I know some people get completely into the holiday decorating thing, and if you are one of them, you are probably not going to want to read this post. All the work associated with decorating for Christmas is not my idea of a good time. However, I do have grandchildren, and I do want DD’s house to be a festive place for them to go during the holidays, so I continue to put up a tree and a few other decorative pieces every year. You may have noted in my writing that I am a very practical person, and so I am always looking for ways to be as efficient and effective as possible—even in all things “Christmas” (does that take all the fun out of it for you?).
Steve and I built our house in 2005. That was a time of “new beginnings” in many ways—new house, new address, some new furniture, new view, and when Christmas rolled around, new tree. We have a “great room” living area. What that means is there are no walls between our kitchen, dining, living and entry areas. I love the openness, but that kind of arrangement means there are only four corners to work with (which is where a tree goes, right?), and all my corners are spoken for. Thus, I had to come up with some creative alternatives that first Christmas.
Since I was going to have to buy a tree anyway, I decided I was going to get the one that would be the least amount of work and the lowest maintenance possible. I analyzed exactly what it was that made putting up a tree so ‘not fun’ for me. First of all, hauling a big box out of storage was quite cumbersome. Then finding all the boxes with the decorations and hauling them out was several additional trips. Follow all that fun up with spending an hour or so hanging lights, garland and all the ornaments. Like I said, it was just a lot of work only to tear it all down again in a few days, box it back up and haul it back into storage.
I went to Hobby Lobby, my décor store of choice. I had seen the pre-lit Christmas trees (the ones where the lights are already on them), and that was definitely on my wish list. Other than that, I only knew it had to fit in my house. Given the lack of corners, the only place I could see it going was in my entry. Fortunately, I have a good-sized entry, and I could place the tree against the stairwell, but because it would be in the entry, it was going to have to be a small tree to keep from obstructing traffic.
Once in the store, I was immediately drawn to a tall, skinny, whimsical-looking pre-lit tree. I believe it was called a Canadian Pine. This was my dream tree—pre-lit and skinny. I got the tree home, put it together, hung my old decorations on it and stood back and enjoyed. It brought a smile to my face. (By the way, my decorations are old because of the sentiment attached to them. When my kids were little, we made a bunch of ornaments one Christmas—a very special memory. I still treasure those ornaments. After that, I added to my collection any ornaments the kids made in school—regardless of how “artistic” they were. Add a few ornaments that I have received as gifts over the years, and that makes up my collection.)
Back to the idea of simplifying Christmas decorating. My Canadian Pine pre-lit tree was the perfect solution for my house. The style made me smile (“whimsical” is an accurate description); it fit perfectly with my simplistic personality. The size was right; it took up very little space in the entry. It was pre-lit, and thus simplified the decorating chore. If only it were pre-decorated, I thought. Then it would really be perfect.
That thought sparked something. I stood back and looked at the tree from my ‘practical perspective’ (as opposed to my ‘style perspective’) and thought that I may have had a Eureka! moment. Fast-forward several days to post-Christmas. I wrestle the big tree box back into the living room to begin the dismantling process, when I remembered my Eureka! possibility. Like a Christmas elf on a mission, I started gathering up materials—large trash bags, scissors, duct tape. I unplugged the lights and wrapped the cord around the trunk; other than that, I left all the decorations in place. Then I created a tree cover with two trash bags and duct tape (this cover, as you might guess, was to keep the tree dust-free). I had to solicit my husband’s assistance to get the tree back into the attic (we have a walk-in attic). I followed behind him expecting to have to gather up falling ornaments—but was pleasantly surprised when that was not necessary! He stood the garbage-bag-covered tree against the wall, and that’s where it stayed until the following Christmas.
A year later, he carried the tree back downstairs, and this, I knew, was the real moment of truth. Was my plan too good to be true?
For the unveiling, I simply cut the bags off instead of pulling them off like a garment (garbage bags are cheap!). In moments, I stood back and admired my fully decorated, pre-lit, skinny Christmas tree! I have never gone back! This is Christmas-tree decorating at its simplest!
A Few Pointers
If you are considering trying my simplified approach, I have a couple of suggestions. First of all, you will note in the picture that my tree, though skinny, is tall. If it weren’t so tall, I wouldn’t have needed Steve’s help. In fact, I did bring it down from the attic myself the first year, but it was difficult (heavier than it looks). My point is, if you want to simplify the process even more, get a smaller tree.
I’m not sure how simple the trash bag cover would accommodate the standard style of tree. I’m sure you could make it work by cutting up trash bags and taping them together, but the time that would take defeats the idea of keeping it simple. Also, It would be difficult to carry a full-size, standard-shaped tree.
Finally, if you think that Steve carried this tree down very gingerly, being careful not to dislodge any ornaments, let me assure you that was not the case. He didn’t even hold it upright. It was more like he tucked it under his arm horizontally and pointed it in the direction he wanted to go. This kind of treatment is possible without losing all the ornaments because I hung them further back then normal on the branches; they are not hung on the tips. I’ve done this for years because of curious little hands! Also, most of my ornaments are not breakable. Someone who uses fragile, costly ornaments wouldn’t want to consider my pre-decorated-tree idea. And it goes without saying that those same people would not want “whimsical” to describe their tree.
This idea is very accommodating to people with limited space and for people like me who only decorate a tree for the grandchildren or simply to put up a tree with no aspirations of winning any contests. For young families, decorating the tree is often part of the fun. To you, I say “Go for it and enjoy!” To those who are looking for simplicity, this is an alternative that may make you say, “Ho, ho, ho! It’s done!”
Here’s what the tree looks like ‘fully clothed’ in garbage bags (kind of scary!). These are huge garbage bags, the kind people use when raking leaves. It’s the ones we had on hand last year. I’ve used the smaller, thinner, cheaper—but large—garbage bags, too. They work just as well.
I am sharing the picture to the right so you can see what the tree looks like immediately after removing the cover. This indentation is, no doubt, where Steve had it stuffed under his arm. Not a big deal, though. I spent five minutes turning ornaments around, “fluffing up” the branches, and voila…
I’d really love to hear your ideas and methods for simplifying the holidays. Please leave a comment!