Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Enough Decorating

You've heard what I think about "Good Enough Mothering."

Today I thought I'd write about "Good Enough Decorating" for the holidays.

I love a pretty house for the holidays. I love the ritual of getting out the ornaments and remembering where they came from and what they mean. I love the sparkle and the magic of a decorated house. The look of a darkened room with a sparkling Christmas tree in it? Aaaaaaaah.

The thing is, I really LOVE taking decorations down again in January. Why? My house suddenly feels more spacious and I can breathe more easily again.

I have realized that being surrounded by STUFF irritates me. You see, I would love for my house to look like a magazine spread, with artfully arranged throw blankets and a mudroom with cubbies. But the reality is that blankets aren't what's being "thrown" around here, and I feel like I will one day be overtaken by shoes and backpacks and PAPERS, oh the papers!

I know know know that within the next decade I'll be missing the days of little muddy shoes on the kitchen floor. I know I'll be pining for family to come and share an over-the-top Christmas display with, but for now, I'm just trying to contain the chaos and stay calm.

As a result, when it comes to my holiday decorating, I make a plan that is soothing, festive and inspiring and doesn't make me feel ovewhelmed.

Here's what works for me:

1. Keeping the Colors Calm.

I stick to a color palette that compliments what I already have going on in the house. This doesn't mean chucking all of my sentimental childhood decorations, but it might mean I tweak them, changing a bow here or there. For example, for the past few years I have used all silver ribbons and bows. Before that they were green velvet, and before that red. I find that I am less stressed when my decorations go well with whatever is happening in my everyday decor.

At your house, Christmas may be a rainbow of bright colors or a slew of jolly Santas, and that is perfect! Subdued colors: whites, silver, pearls and blues work for me.

2. Editing:

I also don't put everything out. I might just enjoy something for a little while when I get it out of the storage tub, and then put it back in. Just as my poor mom's sense of style got frozen in the 1980's, because that's when she died, some of my decor did, too. I keep it to enjoy and reminisce over, but I never feel guilty if I don't put it out.

3. Working with what's already there.

I also like to work with what I have, so I don't have to move my everyday items into storage.

Lemons in glass jars on the mantel?

I just take out the lemons and replace them with blue and silver balls.

Hurricanes filled with seashells Jan-November? I (gently!) throw Christmas balls right on top.

Even my fake pears in the kitchen get livened up by Christmas balls. When January comes, I just skim the balls off (sounds gross!) and leave the rest where it is.

Also, I don't decorate the kitchen much, because that room is the center of most of my clutter-based anxiety. It is where the papers pile up, the shoes are stored, and the backpacks hang. It is the only way we get in and out of our (garage-less) house.

Adding an Advent wreath and these 3 PB magnolia wreaths is about all the holiday cheer I can handle in there. I save most of my decorating for the more serene areas of the house.

Having 2 Christmas Trees:

This started when, as a control freak I wanted to separate the kids' ornaments from "MY" more "matchy" ornaments. I have relaxed a bit and now some of my favorite ornaments on the "grown up" tree are my kids' paper, glitter and yarn "Names of Jesus" ornaments-- all 24 of them. They are treasures.

Still, having a full-sized artificial tree in our upstairs hallway allows us to hang ALL of the kids' treasures. And the collection is growing. Macaroni creations? Santa? Yoda? Ariel? Yankee Stadium? (Oh yeah, that's Tom's)-- Bring 'em on! The more the merrier.

Before, I felt we had too many ornaments; now, when I see something cute for the kids during the year I buy it for them knowing there is a place for it, but necessarily on my, I mean THE, downstairs tree.

Knowing When to Bag It:

Take our electric white candles in the windows. I got tired of the suction cups releasing and sending them crashing to the ground. This year, our "outdoor" lights will consist of our 2 Christmas trees glowing through the windows.

Also, this year I just didn't feel like hanging a garland on the bannister. It is one of my FAVES.... evergreen, little white lights with sterling baby cups and spoons hooked on with silver bows. Trust me on this, it is sentimental and lovely!

But right now the stairs are a way station for everyone's crap, and I just didn't feel up to it. Kind of like putting lipstick on a pig, you know?

Today this is how our stairs are decorated, and this is a VERY GOOD day:

Who knows? Maybe Tic Tacs and Army men are the next light blue and brown in the world of decor.

Going Deeper:

Lest you think I'm going to say it's all about reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting caught up in the hoopla of over-the-top decorating, let me disabuse you of that notion.

Would a woman who blogs about her hair roots really be talking about "going deeper" in that way? Well, maybe, but not in this post. The best decorating tip is one I learned from my mother a long time ago. It makes any Christmas tree more beautiful and therefore any house more lovely.

When hanging ornaments, I go deep into the branches. Each branch is laden with ornaments with plenty of gold and silver balls to reflect the light. Some of these glass balls date back to my parents' first Christmas as a married couple 47 years ago. Hanging ornmanents deep within the tree gives a tree sparkle and dimension.

And to me, a well-dressed tree is the most special decoration of all.


Christy said...

What a lovely post Anna! And honestly,I consider myself a Christmas tree aficionado and I've never hung ornaments deep in the tree before! You can bet I will next year! I, too, don't put out all our decorations at one time, though my reasons are different. I don't want my curious toddler breaking everything at once! :) Merry Christmas!

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I don't know if I can express this well or not, but I think my home is pretty (not super decorated) all year round. And I don't want Christmas decorations to eclipse that. So while I put some out, I too attempt to use much of what is already there...with some embellishments. I don't sweep out the everyday to go overboard with Christmas. Clutter drives me nuts too (and I don't really miss the little kid clutter now that Mac is 24. Does that make me a bad mom? Oh, and trust, he still leaves his shoes around when he's home from grad school. They hurt to trip over!)


Lots of the home decorating posts I look at tend to make me twitch. Too much stuff!

By the way, the word verification for this post is "goblesse," and I'm thinking it's dyslexic for God Bless!

Unknown said...

Wow, do we think alike! I feel the same way about all the stuff and being able to breathe. And I used to be the same about the ornaments on the tree. Thanks for a wonderful post. I'll be including it in my Saturday Shout Outs, if you don't mind.

Anonymous said...

:) I love this. When I was growing up there was a hard, fast rule that everybody would help decorate until it was ALL done. We had the music on and we were having fun, damn it. But I've grown to appreciate a more flexible arrangement that allows for everyone to notice and enjoy their favorite parts of the scenery.

I no longer feel slighted by my husbands lack of interest in well placed ornaments. My husband does the heavy lifting and then smiles as he watches the rest of us reminisce about the ornaments. One of my teenage daughters is hesitant to help these days. She is not as fond of hearing those stories any more... at a time when she is trying to reinvent herself. But I noticed her smile when she came into the room to see that I have hung them for her.

Glad to know I am passing on appreciated advice to my daughters. They always think I'm weird for taking time with the plain glass ornaments. But it really does show off their special pieces by lighting up the whole tree.

We always take our tree down before the new year. My mother always said that it was bad luck to leave it up.... and that is as good an excuse as any to get my space back and start the year with a deep fresh breath!