The Holiday Decor Dilemma

img_2006I’ve always envied those women whose homes are flawlessly and beautifully decorated for each holiday – every theme executed with seemingly effortless perfection. It starts with Halloween. Bales of hay and pumpkins on the porch. Cobwebs artfully scattered across windows, even animated characters such as witches or ghosts on the porch and tombstones in the lawn to thrill the trick or treaters.

Me? I’m just happy when it’s over and the candy is gone and I can start stressing the next holiday decor challenge.

Before you gasp in horror and think “what kind of mom hates halloween?” Let me clarify that when my kids were younger I always made the effort to put out Halloween themed decor, lots of pumpkins, some window clings with ghosts and black cats, even some yard signs with “clever” sayings “Trick or Treaters Welcome Here”. I even sewed homemade Halloween costumes. So there! And in all honesty, it was fine.. or good enough.

But I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. Maybe its the incessant doorbell ringing and demands for candy or the pressure to find that perfect Halloween costume for the kids.. or maybe it was the dreaded Saints Parade at the Catholic grade school my kids attended – where parents were required to dress each child as an actual saint on Halloween. Talk about pressure. But thats another blog altogether.

So this year year, I opted for a selection of artisanal pumpkins that my son and I selected on a fun outing to the local orchard. This covered both Halloween and general Fall decor for my porch. I should also mention that I’ve taken to placing artificial greenery and decor in my large planters that flank my front door.. so much easier to maintain. And until now, who knew?

With Fall comes Thanksgiving and beautiful wreaths, planters filled with mums and other hearty plants, autumn colors replacing the summer decor.  Fall is my favorite season and I always make an effort to replace my petunias with mums. But they always seem to die a few weeks after planting.. and my porch seems woefully inadequate. Enter, the artificial plants and a few colorful new sprigs. Voila!

And then, the mother lode.. Christmas. It’s all so beautiful.. and to me, seemingly unattainable. This year, we traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday. Not only that, we recently acquired a new puppy (see previous blog) and with that, all the puppy related house adjustments.. crates, playpen, dog bones and toys strewn throughout. My house was just not.. itself.

Not to mention that last year we traveled over Christmas and I didn’t put up a tree, and in the months that followed, I completely redecorated my family room and the area we usually put the tree in was now occupied with a brand new seating arrangement.

So when December 1st arrived, I realized I had no Christmas decor out, no plan for where my tree would go and was starting to panic. Self judgement set in. Why aren’t I in full decorating mode? Why don’t I have christmas china on display, or shouldn’t I have multiple trees set up or beautiful wreaths on my garage and light posts? In addition to my job, my exercise classes, my new puppy and said trip, I felt just a tad overwhelmed.I was starting to feel decor anxiety and I didn’t like it. What to do?

Then sanity kicked in. In the form of a good friend who also happens to have a beautifully decorated home. Always. She sensed that I was overwhelmed (okay I may have said those actual words) and she reminded me that every Christmas doesn’t have to be a full fledged affair. That it’s okay to do less. That  maybe a few strategically placed items can look festive and there’s nothing wrong with a smaller, puppy friendly tree.

And I took her words to heart. Because thats what good friend do. They calm you down. They tell you that you don’t have to be good at everything and yet, you are still enough! Okay, maybe I extrapolated that, but you get the gist of it.

A few days later,  I felt energized. I trekked down the basement stairs and selected some of my favorite decorations from our storage area (along with my holiday planter filler) and got to work. I decided to buy a smaller artificial tree and designate a cozy corner for it. I selected some beautiful scented holiday candles.

I reminded myself that it’s not the decor thats important. It’s the warmth of the home, the people (and yes, the puppies) you love.

And as I so often like to say (and frequently need to remind myself) life is not about comparisons and competition. My home does not need to look I’ve spent weeks painstakingly placing garland or trimming the tree. Some years, that happens. Some years, not so much.

If you are one of those people who absolutely loves decorating for the holidays, I salute you! And when I visit friend’s homes that are beautifully decorated, it will be with joyful appreciation for their talents and efforts.

I haven’t even touched on Christmas shopping and presents,  but I also feel that “less is more”. Maybe its because my children are grown and it’s not about toys and Santa anymore, but maybe it’s also about not needing more “stuff” and trying to celebrate the true reason for the season.

The holidays shouldn’t be about adding stress or going into financial debt. Or impressing your neighbors or friends. This holiday season, my goal is to spend time with and appreciate my amazing circle of friends and family.

I also try reach out and help others who are struggling or feeling lonely. Some years, we buy gifts for a needy family. Or donate to a food pantry. Or ask someone who seems down to go to coffee and truly listen to them. There are so many ways to help. And inevitably, helping others lifts my spirits.

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on Christmas. What are your favorite traditions? Are you a minimalist or do you love to make a big splash with your decor? Does finding the perfect gifts stress you out? What puts you in the holiday spirit?

A very blessed holiday season to you and yours. And don’t forget to make time for yourself and just breathe!

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