How to fix the 6 most common Christmas decorating problems – according to experts

Avoid damaging your home and decor this season with these expert solutions to common decorating hangups

Christmas decor
(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Decorating for Christmas can be incredibly stressful at times – especially when it comes to trying to decorate without damaging walls, using nails, or ruining your decor itself. 

Whether you go all out with your Christmas decor or just stick to a Christmas tree, a few common problems make decorating for Christmas more overwhelming than it needs to be. 

This is how the experts tackle even the smallest of decorating pain points to make their homes cozy for Christmas without feeling overwhelmed.  

Christmas decorating problems

Solving these common Christmas decorating problems is one of the major steps to avoiding common holiday decorating mistakes for a scheme you can’t wait to show off to guests.  

1. Hanging wall decor without damage

Christmas garland on window

(Image credit: Anthropologie)

Whether you're hanging up your Christmas garlands or adorning your walls with Christmas wreaths, trying to avoid using nails that will leave marks for the best of the year can seem impossible.

However, Sarah Klingman, founder, CEO, and event expert at Gather Event Planning, has three mess-free alternatives she wouldn’t decorate for Christmas without:

‘Firstly, of course, are adhesive hooks and strips,’ she begins. ‘These are ideal for hanging wreaths, stockings, and lightweight ornaments. Ensure the wall surface is clean and dry before applying,’ she says. ‘For areas where minimal puncture is acceptable, clear thumb tacks can discreetly hang light decorations without being too noticeable.’

If you can’t risk leaving any mark at all, then you can also try the ‘no-nails’ Christmas garland hack for doorways, she adds, ‘Tension rods can be used in window frames or doorways to hang festive curtains, garlands, or lights without any drilling.’ 

Command hooks | View at Amazon

Command hooks | View at Amazon
Perfect for holding up to 3lb of weight, these hooks are idea for jackets when you can't (or simply don't want to) use nails or screws. 

Sarah Klingman
Sarah Klingman

Gather is an event planning service offering a stress-free solution for busy individuals. Sarah founded Gather with the dream of democratizing event support for the DIY host.

2. Decorating banisters without scratching them

entrance hall with Christmas tree, garland on the stairs, metal stairs, rug, bench with baskets of presents

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

You can’t craft a statement Christmas hallway without standout Christmas stair decor – and that means inundating your banisters with garlands and Christmas foliage.

If you have wooden banisters, however, any tied-on additions can result in unsightly scratches. The solution? Using a subtle barrier, suggests Emily Piepenbrink, Christmas decorating expert and founder of Made Merry:

‘To keep your banisters from getting scratched up by wired garlands, lay small squares of wax paper and dryer sheets between the wired garland and the surface,’ she suggests. ‘You'll be able to hide the sheets, but they'll provide a barrier to protect your wood from scratches.’

Emily Piepenbrink
Emily Piepenbrink

Emily loves all things Christmas. She has been hired by interior designers to decorate clients’ homes for Christmas, had holiday designs and photoshoots published in magazines, and even produced art for Christmas cards. She creates for Christmas year-round.

3. Decorating a mantel without fire risks

Mantelpiece dressed for Christmas

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

A fully decked-out Christmas mantle is the epitome of Christmas spirit, but if you have the luxury of a real fire, it can be tricky to decorate without posing a huge fire risk. 

‘Always keep flammable materials like paper or fabric away from the fireplace opening, instead opting for non-flammable decor such as metal ornaments, ceramic figurines, or glass vases,’ urges Sarah Klingman, event planner.

‘Instead of traditional candles, use LED candles on the mantel. They offer a similar warm glow without the fire risk, and ensure that any hanging stockings or garlands are securely fastened and don’t overhang or fall into the fireplace.’

LED Taper Candles | View at Amazon

LED Taper Candles | View at Amazon
If live flames aren't for you, or you have young children or pets, these LED taper candles are perfect to create a soft glow without the fire risk. 

