What not to do before decorating a small space for Christmas

These are the mistakes to avoid when it comes to decorating for Christmas

Sage green sofa with Christmas decorations
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Preparing to decorate your home for the holidays but wondering what not to do when decorating a small space for Christmas? If you’re feeling unsure about how to approach the task of decorating for Christmas, don’t panic because you’re not alone. Decking the halls can, surprisingly, be a little more complicated than you would think. 

Admittedly, preparing your home for Christmas is both fun and exciting, but if you’re not mindful of the approach you take you could fall foul to making some common decorating mistakes, especially when it comes to decorating a small space ahead of Christmas. 

The reality is that when it comes to your small space Christmas decoration ideas, whether it's twisting string lights around your Christmas tree or finding cute ways to display your Christmas cards, it’s far too easy to end up making a range of Christmas decorating mistakes. But if you’re smart about planning and are mindful of the steps that you take, you can avoid making these common mistakes. 

The mistakes to avoid making when putting up Christmas decorations in a small space

Whether you’ve already got a Christmas color scheme picked out or you’re still working it out, you’ll want to ensure that you know what not to do when it comes to putting up your Christmas decorations, to avoid making common decorating mistakes.  

1. Not cleaning your space first

Vacuuming white carpet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Aim to reduce clutter around your home before you start setting up your Christmas decorations so that you’re not setting them up surrounded by mess and unnecessary items. It’s also worthwhile giving your home a thorough clean so that the space you’re putting your decorations up in isn’t dirty. 

“Before decorating your home for Christmas, it’s a good idea to create a clean slate. If you begin putting up your decorations with mess, dirt, and clutter around the finished look is unlikely to create such a big impact,” says Lucy Searle, content director. 

Give the floor a good vacuum (this super powerful Miele vac from Amazon is perfect for this), and then wipe over all the surfaces (this multi-purpose cleaning spray from Amazon is ideal for this), from the windowsills to the surfaces. 

Once your decorations are up, don't forget to take the time to do a pre-Christmas clean ahead of having guests over to celebrate the holidays. 

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property, and gardens for over 30 years. Lucy is now Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Real Homes, and Ideal Home. Lucy is a serial renovator and also owns rental properties in the UK and Europe, so brings first-hand knowledge to the subjects she oversees.

2. Starting to decorate without a plan

Christmas tree in neutral living room

(Image credit: Target)

Starting to decorate your home ahead of Christmas, from decorating your mantel to hanging up string lights, without putting a plan in place first, is a mistake that you want to avoid making. 

Searle says: “Beginning to decorate your home with no plan in place may cause the aesthetic of your decorations to lack consistency. That’s why it’s important to think about what you will put in each room and the color scheme that you would like to use.” 

Before you start putting up your decorations, take the time to consider what you would like the finished aesthetic to be. 

3. Failing to measure before decorating

Man using measuring tape on wall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, it’s essential to take the time to measure (this tape measure from Amazon will help with this) how much space you have. Especially when you're living in a small space, such as a tiny apartment or a compact dorm room. 

Emily Lambe, deputy editor of Real Homes, says: "In a small apartment or studio — open space is a valuable commodity. It's easy to get carried away while Christmas shopping and load up on tons of garlands or a tree that's way too big for your home. Especially if you're ordering online and you haven't seen the product in person. Measure any available space you have before ordering anything so you know you have the room for it."

Emily Lambe
Emily Lambe

Emily Lambe is the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been writing ever since. Emily writes about all things decor, fragrance, organization, and other home essentials. 

4. Not setting a theme

Red Christmas decorations on table

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

We've all been guilty of this but, honestly, it pays to think about a theme for your Christmas decorations before you start decking the halls. Otherwise, you might end up with a finish that looks messy and lacks cohesion. 

Whether you prefer traditional decoration styles or love the look of Scandi Christmas decor, it's important to choose one consistent theme and stick to it. 

It's also worth making sure that you're clear about the color palette that you would like to use for your decorations, instead of adorning your home with decorations in a rainbow of colors. 

5. Failing to test your Christmas lights

Multi--colored tangled Christmas lights

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Before you start putting your decorations up, it makes sense to test your Christmas lights to make sure that they’re working properly, regardless of what your Christmas lighting ideas for the year may be. 

Emily Lambe says: "I would never go to the trouble to put up all my Christmas lights without testing to see if they actually work first. Save yourself the hassle of taking them down to re-do them if they're faulty by plugging in your lights and replacing any bulbs that are broken before hanging them up."

After all, the last thing that you want is to spend hours decorating your Christmas tree only to find that, when you go to switch the lights on they don't work. If yours are on the brink, this extra-long string of lights from Amazon would make a great replacement. 

6. Forgetting that less is more

Christmas wreath on wall with Christmas signs

(Image credit: Target)

It's exceptionally easy to go a little OTT when it comes to your Christmas decorations, especially if you've recently been buying new Christmas decorations. But in a small space, it's important to hold back a little and ensure that you don't overdo it when it comes to the finished look of your space. 

The whole concept of creating a space that is filled with shimmering strings of lights and wonderfully festive hues is exciting, but what you don't want to do is overdo it. Otherwise, your space may feel a little overwhelming and overly cluttered. 


How can I tell if my Christmas decorations look cluttered?

If there's one thing that you don't want when it comes to your Christmas decorations, particularly in a small space, is a cluttered visual look. 

Christmas decor should add something that looks beautiful to your home, enhancing the space further, not making it look and feel cluttered. A great hack for avoiding Christmas clutter is to aim to have one visual focal point in each room, such as the Christmas tree, and then keep the rest of the decor in that space minimal. 

Is faux or real foliage better for decorating my home for Christmas?

This comes down to personal preference, as whether you opt to use faux foliage, like these faux pine arrangements available on Amazon, or real foliage will depend on a range of factors. 

However, mixing both real and faux foliage can work exceptionally well for creating a streamlined and cohesive look throughout your home. 

It's also worth noting that real foilage will bio-degrade and you don't have to think of another place to store it — a helpful solution in a small space.

For Christmas decor that has a chic and personal feel to it, it’s important to avoid making decorating mistakes. 

You want to create a space that feels festive without being overly cluttered, and somewhere that has a cohesive theme to it. So, it’s worth remembering not to overdo it with the decorations, as well as making sure that you have a set theme to stick to and follow, for a more streamlined finish. 

For decorating a small space for Christmas, it’s important to utilize the space that you have, while also being mindful of how you can decorate for Christmas without causing damage to your space. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.