Handling the Holidays: Decorating Your Apartment

Decorating the tree

Use your illusion: Artificial trees are simply more practical than their real, live counterparts, and the post-holiday clean up won’t leave you feeling like the Grinch. Just make sure the presents are legit. (koadmunkee via Flickr)

Apartment living definitely has a lot of upsides. While you may be used to decorating a larger area alongside family members and using tried and true decorations, you can still make your apartment the holiday wonderland you want it to be.

Get those deals!

When you’re initially furnishing your first place, it can be so tempting to run out to the nicest home stores and buy all the trendiest things you see. But those things may be outside of a reasonable price range for a first-time renter.

When my first roommate and I started looking for good holiday things, we hit up the dollar stores and thrift shops. A lot of the time they have cute stuff for way less money. We also learned that many stores put last year’s surplus on sale early in the fall to make room for all the new distribution. So keep an eye out at craft and department stores for early sales.

[ Related: The Martha Helps Make Your Holidays a Little Sweeter ]

My boyfriend also puts up with my crafting addiction and indulges me by helping me make our own ornaments, stockings and table centerpieces. I think deep down he really likes it as much as I do; he just pretends to hate it to look manly. I usually try to get my friends in on the fun too by having them bring snacks, wine and craft supplies to enjoy while we attempt to make things we’ve seen on Pinterest.

Real or fake?

It’s a lot easier to be optimistic about lugging a huge tree up and down a three-floor walk-up at the beginning of December than it is when you’re looking at it all dressed up and half dead in January.

Real trees smell amazing, and they just look really nice. If you have the room and the manpower (or if you live on the first floor), then go all out and get a real tree. Just be sure to look into your apartment’s disposal preferences. My neighbors didn’t take seriously the warning about not just leaving the tree on the porch and ended up having to pay a fine for maintenance to remove the fire hazard.

[ Related: Holiday Eggnog That Will Knock Santa on His Pants ]

If you live in a smaller place, an oddly shaped place or on the top floor (all of which apply to me), a fake tree might be a better choice. Places like Target have reasonable and somewhat realistic fake trees from 4-ft. tall to crazy tall. Some of them already have lights, so you have one less thing to deal with. The boyfriend and I light some tree scented candles and play loud holiday music while decorating to make it feel more like the real thing. And if you plan on leaving for the holidays, you’ll have less of a mess to deal with upon returning.

Fall back on family and friends

Most of us have at least one relative that seems to collect things for no other reason than habit. Chances are there is a veritable wealth of unused holiday decor spread among your family and friends. My boyfriend’s mother searched through her attic and ended up sending us some really neat vintage ornaments and some cute light up window decals that she forgot were even in her house!

So during a phone call or a trip home, casually mention that you could use some decorations to make your new place feel a little more like home. You may end up with more than you imagined. Happy decorating!

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