4. Hanging outdoor lighting without damaging gutters

Front porch decorated with christmas lights and decor

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

If you like to go all out during the holidays and add some outdoor Christmas decor to your home then you will know the pain of juggling lights, nails, and a ladder, shares Dara Greaney, CEO and founder of LED Light Expert. To make the process simpler, he suggests affixing hooks to avoid needing a hammer and make securing your lights safer:

‘When hanging Christmas lights, I prefer to avoid gutters as you can go directly into wood. Use stainless steel hooks to attach the lights to the wood trim or siding of your house. Stainless steel hooks are durable, reusable, and rust-resistant, unlike cheap plastic or metal hooks that can break or corrode over time. 

‘Space the hooks evenly along the edge of your roof, about three to four feet apart. This will ensure that the lights are straight and not sagging or drooping. You can use a tape measure or a string to mark the distance between the hooks before you install them.

‘Avoid using staples, nails, or screws to hang the lights. These methods can damage your wood trim or siding, create holes that can let water in, and look unsightly after you remove the lights. They can also pose a fire hazard if they puncture the wires of the lights.’

5. Elevating a short Christmas tree

classic christmas tree in modern living room with white lights

(Image credit: Future, Chris Everard)

If you try to choose a Christmas tree that perfectly fits your home and come up a little short, there is no need to despair, assures Emily Piepenbrink, Christmas decorator. More often than not, you can make a Christmas tree look taller by boosting it with a small platform made of stacked lumber, or even a few sturdy books if you’re in a pinch,’ she explains.

Be sure to hide your temporary solutions inside a tree collar for a seamless adjustment. 

Woven Christmas Tree Collar | View at Amazon

Woven Christmas Tree Collar | View at Amazon
This woven tree collar is perfect for concealing any tree base to give your tree the illusion of extra  height. 

6. Hanging door wreaths without them being damaged by weather

Christmas door decor with wreath and garland around the door frame, antique rug, baskets and a pot full of poinsettia

(Image credit: Nicole Yee Interiors/SEN Creative)

A Christmas wreath hanging on the front door is the best way to finish off your holiday decorating. However, if you live somewhere with windy or unpredictable weather, it can leave them looking a little worse for wear by the end of the first week – a result we hope to avoid, especially if you make Christmas wreaths by hand. 

You have two options to protect your wreath, shares Jacky Chou, principal designer and director at Archute. ‘To protect your wreaths from the elements, you can use a clear plastic bag or a garbage bag to cover them when not in use, or you can also spray them with a protective coating or a hairspray to make them more durable.’

When hanging them on your door, use a secure hook, ribbon, or even a zip tie to ensure it stays firmly in place.

Principal and Director at Archute
Jacky Chou
Principal and Director at Archute
Jacky Chou

Jacky Chou is the Principal and Director at Archute, an editorial magazine about architecture, home and garden. They have been referenced by The New York Times, Bustle, House & Home, Bloomberg, and Angi. Jacky also his own an online interior design company as well called Laurel & Wolf.


What are the hazards of Christmas decorating?

Although decorating for Christmas is fun, there are several mistakes we might be making that can be hazardous to your home. For instance, placing too many candles too close together, or to other flammable decorations, hanging stockings over a working fireplace, not securing your Christmas tree in a sturdy stand, or using the wrong lights on a real tree (possibly resulting in a fire as the tree dried out), to name a few.  

Where do I start with Christmas decor?

When decorating for Christmas, it is a good idea to start with whatever decor piece is your favorite. Not only does this help you to get into the festive spirit, but it is the piece you will see for the longest over the holiday period, so you don’t want it to be something you will quickly grow tired of. This might mean starting with your tree, outdoor lights, or even festive window scenes.

When packing away your decor, be sure to pack this item away last so that it is at the front of your storage ready to pull out first again next year. This makes decorating far easier and less messy.  

Trying to decorate for Christmas without feeling overwhelmed can seem like an uphill battle some years, but by enlisting help and trying some of these easy fixes for common Christmas decorating problems, your house should be holiday-ready in no time. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.