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Decorating for the Holidays. Why or Why Not?

decorating for the holidays - fall

The holiday season is upon us.  October has Halloween. November has Thanksgiving. December has Hanukkah and Christmas. Decorations start popping up everywhere – in stores, along downtown streets, in the Botanical Gardens, and in yards. How much decorating for the holidays, if any, do you plan to do? 

When my children were young, I decorated for every season and holiday. Macramé skeleton anyone? Now, not so much. 

Why do people decorate for the holidays? 

1. Family Tradition

They’ve always done it.  Every year a family that I know gathers at Thanksgiving and makes an ornament that expresses something they are thankful for in the past year. Then this ornament goes back to their own homes and is displayed. Personally, I can’t imagine Christmas without a tree and stockings. 

 2. It evokes memories 

As you handle old decorations you remember their origins.  This ornament came from mother’s tree and this one came from our trip to Italy. While I don’t hang it, I still have my Christmas stocking from when I was little. I can remember some of the sweet surprises that were hidden in its toe.  

 3. It gives you happiness and joy 

There is nothing better than that first cup of coffee or tea in the living room while it is still dark outside with the tree lit. Or for me, getting up in the morning and looking out my bedroom window and seeing the lights decorating the shed house in our back yard. These past two years people are especially longing for happiness and joy. Many people have had grief and loss and they are looking for comfort and even healing. The upcoming holidays gives us something to look forward to. 

 4. It makes others happy 

Small children and even the older folks in your neighborhood look forward to yard holiday decorations from Halloween through Christmas when they are taking their walks. I keep the holiday lights lit all night so that when the school busses roll by in the early morning, they can see them.  I hope that someone gets a lift.  Even if you are not over the moon about decorating for the holidays there may be someone in your home that does love the décor. I always love the look on a small child’s face when they see the lights and decorations going up. The same may be true for someone elderly. 

 5. It is a backdrop for entertaining   

As humans we are social beings that like to entertain at times. Decorating for the holidays makes get togethers more festive and more welcoming.  

 6. It is something you can control 

 So much has happened this year that is not in your control.  You do have the control to make your home your refuge. If you can make your home a holiday wonderland it can give you a feeling of control that has been missing.  

 Why do people not decorate? 

1. It adds to the clutter

Some people have spent months clearing their living space. The idea of putting things out just for a holiday seems overwhelming this year. The very thought of going up into the attic and pulling down decorations that will then have to be put back away after the holidays is just too much. 

 2. They are not going to be home 

If people are traveling for the holidays and especially if they are single, they don’t really feel like going to the bother of decorating for the holidays. Maybe a wreath on the door and they are done. They will enjoy other people’s decorations instead. 

 3. It makes them sad because they are grieving a loss 

For some people, the holidays are a dark time. The holidays may evoke difficult childhoods or they are grieving the loss of a loved one. If decorating triggers stressful memories, then it may not be beneficial. Even if people have normally enjoyed the holiday decorations, this might be a year to skip. If decorations spark sadness instead of joy, why do it? 

Decorating for the holidays does not have to be all out or not at all. Think of it as make-up. It is something that is not essential but depends on your taste. A few choice pieces might be all you want to do this year. Consider lighting a scented candle that reminds you of holiday’s past. Put out a real tree or decorate with some live pine branches to get that holiday smell.  

The most important thing is to do what feels good for you. Whether it is an all-out decorating blitz, avoiding it altogether, or somewhere in between. Get in touch with your “why” and then act accordingly. 

Enjoy this holiday season in your own way. 

If planning for the holidays seems overwhelming or you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward on any other organizing project, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group. 

 Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients. 






  • Julie Stobbe says:

    I encourage a lot of my clients to decorate using larger objects like a tablecloth or plant so it spaces feels decorated but doesn’t take a lot of time to get things out and put things away. I suggest they keep only a few smaller important items. You don’t want decorating to become something that dread. Thanks for listing so many reasons to decorate and not to decorate so people can be intentional about their decision.

    • Julie, thank you for your response. I like your idea of using just a few focal items instead of making the task overwhelming. People should decorate because of the pleasure it gives them. It’s important to know your why.

