Decorate for the holidays
The holidays seem to come around earlier every year - and with the economy still in a funk, everything about this season takes careful planning and budgeting.
If shopping early makes the holidays less stressful, then planning early for decorating your home brightens the family's mood and makes this time of year more fun.
When you're decking the halls, you should remember what the holidays mean - spending time with family and friends and those you love. Taking time to have family gatherings in comfortable, inviting and beautiful surroundings is very important. It's during these gatherings that new memories are made and old ones are remembered.
Here are some pointers for helping to make this time of year as joyous - and stress-free - as possible.
Choose a high-impact piece or setting and decorate around it
Whether it's an extravagant centrepiece for your dining room table, a festive mantle or a warm and welcoming entryway, decide on one area where you'll go all out and choose accent pieces to complement throughout the rest of the house.
For example, if you want to make your dining room the focal point, take a large clear vase and fill it with one type of seasonal item: ornamental balls, either multicoloured or all the same hue, work well; so do pinecones, small Santa figurines or small wrapped "gifts" (wrap wooden blocks from your children's toy box).
Once you've decided on the theme, follow it throughout the house.
Make decorating one of your regular traditions
Involve the kids in as much as is appropriate for their ages. Some of their best holiday memories will be the time spent decorating with the family. Emphasize for them that these moments are what makes this time of year special (not just, as many kids seem to think, tearing open gifts). As much as kids love the other "fun" aspects of the holidays, they also love to help string popcorn, hang tinsel, decide where decorations will be placed and just being part of the process.
Have a home-decorating party
Make decorating an event - choose one day on a weekend, or even a few hours, for the "family decorating party." You can even create "invitations" to your fabulous fete. Make hot chocolate and cookies (let your kids help in the preparations) as special snacks for before, during or after.
Set up a few areas where kids can engage in crafts - making those popcorn garlands, creating easily constructed ornaments, whatever your kids would enjoy. Most importantly, just have fun with it.
Light up an entryway
Make your home inviting to guests by adding some sparkle to the doorway. You can go all out, and hang lights around the outside of the doorjamb and along the porch railings.
Use LED lights to save energy and money on your electric bill. Most home decor stores have wonderful selections to match any theme you've chosen. Or you can choose to make it as simple as a lighted wreath adorning your front door. If you go with the latter, you can fashion your own with small strands of LED lights made especially for that purpose, or you can purchase a ready-made lighted wreath.
However you decide to adorn your home, keep in mind that the process should be a pleasure for you and your loved ones, not an additional stress. Seasonal accessories should be happy reminders of the best parts of the holidays: the love, the warmth, the beauty.
And don't worry if you don't think you've got an eye for interior decorating, there's no wrong way to dress up your home for the holidays. You can purchase items that are already coordinated from a themed collection, or you can mix and match your own.
Remember, it's all about what makes you and your family happy, not about what anyone else thinks.