Holiday Decor, without the Clutter

I'm still finding my place in the world of holiday decor. I went from a totally minimal mindset (I didn't even own a Christmas tree until Eric moved in and made me buy one) to someone who wants to roll around in fluffy knit blankets under twinkly garland and flocked Christmas trees. This mental shift has been quite jarring for me since I never really got into the Christmas spirit in that way.

Before I sound like a total creep, let me explain (if you want holiday decor tips, skip to the middle of the article):

Growing up, my family celebrated Christmas, but the holiday always took a backseat to everything else we had going on. You see, my sister's birthday is on Christmas day and my own birthday is the day after Christmas so birthdays really dominated our household. Especially as a kid, I think my mom always wanted to "make it feel like" my birthday rather than Christmas because it can be tough for a kid to share their one special day with literally every other kid in the world. We opened presents and had a Christmas tree like any other family, but the importance that was ingrained into my soul was of birthday cakes instead of candy canes.

I took this mindset into my adulthood and when I moved into my own place I was never compelled to buy a Christmas tree. Or stockings. Or really anything else. I was also developing a deeply minimal style sense and wasn't keen on having extra "stuff" lay around for 9 months out of the year just so my apartment could have a little Christmas cheer. I never saw anything wrong with this until I met Eric, the king of Christmas himself. Eric grew up in a family where Christmas takes precedent to every other day of the year and they celebrate it basically the entire month of December. You can imagine how jarring it was for both of us when we had our first Christmas together, engaged by this point, walking through Target and having what is likely our relationship's first public disagreement in regards to how much Christmas decor is appropriate. It seriously makes me laugh now, if only I had known what I'd become!

He's slowly broken me down over the years and nearly all the ice has since melted off my heart. I receive home decor catalogs in the mail (Ballard Design, Pottery Barn) that make me want to deck my halls with jingle balls. Too much? I'm still new to this...

This year marks our 3rd Christmas together and our first Christmas in our new tiny apartment. We moved into this space in January so we are only now seeing our space with Christmas-colored glasses for the first time. And it is s p a r s e. We kept our 7' pre-lit tree that we ended up buying that first night in Target and it's still really pretty, but doesn't quite do the space justice now that we have 10' ceilings and an open concept kitchen/living space. Just seems a little small. In addition to the tree, we kept only two other pieces of decor in our move: the set of home-made stocking we made last Christmas as a fun crafty date night and two stocking hangers. Happy to say these still match our apartment (good looks to us for choosing gold and white stockings - so classic), but they certainly don't give the place a Christmas vibe.

So here I am, looking around our place and feeling like it's a little empty and cold. When I think of Christmas, it looks like the catalogs: warm, cozy, and honestly full of stuff. Basically, a minimalists nightmare (and the reason we haven't gone out and bought more decor). I'm struggling between wanting to warm the space up & give it some holiday energy but not wanting to overload our single storage closet with decor that we'll only see for 2 months out of the year and probably want to change by the time we get to next season anyway.

So what's a girl to do when her heart says "more Christmas" but her minimalist soul cringes at the thought? Well folks, we get creative, that's what! I've taken on the challenge of brainstorming some ideas that will allow us to fill our home with warm holiday cheer, but not crowd our closets (and minds) the rest of the year. If you find yourself struggling from the same symptoms or if you just have a tiny place of dwelling like we do, these tips are for you!

Seek out natural decor that you can recycle after one year's use

That's right - I said it. Go out and buy ALL the stuff that brings you long as you can recycle it when the season is over. My mind goes to real trees, real wreaths, can you make real garland? I actually love the idea of this because you don't have to store the elements in the off-season and you have less mess if you move. Plus it's a real win for the environment because less ends up in a landfill (I recently read an article about how fake trees fill up landfills and it broke my heart, maybe I need to make the switch next year!). Other "live" seasonal elements fit into this category as well like: twigs/sprigs to decorate tablescapes or put in vases, winter flowers and pine cones.