  • I’m not much of a holiday decorator. I might have a few festive things out if we have guests, but we generally keep it simple. However, I do enjoy seeing other people’s lights and decorations. Some of my clients LOVE decorating, and they have attics and basements filled with seasonal items. It’s great until it’s not. The chore of taking things out and putting them away can get overwhelming. And when that happens, the joy gets depleted from the idea. So finding a balance between what’s doable and enjoyable is good to keep in mind.

    • Julie, thank you for your response. I like your idea of using just a few focal items instead of making the task overwhelming. People should decorate because of the pleasure it gives them. It’s important to know your why.
      Thanks for your comment, Linda. I decorate minimally except for Christmas when I do put out a lot. I especially enjoy my tree. Every ornament on my tree has a memory. I also enjoy my outside lights. I don’t have a ton but I enjoy what I do put out.

  • I love decorating for the holidays, but as the kids are adults now, I am increasingly making the interior of my house less cluttered with less small items. I also do not like that the cleaning service doesn’t pick up the holiday decorations so the home gets dustier quicker when we decorate a lot.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    I am a big holiday decorator. I have boxes of decorations, and not only for Christmas. I just finished putting out my Halloween decorations, and I am one of those people for whom decorating makes me truly happy. I just love the whole process. That said, when we go away for Christmas, we do tend to do less… no need to buy a fresh tree if we aren’t going to be here to enjoy it!

  • The holidays are my favorite and always have been. From the time holiday music streams through the radio stations, starting in October, recently, that happy feeling comes over me.

    I don’t decorate, I’m not so crafty, but I love looking at all the homes light up with decoration. When my kids were small we used to drive through the neighborhood, a tradition, and ooh and ah over the homes.

    I really liked what you said, to enjoy this holiday season in your own way. Family, friends, traditions, celebrations, whatever it takes to bring on that good cheer!

  • Another reason some people might not feel like decorating is that they have lost energy or mobility and don’t have help to take out decorations and put them away like they used to. I like the suggestions of others to choose a few simple things. I usually do more for Christmas, but there have been years where I hung a lighted wreath on the front gate (to convey good cheer to my neighborhood) and that was it.

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    As a confirmed non-decorator, you made some compelling arguments for starting. I hadn’t really thought about how much joy decorations could give to passersby. I may put my toes in the water this time around!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    Great post, as so many people feel obligated to decorate (even if they lack the resources) and feel they’re somehow lacking if they don’t manage to do it. For those for whom those “pro” concepts exist, even those not experiencing the “cons,” not decorating can be a fraught experience.

    There are so many other reasons why people don’t decorate. Some are the flip side of the “pro” concepts; for them, it’s not a family tradition, it doesn’t evoke memories (or at least, it doesn’t evoke happy memories), they don’t entertain so they don’t need a backdrop. But also, decorating takes a lot of physical effort, mental effort, and sometimes, financial resources, and not everyone has the bandwidth or money to do something they’re only going to undo a few weeks later. Related to the latter part is the commercialization of the holidays and some of us have no desire to contribute to that.

    But also, there’s this monolithic expectation of participation in Christianity each December, and for those of us who aren’t Christian, we generally don’t develop an interest or affection for decorating for other holidays as a result of not participating in this biggie. (You’ll note that options for Hanukkah decorations, especially store-bought are far more limited, and people who are Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Bahai, and other faiths (or those with no religious faith) similarly have to decide whether they want to contribute to decorating for the NON-religious aspects of a religious holiday they don’t celebrate. It can feel disingenuous or even unsavory to celebrate only the social aspects of someone else’s faith.)

    So, if you’re not into putting forth physical and mental effort (and money) for decorating for the biggest, most-attention getting holidays, you’re probably not going to be inclined to do it for welcoming The Great Pumpkin or doing more than setting a nice table for Thanksgiving. Me? I’m happy enough that other people are enjoying their decorations without me having to lift a finger. 😉

  • Ben Hocking says:

    As my oldest is now 3 and appreciating the holidays more, we fund the best way to decorate is with his crafts. I know as my two children get olde, they’ll be less interested in crafts, but hopefully we get to enjoy this for ten years or more.

    Many of our neighbors spring for more elaborate decorations, including inflatables. My son loves these, but we wouldn’t want to have to store these, so we just take walks through the neighborhood and appreciate our neighbors’ decorations. This feels like a nice balance.

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