The holidays are upon us, and for the most part, that brings a lot of cheer to our homes. But let’s face it — this time of year can also be pretty overwhelming with all there is to get done, from decorating, to buying gifts, to coming up with that perfect holiday meal (or two or three).
That’s why I love the minimalist approach to holiday decor that has taken hold this year.
A bare bones, stripped down, tactful approach to decorating is the best way to keep our focus on what truly matters during the holidays, which is family and friends and community.
But here’s the added bonus — it will also leave your home looking fantastic!
I see this minimalist movement as a natural outgrowth of the simplicity that has dominated the interior design world in recent years.
Look no further than the Scandinavian influence that has been popping up in our homes, with whites and natural wood, clean lines, and furniture that emphasizes form as much as function.
It’s no coincidence that the Danish even have their own word for this approach: Hygge, which refers to a special type of cozy contentment, born out of simplicity and small pleasures.
So let’s all agree to take a hygge approach to the holidays this year! We, and our homes, will be better for it.
Pruning Your Pear Tree
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…We all know the song, which tells of an increasingly grand presentation of gifts as the twelve days of Christmas march on.
Well, frankly, that sounds awful! Can you imagine having hens, doves, colly birds and even milking maids in your home?!?! Not very hygge at all.
So let’s change our tune, with twelve daily tips for pruning your metaphorical pear tree.
Here are some tips for keeping things simple this holiday season, as well as some stripped down decorating ideas I’ve found that you can use in your own home.
I promise this will make the holidays more enjoyable for you, and also make your home shine.
DAY ONE Mine Your Memories. Before you unload all of your holiday decorations from storage, and before you even consider setting foot in a store, sit down and make a list.
Think back on some of your favorite holiday memories. Ask yourself: What made those moments so special? What pieces of decor will help recreate that atmosphere and feel? What items or accessories have so much sentimental appeal that you smile the second you think about unpacking them and putting them on display?
Those are your keepers. Find and decorate with those items first, then look around to see where you are at.
DAY TWO Focus on Your Other Senses. Alright, you’ve picked out all of the essential pieces that you can touch and see.
Now, let’s think about your other three senses. Because when you think about it, there are SO many non-tangibles that play an important role in making the holidays so special.
Is it the smell of pine, or fresh-baked cookies? The sound of Christmas music floating through your foyer? Maybe it’s the taste of peppermint.
Well, these are easy ways to add cheer to your home while keeping with the less is more approach.
Add a couple pine-scented candles, or choose a fresh versus artificial tree. Turn your stereo on (just have a strong enough holiday playlist that you don’t get sick of your music too early into the season!). Place a bowl of mini candy canes in a silver bowl that sits in your entryway, or where guests tend to congregate.
Notice how each of these things take up very little space, but can go a long way toward adding to the festive feel.
DAY THREE Eliminate Distractions. We’re not done with list making just yet.
Now it’s time to think of all the things that contribute to excess, or clutter, or just leave you with more of a negative feeling, versus the desired holiday cheer.
People are always surprised during this step at how many decorations they put up out of habit — not because they are particularly fond of them, but because they used them the previous year. Or because they bought them this year in a weak moment at HomeGoods. Or because their great, great Aunt Zelda sent them on her 90th birthday.
Be pretty stern with yourself here. Throw out anything that appears on this list — or, better yet, donate it to charity. You’ll thank me later for this stage in the process.
DAY FOUR See What Is Missing. Most people enjoy this step, because it speaks to our basic human instinct to add versus subtract. You’ve been pretty strict with yourself so far, so here is your chance to look around and see where you could use a little more sparkle or tinsel or greenery. Make a shopping wish list if you don’t have all of these items already in storage. Just remember: keep it simple.
DAY FIVE Purge Some More. Yes, you heard me correctly. Now that you’ve got all of your lists together, and put the essential items up around your home, and gotten rid of the obvious clutter, it’s time to return to your storage boxes or closets and see what remains.
