Christmas Decorating Checklist

A Checklist For a Perfect Christmas

Living Room, Entryway & Dining Christmas Decor

The Perfect Christmas Checklist

Whether you’re trimming the tree or decking the halls, depending on how hectic your life is, it can be easy to forget something. Consider this holiday checklist your go-to guide for your holiday décor. When you are prepared, you can embrace last-minute guests or parties without worry or concern. Prepare your home for the holidays with the help of this essential list.

Outdoor Decorating

1. String Christmas lights on the rooftop

Tip: Make sure to use plastic clips to attach lights to the shingles. They are a no damage no holes easy apply tool.

2. Add Christmas light netting to bushes

For best results, bushes should be of similar size and shape. Net lights give you quick, even holiday lighting for your yard.

3. Hang a wreath from the front & back doors

Better Homes & Gardens suggests inserting your family photos in lightweight picture frames. Then you can hot-glue the frames to an evergreen wreath.

4. String LED garland on the deck & porch

Look for pre-lit garland. It’s great indoors and out, pre-wired for easy installation and it’s easy to store away when the season is over.

5. Create ice lanterns with ferns & berries

You’ll probably want to use flameless tea lights or votive candles, or your ice lanterns won’t last very long. Use electrical tape to secure a smaller jar inside a large one. The smaller jar will be the space where your light source will be placed. The ferns can be placed inside the larger jar and the water will freeze around them.

Outdoor Christmas Decor with Wreath & Garlands

6. Display an outdoor sled vignette

Build depth by placing your vignette in front of a wall, house or landscape. It can get lost if the background isn’t ideal. Use an empty picture frame and hold it at distance to give yourself a better idea of the setting and context you’re trying to achieve.

7. Wait for a warmer, soggier day. Even though the candy canes often have metal spikes to stick into the ground, it’s not an easy chore when the ground is hard and/or frozen.

8. Wrap sheer ribbon around a pine garland and drape the garland around the mailbox. Wire bright berries to the top of the post, and finish with a big bow for holiday flourish.

9. Update window boxes with tree toppers & birch

Birch trees are works of art unto themselves and they can be used in many different ways. The striking detail in birch branches will stand out when illuminated by holiday lights.

10. Add light timers to save energy

String lights, especially with standard bulbs, use a lot of electricity. A timer will keep your outdoor lighting costs controlled. Use your savings to buy the kids a few more gifts.

Outdoor Candle Lantern Lighting

11. Light the walkways for safety and festive flair

If you’re using string lights, plug in each strand ahead of time to be sure the bulbs light up and the cords are solid. If the surface around the path is frozen, use a screwdriver and hammer to create a hole. Plan on leaving the anchor stakes in the ground until spring – even if you take off the lights.

12. Place Santa's sleigh on the roof

Make sure you anchor the sleigh down to the roof. Winter weather, especially wind, can send your sleigh flying way too early for Christmas. Anchor the display down with PVC pipe and sand bags. If you’re nervous about going on your roof, opt for an easy LED window display of Santa and his sleigh.

13. Put down a holiday doormat

Keep your home clean and full of holiday cheer with a cute door mat this season. Not only will a holiday themed door mat greet your guests as they enter, it also offers a great spot to stow wet winter boots.

14. Create birch log luminaries

We mentioned earlier how much we like birch. You can carve holes in these logs and place candles or tea lights inside. Obviously you’ll need a decent sized piece of birch for this kind of project.

Make Snowman with Colorful Scarves

15. Build a Snowman

Build a snowman (weather permitting)

Everyone knows how to make a snowman. Some snow is better for snowman construction. We’re dreaming of a “white Christmas” for sure.

16. Create a holiday scene with lawn figurines

Less is more with figurines, regardless of the season. One scene with a few characters is probably enough. Accent with other holiday lighting if you desire.

17. Power up with extension cords

You probably don’t have enough power outlets outside your home. Make sure your cords can withstand the snow and ice. You can also buy an extension safety seal.

18. Place urns with birch branches & tree tops by the front door

Consider these urns “bookends” for your door. One urn looks uneven, so add an urn to each side of the door for a balanced look.

Indoor Decorating

1. Fill a vase with Christmas decorations

Southern Living recommends using metallic spray paint to add a shimmery touch to pinecones, acorns, or round ornaments. Mixed metals are in this year. You’ll need a clear glass vase of course.

