How to decorate for Christmas without feeling overwhelmed – 6 steps to stress-free decorating

Save the stress this season with these decorating tips to avoid being overwhelmed

A real Christmas Tree in the corner of a white living room decorated with paper baubles
(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Decorating for Christmas is always portrayed as a joyful, relaxing event that helps to gather friends and family around the tree.

In reality, trying to tackle decorating every room while planning gifts, hosting, and Christmas dinners can easily become overwhelming, making you want to abandon your Christmas decor altogether.

Luckily, professional organizers and interior designers have plenty of practice in decorating for the holiday without feeling overwhelmed – perfect for setting the right tone for your restful Christmas celebrations.

How to decorate for Christmas without feeling overwhelmed

Taking things slowly and prioritizing rest this festive season is important this year more than ever, begins Erin Klawiter, interior designer and founder of Nifty Nest. 

‘So many of us are tired, the economy is rough, and we have post-Covid burnout,’ she says. ‘It’s ok to keep it simple and skip anything that makes you feel overwhelmed. When we take care of ourselves first, those around us benefit and the holiday season is about spending time with friends and family. They deserve the best version of us.

This doesn't mean you have to stick to a minimalist Christmas, though. Here is how to get the most out of the season without feeling overwhelmed.

Erin Klawiter
Erin Klawiter

Erin Klawiter has been in the interior design business for a long time and truly believes that everyone, no matter their budget, deserves a beautiful home. 

1. Don’t fall into the trap of decorating every room

Real tree siting in a living room

(Image credit: Chris Everard / Future)

Social media can be a great tool for inspiration, but it can also be a cause of stress – especially when you see beautifully decorated homes with every room made up for the season. ‘It’s the feeling of being in your home that your kids and guests remember most,’ Erin Klawiter, interior designer, reminds us. ‘Give yourself permission to spend your time enjoying the season vs being overwhelmed about how to decorate.’ 

Focus on your main gathering areas, such as your Christmas living room decor, and your Christmas kitchen decor, and put your energy into those for the most impact. 

2. It’s okay to leave some decor in the attic

Modern Christmas entryway with gold decorations and foliage

(Image credit: West Elm)

We often hear that if you don't use something, it should be decluttered. However, Phillip Hord, professional organizer and co-founder of Horderly, suggests purposefully leaving some decor behind and switching things up each year to help limit feeling overwhelmed by too much stuff:

‘If you have a lot of Christmas decor, remember that you don't have to put up every single item out every year. Try alternating each year on what you put up and try different things each time. The red and gold light bulbs this year and the green and white next year. The small snowman goes out this year but Santa is going to stay away this year.’

Phillip Hord

Horderly expert organizers have brought order into countless homes and offices. Their team has been carefully selected & extensively trained to bring the highest quality of organizing to every client.

3. Avoid spending more on unnecessary decor

Wreath in window with red bow

(Image credit: McGee & Co.)

You can easily make a house look cozy for Christmas without needing to spend hundreds of dollars on new decor every year. This will reduce the stress on your wallet, and your home storage while also giving you less to worry about when it comes to decorating, assures Erin Klawiter, interior designer. 

‘I love using inexpensive glass votives for candles all around the house and lighting them in the evenings. Simple fresh or faux garland on the mantle with some twinkly warm lights. No mantle? No problem – just hang a garland around a door frame, or place it on your dining room table and string it with battery-operated lights. 

‘Don’t feel like getting all of the ornaments from the attic? Adorn your tree with lights and just add ribbon to play into Christmas tree trends. Tie the ribbon on the ends of the branches and let the ends hang down for a look that is both elegant and festive.’ 

4. Stagger your decorating out

Christmas tree outdoors decorated with white ornaments in the snow

(Image credit: Getty Images / Anna Markina)

People have a lot of opinions about when to start decorating for Christmas, but the best time is whenever you feel like you have the energy – even if this means staggering your decorating to help take some of the immediate pressure off of getting your home ready for the season, suggests Millie Hurst, Solved section editor for Homes & Gardens. 

Start with your main rooms, such as your living room tree, then move on to the rest of your home. Even if you stop with just your Christmas tree in place, so long as you feel festive, that’s all that matters.

millie hurst news writer
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York. 

5. Focus on making your home cozy

living room with christmas tree and velvet sofa

(Image credit: Future)

Making a house look cozy is the best way to prioritize your wellness, especially if you are feeling the pressure of perfecting your Christmas decor. Instead of adding pressure, focus on the cozier aspects of your home such as layering and lighting to help make your home feel welcoming for your family and friends. 

‘Place church candles in hurricane jars on kitchen islands and add candlesticks and string lights to mantels or table settings to add a magical twinkle to late-night suppers in the kitchen. Mood lighting from integrated lights inside glass cabinets works just as well when creating a cozy kitchen with a romantic atmosphere,’ says Tom Howley, design director of the eponymous kitchen brand.

‘Add fluffy throws on benches, or scatter sumptuous cushions. Anything that’s impossibly soft and tactile will encourage you to cuddle up and relax this festive season.’

6. Stick to one theme

Christmas dining room with tree and festive table

(Image credit: PAUL MASSEY)

Decorating for Christmas without clutter is another great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season. To do this, avoid using more than one theme, sticking with traditional Christmas decor, quiet luxury Christmas decor, and so on, urges luxury florist Ronny Colbie.

‘Having the same theme run throughout your home and onto the table will add a tasteful touch for your family and guests,’ he begins. A great place to start is picking a Christmas tree theme, and decorating your home with similar colors and ornaments to tie everything back to your centerpiece.

‘Christmas tablescaping is tricky as one must create or purchase an arrangement that works among all the festive food platters,’ Ronie continues. ‘I believe that every good floral arrangement starts with the perfect vase or vessel. Choose a vase that suits your home's chosen Christmas colors and theme and work from there for simple yet effective Christmas table decor.’

Ronnie Colbie
Ronny Colbie

Canadian-born, Ronny started his floristry career working his way up as an events florist for a leading design studio in Downtown Toronto at the age of 17. After making the big move across the pond in 2012, Ronny worked as the Lead Floral Designer for the Soho House Group, creating stunning floral displays for the hotel, as well as wedding and event flowers at Babington House in Somerset and Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire. 


How do you subtly decorate for Christmas?

If you want to pare things back for your Christmas decor to prevent feeling overwhelmed or creating clutter, then you can choose a subtle decorating scheme. Work with minimalist pieces, focusing on the most important elements such as your Christmas tree and your table decor.

How do I decorate for Christmas for beginners?

If it is your first time picking out decor for Christmas, try to stick to one theme for a cohesive decorating scheme that will not look cluttered or cobbled together at the last minute. This could involve sticking to one color scheme throughout your home or using similar textures to help keep decorating simple yet impactful.

If you feel overwhelmed decorating for Christmas, then you might not think to spend time decluttering and cleaning your home – especially if you also find these tasks stressful. However, decluttering Christmas supplies before you try to put them up is a good way to limit what you are working with and help overcome decision fatigue, making decorating simpler.

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.