Here are some ideas from Pinterest that I love. All ideas are saved to my Holiday board where you can access the original sites :)

Use small accents you don't mind tossing

If that last tip has you anxious about rummaging through the woods to collect natural items, don't worry, you can get fake props to supplement your major decor pieces. My favorite seasonal decor trick is grabbing some small items from the dollar store to accent my larger pieces. They almost always have pine cones, some type of greenery, and winter flowers that you can use in any of the ways we talked about above. Tossing them isn't as sustainable, but there's no real need to hold onto dollar store pieces since they are such cheap finds. Also try: ornaments, battery operated lights, garland, or mini stockings. Take a walk through and trust me, you'll get tons of inspiration!

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love DIY projects for seasonal decor. Not only do you get a cute decoration, but you get to make memories & be creative in the process. Make it into a family ordeal for some holiday fun!

More Pinterest motivation since I haven't decorated our place yet:

Repurpose holiday decor to use year round

So far we've talked about design elements that we can throw away when the season is over, but we can get more creative than that. There are tons of design elements that can be reused or repurposed for other use.

I saw an idea in a craft magazine about a DIY wooden plank sign. Once you have the wooden base set, you could repaint it each season to your hearts desire and change up the look. You could do a nice "joy" message in the holidays, and repaint in the new year with a fresher, more-spring look. Dual use!

This idea can be applied to nearly anything. I love the idea of DIY-ing wall accents to match the season & feel like you have new decor!

Here's a Pinterest article from a blogger who repurposed a holiday utensil holder! Can't wait to come up with a few of these of my own and share them!

Decor that you keep, but has minimal storage impact

I'm okay holding on to a few decor items, especially if they have a small storage footprint. We do have an artificial tree because the convenience and financial impact outweighed our desire to have less storage, but because of that we're very careful with how many other items we have to store.If you're like me, then you'll want to look for items that spruce up your space for the holidays but have a minimal storage impact. This could be: stockings to hang on the fireplace, string lights, and maybe even a santa hat. My favorite tip of all: instead of buying holiday pillows, get festive cases that you can slip over your existing pillows. We have tons of throw pillows on our bed & couch and could easily slip them into custom-fit pillow cases for a more festive look. Check out Etsy for custom-fit liners.

Decor that is useful

I think each minimalist has their exception list: an item that brings them so much value that they can never have enough. For me, that's throw blankets! We keep 4 on our couch at all times for decor & use and I have no problem keeping extras in the closet to be used for company or an extra cold night. We keep a mix of fabrics and colors to help us decorate for the seasons as well, for example we have fur, sherpa, and heavy knit blankets which really help warm a place up in the winter. Our blankets are neutral colored (who says white isn't a Christmas color??) but feel free to grab a bold red or green one to really tie in your holiday theme.

Another useful decor element is a tree stand hider. Modern Christmas trees can be seen sporting chunky weaved baskets and even barn wood boxes at the base to hide the tree stand. Not only does this spruce up your Christmas look, but you can find use for the basket/box in other seasons. We love using a weave basket in our bedroom to hold all our throw pillows when we sleep, and could easily use a tree stand cover for that instead. If you're looking for something more classic, save the boxes from all your online orders & wrap them up! Empty boxes look super cute under the tree (just remember which ones to bring to Christmas dinner).

Here's a blogger that used an adorable crate:

Be smart with what you do store

We have kept the same ornament set for all our 3 years together and they look like they're going to continue to last. I think this is largely in part to buying shatter-resistant plastic ornaments and storing them in an actual ornament container. These are an amazing investment because they will keep your decor safe, but also keep your closet organized. I'd recommend investing in these pieces for ornaments or any type of leftover wrapping or craft supplies.

Minimize when you can

It's so easy to keep acquiring & holding on to old decor items. Be conscious with what you buy and know where you're going to put the item & also how you're going to store it. Try to buy things that have multi-season use or at the very least that you can use again next holiday season. And most importantly: don't forget to minimize. I've noticed we've even somehow accumulated too many ornaments over just these few years. We will sometimes buy an ornament on vacation, but we have our "theme" ornaments that take precedent on our tree so random ornaments can be tough to fit. Not to mention we got tons of ornaments for our engagement, wedding, and first Christmas together. I'd only imagine this gets exponentially more chaotic when you have kids! If ornaments bring you joy, hold on to them, but if they just clutter your tree & closet, let them go and let them go now.