Place Christmas Gifts Near Colorful Pillows

2. Add holiday pillows to seating, beds

Make sure these pillows are soft and comfortable too. You’ll have a lot of guests over at this time of year, so chances are your guests will be getting up close and personal with the pillows. They aren’t just décor during the holidays. Also, use an odd number of pillows as it tends to be more artful.

3. Toss a holiday throw on your sofa

A throw is one of your more useful décor options because it can protect your sofa and keep you and your guests warm on those chilly winter days.

4. Use holiday linens (tablecloths, napkins, etc.)

If you have a nice wooden table, consider a runner instead of a tablecloth. The wood gives your home a traditional holiday feel, it’s easier to clean and there’s less of a chance kids will run by and yank it off by mistake.

Christmas Dining Tabletop Decor

5. Use holiday platters

Let’s face it, a whole lot of eating goes down on the holidays. Embrace it with serving trays that speak to the season. Or let the food do the talking and present your holiday meals on white plates and trays as if they are a canvas.

6. Display a nativity scene

Set up a table top vignette with a Nativity or holiday figurines.

7. Use or display wooden nutcrackers

Decorate your dining room hutch or sideboard with nutcrackers. These fun and often times silly figurines will bring smiles to your guests faces. While they can be used to actually crack nuts for snacking, they are also great as decorations to be admired.

8. Scatter fresh poinsettias throughout the home

Keep your poinsettias fresh throughout the season by keeping soil moist. Changing temperatures can also affect your plants, so keep them away from drafty doors and windows.

Hang Stockings From Fireplace Mantel

9. Hang stockings from the mantel

To avoid any damage to your mantel, use weighted stocking hangers. These hangers sit on the mantel and even add to the décor in a variety of styles and designs. But make sure they’re heavy enough to handle the stuffed stockings.

10. Create a Christmas card display

Some people outline their front door or fireplace with their Christmas cards. That works, but consider hanging a display from your staircase or on a string across the window, where natural illumination puts these thoughtful cards in the spotlight.

11. String lighting & garland on archways

Use command hooks to keep your archways looking clean. Or attach the hooks to the top of the border where no one can see it.

Decorate with Colorful Pendants & Ornaments

12. Hang bulbs or snowflakes from the ceiling

Hang objects that are on the lighter side so you can use tape or thumb tacks. These won’t show marks after they’re removed. The heavier the object, the heavier the equipment you’ll need and the worst case scenario is nailing a hole in the ceiling that will need patching.

13. Frost your windows (if they aren't already)

This is a good snow-day activity to do with your kids. They’ve probably made paper snowflakes in school. Or you could stencil frost onto the windows.

14. Add ribbons on the backs of dining chairs

Ribbons add pops of color while not altering or damaging the chair in any way. Make sure they’re tight enough they won’t fall off as people get into and out of their seats.

15. Fill potpourri holders for a holiday scent

Don’t put this next to you food or snacks or you could have some very surprised guests. Potpourri looks a little like snacks. It doesn’t taste quite as good though.

Christmas Candles in Glass Jars

16. Light Christmas candles – scented or decorative

If you go with the scented variety, avoid the temptation to mix too many holiday scents or you might overwhelm your senses. Worse yet, you won’t be able to tell what you’re sniffing anymore. Also, as always, never leave a candle lit when you leave a room, much less the house.

17. Fill a vase with Christmas candy

Maybe if you use the candy as a decoration you’ll be less likely to munch on it all day. Every time you look at the vase, appreciate its beauty and retreat to the kitchen for a healthy veggie snack. Save those calories for the baked goods!

Designer Luis Roman, Principle of Studio Interiors in Canada recommends using natural elements for decor. “Simple pine cones and berries on glass vases is a simple, beautiful and inexpensive idea. Use a vase, foam and berries from a dollar store.” Depending upon where you live, pine cones are may be free and readily available in your backyard.

18. Swap in holiday-themed hand towels

Ideally you want these to be decorative, Make sure you have plenty of other towels available nearby so you guests know to use those instead. Keep the hand towels in a decorative holiday basket by the sink to keep with the theme.

19. Place holiday ribbons on lamp shades

Lay out your ribbon rows on paper or to tape them on the lampshade so you can experiment with the order and colors. Measure the circumference of the shade, and make ribbon slightly longer for overlap. Cut ends on a slant.

