’t all the decorations that made it feel like the holidays for me. It was more about the memories of family all around me and the atmosphere I created for us to enjoy it all with music, food and events. I am still going to create a festive atmosphere, but one that is more pared down and less decorated.

Perhaps you feel the same way?  Thanks to the internet and especially social media, we’re all bombarded with the most polished and highly edited sides of other’s holiday decorations and perfect Thanksgiving table settings and decorated Christmas trees, mantels and homes. 

I have been yearning to unwrap all these perfect expectations and take the pressure off myself and inspire you to do the same, whatever it is that will make the holidays feel festive and magical for you and your family.
This year, I am passing on the “I have-to this, this, and this… holiday checklist” that follows a certain script and instead, looking at what will make the truest version of the season come to life for me.

When I broke it down to figure out what makes Christmas feel wonderful and magical, here is what was on my list. These items are what I am going to focus on this year.

White Twinkle Lights on the Christmas Tree

Christmas-tree-at night in living room with lights-that-twinkle

Since I was a child, every Christmas tree my family has had was draped with twinkle lights. Not blinking lights, but mini lights that twinkle.  There is a huge difference between twinkling and blinking strands of lights. Blinking is when whole light strand blinks on and off.

Twinkling is when only a few lights per strand slowly blink on and off at a time, not the whole strand. It creates a magical atmosphere. I like to turn all the lights off in the house and sit by or even lay under the tree and enjoy the magic the twinkling lights create in the room and on the ceiling.  Here are the strands of lights I use:  Twinkle Lights

This year I also want to focus more on who is around my tree and not what is on it in the way of ornaments and garland. I may go rogue and keep the tree quite simple. :-)

Christmas Decorating Ideas All Through the House

My retail display background sometimes takes over when I get Christmas decorating ideas. Big and grand was our goal. We had to create impact!  I follow my ideas and instinct. This was the case with finding a dead Christmas tree back in 2014 at the Christmas tree farm where we bought our tree.

Bringing this dead tree back to life was pure joy, but it was a second tree to decorate that year. I want festive, pretty, but simple this year.

Candles in the Windows

Merry Christmas written on a snowy window with a candle inside.

In the rooms other than my living room where the Christmas tree is, I like to have a candle in each window at night.

Christmas Candle decorating ideas for tables

When I am in the room, I use real candles, but for other rooms, electric candles create the same holiday magic for my family…

DIY Christmas song lyric art.

…just like the song from the movie, Home Alone, Somewhere in My Memory.

I made this canvas for my guest room two years ago.  You can find out how I made it in this post: Getting The Guest Room Holiday Ready


The guest rooms where my daughters sleep when they come for the holidays don’t have windows. Instead they have sliding glass doors that look out to the lake. Candles in their bedroom windows were a must when they were growing up and still are for them as adults.

I had to tweak the window thing a little to make the candlelight magic happen by the glass doors for them.  Making my children, no matter how old they get, still feel the magic of Christmas will always be one of the most important things for me to do every year.

Christmas Music


When you read my Christmas blog posts where I share photos of my house decorated for the season, one very important thing is missing in each photo. That missing element is that you can’t hear the Christmas music playing in the room. For me, Christmas music is part of the decor.

Christmas music in my house is playing… All. The. Time! I think the music is more important to me than the Christmas tree.  I even have it playing in my car on Sirius – The Hallmark Channel, channel 70 started this past week. So far I like the type of holiday music they are playing.

When I am home, I play dozens of Christmas CD’s or playlists on my phone from traditional to current day musicians. You can find out my favorites here: The Sounds of Christmas

Christmas Movies

Christmas Movies that I love

Not the Hallmark variety, but classics from the 40’s and 50’s like Christmas in Connecticut, Desk Set, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Plus a few from recent years: While You Were Sleeping,  Home Alone, A Christmas Romance, A Holiday for Love and The Santa Clause.

I get excited just thinking about spending a relaxing afternoon or evening with a fire in the fireplace and the twinkling lights on the tree watching a favorite holiday movie.

Baking Christmas Cookies

Pecan Cherry Cookie Recipe

I may not eat all of them, but I enjoy making cookies to then put out on the kitchen counter for all to enjoy or to pack up to give to family and friends. Ed’s favorites are called Pecan Cherry Cookies. Mine are Almond Cookies – made with vodka. :-)

An afternoon of baking in a warm and cozy kitchen with Christmas movies or music on in the background truly makes it feel like Christmas in my house.

