Here’s the hardest thing about having a cluttered house at Christmas time: it’s really tough to decorate.
I fully accept the fact that this particular problem isn’t really real. It’s not real like natural disasters or war or hunger. It’s not even real like a stubbed toe or accidentally biting your tongue in the same spot over and over again (which is the actual worst). Having picture perfect décor is definitely NOT what Christmas is all about. Even so, the fact remains that my house is full of junk and dust and other things that feel far more “hairy and fright” than “merry and bright.” Are you guys cool with me moaning about it for a sec?
It all started when I decided to get a jump on decking the halls (and by “get a jump” I mean “attack the Christmas season before it attacks me”). Around here, Christmas is a kill-or-be-killed holiday. It’s lovely and fun but only if I start early. Otherwise, it’s stressful with lots of whining.
The moment we closed our doors on Thanksgiving, I ordered my husband to go out and buy a real tree (to prove we’re better than everyone), which I promptly bedazzled with big fat colored lights and ornaments. That very evening, the red glow of rudolph-tinged madness in my eyes and a steaming mug of cocoa in my hand, I dug five boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic and promptly tore into them like a bloodthirsty polar bear on a reindeer.
That’s when I froze. Brandishing a nutcracker high above my head, I surveyed the room with dismay.
Pardon my French, but every inch of potential Christmas space was covered with boatloads of C-R-A-P. Where did I intend to place this nut-cracking fellow? On the end table? Nope— that’s where we keep our coupon-clipping mountain. On the table in the entryway? Nope— that’s where we store the leaning tower of mail-that-might-be-important-so-we’re-afraid-to-throw-it-away. What about the mantle? Nope— that’s where we put matches and scissors and other items confiscated from our ragtag children. I couldn’t even put the poor nutcracker on the floor, since that’s where we keep dust and the discarded toys and hampers brimming with folded clothes that will never see the inside of a drawer because we’re already living out of them like hamper suitcases. It was a code red emergency, you guys.
Like that nasty old Grinch, clutter threatened to ruin Christmas.
I knew I couldn’t solve the problem all at once. This was not localized clutter– this clutter was systemic, born from years of poor organizational choices and laziness. Rome wasn’t decluttered in a day, after all. Still, there I was ready for Christmas and my house was decidedly… unready (also gross).
The best way to deal with a big mess is to start small. For me, that meant starting with one single room. Instead of de-cluttering my entire house, I decided to create a clutter-free Christmas room– a neat and tidy space that was all jolly and no junky. A room where I could sip coffee and spend time with my kids and ponder the good tidings of great joy without distraction or chaos. So what if the rest of our house could use a little TLC? A girl has to start somewhere.
If you find yourself busy and messy and stuck in a rut this season, I recommend carving out a little space amid the clutter. Here’s what worked for me…
7 tips for a clutter-free Christmas room:
- Clean I know that seems obvious but we really cleaned and decluttered this one room before putting up any decorations. I cleared knick knacks from shelves and table tops to make room for holiday pieces. Mr. Smith vacuumed. I even dusted (a little).
- Decorate (gently). I really wanted this to be a peaceful spot for our family to spend time together. Truth is, lots of Christmas decorations are loud and garish and cluttery by nature. To make things simple, I kept our noisy/gaudy decorations in other rooms and reserved items with a subdued look for this space.
- If you must add something, add all the pillows. Since this place was made for snuggling, I found pillows that worked with our red couch and the existing throw pillows. I used Shutterfly and a template I found HERE to create two neutral (but still Christmassy!) 18×18 custom pillows. I love how they balance out the bold colors in the room. One side is a simple white/gray, the other is personalized with a family photo. You guys know I’m kind of a Shutterfly junky so I loved that I could create something from scratch or play with the designs they had available. FYI: Shutterfly has huge holiday sales and everything is 40% off right now. Eek!
- Limit media. My favorite part of this room is that there’s no television. TV and iPads aren’t exactly “clutter” but they create quite a bit of sound clutter that can be distracting. Other than some late night writing on the laptop by yours truly, the only electronic we use in this room is Mr. Smith’s old school stereo. The Charlie Brown Christmas album is on constant rotation and, with the tree lights twinkling, it’s absolutely divine.
- Be selective about toys. For anyone with kids, toys are a huge source of clutter. Our family room is bursting at the seam with toys and that’s fine by me, but I didn’t want the Christmas room to become another place littered with Thomas train tracks and plastic maracas. Here I keep a curated selection of toys that tend towards more thoughtful and simple play things. Right now we’ve got The Little People Nativity Set (I wrote about it HERE), a Snowman Stacker, and Christmas books like Guess Who’s Coming to Our House? and The Sweet Smell of Christmas.
- Get yourself a beverage. This weekend it was cinnamon sticky bun coffee from Silver Bridge, tonight it’s ginger beer with a nip of bourbon. Whatever you like to sip, it’s even more enjoyable when you’re looking at a tinseled Christmas tree (rather than the Everest-sized pile of sheets you need to fold). I wanted a mug with the traditional “Christ is born!” greeting we use in the Orthodox Church. I couldn’t find one I liked so I used THIS design on Shutterfly to create the one in these photos.
- Stare at your tree, ignore the other rooms in your house, and be merry. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11) That’s what Christmas is all about, anyway.
It’s working out brilliantly. I’m in love with Christmas again and I think I’ve found my new favorite spot in our messy little house.
Anyone else realize just how cluttered your house is come Christmas time? How do you manage to add decorations without adding to the clutter? Do you clean and then decorate? Decorate and then clean?? Any Christmas toys that keep your kids in the spirit of things? PLEASE TELL ME YOUR HOUSE IS GROSS TOO.