While most people hit the stores on Black Friday, I have my own after-Thanksgiving tradition: decorating for Christmas. For me, the long weekend is the ideal time to drag out the boxes of decorations and take my time going through and sorting them, then using them to make our home a festive wonderland of lights, garland, and ribbon.
My first order of business is downsizing. I can't seem to resist the glittering ornaments in the stores as I do my holiday shopping, so in order to keep my decorations manageable, I have to purge each year and discard the things I no longer use. A few years ago, things reached a point where we were buried under bins (nearly 30!) of Christmas decorations. Since then, I'm following the old rule: for every new item, one old item must go.
Since storage space is coveted in apartments, a bin or two is probably all you'll want for holiday decorations. A great way to "fill in" is with crafts. They are cheap, fun to make, and (best of all) disposable if you decide you don't have space to store them. For items you won't feel bad about discarding after Christmas, think nature – branches, cranberries, poinsettias, and pinecones.
Collect pinecones and fallen branches on your next nature walk. Roll the pinecones in glue and sprinkle them with glitter or paint them. Spay-paint the branches (anything goes – if you like trendy, paint it neon green or hot pink. If you like elegant, go with silver. Prefer classic? White is ideal). You can set a branch upright in a clay pot and secure it with floral foam and hang ornaments on it, or you can lay it on your dining room table and add candles in hurricane lamps on either end and scatter some ornaments around it to make a centerpiece. Cranberries and popcorn can be strung and used as garland on your tree. Place a pillar candle in a vase and fill in around the candle with cranberries.
A quick trip to the local craft store will provide you with plenty of easy do-it-yourself craft ideas. Buy some Styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes, spray paint them and roll them in glitter. Add ribbon to the top and hang them on your tree or in a doorway. Find items that are typically not considered "holiday" – such as the wooden birdhouses – and attach them to a wreath or hang them from your tree. Painted in cheery colors, they suddenly become rustic and beautiful holiday décor.
If you have children, be sure to get them in on the fun. One of my most cherished Christmas decorations isn't something I purchased or made myself – it is a tiny, ceramic bear wearing a Santa hat that my son painted when he was about three years old. I remember buying this one afternoon at the craft store – it was less than $2, and I thought it would be fun to let him paint it while I painted the ceramic houses I was adding to my Christmas village. He chose purple for the bear, red for the hat, and black for the eyes. It is messy, haphazardly painted, and slightly off-kilter since the paint dripped and ran in various places. And it has a very special place on the tree, since the memory of him painting it, the table, and himself makes me smile every time I look at it.
You don't have to be artistic to craft your own decorations. Even if you just roll pinecones in glitter and put them in a glass container, it will bring some holiday cheer to your apartment, it's fun, and after the holidays you can throw them out and make more next year.