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

Illustration of Christmas shoppers shopping on snowy city street

Silver Bells is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I love the line… city sidewalks, busy sidewalks.

Photo of Radio City in Manhattan

Christmas shopping in NYC was something I always enjoyed doing growing up with my sisters and family over the years. Now that we are in South Carolina, I can’t get into NYC as easily.

I do miss spending the day Christmas shopping in NYC, but this year I have planned 2 days to spend strolling the streets of the two nearby cities to me, Columbia, SC and Greenville, SC.  I know there won’t be any snow, but I hope the streets are dressed in holiday style, even if it is just a little bit for me to shop for a few more gifts I need to buy.

Doing my Christmas shopping all year long so I don’t have to rush around buying just any ole thing to give to family and friends is one way to enjoy the holiday season more. I store everything I buy in one of the guest room closets.  This week I will take it all out to see who I still need to buy or make something for.

Natural Elements

How to hang a real evergreen Christmas wreath on a mirror with ribbon.

Moving to the shores of a large lake with nature all around me has made me appreciate decorating with small touches of fresh greenery much more.

Not garlands…I will never use fresh pine garlands inside… ever again, they make too much of a mess and dry out way too fast for the expense.  But hanging a simple cedar wreath, pine branches in a vase or centerpiece are doable and create a festive holiday vibe.

Over the next few weeks, I will share how I implemented each of these items into my home and life. In my next post, I will start by showing you how I am going to decorate the fireplace mantel with a pretty, simple and crafty DIY project.

What Can You Do To Simplify Your Christmas Decorating This Year?

Are you yearning to enjoy the holidays more in “your own style” this year?

How to do it with confidence?  The idea is to let go of the things about the season that don’t bring you joy anymore so you can create a holiday festive feeling that is right, just for you and your family. It could be anything from not bringing out bins of holiday decorations to saying no to invites that overbook your schedule. You are the boss and can decide on the plan that will make you enjoy the joy of the season.

Follow your heart, listen to yourself and focus on what really matters.

If you know what you are going to do this year,  share your holiday decorating musts in the comments so other readers can benefit from your ideas and may want to begin implementing them in their homes this year.

Simple and Pretty Christmas Decorating Ideas

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  1. After I got all my Christmas decorations up and just the way I liked them in 2016, I took a lot of pictures. When Christmas 2017 rolled around I put everything in the same place as 2016 with small changes here and there. By doing the same thing as the previous year, I spent only a day decorating instead of maybe the 3-4 days as I had done in the past.

    Another thing I like to do at Christmas is bake cookies. It seems that I also liked eating them so what I’ve started doing is when I have company, as they’re leaving I get all the containers of cookies out and give each guest a tin and tell them to fill it up. I get the joy of the baking and they get the joy of eating.

    We don’t do anything for Christmas until after Thanksgiving and I can’t wait. It is a fun and magical time of year!

  2. I love this! I love being told I have the choice to simplify and do what my family loves. Thank you for encouraging me in what I do.

  3. Diane, I have to agree with you about making the holidays a lot simplier. June 2017 my husband passed away. That Christmas was just a blur for me. I don’t think I felt the whole impact of it at that time. My lovely daughter-in-law asked me to stay overnight Christmas Eve so I could be there Christmas morning with the grandkids. I’m hoping to do the same this year. I desperately need to par down on the decorations and get rid of some and as a family we are scaling down on the gifts and instead doing some day events like a train ride called “The Polar Express” for all the grandkids. I have 5. This will be their gift and then only one present of something they really want. Like you it’s more about family and that special feeling that we can think about in the future and smile.

  4. Let me know when you will be Christmas shopping in Greenville!!! We’d love to have you over for a drink or a meal, or just meet you downtown to say hello :)

    1. Hi Kathryn – Sounds perfect! I will email or call you with a few dates to see when you will be around. Maybe I can even get Ed to come with me. :-)

  5. When you said patio doors in your guest rooms, I instantly thought I would hang a wreath with an electric or battery operated candle in it.

      1. No, sorry Diane. I haven’t even decorated for Christmas in years as my children are grown and I go home to Germany for 6 weeks right after Thanksgiving. There aren’t any grandchildren yet, thank God, so I take that opportunity to visit my elderly parents.

      2. Luminara from QVC make great candles that are battery operated and the flame flickers.

        they look beautiful!!