18 Holiday Decorating Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

These holiday decorating mistakes can make your home look sloppy, waste energy, and even put your home and family in danger.

You think it's all about red and green

iStock/Trevor-Smith

Just because red and green are the go-to color palette of Christmas doesn’t mean your holiday decorations need to follow suit. “One big mistake is forcing red and green. It’s not necessary at all! Coordinate your holiday accessories around your home’s day-to-day décor,” says Jacquin Milhouse-Headen, owner and editor of Interiors by Jacquin. For example, you could use your main color scheme (teal, purple, maroon) as a base and accent it with metallic holiday-themed items in gold or silver. “I’ve seen beautiful garland in every shade,” she says.

You put your Christmas tree in the wrong place

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If you go through all the trouble of cutting down and decorating a Christmas tree, it should be the star of the room. That means a little furniture rearrangement is worth it to find the perfect place to stand your tree, ideally in a visible corner or against a main wall where it immediately draws your eye. And be mindful of what’s around it; make sure it’s far away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, and anything else that could cause it to catch fire. These habits and items can make your house a surprising fire hazard.

Avoid cookie cutter decor

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If you’re looking for a unique way to deck out your home this holiday season, consider homemade bead garlands instead of your go-to Santa figurines and tinsel. “Locally owned bead shops are in every city if you know where to look and they can help you avoid the stale holiday feel,” says Milhouse-Headen. “You can find beautiful beads like metallic and wood and create a set of ornaments or garland.”

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You leave the lights on all night

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Leaving your string lights or window candles shining all night can be a huge energy suck, especially since nobody is awake to appreciate them. Outdoor lights left on overnight can also be bothersome to close neighbors trying to sleep. Set a reminder to turn off all your decorative lights before you hit the sack, and try not to turn them on until darkness falls.

You overdo it

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You don’t need to display every single holiday decoration you’ve accumulated over the years. Instead of being a sentimental look back in time, it’ll just end up making your home look sloppy and cluttered. “Try to choose three to four holiday elements per room. That way they’ll really stand out and wont be overwhelming,” says Milhouse-Headen.

You forget about the kids

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It might seem impossible to forget about your little one this holiday season, but when it comes to decorating it’s easy to overlook hidden hazards. If your child is at the age where they grab everything in sight, avoid hanging ornaments from the lower tree branches they can reach; this will prevent breakage and make it harder for them to find small parts (like those sharp metal hooks) to shove in their mouths. Trim any low-hanging branches that stick out at their eye level to avoid accidental eye pokes, and hang the lights out of reach so they can’t get tangled (or yank your whole tree down).

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You don't get creative with wreaths

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Wreaths can be so much more than a ring of artificial green pine boughs. Buy or DIY a wreath made of real pine boughs (bonus: that Christmas tree scent!) or woven bare branches; then accent it with a pretty bow, ribbons that match your main décor shade, or pinecones. “Don’t forget about fresh elements!” says Milhouse-Headen. Here's how to DIY your own cinnamon-scented pine cones.

You decorate only the living room

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You don’t have to go all out in every room of the house, but adding a holiday touch to other rooms in your home can spread Christmas cheer beyond the tree. Place a seasonal candle or holiday scented soap in the bathroom, and tasteful wreaths or garland in the kitchen.

Your lawn is covered in decorations

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Too many inflatable snowmen or Santas, light up reindeer, an elaborate nativity scene, plus a house draped in twinkle lights can throw passerby into sensory overload and make it difficult to appreciate any of them. Stick to the indoor rule of three to four decorations, or settle for a more classic look with a beautiful wreath or big red bow on the door and fake candles in each window.

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Your decorating timetable is off

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Even if Christmas is your favorite time of year, try to be patient. “I think a foolproof rule is to let Thanksgiving pass and then start decorating,” says Milhouse-Headen. “Remove everything by the end of the first week of January. You’re bringing in the New Year and it’s the perfect excuse to take down last year’s decorations and maybe even incorporate some fresh décor.”

Your holiday plants are poisonous

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Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are the quintessential plants of the holiday season, but place them with care. These festive plants can be harmful and even poisonous to pets and children if eaten. Position them in places only adults can reach.

December is the first time you think about decorating

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Even though it’s not time to decorate until December, thinking about it throughout the year can help you add a more personal touch to the holiday season. “Pick up special ornaments or memorable items on vacation and fit them into your holiday themed décor,” says Milhouse-Headen. Here's what organized people do every holiday season (that you might not).

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You don't let the kids help

iStock/AleksandarNakic

If your decorating style is family-oriented, don’t forget to let the kids get involved. Hang their holiday artwork on the fridge or cut out paper snowflakes for their bedroom windows. Make homemade dough ornaments they can decorate with paint and glitter and then hang on the tree themselves. Or let them choose their favorite ornaments from storage so they feel included. Your kids will love making these easy Christmas ornaments.

You buy your all of decorations at the dollar store

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You can create a sophisticated holiday look without breaking the bank, but you don’t need to get everything at the dollar store to achieve it. “I wouldn’t suggest buying décor at a party supply store or dollar store. Those materials, colors, and patterns tend to look a little cheap,” says Milhouse-Headen. Check out the home goods section at discount stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, or the Christmas Tree Shop, browse art supply stores like Michael’s, or choose stylish items from Target.

You don't replace your string lights

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Your twinkle lights can become a fire hazard if you don’t inspect them before hanging. If you notice exposed or frayed wires, it’s time to buy a new set.

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You don't make a decorating list

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A decorating list is just as useful as a grocery or packing one. “Make notes on your space before heading out to shop. This way you’ll know how much you can fit. Jot down the main color scheme so you don’t buy items that clash and brainstorm what you think you want to fill your space with,” says Milhouse-Headen. “It’ll keep you from getting distracted and allow your eye to find the things that are actually appropriate. It’s easy to think everything looks great when you have no direction.”

You hide your Christmas cards

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Put that pile of well wishes to good use by incorporating Christmas cards into your décor. Display or frame picturesque cards, or hang all of them around the doorway to your office or kitchen to form a festive border.

You forget about music

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Holiday décor is about the entire experience, not just what you see. Play holiday music while you’re decorating and when you have guests over, even if it’s a casual get together. It’ll get people in the spirit and make your home truly feel like a winter wonderland.

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