How to Decorate After Christmas – Take Cues from Nature

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How do you decorate after Christmas? Taking down the tree and all the decorations can be a bittersweet process.

On one hand, it’s nice getting your space back to normal. On the other, with the merriment and music and magic of the holiday season behind us, you’re left with…January.

The store endcaps jump straight from Christmas to springtime, but in much of the country, including here in Minnesota, we’re solidly mid-winter (maybe even more like one third of the way 😕).

But we still want our homes to emit a cozy winter vibe, so then what?

Taking Cues from Nature

The best way is to to decorate after Christmas is to echo what’s happening in nature. In January, here’s what that looks like:

Evergreen branches and pine cones. This year, knowing I wanted to keep some winter greenery in the vases on my mantel and coffee table tray, I got smarter about my faux branches when I approached my Christmas decorating. (Real ones would obviously be beautiful, too, but I’m going for low-maintenance, and by “low” I actually mean no.)

The branch I already had featured red berries that scream Christmas. I bought a couple new pine branches that didn’t. When I combined them, voila! Christmas in a bottle.

Yesterday, I took out the red-berried branch, swapped in another plain evergreen branch, and the look is transformed to just wintry.

Pine cones also are great when you want to decorate after Christmas.

In early December, one of my sons and I had fun using white acrylic paint and Epsom salts to make these snowy pine cones (tutorial here). They’re now on a book shelf at eye level, snuggled amidst some candles.

Soft lighting. Yes, the solstice and its signal that longer days are coming was worth celebrating, but it’s still dark at 5 pm here.

In response, up your cozy lighting game.

My favorite recent discovery has been the combination of electric candles in mercury glass votives (I bought these and these).

The main thing I’ve never liked about electric candles is when I glance over and see a plastic “flame” staring back at me. But with these little votives tucked around the perimeter of our living and dining room, the only thing you see is flickering candlelight.

Photo taken around 4:30 in the afternoon. The little candles start to glow just as the sun dips low in the sky.

It gets better. They have timers!

You turn them on at the time you want them to come on each day, they stay on for six hours, and then they’re off until that programmed time the next day.

Mine come on shortly after 4, just as the light begins to fade and we’re settling in for the evening. There’s no way I’d ever float dreamily around my house at 4 pm each day lighting candles. But this way I don’t have to!

You can also tuck string fairy lights or Christmas lights across the mantel or on top of a bookshelf.

Embrace Simplicity

When I took down my Christmas mantel decorations, I put my candles, vase, stack of books, and little owl figure back in place.

Thinking I’d keep the lights, I used the owl, which is a planter, to hide the battery box; then I wove the lights around the rest of the mantel. But the lights looked weird against the bare wood, the orange owl looked too fall-ish, and the books seemed out of place no matter which ones I chose or how I stacked them.

Christmas mantel (with my face cut in half by a twine-wrapped tree – hi!)
Post-Christmas mantel still looking blech after many variations

Though I kept moving things around, I still didn’t like it.

Ever notice how short the path is from feeling crummy about your home to feeling ready to buy a whole bunch of stuff you don’t need? I spent way too much of the afternoon googling “white ceramic owls.”

My kids started acting up to get my attention, which made me more frustrated, and then I was frustrated at myself for getting frustrated at them.

Toward the end of the night, I was unsure how I going to complete this blog post when my mantel still looked crappy, so I turned to my classic procrastination strategy — cleaning (in college, my room never looked better than the night before a paper was due).

As the clutter diminished, my mood improved and I discovered the perfect solution to the book/owl/fairy lights dilemma — ditch them. Here’s my final winter mantel.

After. Ahhh.

Its minimalism is exactly what my spirit craves after the holidays.

In December I stuffed my mantel with beautiful little trees and a garland and lights and couldn’t have fit one more little thing on there if I’d tried. I loved its glorious abundance. But now it’s January and I’m craving white space, both literally and figuratively.

If you are trying to figure out how to decorate after Christmas, add a few natural elements and call it good.

Don’t let your Instagram feed convince you that you need to go on a spending spree to fill every nook and cranny with birch branches, lanterns, and tasseled throw pillows. Take your cues from nature and decorate simply. Lean into rest and renewal. Happy New Year.

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