Ask yourself: Do you really see yourself using any of these items in future years? If not, add them to your donation pile. If so, find a good organization system for keeping them out of sight during the rest of the year and free from dust and grime.
DAY SIX Be Smart About Sentimentals. Now let’s turn to those sentimental items that have lost their practical purpose, but you just can’t bear to part with. Try to come up with some creative ideas for repurposing them, or turning them into year-round display pieces.
For example, let’s say you have kept all of those personalized ornaments that were gifted to your children over the years, and continue to add them to your tree or your mantle, even though your kids are now grown adults with children of their own.
Consider a shadow box filled with the most poignant of them — only one per year, if they are dated — and give them to your children as holiday gifts.
I bet they’d love the sentiment, and you’ll love freeing up that space. And this way, they’ll still be close to your heart and home.
DAY SEVEN Speaking of That Tree… This is an area where a LOT of people tend to go overboard. They add lights and ornaments and tinsel and bows and all of a sudden you can barely tell there is an actual tree under all that glitz and show.
Here’s what I’d suggest to anyone who finds themselves a guilty party in this regard. Get a fresh tree. Put it up, then leave it bare for a couple days. Enjoy the fresh smell of pine. Let the beautiful simplicity of the tree sink in.
Then consider how much you actually need to add to it. Maybe just string lights would suffice, or some scattered bows on their own.
I discovered this tip by accident one year when I didn’t have time to decorate my tree on the day that we got it. After a couple days, I realized I almost liked it better without anything on it at all!
DAY EIGHT Baby, It’s Cold Outside. One thing I like about the minimalist approach is it also turns us away from materialism.
There’s an emphasis on raw materials and finding inspiration in nature. Winter provides the perfect landscape for using this philosophy with your holiday decorating.
I like to take a walk outside and gather a few items that will add a woodsy touch to my festive displays or vignettes. Maybe it is a few fresh fallen sprigs or pinecones from a backyard tree.
Voila! You have the perfect bedding for your fireplace mantle. Just add three or four white pillar candles and you are swimming in dreamy purity. And you can take pride in being both economical and environmentally friendly.
DAY NINE Rethink Your Wreaths. One trend I’ve been noticing lately is people are moving away from very lush, green decorated Christmas wreaths, in favor of stripped down versions that only feature a few pieces of greenery and maybe a pinecone or bow. I really like this look and it fits perfectly into our hygge theme. Definitely a thinker to consider for your decorating this year.
DAY TEN Consider Plain Place Settings. Your holiday tablescape doesn’t have to be elaborate to be festive. In fact, in this area I think you accomplish more by keeping things neutral and unobtrusive.
Here’s an idea: go with all white dishes and neutrals for your placemats or runner. Then pop a single sprig from a pine tree on the center of each place setting. Or use a burlap napkin ring for your table linens.
I also love this simple linen napkin, which when folded like a tree, provides the backdrop for a small wooden star.
DAY ELEVEN Switch Up Your Garland. Pine is obviously a clear favorite when it comes to holiday garnish and garland, and we’ve used plenty of it just on this list alone. But to avoid overkill, consider a different type of branch for your banister or mantle. There are some great options out there that have a daintier feel, such as the seeded Eucalyptus garland featured it in the picture below.
DAY TWELVE Share Simplicity With Others. This is one of my favorite suggestions on this list, because it takes the hygge philosophy and spreads it to others.
Instead of loading up on colorful, patterned wrapping paper and sparkly bows and ribbons galore, consider toning down your gift wrap. Use packing paper or plain white sheets for your gift wrap and a single strand of twine for your ribbon. Garnish with a pine sprig or pine cone. Or maybe used another one of those wooden stars that you included on your place settings. The recipient of the gift will surely be impressed.
This simple display shows that special thought and care went into the gift wrapping!
I am always happy to expand upon these ideas and more, so please contact me if I can help you with your holiday decor!