20. Add garland to your chandelier

Also use low wattage flicker flame, wax-dipped, gold, or red and green bulbs in your chandelier. Or tie tiny ribbons around the crystals.

Dress Pets in Holiday Vests

21. Dress your pet in a holiday vest

So your pet is not really décor, but dressed up in a holiday outfit they’re downright adorable. Have your treats ready because they’ll earn them for this sacrifice.

22. Set up extra seating by the fireplace

Ensure you are able to cozy up to the fireplace with extra seating during the holiday season. With guests coming and going you’ll want to make them feel at home with ample seating for everyone. Bring out some folding chairs if you are limited on space or add an upholstered ottoman that you can easily stow away under the coffee table when not in use.

23. Hang your mistletoe for shenanigans

The mistletoe tradition is a tricky business. Hang your mistletoe away from the busiest areas, but don’t hide it, either. It’s supposed to be fun, not illicit.

24. Don’t let the kids touch their elf, and place the elf in funny situations and poses at night while the kids are sleeping. It’s all part of the illusion!

Decorating the Tree

1. Put up your Christmas tree (real or artificial)

Place your Christmas tree in a prime location for both indoor and outdoor viewing. In front of a window or nestled in a highly trafficked room is ideal.

Place Decorated Christmas Tree Near a Prime Location

2. Don't forget the tree stand

When setting up your tree ensure you select a stable tree stand. There are a variety of options in different colors and materials. Many artificial trees come with their own tree stands, but if you have a real tree we suggest using a tree stand that has room to allow for watering. By watering your fresh cut tree you will prolong your trees freshness and prevent early needle loss. We suggest keeping an eye on your tree the first few days and providing water daily.

3. Hide the stand with a festive tree skirt

Once you’ve secured your tree in its stand, cover the base with a festive tree skirt or perhaps a colorful swatch of fabric. Not only will the skirt or fabric hide an unsightly tree stand, but it will also help keep fallen pine needles from scattering if you have a real tree.

4. String lights 100 lights for every foot of tree

While some artificial trees come pre-lit, for those who do not have that convenience or opted for a real tree, the first step in dressing your tree and bringing it to life is to string your lights. When stringing lights on a real tree wear gardening gloves to protect your hands from the sharp pine needles and sticky sap. For every foot of tree we suggest stringing around 100 lights, however, it’s up to you how many or few you want to dress your tree with.

Interior Designer Anthony Cinque says “You can never have enough lights! My rule is 100-150 mini bulbs per foot of tree and 25-50 large bulbs per foot of tree. Make sure to wrap the branches with lights to give the tree some depth and for a different look, mix both mini lights and large lights.”

5. Use 9 feet of garland for every foot of tree

If you want a fuller looking tree, add festive garland. Coming in every color under the rainbow, garland is an easy way to add color and sparkle. We suggest adding 9 feet of garland for every foot of tree, however, feel free to add as much or even skip garland if you choose.

Interior designer Anthony Cinque from Albany, New York says, “Decorated garlands are a great way to add decoration to any space. They a are great around doorways, banisters, fireplaces, and around a mirror. I always add lights to them. Use pinecones and antlers to give a rustic feel.”

Ornaments for Christmas Tree Decor

6. Hang ornaments (20 every foot of tree)

After the lights are strung and the garland is hung, add your ornaments. Ornaments are the perfect way to accessorize and personalize your tree. Try a theme of gold and silver, or hang your favorite family DIY decorations. Try any arrangement or assortment you like. We suggest hanging 20 ornaments for every foot of tree, however, it depends on the size of the decorations as well as the look you are going for. This is the time to be extra creative and have some fun.

7. Top your tree with an angel or star

Once all your ornaments are hung, top your tree with a special star or a beautiful angel. This beloved holiday tradition ties your tree together and completes your tree decorating.

Place Wrapped Gifts Under Christmas Tree

8. Wrap boxes or presents under your tree

If you plan to wait to place all your presents under the tree until Christmas Eve, wrap a couple of empty boxes with festive pattered paper and shiny bows to arrange under your tree. Presents complete the look of your Christmas tree and bring an air of anticipation for holiday festivities to begin.

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Author Wendy Weinert

Wendy Weinert

Wendy Weinert is an HGTV addict and avid DIYer. When not working on a craft project, as an interior design blogger and enthusiast, she is passionately helping people beautify their environment by providing insightful advice and inspiration.