How to decorate for Christmas without clutter – home organizers share tips for maintaining order

Christmas can sometimes be synonymous with clutter – here is how to keep calm this season

A large christmas tree in a cozily lit living room with a roaring fireplace
(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Christmas decor, no matter how pretty it is, usually contributes to household clutter. Whether we fill surfaces with pretty displays or leave storage boxes out in hallways, clutter seems inevitable. 

But does it have to be? Professional organizers suggest that nailing your home decorating routine can help you decorate for Christmas without clutter to keep your home festive and functional. 

This is how the pros keep the peace to help decorate for Christmas without getting overwhelmed.

How to decorate for Christmas without clutter

From anticipating common Christmas decorating problems to working one space at a time, there are plenty of ways to avoid clutter during the holiday season. 

These are a few of the expert’s favorites. 

Christmas decor by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

1. Start with decluttering and cleaning

You can’t avoid clutter without some pre-Christmas decluttering and cleaning, begins Marie Bateson, APDO's volunteer director and owner of Cut the Clutter. This will give you a fresh canvas to work with and make your decor (and any mess that comes off of it) a little less stressful:

‘Before you start to decorate for Christmas, have a good clean. Dust and polish so it looks clean and fresh when you trim it up. The only thing to leave till afterward is the vacuuming as decorations and the tree shed.’

Dr. Bronner Almond Pure-Castile Soap | View at Amazon

Dr. Bronner Almond Pure-Castile Soap | View at Amazon
I love how this soap smells so much like Marzipan. It is perfect for use as an all-purpose cleaner around my home for a festive fragrance that gets me a step closer to my home smelling like a bakery.

Marie Bateson
Marie Bateson

Marie is a proud member of APDO the association of professional declutterers and organisers and a member of the board. She is also a member of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) and trained to specialist level in Hoarding. 

2. Replace home decor, don’t add to it

Your home can only hold so much decor before it begins to burst. As a result, APDO's president and founder of Sorted! Siân Pelleschi, suggests changing out your regular decor for Christmas decor to avoid adding to the piles around your home:

‘Firstly it’s important that you consider this a swap rather than an embellishment on what you already have. When you’re decorating for Christmas I always suggest taking down those items you have out year-round. 

‘Consider this as an opportunity to change the gallery you have in your home,’ she suggests. ‘It also helps reduce that feeling of emptiness when it comes to packing your Christmas items away as you have something to replace them with.’

Framed Christmas Print Set | View at Wayfair

Framed Christmas Print Set | View at Wayfair
Make your home Christmassy without clutter by replacing your home art with festive alternatives like these traditional prints from Wayfair. 

Siân Pelleschi
Siân Pelleschi

Siân Pelleschi is a decluttering and organizing addict. Since starting her business, she has completed over 1000 appointments working with a diverse range of clients from those with young families, downsizing, and bereaved to the neurodiverse and those with hoarding behaviors.

3. Work with less

Christmas decor is one of those categories that tend to build up unnoticed over time until we have more decor than we know what to do with. Instead of putting it all out, Siân Pelleschi, a professional organizer, recommends decluttering some of it, or working with more minimalist Christmas decor ideas instead to maintain a good balance between festive and functional. 

‘Go for less to start with and then add as you see fit – remember that it is ok not to use every single bauble if your tree isn’t big enough.’

If you love all your pieces and don't want to declutter, Siân assures us that you don't have to: ‘Maybe you have different themes or styles you want to try each year, it’s a great opportunity to try new styles.’

4. Keep decor away from functional areas

It can be tempting to decorate every inch of your home to help get into the Christmas spirit, but that is a surefire way to make your decor impractical. When draping your home in Christmas wreaths, candles, and Christmas garlands, Jamie Hord, professional organizer and co-founder of Horderly urges you to keep them away from functional areas:

‘You want to "lightly sprinkle" Christmas decor throughout your house,’ he explains. ‘Avoid putting decor anywhere that is going to be in your way. If you use the stair banister to walk up and down the steps, avoid hanging decor here. If you have a small space, get a tree that fits the scale of that space so that you're not squeezing around it.’ 

It can also be a good idea to keep things like kitchen Christmas decor to a minimum to help make cleaning a kitchen and cooking Christmas dinner safer and easier. 

Jamie Hord professional organizer
Jamie Hord

Jamie is the co-founder of Horderly, a professional organizing company that brings order to countless homes and offices, from the most cluttered New York City apartments to some of the largest homes nationwide. The team's goal is to make their clients’ lives clutter-free, streamlined, and more functional.

5. Stay true to one style

Visual clutter is just as bad as physical clutter – especially at Christmas when we layer lots of decor and lights in one space. 

Jamie Hord, professional organizer, strongly recommends sticking to one Christmas tree theme and carrying it throughout your space to avoid visual clashes that make your space and your Christmas tree look cluttered.

One of the best ways to do this is to stay true to your style, he says. ‘Get rid of anything that no longer speaks to you and avoid purchasing too much new each year so only purchase things more along the lines of "need" or know if you have a spot for it, rather than impulse buying and unsure if you have the spot for it or not.’ 


How do you decorate for Christmas when you have no space?

When you are running low on space in your home and need to decorate for Christmas, consider using minimal decor with a big impact. For instance, choose a smaller or narrower tree, and decorate with hanging garlands around doors and windows to bulk out your Christmas foliage. It can also be helpful to replace existing home decor with Christmas-themed pieces, such as swapping out throw pillows or pictures and putting your normal pieces in your Christmas storage in the meantime. 

How do you declutter Christmas decorations?

When decorating for Christmas, declutter as you take pieces out of their boxes. When you come across a piece that doesn't instantly make you feel nostalgic or festive, or you have to think hard about where to put it, consider putting it in a donation pile. When taking your decor down again, pack away the pieces you loved looking at this year, and think about which decorations were more hassle in daily life – these are also good contenders for donation. 

Ultimately, when styling a home for Christmas, you want to strike a balance between keeping your home functional and making it look festive. If your mind can't rest when you look around your home, or cleaning your home has become impossible in December, you may have gone too far and it is a sign you need to cut back to avoid clutter.

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.