Sustainable Holiday Decorating

For many of us, the holidays can be an overwhelming time—not just personally, but with the sheer amount of stuff that is expected and pressed on us. I’ve always tried to cut back on the noise, now more than ever, and I start at home.

I love to get into the festive spirit as much as, and perhaps more than, the next person. That doesn’t mean spending a lot, or buying all new things each year. For me, creating a festive home leans heavily into tradition–using the same items again and again when you can, letting those pieces hold the memories for you. Here are some of the things that I do to decorate for the holidays, most of which were adopted from my mother and grandmothers.

Simple is best

Don’t let your decorations get drowned out! I see so many people with elaborate, expensive wreathes and you lose the sense of the wreath when it’s completely covered by other things. I favor a simple evergreen wreath and always tie a red or white bow around it. I’ve also seen beautiful wreathes that pick a coherent theme and don’t crowd the wreath, which looks very nice as well, like this beautiful one, which I photographed one year in Colonial Williamsburg.

A little garland goes a long way

Have a mantel and don’t know how to fill it? How about a banister? We used to wrap garlands around our banisters and lay them out on our mantelpiece, tied with red ribbons. It’s simple, elegant, and smells delicious.

Reusable Centerpieces

I’m a big fan of reusing things—I usually buy scented pine cones from a local shop and add them to a big punch bowl or basket. Sometimes I will wrap a small amount of garland or a ribbon around the bowl as well. I add two red Caspari candles for the finishing touch and there you have it! This will last the entire holiday season and, if properly stored, the pine cones can be used again.

Focus on meaning

We decorate our tree only with meaningful pieces to us. Whether they are old ornaments (from my family or my husband’s) or newer ones (gifts from friends, an ornament for each year of my child’s life), each ornament has a special meaning and is not merely a placeholder. A few years ago, I received two very special ornaments from my godmother—my grandmother gave them to her. While my godmother’s tree has all the same style of ornament (like the ones she gave me), our tree is always more diverse (you can see her tree here). Despite the lack of coherence in style of ornament, because our “theme” is sentimentality, everything goes together. That is what makes our tree perfect to me.

Decorate for your family (and not for Instagram)

Hand in hand with my previous point, decorate for yourself! If you have small children, more robust decorations are crucial. You don’t need to make everything so precious just for a photo on the grid—you are the one who is going to be enjoying it! Use the things that you love—even if it’s not cohesive in the sense that everything is monochromatic or in a certain pattern, it will be all the more meaningful to you.

The photo above is from the house in DC where I lived for five years after college! We had the best time decorating for the holidays.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *